a.k.a. ∀ Gundam
a.k.a. Called Turn “A” Gundam
The year is Correct Century 2345. After a massive catastrophe wiped out the world’s technology thousands of years ago, mankind is finally beginning to recover. Life on Earth is peaceful with no memory of ever venturing into outer space. The people of Earth, however, are not alone. An advanced civilization on the moon called the Moonrace is in desperate need of resources. Their solution is simple: Scout out the Earth and see if it has what they need. Three teens are sent down to examine the Earth, and the findings turn out to be positive. Two years later, the Dianna Counter forces follow them to the surface to forcibly colonize the technologically inferior planet. During the invasion, one of the Moonrace teens, Loran Cehack, accidentally discovers and activates a mobile suit known to the people of Earth as the White Doll, a sleeping nightmare that could repeat the horrors of a past long forgotten.
summary by L-Sama
Highs: Gorgeous music; unique setting and atmosphere; great cast
Lows: Syd Mead’s designs are an acquired taste
Following the completion of 1994’s decidedly dark Victory Gundam, creator Yoshiyuki “Kill ‘em All” Tomino stepped away from the Gundam franchise amid his bouts with depression. Five years and three steps into the Alternate Universe era later, Tomino returned to the director’s chair to helm Turn A Gundam for the franchise’s 20th anniversary. His first directorial role in the AU era is a stark departure from past works, but sometimes, a reset is just what someone or something needs.
Right from the start, you’re made aware that this is one of, if not, the most unique Gundam incarnations in the franchise’s history. The setting on Earth exudes a Victorian aura from the attire of the citizens to the architecture of the cities. Technology on the planet is right about where things were before and during World War I, and this series appears to mimic the slower, more laid back nature of the Earth. We aren’t even introduced to the main mobile suit until the second episode. There are a good deal more comedic and light-hearted moments throughout the entire run, which can be seen as a testament to Tomino being able to overcome his depression. The stark contrast between the Earth and the Moonrace is almost startling when things begin to take form after the slower introductory episode. The ensuing invasion and struggles exude a War of the Worlds feel to it. Battles beyond this point are still entertaining, but don’t go looking for a high body count. This particular Gundam incarnation is story first, action second.
If the plot of a series is the vehicle, then it is the characters that drive it. The cast of Turn A Gundam drives this series quite nicely through every twist and turn, including one twist that I didn’t see coming towards the tail end of its run. Motives and reasoning for each action, reaction, and interaction are fleshed out in a very realistic and believable manner complete with a competent seiyuu list featuring Romi Paku (Fullmetal Alchemist’s Edward). Best of all, the cast of characters in this series don’t push any major mecha stereotype buttons (I’m looking at you, Gundam Wing), and as a result one can sympathize quite nicely with much of the cast. Along the way, the plot is swept along by another amazing score composed by none other than Yoko Kanno. Each scene and action is complemented perfectly with a fitting piece of orchestral music that never fails to put a smile to my face when I hear it. A note should also be made for both eccentric opening themes, Turn A Turn and Century Color, as well as both beautiful ending themes.
Artistically, Turn A Gundam is a bit of a mixed bag. Despite being produced and aired at the tail end of the 90s and early 2000s, the artistry has a decidedly dated look to it. It is worth noting that this is the last Gundam series to feature traditional coloring techniques, which may contribute to the fact that the color spectrum appears to be muted and almost faded at times. The actual animation itself is quite all right, so those factors offset each other. Mecha designs, drawn by Syd Mead of Blade Runner fame, run the entire spectrum from great to terrible. Because this series is said to encompass every Gundam series before it, several of the mobile suits are dead ringers to suits of the bygone eras. It is these suits that are generally the best of the bunch. Other designs, however, come off as a little too conceptual or downright ugly. The most polarizing of them all will likely be the title mecha, the Turn A. With its mustachioed appearance and seemingly barebones frame, you’re either going to love its innovativeness or hate the fact that it looks nothing like its predecessors. To me, such a unique design seems to fit perfectly with such a unique series, despite my own personal opinions on the mobile suit.
While the tone and direction of this series is the complete opposite of a few of Tomino’s previous works, the end result is still the same: Excellence. Gundam fan or otherwise, Turn A Gundam delivers a solid product that will entertain just about anyone.