The year is 2314 AD, two years after Celestial Being's last great battle and the world faces a new crisis. A derelict Jupiter exploration ship, abandoned 130 years ago, has left its orbit and is approaching Earth. The ESF has also begun to exploit the power of Innovators through Descartes Shaman. The world's exposure to GN Particles has resulted in many people awakening as True Innovators. Realizing the military benefits of such individuals, the Earth Sphere Federation has begun to research Innovation and exploit the emerging Innovators' abilities. As Celestial Being and its Gundam Meisters begin their final mission to save humanity from an unimaginable threat, the Extraterrestrial Living-metal Shape-shifters (ELS), Gundam Meister Setsuna F. Seiei is about to discover the true purpose of his evolution as an Innovator and the nature of the "dialogues" for which Aeolia Schenberg's plan had prepared the human race.
First original Gundam theatrical feature in almost two decades. The directorial talent behind Fullmetal Alchemist. The musical scoring of Kenji Kawai. The inclusion of aliens for the first time in the franchise's thirty year history. The namesake of a cultural phenomenon. To the cynical mind, Awakening of the Trailblazer could have almost instantly been dismissed as a failure due to the surrounding hype, the general attitude of indifference many fans have adopted thanks to Sunrise's shaky track record, and just the general air of disapproval by the die-hard Universal Century fans arguing that Gundam has just 'lost' its way.
And maybe some of it is true,
maybe Gundam has 'lost' its way, maybe it doesn't focus extensively on the hardships of war anymore, maybe the whole 'kill-em-all' nonsense stopped with Victory Gundam, and as an innocent new Gundam fan asks: "What's so great about Zeta Gundam anyways? I like Gundam 00 better.", the reactionary legion of Tomino cock-suckers instantly start screeching like little girls, and immediately start ranting about how Gundam has 'lost' its luster, passed its peak, ruined, and why Gundam today "sucks balls because it's not what Tomino wanted." But never do they ever commit the blasphemous act of thinking that, perhaps, this self-pleasuring canonization of old-school Gundam has outdone some of its magic? And just maybe the whole idea of 'kill-em-all' and the idea of the traditional trope-ridden Gundam has gotten quaint? After viewing this movie, I can safely say that if Gundam 'losing' its way means actually progressing the franchise onto new boundaries, then I hope Gundam continues to 'lose' its way.
Which actually brings up an interesting quirk about Gundam 00. For a series that has drawn a huge number of parallels to Gundam Wing, and even Zeta Gundam thanks to the introduction of A-Laws (a la the Titans) in the second season, it's fascinating to see the movie component of the series turn out so fresh, and so originally its own piece of work; it's especially puzzling considering this movie almost has a doomsday quality to it, and where the focus and foundation of the series seems to borrow more from the likes of Evangelion than any Gundam show, it's almost as if Mizushima grew tired of Gundam and just decided to make a science-fiction flick however he wanted it to be.
The real interesting bit about the story is that it completely disregards any Gundam conventions, especially the almost collective defining theme for the franchise: human vs human conflict, and its effects on both soldiers and civilians. Instead you have, for the first time ever, a human vs alien conflict; granted the aliens are conceptual, and nothing really humanoid, which is a wise choice considering a franchise so deeply rooted in traditions would have felt cheated if the aliens were anything like those found in Macross. Likewise, this movie has no masked villain, and maybe the biggest slap to the face, is the ending, which averts the big showdown between protagonist vs villain found in almost every main Gundam series and seems to be more rooted among the lines of something you would find in Evangelion, though certainly more optimistic. The whole story gets very psychological and metaphysical towards the end
Concepts aside, the story itself is a bit inconsistent. The story can be easily separated into two parts: the calm and happenings before the storm, and the storm. Though as a whole, the story is wobbly because it feels like two different people directed different parts of the story. The first half of the story is character centric and surprisingly dark, in that it almost possesses an apocalyptic air to it all, and the general sense of confusion, and fear is especially well portrayed in the events, ultimately creating an atmosphere of chaos while under the supervision of a useless government that has become radically pacifist. This half of the story is really uncharacteristically edgy and dark, and it's interesting because Gundam shows aren't like this at all, it is radical, and it is refreshing from the staple Gundam formula.
The second half is where this movie treads back into standard Gundam territory, there is a huge fight that literally lasts for at least 1/3 of the movie and towards the end of it all, things get Evangelion-esque psychological (a la metaphysical visions and pseudo-philosophical babbling), and the prominent (admittedly cheeky) theme that peace can only be achieved when all living things can understand each other, rears its head to solve the problem and by the end, things get a bit ... flowery (literally). It is ideological, but at the core of this radical movie, it is still a Gundam.
