Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (1997): Freedom Isn’t Free

Gundam Wing Endless Waltz poster

    “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz” solved some of the issues I had with the series. That is awesome considering they could have just repeated the same story again and not had any of our characters grow, in the beginning of the film it looks like they might be going that way, but they soon change things and tie the past to the present and most of the characters transform in some way. Suffice to say, it became a favorite anime film after watching.

     The film was directed by Yasunao Aoki and written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa.

      The story begins where we left off, with victory declared and all weapons being destroyed. Things soon change though as the narrator brings up that true peace hasn’t come yet and that people are needed to stop incidents before they arise. From here we see flashbacks of what Project Meteor was first about (dropping a Colony of the Earth and bringing the Gundams to occupy the Earth) and how each Pilot stood up to it in different ways, showing their nobility from the beginning. In modern time a new colony founded by the original founder of Project Meteor named Dekim Barton declares war on Earth via Treize’s daughter Mariemaia who is supporting their cause and wishes to rule by any means necessary. From here it is up to the Gundam Pilots and their allies to stop them.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is really beautiful. The Gundams are upgraded in how they look and look both beautiful and more threatening than before. It is part of what makes this work, especially since Wufei as an antagonist to the Gundam Pilots feels like a threat, partially due to how they designed Shenlong Gundam.

Dorothy – Dorothy has a small role and is there to remind the people that if they want to be free that they should fight for it, she has grown where she is no longer someone who lives for battle, but now believes there is a time and place for it…especially when it involves facing tyranny like Mariemaia’s government.

Relena – Relena grows in this and is the one who changes things again. In this she helps Mariemaia see that tyranny is empty and that only when one experiences fear can one truly learn to appreciate life. After Heeros cares Mariemaia with Gundam Wing it is Relena who brings her out of it towards the light of peace and stopping the war and occupation of Earth. She still remains one of the leaders of the world after which is great, we also see that she doesn’t take the Peacecraft name anymore but the name of her adopted father who she realizes saw the bigger picture and path to peace.

The Preventors – They are run by Sally and I’m glad they exist as we see them being the equivalent of World Police. It is their goal to stop war and terrorism before it happens. They are almost in the OZ role but have awareness towards others too and seem to only be for extreme situations.

Sally – Sally is the leader who is the one every character goes to when changed…Zechs does when he becomes a Preventor and takes one the name Wind in order to stop Mariemaia. Wufei also finally joins and treats her with respect. She is one of the most badass minor characters in this series.

Noin – She is mostly their to remind Zechs she is there and loves him and has his back but we also see her fighting with the Gundam Pilots against Mariemaia’s forces and is one of them in all but name and lack of major Gundam.

Lady Une – Une is another leader of the Preventors and is the one primarily located on Earth versus Sally who is space. She is the one who helps Mariemaia come around too as she told her that Treize cared about those who fought and why they fought, it’s why he always fought losing battles because he saw a bigger point than dominance. This wins Mariemaia over to the Father she hated, never knew and never recognized her.

Mariemaia – She is the evil child at first but we really get her motivation at the end. She never knew her Father and has been brainwashed by the Bartons to be a tyrant. It takes all our heroes but she does eventually come around and realize she isn’t invulnerable and that was she was doing was wrong. She loses the ability to walk in the process to when a standoff at the end, ends up with her shot.

The Gundam Pilots – This is the good-bye to the Gundam Pilots and we see how they’ve grown as people since the war as well as what they are fighting for in peacetime and who they are when they no longer have to fight.

Quatre – Quatre is the one who frees the Gundams for the final fight against Mariemaia’s forces and is the unspoken leader of them when they are all together. He is confident in his abilities too and we see him stepping into the thick of every fray with joy and awareness. The sadness has gone away as he fights to prevent his mistakes.

Duo – Duo is once again the jokester and a bit of the glue but we see that he’s learned not to do overkill or kill. He fights as the God of Death but not to kill men but to kill war. It’s a great evolution of his character. He is the social one and we see that he was fighting to be with Hilde again and to have a life.

