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.
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.
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.
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.
I already have a review for the Gundam Wing series, and I'd suggest reading that first as my feelings towards it also reflect that of this movie for the most part. Endless Waltz is the sequel to the Gundam Wing TV series, and the greatest thing about it is that it could've easily felt forced as the original series ended on its own but instead it feels like a natural continuation and extended conclusion of the series.
This is surely for the better as it allows Gundam Wing to go out with a much greater bang. The initial scenario is nearly identical to that of the
final episodes of Wing, but the progression is much different. After peace is obtained a new force shows up to take advantage of the Earth's powerless state with a big plan that puts the entire planet at risk.
We aren't here for the plot though (because it's Gundam Wing), but rather the thrills, and Endless Waltz delivers more of those than ever before through some incredible animation quality that blows the original series animation to smithereens, showcasing both much crisper art and fluid animation. To give an example of just how good the art is, there were many times before where I had seen still pictures of Endless Waltz and thought I was looking at high quality promotional art. It's really something.
To further justify this sequel's existence, it gives us some short backstories on all the Gundam pilots that the original series was sorely lacking. It isn't much, but Heero, Trowa, and Wufei all needed it most. We actually barely get anything about Duo unfortunately, but he was cool enough already, and Quatre's backstory was actually in the series.
Speaking of Gundams, the most controversial aspect of Endless Waltz has always been Hajime Katoki's Mobile Suit redesigns. These redesigns clash greatly with Kunio Okawara's popular originals and have met with much scorn from many Gundam Wing fans due to a perceived lack of respect for Okawara's designs by Katoki. These new designs are not upgrades, but rather complete retcons that don't acknowledge the originals other than the base concept. Deathscythe Hell no longer has any weapons besides the Beam Scythe, Sandrock loses its claw and instead fights only with its shotels making it redundant in the face of the fellow melee Gundam Deathscythe, Heavyarms is the same but now blue for some reason, Altron is... pretty much the same, but who cares about Altron? And of course, Wing Zero gets its now legendary angel wings, which you either think are cool as hell or incredibly stupid. Since Deathscythe was hit pretty hard here, you can definitely put me down as someone who dislikes the Endless Waltz redesigns, though I like Heavyarms's new color scheme more, and Tallgeese III is my second favorite Mobile Suit in the series. While I hated Wing Zero's angel wings before seeing this, when in motion they have a more mechanical look to them so I'm giving it a pass even though it doesn't beat the original (it even loses its Mobile Armor bird mode, please help me). These changes were all so, so unnecessary and minimize the original designs. I don't get it. Worse still, these are almost always the final versions used in the Super Robot Wars games.
Venting over. Endless Waltz contains the best qualities of Gundam Wing's fast-paced action and these positive qualities overshadow much of the usual lame melodrama. The movie's biggest misstep is having a set-up and ending that ignores its conflict with the series's central themes and resets things back to the status quo which Endless Waltz showed didn't work. Just Gundam Wing being stupid again. If you liked the series, you will like Endless Waltz. If you didn't like the series, you will at least like Endless Waltz more. It's that simple.