The problem with the story is that it is a bit of a roller coaster ride in keeping a consistent atmosphere, it's all over the place in keeping the same tone. Likewise, Mizushima tries too hard to provide us differing 'perspectives' on this story with the segments including Marina, Saji, and Billy essentially doing ... nothing. Though I think that's something that should be blamed on the Anno Domini series in general and not exclusively criticism just for this movie. This story sometimes has a hard time of knowing where it's going, and the convoluted writing seems like it's almost teasing fans.
Also, this story happens to have the most unnecessarily misleading subplot ever.
Art and Animation:
Production values are, as expected from a Gundam feature film, pretty high. The animation quality during the battle scenes are incredibly fluid, though inconsistent animation is prevalent in non-fight scenes, and the mixture of CGI and 2D animation is awkward at best.
The character design is pretty consistent, some characters have had redesigns to show growth, though not too apparent. The innovator/clones concept may be looked by some as storytelling, but by others as taking a shortcut in character design (e.g. Mina and Nena similarities). Likewise, mobile suit designs are mainly rehashed or just colored with a different color palette, and the new Gundams look the same with the exception of Tieria's Raphael Gundam.
The aliens (the ELS), are a mixed bag in terms of design, they're just parasitic fragments of metal, which doesn't make for the most visually appealing villain of the series. But it works because, Gundam as a series, has always had a very visual enemy to fight against (e.g. enemy mobile suits, mobile armor etc.), and having something as abstract as the ELS to fight against is both refreshing and innovative for a franchise so stubbornly rooted in its old ways.
The score for this film is a bit of a disappointment, it uses the same tracks as the ones found in the first season. Though there is an Evangelion-like ominous chant track found towards the end that accommodates the scene effectively, that one effective track is boggled down by a horrible song (courtesy of UVERworld), and some very generic J-pop played during one of the battles in a misguided attempt at creating a "valiant moment", or something among those lines. It should be noted that this film actually doesn't have much background music throughout the majority of its course.
In many ways, Setsuna's condition is very similar to how Cloud Strife was in Advent Children. Both are lost, contemplative, and trapped in their own psych, but where Cloud fought and inexplicably, and suddenly, found a purpose. Setsuna slowly comes to the realization of his purpose, and why he is what he is. The social disconnection and isolation brought on by becoming an Innovator is a theme portrayed in Setsuna, as a character, much more effectively than the likes of Amuro Ray ever was.
The emergence of Feldt as the traditional main pilot love interest is the standard Gundam trope, though Feldt is slightly more interesting because of her progression as a character throughout the series. The rest of the cast is pretty monotonous, relying on their character progression from the past seasons to establish their character, they aren't progressed mentally in the movie in any way. The lack of explanation for the emergence of Hallelujah, and the complete irrelevance of Descartes Shaman as a character makes the quality of the writing quite questionable.
The main issue with characters for this movie is the size of the Gundam 00 cast, and Mizushima's inexplicable need to reintroduce every one of them (if not in a sloppily rushed way). Further adding to the problem is that these characters were never relevant, nor were they developed in any way, even in the series; so why Mizushima feels the need to include them in the movie is beyond me. Does anyone remember Klaus and Andrei? Me neither.
Awakening of the Trailblazer is quite a strange piece of work. On one hand, it's the most refreshing, and exciting Gundam installment in well over a decade, on the other hand, it is sloppy, it is convoluted, and it is embarrassingly idealistic. One moment it's a doomsday thriller, the next moment it's a hallucinogenic acid trip. It is real robot, it is super robot, it is psychological, it is science-fiction. Awakening of the Trailblazer is purely interesting, it's not a spectacular film, but it is very interesting, so for that factor alone, it is worth watching as a film that runs more on ideas than execution.
It's important to point out that this movie is not the second coming of Char's Counterattack, nor does it traditionally define Gundam, in fact, it's not even an example of a good film. Rather, this movie is something conceptual, it has the right ideas, and the concepts are fascinating, but the convoluted writing and the inherent flaws of the series prevent this film from reaching its full potential. This movie is a raw engine running on ideas alone, with sometimes directionless execution. Though maybe one day, in retrospect, this will be a Gundam looked back on as a transitional piece into something even better. For a franchise so locked in traditions, Awakening of the Trailblazer is a flawed step into the right direction.