Trowa – Trowa is the taken name of the real Trowa who was Dekim Barton’s son who wanted to drop the Colony on Earth and occupy with the Gundams. He was the was no-name soldier and takes the name because he realizes he can make a difference in it as he understands why soldiers fight and wants to fight to end that endless slog of suffering. We also see how much his life at the Carnival means when he helps rescue them by infiltrating Mariemaia’s faction as a loyalist.

Wufei – Wufei’s Colony supported Operation Meteor which leads to Wufei going Paladin and stealing it so that only the guilty will be killed by him. In this one he is still fighting Treize as he sees Earth as passive and stops fighting the moment they fight for their freedom. He realizes that this is what he wants after he fights Heero who is peace and Wufei realizes he is becoming like Treize.

Heero – Heero is the wise nomad in this and we see him help Wufei grow as a character as well as Mariemaia as he attacks the facility with all his energy in Gundam Wing which destroys Gundam Wing in the process. It is that destruction that wakes up Mariemaia to her mortality and actually makes her care about herself and others beyond domination. He is the nameless soldier still too as at the end we see him as a face in the crowd.

Zechs – Zechs like to take different names, though in the end he’s always Zechs. In this he becomes a Preventor and defeats Dekim’s ship. He also fights with the Pilots against Dekim’s forces and we see how he has changed. His past as Miliardo the tyrant willing to kill for peace is dead and he is the man dead to himself. He is the zen soldier in a way and it is great to see how he’s grown. In the end he leaves with Noin to work on terraforming projects for Relena.

The People of Earth – The people of Earth rebel after Dorothy talks to one group where the Presidential headquarters are and after Relena’s call to action. It is great as it is gradual and we see how the symbol of the Gundams became more.

The Cameos – We see Hilde, Quatre’s men and visual callbacks to characters (the scientists also appear in the flashback). It’s a nice way to connect to the past and show this is a direct sequel to the tv series.

The Message – Pure pacifism doesn’t work and sometimes you have to fight to stop tyrants from taking away freedom. Freedom is something that can’t be given by a ruler but has to be recognized and lived by the people.

Okay: Mariemaia’s Colony X-18999 – We never get the motivation of why they are following Mariemaia fully. I get there are soldiers still holding onto battle (which was Zechs’s problem in the series) but there doesn’t seem to be an identity to them beyond Wufei…so maybe they’re Colonists and not Treize faction members from Earth? They were confusing.

The Cons: Dekim Barton – The guy was a meglomaniac and I didn’t understand why anyone would follow him. He was too crazy all the time, even in flashbacks when he fights with the scientists.

This was a great anime film! If you like Gundam and have watched “Gundam Wing,” you should see it. It was originally an OVA in 1997 and film in 1998, so I chose the 1997 for the original time it was made. It is a powerful film that really shows the writers knew what they were doing in the shows. Fighting doesn’t end when wars end and you can’t give people peace…peace is something realized within and is something that you fight for, it is in that fight for anything that something is truly valued through one’s action. This was the action lived by the characters in this film and one reason why it is now a favorite film.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. Better than the finale of the show.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 8 – “Winter Solstice: Avatar Roku” – The Stakes

ATLA season 1 ep 8 The Winter Solstice Avatar Roku

     This is a very action heavy episode, but also manages to have a fair amount of story as well as setting up the stage for the upcoming challenge that Aang and Team Avatar must face. It’s done pretty well overall, and we see even more of the consequences of what Aang’s 100 year absence has done to even more Nations and peoples in the world.

    The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Michael Dante DiMartino and Aaron Ehasz.

     The story picks up where we left off with Aang racing to the Temple that is located in the Fire Nation to talk to Avatar Roku in order to learn his past and what he has to do. To do so he has to outwit and escape both Zuko’s and Admiral Zhao’s forces as well as the Forces of the Temple who have turned against the Avatar.

The Pros: The Action – The action in this is really good! From Appa having to be navigated through fireballs thrown by both Zuko and Zhao…to avoiding the hostile Fire Fire Sages who also now serve only the Fire Lord and not the Avatar. Each action is done really well, with my favorite being the photo above where Roku posses Aang and destroys the Temple to help them make their escape.

