At the climax of the Eve Wars, on December 24 of the year AC 195, the armies of the World Nation and White Fang met in a ferocious battle. World Nation leader Treize Khushrenada was slain, White Fang leader Zechs Merquise disappeared, and Earth was saved from destruction by the intervention of the five Gundam pilots. Having witnessed the consequences of war and hatred, the people of Earth and the space colonies put aside their differences and together founded a new world government. Under this newly-formed Earth Sphere Unified Nation, a year has passed in peace. The government and the populace have disarmed themselves, and almost every remaining mobile suit has been destroyed. Deciding to follow suit, Gundam pilots Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, and Quatre Raberba Winner place their mighty mobile suits inside an asteroid and send them on a one-way voyage into the sun. But even as they bid their Gundams farewell, a new conflict is drawing near.
Now, Gundam Wing was a series I thoroughly enjoyed. Great characters who fit their roles perfectly, bang-on chemistry, and a brilliantly paced and thought-out story. However, I did take a bit of an issue with its art and animation, since the battle scenes lacked the fluidity and choreography I was used to. Reused frames and cheap explosions also dulled the experience. The foreground art was rather well done, but the lackluster backgrounds often left much to be desired. Ditto with the matte, blandish colors. I didn’t hang on this too much, because GW is rather old, and went with
the “it was good for its time” conclusion, and I often got the feeling that the excellent storyline mostly made up for the art and animation.
Thankfully, Endless Waltz addressed my issue with the art and animation. Much more precise actions, more fluid movements in the Mobile Suits, and much more time was spent on creating battles that looked and felt grittier and more realistic. The explosions didn't feel as cheap, the choreography was improved, and the beam blasts gave scenes a much better sense of dimension. The suits themselves benefit from flashier designs and with the slightly glossier color palate compared with Wing, they seem to pop out and become more vibrant. Ditto goes with the characters and backgrounds. Wing’s backgrounds to me felt a bit like a faded museum piece of art, but Endless Waltz’s art and animation feels much more contemporary.
A year has passed since the end of Wing, and while you can feel the characters have matured a bit in this timeframe, they’re still their old selves, keeping their old philosophies, battle techniques, strengths, weaknesses, skills, and personalities. This I see most apparent in Heero, Duo, and Relena. Keeping the characters relatively similar is perfect, since characterization was a huge strength of the original series. I’m glad that some time was spent on explaining the pasts of some of the pilots, but the movie only goes back a little while into the more recent events, and it feels like they only scratched the surface into the characters’ pasts. They also went into the true purpose and intent of Operation Meteor, but again, they only scratched the surface. Problem is that after they scratch the surface, the questions start flooding in and you’re left wanting more explanations. The new characters they introduce, Mariemaia and Dekim, are well developed for the time they are in the movie and despite minimal explanation, their intent is clearly shown and radiated towards the viewer very well.
The plot starts out in a rather hopeful note, with the results of Wing’s ending ushering in a new era of peace. But things get going rather quickly, and like Wing, each group of characters has their own agenda as to build up to the climax. Thankfully, unlike Wing, there isn’t a big dead spot in the middle of the movie where some characters get shoved aside and the viewer is left wondering what happened to them. The plot doesn’t slow down in the middle of the movie and the viewers are left wanting everything to come together. Even though each group of characters has an agenda, Endless Waltz doesn’t try to fragment and separate these groups as much as possible, and instead keeps their actions closely tied to the main plotline so there's a constant feeling of progression.
The shifts amongst these character groups apparent in Wing are also apparent in Endless Waltz, necessary and well done, but since the buildup to Endless Waltz’s climax is neverending, no shift in focus feels clunky and forced, which sometimes occurred in Wing. I would have liked a bit more focus on Wu Fei’s agenda and a little more on what happened to him and Trowa during the 2nd quarter of the movie, however. A slightly grittier battle between Heero and Wu Fei and more focus on Wing Zero would have also been welcome since Heero is the most central of the 5 pilots to the plot, but what Endless Waltz did deliver was still pretty close compared to Wing.
