Looking Back At Gundam 00 Season 1 (Addressing The Criticism)

So now that we are almost at the end of the first season I’ve decided to do something that nobody else I know of has tried to do.  I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the criticisms levelled at the series and try to address them with my own thoughts.  Some are well though out and accurate while others are not so much in my opinion.  Nonetheless I think it’s worth taking a look at so let’s begin then shall we.

Frequent Criticism Number 1:  The Characters Are Underdeveloped

All characters or just some?  Well there is a bit of truth to this with regard to characters like Wang Liu Min and Michael Trinity.  Both tend to do what I don’t like much in some anime series which is exhibit one and only one dominant character trait.  With Wang it’s her desire to see the world change and doing absolutely nothing about it (though I think she might symbolize apathy to some extent) and with Michael it’s being a loud raving asshole.  Neither have gone much beyond this.  By contrast the four Meister’s have shown several sides to themselves to the extent that I don’t think they can be seen as underdeveloped.  Same goes for most of the UN characters.  I think what throws some people off is that the series takes a somewhat retroactive approach to character development in that we get the action and then we learn why they performed it.  For example Lockon’s immense hatred of terrorism and his seemingly acting out of character in episode 08 looked like a failure to develop the character properly, but then he revealed the reason behind it, which was the manner in which his family died.  The reason we never knew about that beforehand was that he never bothered to share it with the other characters until it became relevant.  Most series would have had the childhood event and then later have him have to reconfront it.  I just think this makes this a little more interesting in how it’s done differently.  Others I guess want the characters backgrounds explained first and foremost, which is okay, but with a series like this I don’t think it would have worked out well.  A decent criticism, but one that I think depends on a persons own experiences rather than a serious problem with the show.

Frequent Criticism Number 2:  Celestial Being’s Actions Are Foolish And Hypocritcal And This Show Expects Me To Buy Into Their Way Of Doing Things

Yes and no actually.  Yes their actions are foolish and hypocritical a lot of the time, but this is deliberate.  A lot of the characters came into the organization young and impressionable with lots of rage and only one thing on their mind, change the world that created their own personal suffering so that others didn’t have to go through it.  They thought armed intervention was the right way to go.  This proved wrong and now they have payed for it.  You know what though, this just makes the characters humans.  Flawed humans in all their tragic misgivings can be expected to mistakes.  If these characters were perfect and had all the answers from the beginning then we wouldn’t have a very interesting cast on our hands nor would their be much room for growth.  Setsuna in his quest to find his answer still hasn’t found one, and that’s because there is no right answer, it’s a fruitless quest.  I think by the end of the season he will realize that the answer is the one you make for yourself.  In that sense we aren’t being expected to buy into Celestial Beings creed at all or even what will come out of their new ideals, but we shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand.  I think this criticism is more a difficulty in identifying with the characters.  Remember this is media, which requires a certain suspension of disbelief and an effort to understand the characters from within their own personal context.

Frequent Criticism Number 3: The Characters All Look Bishounen Or Have Large Breasts

Go watch Dragonaut The Resonance and then come back and we’ll talk.  Seriously no, not even.  There’s far more variety in this series character designs then there were in Gundam Seed for example.  Just take one look at the tag team that is Soma Peelis and Sergei Smirnov and you’ll see that the criticism isn’t true.  The only real bishounen characters is Tieria.  Setsuna is a young boy with a fresh face, Lockon has rugged older looks and Allelujah just has a really bad haircut.  Sumeragi is really the only character with a large bust as well.  Christina, Felt, Nena, Louise, Kinue and Katie are all just average. (okay maybe not Felt who is supposed to be 14, but that does happen that you get early bloomers)  Not that any of this should really matter mind you.  If this were any other series I doubt this would be such a gigantic issue for most people.  So not only is this not really a valid criticism, it’s not even something that the series should be getting hammered for.

