Saturday, July 13, 2013

Recap: The Shooting Star She Saw

Hello again. Earlier this year, I did a recap of an episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion; which then led to me doing more recaps of mecha anime. Now, the film Pacific Rim is coming out this week; which is the first major attempt at a western mecha movie outside the Transformers films. Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) is directing, citing his massive love for the mecha genre as the reason why he made the film.

Despite the fact that it would seem like a movie that audiences would eat up, many critics and analysts are wondering if audiences will accept this type of mecha movie; citing the failure of the film adaptation of the board game Battleship and GDT's lack of experience with big-budget films.

Still, the idea is admirable. I did mention in my recap of "Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win" that Mobile Suit Gundam is one of the most recognizable and popular franchises among western and Japanese anime fans. The original series may have been canceled, but it proved popular enough in reruns that many sequel series were greenlit and it became a cultural phenomenon; essentially the Japanese equivalent of Star Trek.

Which brings me to the subject of my recap today: when I was younger, I often saw advertisements on Cartoon Network for Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. While I never really watched it, it did seem interesting. From what I could gather, Gundam Wing is one of the more popular entries in the franchise; being heavily praised for its animation and story. It also moved a lot of toys and other merchandise (I have a Gundam Wing card binder). Given the release of high-risk venture Pacific Rim; I suppose it's as good a time as any to take a look at this series and start watching it. So let's open up the first episode of Gundam Wing, "The Shooting Star That She Saw."

We open on the theme song. It's pretty good. It has a nice '90s pop beat over imagery of a world torn apart by war.

We then see a starbase, where several mecha are firing at a space shuttle. Can't let these people go into space! They hit the shuttle and destroy it.

We then get imagery of how humanity left Earth for space; but the United Earth Sphere Alliance became militaristic and power-hungry in their travels. The year is After Colony 195. There is a rebellion that seeks to restore freedom to the galaxy by smuggling weapons back to Earth as shooting stars. Even so, the Alliance catches on to this. Five pods are sent down as we get our title over one of the titular Gundams.

A group of soldiers are tracking the pods as they descend upon Earth. They contact their superiors to let them know about this development. We cut to a space shuttle as Lieutenant Zechs is informed of the pods. He deduces they're related to Operation M. They can only catch up to one of the pods: the one headed for Eastern Eurasia. One of the pods has someone on it. He notices a civilian shuttle that is re-entering Earth's atmosphere. A young woman named Relena and her father are returning to Earth after a very long time. Zechs' shuttle finds the pod and catches up to it. Zechs realizes the pilot of the pod won't shoot down a shuttle just to increase his speed. He then decides to make his move.

The pilot realizes the Alliance is on to him; and exclaims "damn it" at the situation. Do you know what the hell we have to do to get a damn TV-PG rating? It's not like the premise of robotic civil war would have been enough? No, we always have to throw in some profanity to make the teenagers want to watch! The pilot begins entering the atmosphere, and fires his retro rockets. Zechs' shuttle goes after the pod at full throttle! Zechs is surprised that the pod has increased speed. Relena looks out the window, and the pod deploys into a jet! Zechs notices the jet is transforming. Zechs orders his men to open fire. The jet rights itself and gets ready to face Zechs' shuttle.

Zechs readies his Mobile Suit, Leo, to meet the pilot's challenge. Zechs shoots down the jet, and his comrades suggest facing him in the Aries. The jet transforms into a Gundam, and Zechs' comrades go after him. They hit the Gundam, and it returns fire, annihilating Zechs' comrades! Zechs tries to face the Gundam. He clashes with it and ejects from Leo. Zechs is in awe at the Mobile Suit. The Mobile Suit lands in the ocean, near Japan.

The shuttle has landed and the man, Mr. Darlan, is being interviewed by the press about what just happened above Earth's atmosphere. Two officers have a car waiting for Mr. Darlan, but he declines saying he has things to do for his daughter's birthday. The officers have another car for Relena, but she also refuses; saying she'll find her own way home. Relena walks along the seaside; lamenting about father and how busy he is, when she finds the Mobile Suit pilot on the shore.

A man in military garb is at the opera when he receives a call from Zechs about his Mobile Suit being shot down. The man says this isn't like Zechs. Zechs reveals that the Mobile Suit was made of Gundanium, which surprises the man. I must also point out how primitive the man's video phone looks. It's definitely a switch from landline handsets with holographs of the speaker on the other end. It may have been an indicator of Voice Over Internet Protocol services like Skype, but it looks like the Alliance buys their electronics at the same store Strong Bad does.

Still, the man and Zechs are surprised at this development, saying this would not have happened if they were in charge 15 years ago. They know that Gundams are now on Earth. The man decides to send out some squads to retrieve the suit from the ocean while Zechs sends out a flotilla to inspect it. The man is named Colonel Tres. His superiors are not happy with Tres wasting their resources. Then, they get to the next order of

Back on the beach, Relena takes off the pilot's helmet and notices he's still alive, and very young. The pilot is surprised, and asks Relena if she saw anything. Some paramedics get to the beach, but the pilot pushes a button on his suit. In a puff of smoke,

We then get a montage of the other Mobile Suit pilots of this series. We have Duo, wrecking up an Alliance military base.

We see another Mobile Suit with a lot of firepower destroying Nova Base. The pilot's name is Trowa.

We see yet another Mobile Suit attacking Alliance forces in the desert. The pilot's name is Quatre.

On the sea, we see one more Mobile Suit attacking the alliance flotilla. The pilot's name is Wu Fei.

Back with Zechs, his men are wondering about the search troops. He tells them not to get so flustered. He then shows them photographs of another Mobile Suit, the last one we saw in the montage. Zechs says their forces have been depleted, and there are now five Gundams.

At school, the students are wondering where Relena is. The girls at one table are jealous of the fact that she went to space; and notice that it's her birthday tomorrow.

The school has a new student, Hiro Yun. He is the pilot of the Gundam that crashed. Sure enough, he's given the seat next to Relena's. The plot thickens.

Relena then invites Hiro to her birthday party, but he declines. Hiro then threatens to kill her. Relena then wonders what kind of person Hiro is.

I blame the rap music.

"The Shooting Star She Saw" is a great start to Gundam Wing. With a franchise as large as Gundam, this is indeed a good series to start with. It may have been that I just wasn't ready for it when I was younger (I was in the Pok mon/Dragon Ball Z crowd). Just as well, the story is very good, treating its viewers like adults. The animation has held up very well over time. The characters all have distinct personalities. The villains have clear motivations and are charismatic in their portrayals. All in all, I am now in the process of watching Gundam Wing (I try to finish any anime series I'm on before I start new ones). As for my next recap; it will be on an anime that I dread whenever I press play, but has consistently provided material for this blog. See you later!
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