Zhao – Zhao is a great villain. We see him using all weapons at his disposal to get Aang or Zuko and only really failing because he failed to choose one to focus on leading to him losing both. This is a theme of his character as he tends to go big and in the process alienate possible allies or get destroyed by his own hubris.

Iroh – Iroh is the voice of reason once again trying to get Zuko to wait, which would have been the smart thing to do. Zuko risked getting killed or arrested since he is exiled and he nearly dies in the process. Only Iroh sees how destructive it and tries to help to no avail.

Zuko – Zuko is adept in this and manages to capture Aang before Aang escapes to converse with Roku but that doesn’t stop him from making his overall escape either. He is smart and gets out before Zhao can arrest him when he knows the Avatar has won.

Katara, Sokka and the Good Fire Sage – These three are in a support role and don’t really get any development beyond Katara voicing that she doesn’t want Aang to risk his life because not only does the world need him, she needs him and that if he is going they are coming too…and the Fire Sage is the one who still serves the Avatar and didn’t lose faith in the 100 years that passed since the disappearance of the Avatar.

Aang – Aang is overwhelmed in this as he learns that when he hid it was the original comet that Sozin used to destroy the Air Nation and that now Ozai is going to finish the job with the new comet that is coming so Aang must stop it and learn the Elements before that time. He is overwhelmed and he expresses as much but also feels like he has no choice. This is the episode where we see broken Aang and realize his past lives can only do so much for him.

Roku – Roku is a  badass and one of my favorite Avatars. You can hear guilt in his voice too as he knows that his failure to stop Sozin lead to the death of the Air Nation and it is guilt he must live with for the rest of his life. You can see it in his sadness and his rage when he destroys the Fire Nation forces inside the Temple as well as the Temple itself. Roku is full of so much sadness and despair. He’s also a well rounded character given the brief time we see him, that is saying something.

The Coming Destruction – This episode really raises apocalyptic stakes and make Aang realize just how over his head he is. It’s a powerful moment and expresses why three books were needed to tell this story.

    I greatly enjoyed and am looking forward to see more of Avatar Roku. This episode had action, a lot of it…but never lost site of the bigger picture and why Aang had to run a blockade and get to the Temple. We see how things changed and how the Fire Sages lost hope as well as what will happen if Aang can’t save the day. The world will become too out of balance to ever be repaired by the Avatar.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 7 – “Winter Solstice Part 1: The Spirit World” – Awareness

ATLA Season 1 ep 7 Winter Solstice part 1

    “Winter Solstice Part 1″ is our introduction to the Spirit World, as well as an episode that shows us the good in Zuko and the Spirits relationship to humanity. It’s a very well done episode overall with only a few problems, which I think is due to length which was why it was made into a “Two-Parter.”

   The episode was directed by Lauren MacMallun and written by Aaron Ehasz.

   The story begins with Aang finding some destroyed Earth and mourning that he was unable to stop it when it is his duty as the Avatar to protect nature. Katara helps him deal by showing him the acorns and with it knowledge the forest will regrow. An old man approaches them when he recognizes Aang and they are brought to the village that is being attacked by a hostile spirit called Hei Bai. From here it is up to Aang to stop it while at the same time Iroh is kidnapped by Earthbenders and must escape.

The Pros: Hei Bai – Hei Bai is a Demonic Panda Spirit that becomes a normal Panda Spirit when calmed. Really cool design and is a great threat too. I like how it uses spirit energy to destroy things as well as that will play a part in “Legend of Korra” later.

Iroh – Iroh is awesome! The guy created hot pools using his firebending and is good at enjoying life while Zuko is eating himself up with worry. He’s also really smart too and manages to outsmart his kidnappers once and in the end easily outmatching them when Zuko rescues him.

Zuko – Zuko has to make a choice, to save his Uncle or find the Avatar, he makes the right one and saves his Uncle. This was a good character defining moment as it showed he was driven by more than duty and truly cared about others.

Katara – Katara’s role is small in this as she is mostly just worrying about Aang and later Sokka after he is captured by Hei Bai. It is her observation that saves the day though as her finding the buried acorns and Aang pointing it out to Hei Bai is what calms the Spirit down and causes it to return to it’s home.

Sokka – He is brave in this one and shows that not even a giant monster will stop him from defending others. He tries to help Aang but is caught in the process though.