Frequent Criticism Number 4:  The Series Only Purpose Is To Sell Model Kits.  Why Should We Even Be Watching This Anymore

Okay, well first of all, if the sole purpose of the series was to sell model kits I doubt they would even be bothering to try and make a 50 episode TV Series out of it, they’d sooner make a commerical and save money or they’d start doing a better job of having the characters advocate why we should be buying the latest MG Exia.  No this is an entertainment program which also happens to have a model kit line associated with it.  That in my opinion should disqualify the show from analysis or viewership.   I mean Clannad had some rather silly canned bread promotion going on when it first aired and nobody took issue with it.  Why?  Because frankly it doesn’t matter, people want their bread.  Likewise some people really like to build model kits as a hobby, and if it’s from a TV Show they like then all the better.  The model kits are going to sell with or without the TV Show existing alongside them so it’s not the sole focus of Bandai in commisioning a franchise.  They will sell even better though if people happen to like the show on it’s own standing.  The goal is not to make a commercial in the same sense as an infomercial, but to make an enjoyable show that will make people say “You know I love to build model kits and I also like this shown, given the choice between a model of the Dynames or a Haruhi Suzumiya Bunny Kit I will decide to buy the Dynames because I want to support this show I like”.  There’s no huge conspiracy behind Gundam to force models on people, there is however a merchandising opportunity and when any right minded business sees the potential to fill a particular market demand they will oblige.

Frequent Criticism Number 5:  Who Cares If Character X Is Dead, They Are Just Going To Come Back To Life Anyway

Okay, this I feel is solely people’s experience with Gundam Seed Destiny talking again.  What a way to start some people of to the franchise by basically bringing them the exact opposite of what the series is normally like.  If people want to think all the characters that have died in the last few episodes are coming back then I think they are just being silly.  This is not Mai Hime where magic and fantasy are a core part of the franchise and such a thing is possible, nor are the writers quite so influenced by the fans as people seem to think.  Sunrise is arguably famous for just completely thumbing their noses at fans by not giving a damn about who is popular and making everybody fair game for the worst of tragedies and personal suffering.  If they cared so much what fans wanted then Graham would not be sitting out this last battle and they wouldn’t have made iDOLM@STER Xenoglossia so different from the games and rewrote the characters backstory to turn it into a mecha series, where several of the popular girls are killed or beaten up in the most unceremonious of ways.  And even if someone like Ali should reappear it’s likely because he easily had a chance for survival.  Same with Patrick who’s cockpit section was shown to be intact when his GN-X was shot down.  This is not really a fair criticism as it’s basically relying on what happened in an entirely different series with a different staff to fuel it.  Would people assume something is going to happen in Haruhi Season 2 based off of something that happened in Lucky Star, probably not.  The same should apply to each new Gundam series.

Frequent Critcism Number 6:  The Explosions Are Pink Or Purple

Well first of all I just now noticed that this is sort of true, and probably because I never really cared in the slightest to pay attention to such a thing.  Does it really matter that much, does it really make people feel so insecure to watch a series where the explosions have a pinkish hue.  If so I can assume the purple is really just how smoke appears in the lighter colour pallete that is often used in mecha series.  Same with the pink that stands in for orange.  It also only seems to happen in space.  Maybe the animators want us to distinguish the explosion from the black background a little better so they give them lighter colours.  That’s really all I have to say

Frequent Criticism Number 7: The Plot Has Gone Nowhere And Or Is A Trainwreck

Yes we go through this everytime Sunrise does a series, but this time my answer is really simple.  It has led to a clusterfuck because it was meant to.  If people doubted that the actions of Celestial Being would land them in a situation like they are in now then they really haven’t been paying attention….possibly on purpose as this is really hard to miss.  The plot has been going somewhere and it’s to what Seiji Mishizuma has described as absolute destruction.  This is what he wanted to depict with the end of this season and out of that their will be a rebirth of the ideals expressed by Celestial Being, only this time carried out in a way that leads to change like they wanted and not a worsening of matters.  You see this series has this sort of common sense approach where in order for characters to learn and improve upon themselves they have to make mistakes.  The characters as I said earlier are not born with all the answers and in this case they have allowed their entire modus operandi to become corrupted by the directives of a computer and a madman out for personal gain.  They were lead off the tracks and towards their destruction and those who survive will have to carry this lesson with them onto the next attempt if their is one.  It’s funny because in making this series it’s almost as if Sunrise decided to have a little fun and take what is one of the most oddly frequent criticisms levelled against them and build a working story about it.  Like I said, they have historically loved thumbing their noses at fans, arguably as much as Gainax.  And that’s not to say I think every aspect of the first seasons plotline was executed perfectly.  I feel the Marina x Setsuna dynamic could have gone somewhere more than it did.  I also think Wang Liu Min was also a wasted character that never really did anything or had any impact on the events of the series.  Overall I don’t think it heard the main series plotline a lot, although I may be proven wrong if they ever do decide to do something with them and it doesn’t work as a result of their lack of influence so far.

