Mark Simmons (scorpio@best.com)
Thu, 6 May 1999 11:52:51 -0700


Folks,

  Just saw the first two episodes of Turn A Gundam (plus the
snooze-inducing preview episode). I'll skip the plot synopsis - after all,
you can find perfectly nice synopses at
<http://www.kt.rim.or.jp/~skira/gundamhp/turnagundam.shtml> - and
concentrate on my general impressions.

  While I'm not really going to discuss plot points, this may get a little
spoilerish in parts. Those of timid constitution are advised to stop
reading at this juncture.

  [SPOILER BUFFER]

* I like the opening a lot (though you don't get to see it until episode
2). It begins with a shower of still frames from previous Gundam series
spiraling down a cosmic drain like in ZZ's "Silent Voice" opening, then
goes into an L.Gaim-style montage of character faces. The song is a very,
very '80s crooner, and really quite catchy. In the preview episode, you can
see director Tomino gettin' down in the studio while the opening is being
recorded. :-)

  Sighted in the opening is a mysterious character, a member of the Moon
Race with a mop of white hair and funky socket-covering red shades. He
seems to first appear in episode 5, judging from Shinji Kira's synopses. I
suspect this may be royal guard chief Harry Ord.

* Now, the cast. I really like hero Loran, who's as passive and mellow as
previous Gundam heroes have been cranky and intense; as befits his "Laura"
nickname, he's very feminine in appearance, though in the first couple of
episodes you can see for yourself he's not a she. ;-)

  Loran's fellow Moonrace scouts, Keith and Fran, look rather Nagano-esque.
But the ugly Moonrace military commanders, and the chunky royal spacesuit
worn by Moonqueen Diana, rule out a Moon=Nagano schtick.

  The Heim sisters, Kieru and Soshie, are pretty much as you'd suppose from
their character designs; icy and aloof, and tomboyishly pushy,
respectively. Aristocrat Gwen III Rheinford is hard to read at this point.

* General production thoughts. I'm somewhat boggled by the pacing, which
involves a lot of rapid cuts and abrupt scene transitions; in some critical
plot points, it's frankly hard to see what's going on. Maybe they're just
rushing so as to introduce the Gundam by the end of the second episode, but
thus far the pacing has been a bit hurried and confusing.

  The animation is very nice, though, and the locales well-established. You
do really get a feel for the Miyazaki/Victorian setting, all the better to
shake things up when the Moonrace attack. While the actual attack, at the
end of episode 2, is confusing and underwhelming, the buildup - with
worried astronomers squinting at the lunar surface through their telescopes
and weird radio static - is quite suspenseful.

  I didn't really notice Yoko Kanno's score. I guess it's hard to top the
intrusive audio spectacle of Escaflowne. ;-)

* The mecha, such as there is. You don't really get a good look at the
WaDom, or see it really thrashing biplanes and armored cars - next episode,
maybe. The Flat is very cool, and I hope they dig it up again in short
order. The Moonrace space suits are very spiffy.

  As for the Turn A Gundam itself, and its exploding rifle, let me join the
growing chorus of people who say: Get over it. The ways of a mobile suit
are in the doing, not the design, and when the mustached Gundam finally
revs up and joins the fray, you'll hardly notice the design quirks.

* Overall, how was it? Very character-driven, with lots of weird native
rituals and casual semi-nudity (increasingly, a Tomino trademark). Very
much a departure from the high-tech emphasis of traditional Gundam, and it
feels a lot like a Wells/Verne homage - specifically, like War of the
Worlds with mobile suits. Its relation to the larger scope of the Gundam
saga is yet to be seen, but frankly, it's a much more inventive way to mark
the twentieth anniversary than cranking out yet another space opera...

-- Mark

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Mark Simmons <mailto:scorpio@best.com>
MacAddict: the magazine! <http://www.macaddict.com/>
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