"Gundam Wing" The Endless Waltz Finishes Strong
After seemingly finding success with their Alternate Universe attempts in Gundam Wing, Bandai and Sunrise decided to milk the franchise even further by creating a sequel OAV, bringing back all the principal cast for one last brawl. When that was successful, Bandai decided to get even more dough out of its cash cow by making a movie version with additional scenes. But was either version worth the hype?
The year is After Colony 196. A year has passed since the space station Libra was destroyed, signaling the end of the great war. Unfortunately, peace is still a long way away, as Relena Darlian has been kidnapped, the new colony X-18999 has been taken over by Dekim Barton and his granddaughter, Mariemaia Khrushrenada, the daughter of Trieze Khrushrenada, the defense force (now known as the Preventers) are helpless to stop them without any Mobile Suits (as Relena has banned them), and the Gundam pilots sent their Gundams to be dropped off into the sun. As the truth about Operation Meteor comes out into the open, the Gundam pilots will have to face their past before Mariemaia completes her conquest of the Earth without firing a single bullet. Earth really won’t roll over so easily, will it? Has the Barton Foundation truly taken over the world without any resistance?
Gundam Wing became much better as the series went along, and that momentum is carried over into its sequel, Endless Waltz. The Movie version adds some extra footage, mainly of the Gundams fighting and an extra scene involving Dorothy (who is absent entirely in the OAV), and its main purpose is to let the story flow a little better. There’s also some music changes which I’ll get into later. Anyway, as for the actual feature, it is really fun to watch. The story, though a bit convoluted at points, does work out overall, giving the movie a sense of danger while also giving a laisse-faire feeling that pervades the Earth and the colonies. The extra scenes give the Gundam pilots greater development, some more than others, and even tie into the TV series. Though it’s not quite as developmental as the Episode Zero manga, it still works at adding a new layer to the Gundam pilots, showing how they are shaped before the TV series even started. I would have liked to see Wufei’s wife or Duo’s old friend Solo cameo in the movie/OAV, but it still works.
However, there are some trouble spots in this feature. Near the end, the Gundam pilots (plus Zechs and Noin) decide to not kill any of the Serpent Custom pilots in order to imprint their views and make them learn their lesson. Not only is this decision rather annoying, but it goes against what they did during the first two-thirds of the film, as Heero & Duo weren’t all that hesistant to kill during their assault on the colony, and I’m sure Heero killed at least a few soldiers during the final scenes with Wing Zero. Aside from that, the OAV moves a little too quickly, though that is solved by the movie, and I wish Relena had more scenes with Dekim instead of being with Mariemaia all the time. But hey, Relena’s no longer a pure pacifist like she annoyingly was in the series, so that is a plus. Those aren’t the main problems though.
No, the main problem comes from the infamous Mobile Suit re-designs. Of all the new designs, the Serpent Custom, the Tallgeese III, and Heavyarms are the only ones that really work, as they blend coolness with at least some form of realism. The downgrade in weaponry utterly kills Deathscythe’s already-lacking versatility and Sandrock just doesn’t look all that great despite the gigantic shortels (then again, I’m one of the few that liked Sandrock’s TV design). Then there is Altron and Wing Zero. Altron, my favorite Gundam of all time from any series, gets completely crapped on, what with an utterly horrible color scheme, a huge shaft in the weapons department, and some really gigantic claws that just look ugly. Really, how could they do this to the perfect Altron? And then there is Wing Zero. Now, the actual body looks rather cool (unlike Altron), though I still wonder where it keeps the Buster Rifle, but those friggin angel wings just do not work. If this was RaXephon or Evangelion, the wings would work, but this is Gundam, and those stupid wings utterly destroy what little realism the Wing Gundams had. A shame, too.
Well, at least the bad designs are animated well. In fact, they’re animated extremely well. Endless Waltz has what is argueably the best animation a Gundam feature has had yet (which sets my standards high for when the SEED theatrical movie is eventually released). The fights are fluid, the coloring gives everything a shiny flair, though making the series even more a European fantasy series like Escaflowne rather than Gundam, and the special effects are put to good use. Compared to the bland animation of the Gundam Wing TV series, one really can appreciate how awesome Gundam can look like when it’s given a nice animation budget. Hell, even Wing Zero’s entrance looks cool thanks to the animation, stupid angel wings and all. Really, there isn’t a whole lot you can complain about the animation here, unless you’re too used to digital works and can’t watch cel-animated features anymore.
The music deserves two different opinions. Both feature roughly the same music tracks, which give the movie a Christmas-like feeling (thanks to Jingle Bells being incorporated into the soundtrack), but the vocal songs and the timing of the music is different depending on which version you watch. The OAV, bolstered by arguably the best Wing song “White Reflection,” is, in my opinion, the superior soundtrack. The Movie version, on the other hand, has the disappointing “Last Impression,” along with some re-worked music that just throws off the timing of some scenes completely. All the old voices from the series return for this new feature, and overall I like the English group better, specifically Dekim and Wufei, though I did like Heero’s “Roger that” better in English as well. Still, if you liked either cast in the series, you’ll like them just as much in the OAV/Movie, and the Japanese cast isn’t really bad, just not as good as the dub.
With a 3-episode OAV and a 180-minute movie stuffed onto the disc, there wasn’t a lot of room for the extra features. You get the standards here, textless ending, mecha gallery, photo gallery, and trailers. So, instead of talking about that, I’ll just ramble about which version of the feature is better. Honestly, I don’t know which to pick. Story-wise, the movie version is by far better, as it enhances everything and makes the feature more cohesive as a separate storyline. However, the mis-timed and just plain bad vocal song and music tracks make me flock over to the OAV version. Why, oh why did they change the soundtrack for the feature? If they had kept the music the same as the OAV version for the movie, it would’ve been the clear choice. As it is, I’m undecided.
Overall, this is a must for any Gundam Wing fan. However, if you’re just getting into Gundam, I suggest renting Char’s Counterattack or SEED Destiny first, as this feature is about as far away from the core Gundam values as you can get.