And that’s most of the major frequent ones I can think of to address.  Some have a hint of truth to them, others I feel are misguided or that people have misunderstood something about the series, and still others just have me shaking my head in disbelief at why they should matter.  Keep in mind that I have not included any of the criticisms that you get from the people on the internet that are just intent on picking apart everything about the series, as frankly I don’t feel they are worth the time of day to look at.  Plus I want to appeal to critical thinkers and thoughtful folk, not 4channers and people who want to see the spectacle of someone just ripping the guts out of something (which I’m perfectly capable of as many people know all to well, but just don’t feel it’s a worthwhile focus anymore.  I still think my early Lucky Star articles are some of the worst and most pointless things I have ever written in my life).  I don’t mind adressing a popular criticism or one I think is a valid or from a concerned fan, but I’ll do without mindless drivel thank you very much.  That kind of thing has no place in my articles.

Anyway as usual feel free to add to this article with commentary.  If you have a criticism of the series I’ll be glad to address it if it’s presented intelligently and is relatively memeless.


14 Responses to “Looking Back At Gundam 00 Season 1 (Addressing The Criticism)”

  1. 1 John March 26, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Point number #1 is probably the one I only agree with fully. Seriously speaking, Point #4 I can relate to considering building plastic models is a pastime of mine (holy crap GN Arms Exia is around 4x the cost of a HG Exia…).

    I have to admit some of the stuff is unintentionally hilarious and hence a bit disappointing, especially the use of characters. It almost feels like half of them are just there to introduce plot devices or the object to move the plot of other characters – only when they are dead or missing body parts, do they bring the bacon to the table so to speak.

    It really depends on what makes a person tick I guess; some people I know found some of the events heart wrenching while some found it nothing special.

    Some of the deaths are unintentionally funny: Michael Trinity’s death made me laugh. It truly reminded me of the fateful end of Kakizaki (in Macross: Do you remember love?).

    Christina’s death really didn’t do anything for me even how it probably should. I just don’t know enough about her and frankly she did absolutely nothing. Maiming of Louise was clearly a plot device, to me anyway, to introduce the effects of red GN particles and move Saji’s plot along.

    Howard Mason’s death ensures Graham stays in his FLAG (I’m guessing he’s going to end up killing himself). And Daryl? The irony of the final minutes of his life made me chuckle.

    I think they would have been better off trying to produce characters that actually brought something truly special to the plate. A fair amount of them I simply don’t give a damn about, even if they’ve appeared for quite a significant amount of time. Even characters with a tiny amount of screentime in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, I feel, are better presented than the characters here.

    Either way, it’s a fun show and that’s what I seek from Gundam.

  2. 2 Kaioshin Sama March 26, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Christina did a lot more than people seem to give her credit for in how she basically played an older sister to Felt and tried to keep morale high at the worst of times (except the one episode where everyone cracked under the pressure of the HRL’s attack and it was completely up to the Meister’s to save the day. That was arguably the turning point for the Ptolemaios crew when started to pull away from Veda more and more and to begin to work closer together as a team and share their stories with each other and by doing so they viewer as well). Sort of the same with Lichtendal in that he played an older brother to her albeit to a much less relevant extent then Christina. It makes me think Felt is being built up to be a major character in the second season. In a lot of ways the first season has come to feel more like a prologue to whatever is going to happen in the second season. A lot of it was spent setting up the stage for what is happening now and only the last 7-8 episode have we really started taking an in depth look at the characters. Kind of reminds me of how Xenoglossia was done. I can’t help but feel that the reasoning behind how season 1 was introduced and carried out will become apparent once season 2 is underway.