Aang – This is an Aang-centric episode as he travels into the Spirit World and meets Fang, Avatar Roku’s dragon who brings him to a Temple where Aang can speak to Roku on the Solstice. It’s powerful as we see Aang discover his role in the world and his connection to past selves and the spirit world, and how he does act as a bridge in the end and shows the forest will grow back which calms Hei Bai.

The Cons: The Earthbender Soldiers – The soldiers who captured Iroh don’t have any personality. I wish they would have brought up fighting in the war when Iroh was attacking their city. Sadly they are just faceless minions which ruins a chance for some possibly great minor characters.

   This was a great episode with only the minor issues of the Earthbenders not getting veryt much exploration. I still greatly enjoyed it though as we get to know the Spirit World, Aang’s role and relationship to his past selves and we get to see all the named characters get development and an awesome looking Spirit shown as well!

Final Score: 9 / 10.

The Twilight Zone – Season 3, Episode 15 – “A Quality of Mercy” – A Matter of Empathy and Mercy

The Twilight Zone A Quality of Mercy Season 3 ep 15

    This episode has officially got me interested in watching the rest of “The Twilight Zone.” I really enjoy shows that make me think…it’s one reason I love the “Star Treks,” enjoyed the episode of “Black Mirror” I reviewed and tend to enjoy films like “Inception.” This was a good episode to kick off Leonard Nimoy week too, as he plays a small but key role in this episode of “The Twilight Zone.” This was one of his earliest works as Nimoy starred in this episode in 1961.

    “A Quality of Mercy,” was directed by Buzz Kulik and written by Rod Serling and based off a story by Sam Rolfe.

    The premise begins at the end of World War 2 where a bunch of American soldiers have some sick Japanese troops trapped in a cave and have had them trapped their for a while. A lieutenant arrives on the scene named Katell who wants to wipe them out as to him every Japanese is an enemy regardless of circumstances. The men protest but in the end follow orders. As they prepare for the attack though Katell wakes up in another man’s body in 1942, A Japanese lieutenant named Yamuri who is being ordered by his commander to wipe out the American’s trapped in the same cave.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of body swapping to see things from another point of view is cliche but a really awesome idea that is done really well here. They put Dean Stockwell in make-up to look Japanese but it works in this instance because he isn’t being used to bash Japanese, he is there so he can reveal that they are the same people stuck in a horrible situation in a circumstance in which mercy is what is needed and not seeing the other side as purely just “The enemy.”

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful in this episode and presents how tired the soldiers are in the wars being fought as well as showing closeness in relationship in how characters are placed in different scenes. Using the broken binoculars to show past and present was a brilliant use of cinematography too.

The Soldiers – The soldiers in both situations are presented as complex people which lends strength to the story. Nimoy’s character is a cool headed communications officer who calls out Katell on his bloodlust while the others are calling him out for being so green and point out they’ve lost 3 commanders already because they came in so arrogant and were easy for the Japanese to pick off. They all have great chemistry together and their Sargent played by Albert Salmi is stand-up guy. Dale Fujiwaka did a great job playing the Japanese captain who sympathized with the alienate on not killing the Americans and was supportive while their superior was driven by the need to kill.

Dean Rockwell – Dean Rockwell does a great job in acting in this! He plays the overconfident man who hates the Japanese and when he finds himself as a Japanese man he feels vulnerable and scared and when he realizes that Americans are going to be killed using the philosophy he used to justify killing the Japanese, he panics and realizes that he hopes he never kills. This episode really teaches the value of human life.

The Message – The message in this is powerful. It shows how the soldiers in wars are often just fighting to survive or due to orders and that it is important to stand up to protect the weak, even if they seen as the enemy and that mercy is important, for without it we lose our humanity. It also showed how soldiers are parts but often times it’s bigger things like the Bomb that end the war implying an even bigger question of ethics.

Okay: Sgt. Yamazaki – I wish we could have got this guys motivations more, he wasn’t green like the lieutenant so I wanted to know why he was so driven to kill the defenseless. He was the only person this episode who could have been handled better.