If you liked Gundam Wing, do not skip Endless Waltz. A good, though rather sad, end to the After Colony timeline, Endless Waltz concludes the Wing series very well. It’s like having an excellent dessert after your meal.
Time for a short review! Other than the first Pokemon movie and the first 3 DBZ movies, this was the first anime movie that a whole generation American anime fans watched. So how was it? Well...it was a bit polarizing to say the least. Every generation of anime fans has "the golden punching bag". That special anime that you just HAVE to hate online in order to call yourself a REAL anime fan. Darling of the Franxx currently holds that title belt. Before that there was Sword Art Online. Before SAO, there was Elfen Lied and before that there was Inuyasha. Gundam Wing was THE
anime to hate in the late 90s and Endless Waltz was even more hated. Why? Did it REALLY deserve the amount of vitriol it got? Let's find out!
Story and characters:
The story is that a militaristic bastard is trying to use the daughter of the main villain from Gundam Wing as a puppet and launch his own coup against Earth's government. Now only the Gundam pilots and their badass robots can save the day by blowing up some enemy mechs and making people realize that war is wrong. So basically...it's another Gundam anime. There have been just a couple well written Gundam series over the last 40 years, but mostly they follow the same pattern. A shadowy organization launches an all out war and only some very special teens with awesome robots can stop them. Insert forced anti-war message here. We watch Gundam series for awesome looking robot designs and awesome space battles that get us pumped to go collect models kits. Endless Waltz DOES have a few major issues like Chang Wufei turning bad for the sake of the plot and then turning good again almost immediately. Gundam Wing in general had a huge issue with random character alignment shifts. Still, I'm not personally bothered by this. It's all a matter of expectations. Gundam Wing is like anime Pro Wrestling. It's something you watch entirely for the spectacle and you just assume that totally random face turns and heel turns WILL happen.
Art and animation:
Firstly, the new designs for the 5 gundams are all amazing! The original 5 designs were cool, but the "custom models" for Endless Waltz are all massive improvements. I also need to say that this film looked AWESOME for its time and still holds up really well. This was made in 1998 and it looks better than most anime being released 20 years later in 2018. Dragonball fans would come in their pants if a special episode of DB Super looked even half as good as Endless Waltz does. Sunrise was still flush with cash at this point and riding high on that early Western anime boom. No expenses were spared in the making of this movie. It's mostly hand animated and just looks gorgeous.
Here is another area where Gundam Wing and Endless Waltz shine. The opening song is awesome. The battle songs and background songs are awesome. Every track gets you pumped to see some giant robots throw down. I have nothing bad to say about the Endless Waltz soundtrack. It's fucking awesome. Go check it out.
So...it's harmless, dumb fun with amazing production values and music. Why on Earth would people hate it SO much? I've been an anime fan since around 1997 and I can tell you the secret formula to being the internet's most hated anime. Is it having the worst plot and characters? nope. There is an anime called Kimera, that's about gay vampires from outer space and a douche-bag who is willing to sacrifice all humanity to get some sweet anal. Nobody has ever heard of that atrocity. The anime with the really bad plots typically go under the radar. Is it having the worst art? Nope. Is it having the most filler and worst pacing? Nope. The one thread that connects all the most hated anime on the English speaking internet from the late 90s to the present is demographics. So who are the gatekeepers of online anime taste? Who are the Watchmen? Geek males in their late teens and early 20s that think they're really smart and sophisticated. It is always been this way. What demographic do they utterly despise above all others? Teenage girls aged 13-19 who are more casual anime viewers and haven't seen TONS of anime. Whatever anime wins the hearts of "Fake geek girls" is going to be labeled the Anti-Christ online. Gundam Wing was one of these anime. Inuyasha? yep. Elfen Lied? yep. Sword Art? yep. I personally hate SAO, but even I realize it isn't THAT bad. I don't hate it more than I hate Bleach or Code Geass and yet nobody hates on those to the same degree. Why? Just look at their fandoms. I was a bit saddened and disappointed when I figured out this little formula, but that's just the way things are.