    If I am right then we are looking at something fairly experimental here and the second season could very well be an entirely different beast altogether. The second season may also be about 2 episodes longer if they decide to go 52 episodes like I’ve heard suggested. I hope it works out, whatever their plans are.

    Why would you think Graham is going to end up killing himself though?

  3. 3 The Animanachronism March 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

    While it’s not perfect, I agree that 00 really hasn’t deserved some of the criticism levelled at it.

    The accusations about model kits fails to get off the ground in my opinion: if commercial motives mean more delicious Exia action scenes for me then CORPORATE GREED BANZAI! (Why does anyone make anime? To make money, I imagine.)

  4. 4 ZeusIrae March 26, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    My great problem, is that Lockon died and I felt absolutey nothing.The characters were crying, and I was thinking “tss, too much melodrama”.

    How is that possible?When Fray got killed I almost cried.I am not hard to please, I liked seed.

    I agree that most of the criticism is unfair, G00 isn’t really good,IMO.

  5. 5 Kaioshin Sama March 26, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Well I didn’t cry either because I don’t really cry at those sort of things. It’s also kind of hard to cry anyway when every other person on the internet is telling you “Oh this is Sunrise and he’s just going to be brought back later on”. It really kills the moment for you even if there isn’t necessarily any truth to it at all.

  6. 6 Owaranai Destiny March 27, 2008 at 2:44 am

    Actually, I kinda thought Criticisms 3-6 were kind of pointless and laughable. Call me arrogant, but using common sense should be enough to to make a stand against most of the key points in the criticisms.

    Sometimes, though, I think perhaps that people are still hinging on the negativity of ‘what has happened’ instead of ‘what’s going to happen’. The bad aftertaste of what happened in GSD was one of the first reasons why many decided to drop the Gundam series, while some others stayed on to see how ‘bad’ it can get. With that kind of a mindset, I guess what can be considered ‘pointless and laughable’ can be justified by the negative mindsets detractors have.

    I wonder why there’s no criticism for it being a carbon copy for other series or something like that, though, since I’ve heard a fair bit about Celestial Being being similar to the SEAL in Evangelion.

  7. 7 Major1138 March 29, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Most of the criticisms you list are pretty laughable, although I do sympathize somewhat with #1 (Characters are poorly developed), #2 (Celestial Being is made of a bunch of hypocrites), and #7 (Trainwreck plot).

    I don’t necessarily agree entirely with the notion that the characters are underdeveloped – I think, as you have mentioned, that some characters sort of got the shaft in this regard – the Trinity siblings in general come to mind here, but by and large, the series offers at least a token explanation of why people do the things they do. Which I suppose is better than nothing, but I can see why some people might not be enamored with this approach.

    As for Celestial Being, it’s pretty obvious that their “world peace through paramilitary intervention” is somewhat counterintuitive, and I’m pretty sure this is intentional. It’s also pretty obvious that the second half of the series is going to be Setsuna & Co. (or who’s left) coming to the realization that the their current/previous methods are bad. I’m not so sure that the valid criticism is that they’re acting stupidly (which to an extent they are), but rather that it’s pretty obvious where the story is heading. Not that this is always a bad thing, but I think it bears mentioning.

    Finally, the notion that the plot is going to be a trainwreck because it’s from Sunrise. I can’t really say for sure since it’s not done, but as I mentioned before, it’s really obvious where they’re heading, which isn’t necessarily bad, but lets not all try and pretend it’s incredibly deep and meaningful. As for Sunrise generally, my biggest beef is that some of their series go on too long and sort of lose momentum for stretches, when they could just be shorter and benefit from tighter plotting. I still maintain that if they had just made Gundam SEED/SEED Destiny as one series of 52 instead of the 100-odd it ended up being, it would have been far better, since they would have had to make choices about what to keep and what to exclude instead of trying to throw everything in. I can’t say if Gundam 00 will suffer from this, but we’ll see.

  8. 8 Kaioshin Sama March 29, 2008 at 4:33 am

    Actually believe it or not a lot of people aren’t levelling these criticism’s because they have predicted where the plot is heading, but because it’s the popular thing to do. There is a meme in the animeblogger community that Sunrise=Trainwreck. What I think trainwreck means is that a plot has completely lost all since of cohesion and can’t hold itself together any longer. If the plot is strong enough that we can see the path to possible outcomes, even obvious ones then the plot is not a trainwreck in my opinion.