    This was a great way to kick of Leonard Nimoy Week! His character is small in this, which makes sense as this was when he was just getting started as an actor, but his cool demeanor is a nice contrast to the trigger happy lieutenant and his compatriots who joke around a lot more. The episode was powerful too as the point it made is one that is timeless and reminds us to empathize with those who don’t have power and the importance of seeing things from other points of view, as well as how important mercy is, especially when there is the option to kill.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10. Near perfect episode.

In Memory of Leonard Nimoy – Leonard Nimoy Week

color_nimoy_headshot

     Leonard Nimoy was an amazing man, that much has been obvious for a very long time. From his military service, music, directing, writing and acting and what he did outside of his work he touched the lives of so many people.

       I know him largely from his work with “Star Trek” as I grew up watching “The Original Series” and “The Original Series Films.” It was his death in “Wrath of Khan” that first made me tear up during a “Star Trek” film and it was his character Spock who I could relate to, as an autistic kid who I was felt outside of things and could relate to his analytic approach to all things.

    This week I’m honoring him by reviewing some of his earliest work, some of his last work and of course an “Original Series” episode. Anytime I’d been given the ‘Choose your own Crew?’ Question in regards to Star Trek, I always chose Spock as the First Officer. He was the best and grounded everyone around him, much like Nimoy himself did. Nimoy was and wasn’t Spock, he wrote two books on the matter and both were right. He was bigger than this role that really put him on the radar for me and so many other people. He was talented beyond the screen and within the screen itself as he produced, wrote and directed films and television. If you hear about what was going on during the films, it was Nimoy who reminded the writers that it wasn’t about Kirk and Spock, it was about the crew and that dialogue should be given to all. You see this especially in “The Undiscovered Country,” where the crew is victorious because everyone is involved, versus “The Final Frontier” where it is the Kirk and Spock (though mostly Kirk) show. This was a huge reason he was respected by those who knew him…because he lived respect towards others.

   For what I’ll be reviewing of Nimoy’s filmography…going to start at the beginning with “A Quality of Mercy,” from “The Twilight Zone,” next doing “Balance of Terror” from “Star Trek: The Original Series,” “The Transformers: The Movie” and “There’s More Than one of Everything” from the tv series “Fringe” which was his last television show he was a part of.

     Nimoy influenced those who knew directly and those who didn’t like me, through the life he lived. He was truly an amazing Renaissance man who will be missed greatly. Though, even in death he gave us something to remember.

   “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

   As we will remember you. This week is to honor you and all that you’ve done.

Sleepy Hollow Finale – Season 1, Episode 18 – “Tempus Fugit” – Finally Consequences

Sleepy Hollow Finale

      So ends “Sleepy Hollow” season 2, and right now it’s future is up in the air. Will it get renewed or not still remains the question. I’m personally ambiguous on the issue as the mythology got kind of screwed over this season, even if the core character relationships did get major development I loved. I’ll go into that more when I do an assessment of the entire season though, for now we’ll be talking about “Tempus Fugit.”

   “Tempus Fugit” was directed by Paul Edwards and written by Mark Goffman.

     The story picks up where we left off with Abbie traveling back in time and getting captured by Colonial troops while Katrina plots the death of Ichabod so her son can live. When Ichabod meets Abbie he distrusts her at first, but the knowledge she knows eventually wins him over as they race against time as they are hunted by the Horseman of Death and Katrina.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The Pros: The Premise – This was a good use of Time Travel and inverted the Ichabod and Abbie relationship as Ichabod has always been the man out of time, this time it was Abbie. It was actually done really well too, even though it involved somewhat of a magic reset button at the end.

Katrina and the Horseman of Death – Katrina and Abraham make a good team. They kill Benjamin Franklin and we see them nearly defeat Ichabod at the end and it’s only due to Abbie’s ancestor Dixon that they don’t.

Benjamin Franklin – I really liked how insane he was in this episode and how he immediately buys into Abbie’s story. He’s fun in the time he’s around and he does help prepare them for the next step of seeking out Dixon.

Abbie Mills – Abbie is wonderful in this! She gives a lot of sarcastic eyes to the folks who are racist to her and manages to take out the racist Colonel who was going to beat her. She is also the one who killed Henry last episode and set this episode in mission, and she rights the wrongs and stops Katrina from causing Moloch to be successful.

