Those who have been reading some of my past mecha series reviews will probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of the Gundam franchise. These series often degenerate in strings of random fights that hardly ever resolve anything, and the storylines are way too often taken over by angsty and emo teenagers (or in Gundam 00’s case: angsty and emo young adults). However, this isn’t the case for Turn A Gundam!
I’m really glad to see that Turn A Gundam, directed by Tomino himself, manages to keep a solid direction and focus throughout the series. Okay, it’s a bit of a flawed direction here and there, but at least the plot is continuously moving. Something very impressive considering the complex, detailed and imaginative world that this series has to work with.
While on one hand, Turn A Gundam doesn’t escape some of the big clichés of the mecha-genre (a teenaged lead-character who just “happens” to find the “superpowered mecha of awesomeness”; “fighting is bad, so I will fight for these ideals!”), it makes up for it with its attention to detail: the cast for this show is huge, but Tomino manages to create lots of different fractions, all with their own ideals and morals. It has a carefully constructed setting, and the attention to detail for each of the mechas, airships, hovercrafts and spaceships is very impressive. I personally loved how at random times, Tomino liked to subtly flesh out random nameless soldiers, as they reported some news right next to a very important queen that everyone looks up to.
The large focus on politics is also one of the highlights of this series. While there are of course plenty of mecha-battles, a major theme of this series can also be found in the continuous peace negotiations, and how things like this that are so seemingly easy and obvious can be hampered by bad luck, just two or three people, or just plain bad planning and coordination.
As the show moves into its second half, it does lose a bit of steam, though. While definitely not bad, the second half of Turn A Gundam is inferior to the first. For that, I blame the series’ major villains: Agrippa has just way too little airtime and therefore makes no impact, while Gym Ghignham is just a plot device who continues to shout cheesy one-sided ideals. The two of them really put an evil side (and subsequently turn the lead characters into somewhat stereotypical good guys) to a series that had such a fine blur in morality, in which nobody really belonged to the good or bad side, and drag this series down.
Because of the lesser second half, I can’t quite call this show top-notch, but there is a lot to like in it nevertheless. Yoko Kanno has really worked her magic on the soundtrack, and the direction is strong under Tomino, with his trademark fast-paced dialogue that will keep the viewer on his toes. I’ll continue to raise eye-brows at teenagers who somehow end up piloting the most important military weapons in a single war, but hey: the rest of this show has enough other stuff to offer.