    Also keep in mind that the end of a plotline can be predicted, but the journey getting their can be fun and full of surprises as well. Just look at Gurren Lagann to see it in action.

    I don’t believe longer equals worse for a series either like some people think. It’s what you make of the time you have that matters. If you have 50 episode series and 66% of them go to waste like Gundam Seed Destiny then it’s horrible compared to if you have a 26 episode series and less than 5% of them go to waste. However if you have a 50 episode series and 85% of the episodes are great compared to if you have a 26 episode series where 90% are great then I think you’ve still ended up a lot better with the 50 episode series because you get more good content by far overall compared to the 26 episode series with a slightly better ratio of good to poor content. Do people follow?

  9. 9 Major1138 March 29, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with having a predictable plotline (I’ve even said as much), but it’s my belief that with a show like Gundam 00, which has aspirations to be something of a taut political thriller alongside the giant robots doing their thing, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

    It’s not hard to come up with ratios of good/bad episodes where a longer series might be “better”. But that’s not my point. Gundam SEED Destiny wasted more than two-thirds of theirs, and my point was that if they didn’t feel as though they needed to hit 50, some of the crappy episodes would not have been made in the first place. My point is that it’s hard to write that many good episodes in the context of 50+ episodes, and that quite frankly, most shows can’t do it.

  10. 10 CCCP March 30, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    In all honesty, I agreed with all of these points. I’ve never thought that this show’s only point was to sell model kits. And also, I think the most ungrounded complaint was the “Character X is gonna come back” complaint. I think Lockon, Christina, and Lichtey are completely screwed. Looking closely, Ali only lost Zwei’s legs, so if he survives, he won’t be god-moding like Kira. In fact, I think this writer is taking some ques from “Kill ’em All” Tomino, actually

  11. 11 Hayden April 5, 2008 at 5:39 am

    I agree with a a few of the points for various reasons but, i cant help feeling that they really rushed G00 near the end.

    I quite enjoyed G00 but it felt that there was too much to do in too little time. just as the series was getting exciting & some of the main characters were getting killed off then bam end of series 1. I really hate animes that end like that so I fully agree that this ‘little taster’ was made with the sole intent & purpose to sell their model kits, those of which i hardly find appealing unless its the GN Arms or Kyrios.

    I could have bought 1 or both of them as i have over 1000 Hong Kong Dollers to spend. what did i spend the money on????

    *Strike E+IWSP Rukas Odnel, ZGMF-X42S Destiny Gundam Extreme Burst Edition*

    G00 Gundams are bland. dont get me wrong i respect that they are AWESOMELY simplistic but look at Freedom or Destiny or Strike from G.Seed or the other Gundams from Gundam wing/G.W-E.W

  12. 12 Tmoo April 30, 2008 at 1:45 am

    people set expectations and when these aren’t met they become dissatisfied and throw it away. the plot isn’t meant to appeal to everyone. if you’re an avid fan of naruto and expected that kind of playback from gundam 00, you’re out of luck. if you wanted the show to end nice and tidy in these 25 episodes, you’re out of luck. if you’re going to nitpick about particulars such as purple-ish smoke in space or pink lasers, Lol, go outside and get some fresh air, stop wasting your time complaining about useless matters. (though personally i’d have welcomed blue-white laser colors)

    and finally, gundam 00’s plot could have been executed with super-special fighter jets and done just as well, but giant robots have become popular, so it uses the mascot’s reputation to promote. the show itself is not out to look like a giant advertisement for model kits, but by and large there are fans who like to have that mini freedom gundam with its blue wings perched on a stand above their tv, so there’s a business to cater to them. if you seriously think this entire season was to promote model kits, get off the internet and become an hero – now.

  13. 13 Jagger May 4, 2008 at 7:33 am

    That’s a very well-written article. I agree with most of the points you’ve raised, and I think you’ve done a good job countering most of the criticisms.

    I just find it odd how many of these criticisms also apply to other Mecha shows like Gundam Seed or Code Geass as well, and yet those criticisms are only being directed towards Gundam 00 in particular.

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