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.

Kagemusha (1980): A Story of War, Purpose and the State

1980_KAGEMUSHA_poster_(11)

Akira Kurosawa is a director I’ve been wanting to review for a while. Back in College when I was studying Japanese history, culture and language we watched some of his films. It’s been a bit since then, so it was great to return to one of his classics. Not only because of how great of a director Kurosawa is, but because of the time period the “Kagemusha” takes place in. The Warring States period is one of my favorite periods in Japan to study…especially in relation to the rise of the Shoguns and the figures of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

I’m going to say now, the film is not entirely historically accurate. For one the Warlord Takega Shingen was not killed and replaced by a double for 3 years. The movie also takes inspiration from Japanese Noh theatre so exaggerates some of the costumes and characters so that the message can come through clearer. In that way it is an excellent film, just not necessarily a good historically accurate film.

“Kagemusha” as said before, takes place around the Warring States period when the largest powers at play were Tokugawa Ieyasu, and the one he’d allied with and become a retainer of Oda Nobanaga as well as the third largest faction Takega Shingen. The story than goes smaller as Shingen’s brother found a criminal to play as a Kagemusha…a body double for Takega so he would have more protection and could “be” in many places at once. This body double is an unnamed theif, and after Takega is shot during one of the sieges he is called up to take his place so the generals can keep stability and keep Nobunaga’s and Ieyasu’s armies away. From here the story unfolds.

large_kagemusha_blu-ray4Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Cinematography – Kurosawa uses the the stark Noh colors for inspiration throughout the film and it is done masterfully. Even mundane things like marching become beautiful as the different legions wear different colors of armor. This is used as  a backdrop for battles as red is used to illustrate the violence or the multi-colored backdrop of the Kagemusha’s dream sequence. This helps the movie flow better, as it is a really long film.

Takega Shingen / The Kagemusha – The same actor Tatsuda Nakadai plays both the Warlord and the Body double, and though people say he overacts…this is based off Noh, that is kind of the point. He plays the extremes really well. From extreme cowardice as the thief, the confidence and coldness of Takega and when the Kagemusha embraces his role and becomes a kinder version of the warlord.

Oda Nobunaga – This is one of the most fascinating people in history, and this movie illustrates parts of the reasons why. He was an atheist who was a patron to Jesuit Missionaries, he wore Western Garb and drank wine from Spain but also was a huge supporter of the arts within Japan. He was an adaptable man which is why I think he was able to conquer so much before he died. Daisuke Ryu does an excellent job capturing this character as he is always smiling, energetic and active, but serious and respectful of his enemies. He has some great scenes with Ieyasu where they share some red wine and another scene where he says Amen to a blessing from the missionaries. Daisuke Ryu lives this role…and I can’t wait to see him in more films.

Tokugawa Ieyasu – Historically in regards to looks he was the opposite of Nobunaga. While Nobunaga was active and adaptable…Ieyasu was the waiter and watcher and tester. He always figured things out before he acted, which is why out of all the Shoguns leading up to Unification in the Warring States Period, he was the one stood victorious at the end. We see bits of that here too, though at this time Nobanaga was the superior force so we see that deference in their alliance. Masayuki Yui does a good job in the role, I just wish we could have got more. He doesn’t have as many unique character moments as Nobanaga.

The Battles – There are two major battles we get in this. One where Takega Shingen’s son goes to win honor as he was exiled away from his father and wants to reclaim honor and leadership of the clan from the Kagemusha, who with his generals than has to rescue him with a show of force…and at the end where the same son leads all his soldiers to the slaughter form Nobanuga’s guns.

The Reveals – The Reveal of the Kagemusha not being Takega Shingen is heartbreaking. It all came from pride too. He tried reading Shingen’s horse and was cast off revealing that he didn’t have Shingen’s scar on his back. He is given money and cast out into desolation. It is touching as the generals who have had some respect for him can do nothing since it was all a lie and ruse to begin with. After this Nobunaga does a Noh performance before Ieyasu in honor of Shingen and being tricked for three years by such a worthy foe.

The Ending – We see the banner of Shingen’s clan in the water as the Kagemusha is dying after joining the battle, having finally found his purpose.

The Messages – There are quite a few messages in this film. One major one, is how duty can give one purpose since as the Kagemusha tries to steal from Shingen after his death, and it only when he realizes all he lost that he devotes himself to the clan and the role they gave him. This in turn leads to him dying for a cause at the end. He is no longer lost, no longer wandering…his purpose is found.

Another message is the uncaringness of the State. The Kagemusha is just a tool and after he is of no use he is left as a possible death in the Warring States. No one checks up on him and the relationship he formed with Shingen’s grandson means nothing because he was a peasant and thief so has no power. He is only worth as much as he is useful, which is exaggerated even more in war time.

Kurosawa is a master director and this film is a classic for a reason. It is a bit long, but the cinematography and major characters are so great that it keeps you interested and curious to see what happens. The time period being one of my favorite periods of study is also a plus for me as well. I highly recommend this film and it is one of my all time favorites after today.

My final score for it is 9.5 / 10