Ichabod Crane – Ichabod goes through a lot in this. Abbie tells him Katrina is pregnant and a witch and when he calls her out she doesn’t admit to it when their are hints she is lying. Once he believes Abbie he fights with her until the end, willingly risking his life so the Time Travel spell can be reversed and undone causing Katrina to be defeated. He also kills Katrina by accident when she is trying to kill Abbie for stopping her. He is a man alone now in regards to his past is dead, his son and his wife are gone partially by his hand and all he has are those in the present. It’s really well done how they do this. T

Okay: The Ending – The ending leaves things open as Dixon told Abbie that their battles are not done and that empty pages in her diary are for Abbie to fill. This could set up a bigger bad but most of it is just Jenny, Abbie, Irving and Ichabod coming together at the end to prepare for whatever comes next. They don’t know if they are having another season but they’re leaving it open, while completing the arcs.

  This episode was much better than the last, as Katrina wanting to save Henry made more sense than Henry’s sudden involvement in wanting to awaken the power of a bunch of witches and form his own coven with his mom. I like that Ichabod’s arc with Katrina and Henry both ended in a hard choice as it showed that everyone couldn’t be saved, this was something that was worrying me as it clashed with the one of the show and how evil characters like Abraham and Henry truly were. Still, this episode was an enjoyable adventure and if you’ve been watching the show I recommend it. This and the penultimate episode as the best this show has been in sometime.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 3 – “I’m not Afraid of Anything Anymore” – The Cost of Being a Magical Girl

Madoka Magica episode 3

      This was a powerful episode and definitely a favorite. In this we see that everything has a price and consequences, especially magic and power. We also see further analysis of what a wish entails and get more exploration of all the main characters we’ve been introduced to. There is so much to like about this episode.

 “I’m not Afraid of Anything Anymore,” was directed by Tomohiro Kamitani,
Kazuya Shiotsuk and Yuki Yase and written by Gen Urobuchi.

   The story begins with Sayaka visiting a boy who was a violinist from her childhood who is sick now and bringing him music. She weeps as she is with him. Next we have Mami going on a hunt and killing a familiar and Sayaka and Madoka gives their reasons for the wishes they would make when things change when they find a Grief Seed which changes everything for all the characters.

The Pros: Price of Magic – In this we see that the cost of magic is literal. Magic Girls die because many witches overpower them. We see that first hand this episode as well as how each of them is alone in different ways and carry the weight of their wish and magic.

Sayaka – The moment with Sayaka and the musician was beautiful and we see she is the one who is the protector and empathizes the most with others. She mourns what happens to Mami the most and is willing to stay with the Grief Seed in order to keep an eye on the witch so they  can find it quickly.

Charlotte – Is a creepy witch and really well designed. It looks like a teddy bear at first but turns into a cartoony caterpillar that sadly kills Mami. It’s the most powerful witch we have seen so far and it takes Hamuro to take it down.

Hamuro – Hamuro gives the warning that the witch is too powerful to Mami but Mami traps her so that she can continue converting Sayaka and Madoka over to the cause and becoming Magical Girls. She warns them at the end too and points out that become a Magic Girl is what destroyed Mami in the end.

Madoka – Madoka is shown to have a complicated life at home as her mom comes home drunk from work and seems miserable and her and her dad take of her Mom. Madoka just wants to be somebody and sees becoming a Magic Girl a gift on it’s own.

Mami – R.I.P. Mami. She reveals who she is in this episode as we see her tell Madoka about the price of being a Magic Girl and that she feels alone and that she only wears a mask so people will think she is cool. It is a sad thing contrasted by the hope Madoka gives her by saying she is her friend and that she admires her. That hope is soon dashed when Charlotte kills Mami. This was “Game of Thrones” level cruel and made me like this show as it doesn’t shy away from death or consequences.

   There is nothing to dislike about this episode as it explores cost and is full of consequences that forces our characters to change or to learn more about themselves. This series does not shy away from this which makes me think I will probably enjoy the rest of the series if this level of quality holds up.

Final Score: 10 / 10.