Should you go into this movie expecting a cinematic masterpiece? NO. Will you have fun and probably enjoy the cheesy, 90s ride? Yes! I defy you to watch the aerial duel between Wing and Altron Gundam and not be entertained. Or not mark out watching Custom Heavy unleash a hailstorm of bullets and missiles. This movie is quality nostalgic cheese and I will never stop loving it.
While I personally did like it, apparently the ending of Gundam Wing wasn’t exactly perfectly received by fans. I can see why: Some events were somewhat underwhelming, and while I did appreciate the faster pacing, I know other people didn’t. But anyhow, the reception to this finale, combined with the excellent merchandise sales prompted Sunrise and Bandai to release an 3 Episode OVA sequel to Gundam Wing: “New Mobile Report Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz”.
For this review, I’ll be covering the later released movie version, which is generally agreed to be the better one of the two as it adds about 30 or so minutes
of additional footage.
One thing I immediately loved about this movie is the pacing. In contrast to the awfully slow pacing of the show, this movie is paced rather well. It’s not too fast, but it’s also not too slow. You have enough breathing room to realize what’s going on, but not enough so that you let down your guard.
Another thing I liked is that they addressed one of my issues with Wing. The show in general promoted pacifism, yet this is also the one in which our main characters are freaking terrorists. Here, said contradiction is actually addressed, ultimately coming to the conclusion that sometimes violence really is necessary, however it has to be done under the right guidance and intentions.
The movie also gives us some insight into the backstories of our heroes. It’s not much, but given that one of Wing’s biggest issues was the lack of backstory, this is greatly appreciated. Heero’s flashback in particular is effectively the reason he’s a character that has managed to stand the test of time and not become a generic stoic anti-hero, but more on that later.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows here. Namely, there are some major plot issues. First of all, what the hell is Zechs doing here!? Dude was in the middle of an explosion last time we saw him and now he’s suddenly fine!? What the hell!? I mean, I know Char Clones have a stupidly hard survivability rate, but this is ridiculous. Also, why the hell are they sending the Gundams to the sun only to them just self-destruct them? That’s just kinda pointless, now isn’t it? Also, the whole plot in general, while engaging, is ultimately generic, with not much standing out. Still though, it should be telling that even with all of these issues, it’s STILL the best Gundam movie yet (Well, maybe. I haven’t seen NT as of writing this nor have the Hathaway’s Flash movies come out).
As mentioned before, all of the Wing Boys got some flashbacks, however I don’t have much to talk about as for Trowa, Quatre and Duo, as they’re basically the same as in the show. Heero and Wufei however need to be discussed.
As for Heero, he got the longest flashback of the lot and also the one that’s the most plot important. While we got the gist of his character back in the show, this movie puts all of it into perspective. With the context of this movie, Heero’s someone who might as well be empty; he has nothing left to live for, and at the start of the show, he was but a nihilistic, empty shell of a man. This movie ultimately shows the end of that, him finally deciding to put the past behind him and live on; or at least try to do so. With his final line in the movie, appropriately, being “I don’t have to kill any more”. For a man’s whose literal catchphrase was “I’ll kill you”, this says a lot. Honestly, despite how little the additions to his characters are, I can confidently say that Heero’s honestly the best character in the entirety of Gundam Wing, and one of the best examples on how to do a stoic protagonists.
By contrast, Wufei is a bit harder to explain. He does a Heel Turn in this movie, and people seem to think that his motivation to do so came out of nowhere. And honestly… I don’t see it. I will admit it’s not conveyed very well, but honestly I got the impression that he wanted to become evil so that humanity would be able in some way to move forwards, believing that conflict is the only way humanity can make any advancements. This might be due to me being familiar with his Episode Zero backstory and the whole deal with his dead wife, but the point still stands. Honestly, while Wufei’s still my least favorite of the five, this movie did actually make me like him a lot more.
Even Relena’s better in this movie, as she finally accepts that you can’t always achieve peace through pacifism; that sometimes you have to fight in order to achieve your ideals.
The last characters I want to talk about are the villains, Dekim Barton and Marimeia Khushrenada, who are basically the AC version of Mineva Zabi and Haman Karn, only with Dekim being nowhere near as likable as her. They’re fine enough antagonists, but nothing special.
That said, none of my issues with the plot affect the animation. It is nothing but late 90’ glory. Every single movement is smooth as hell, and the particle effects are amazing. There are only a few fights, but its telling that you can feel the weight of the MS’ in every single one of them. Speaking of the MS…
Rather infamously, the movie scrapped the Okawara Kunio designs from the show and replaced them with completely different designs by Katoki Hajime. This is nothing but a retcon, but you can bet no one knew that at the time. Hell, stuff like Super Robot Wars likes to make these legitimate upgrades the cast got towards the end of the story, which is from where the “Custom” nickname comes from.
That said, I freaking adore these designs. I particularly love how every Gundam is basically their TV counterpart, but with their gimmicks taken up to eleven while also simplifying them at the same time. The Wing Zero could transform into a plane and fly? Screw that; let’s just give it angel wings! The Deathscythe Hell was the Shinigami? Well, let’ take that up to eleven! The Sandrock Kai had large pincers? Let’s make them even larger! The Altron could extend its arms? Let’s make them even longer! The Heavyarms Kai had a bunch of guns? ADD MORE!! Combine all of these with shiny new paintjobs and you have some of the best designs in the franchise’s history.
Oh, and the Tallgeese III is awesome too, and I love how it combines elements from the Tallgeese with ones of the Gundam Epyon.
The whole soundtrack is back alongside a few new pieces and it’s amazing. I should mention that for the most part, I prefer the music placing in the OVA, as I think that those picks better fit the mood of the scenes. Of course the shining exception to that is the debut of the Wing Zero Custom, in which the movie plays its main theme, “Last Impression” during the entire scene, with it being so perfectly placed so that every frame of animation matches up with the mood of the song. That said, I will admit to being more of a fan of the OVA’s theme, “White Reflection”.
The whole cast from the show comes back and does a great job as always. Midorikawa Hikaru already had one of the better performances in the show as Heero, and I honestly think he outdid himself this time around, showing off Heero’s self-loathing while still maintaining his standard cool tone of voice. Sakuma Rei also gets to join the fun, and she’s also pretty good.
And just to mention a few Seiyuus I didn’t in my original GW review, we also have the likes of Yokoyama Chisa, the late great Yamaguchi Sayuri, Matsui Naoko and Nakata Kazuhiro.
So yeah, I really liked this movie. While it’s not perfect, it’s pretty much the best possible ending Gundam Wing could’ve asked for, with it neatly wrapping up its plot and finally allowing our heroes a break. Definitely the best Christmas movie since Die Hard.
I must admit, I am undeniably biased toward this OVA because it was my very first introduction to anime. Before I even first saw Dragon Ball, Pokemon, or the other baseline Toonami-type shows everyone knows, Endless Waltz was melting my little 8 year old mind.
That being said, I still love watching GWEW to this day, the animation is frankly awesome, the story, while not the most intricate or devastating in the timeless juggernaut that is the Gundam franchise, is still suitable for the message its trying to tell. The voice acting is on-point for the bulk of the run-time and though its not
really meant to be the most mind-blowing or in-depth drama, the emotional beats are still quite effective in my eyes. It's by no means a masterpiece, but it hasn't gotten old for me yet, it's an 8 out of 10 overall from me.