When Gundam 00 finished its broadcast, I was quite excited to hear that there was going to be a film sequel to resolve the last part of Aeolia's plan mentioned in the TV series and that it would be the first Gundam iteration in the 30 years of its existence that would actually have aliens included in the story.
A Wakening of the Trailblazer takes place 2 years after the end of season 2 where peace is slowly starting to come true with the A-Laws disbanded, but with the arrival of a bizarre alien life form called the ELS from a space ship sent to Jupiter
over a hundred years ago, all hell breaks loose and Celestial Being must step in again to save humanity.
Even with this basic plot, I was very excited to actually be able to see this film because I am a rather big fan of Gundam, but upon viewing it, I was both satisfied and disappointed at the same time.
First the good.
The animation looks very similar to the TV series(which isn't a bad thing) but it is of significantly higher quality and shows it off especially during the action sequences. Speaking of action, the movie is full of it. Almost the entire film consists of insane, fast paced mecha battles that made us watch 00 in the first place, you won't be disappointed. The opening scene of the film is hilarious and parodies the series along with making a tribute to the ever popular Gurren Lagann and somewhat referencing the battle of A Baoa Qu from the original Gundam. Also the mecha designs are still as unique as ever, I couldn't tell you how many times I geeked out whenever they started to show off the new Flag mobile suits(ie Braves).
Now for the bad(and sadly there is a lot of it)
The story is VERY generic and any actual plot movement is nonexistent. The only thing that really moves the film's plot is the arrival of the ELS and the constant jibber jabber that minor characters make about stopping them before they reach Earth. If there wasn't any of the fast paced fight scenes, I highly doubt anyone would have wanted to watch this film, there is no point to the story really.
The ELS are fairly underwhelming as alien antagonists. Other mecha series such as Macross were able to successfully utilize aliens into the story by making them unique and interesting with a good backstory. Come on, how are 40 ft aliens who are afraid of affection and culture not interesting? Liquid metal aliens that are fleeing from their destroyed home planet simply doesn't cut it and their assimilation into vehicles on Earth are not frightening nor interesting, they're actually quite hilarious.
The next major problem with the film was its handling of its characters. Several new characters are introduced to the film( ie Descartes Shaman and Meena Carmine) but add nothing to the story, it wouldn't make a difference if they didn't even appear at all. Shaman's character managed to disappoint me the most, as previews made him out to be a major character, instead he gets very little screen time and is there only to be cannonfodder. The returning characters also get very little screen time and most of their appearances are rather pointless, rendering them very one dimensional personalities. Saji and Louise were used in the TV series to show how ordinary people could get involved in conflicts that they don't think would affect them, but they don't serve any purpose in the film they're just there, much like Marina whose appearance seems even more pointless. I don't even know what their purpose was in being shown, despite the fact that they were there. These characters don't even progress any further in film or are the given any sort of epilogue at the end like in season 2, with the exception of a few characters in the last bonus scene.
Besides all of my ramblings about how flawed Trailblazer is, the film is still very entertaining to watch because of its fast paced action sequences and high quality animation. You won't get much depth out of its non existent story and one dimensional characters, but if you want to watch giant robots blow the crap out of each other in fast paced battles, look no further. However, if you are somewhat of a perfectionist and wants to get the ultimate satisfaction out of watching the 00 series, ignore the film completely and just pretend the whole series concludes with season 2.
Like alot of other people who saw and enjoyed the TV Series, I was hyped up for this film. Although I did keep a few lingering doubts in my mind to make sure that the hype didn't ruin the film for me. Obviously being a movie, certain elements have to be condensed in order to function, so the question is: does Awakening of the Trailblazer serve as a fitting conclusion to Gundam 00? Well...Yes and no. Let's go over the main aspects of the story. This is the first entry in the franchise to introduce aliens, which is of course one of the film's biggest
selling points. The ELS do make for interesting obstacles, as merely touching them can mean a slow painful death. Combined with the fact that they're literally everywhere on the battlefield adds a feeling of horror and suspense that (let's be honest here) is rarely seen in Gundam. For the most part the film does a good job at building up the ELS as a legit threat. However Gundam's strong point has always been about the characters being more interesting than the mechs they pilot, so sadly we don't get any bouts between main characters since all of humanity has banded together to go up against this alien menace. Not to mention, if you never saw the TV Series, then the presence of aliens in a Gundam-related work can be very jarring, since it's only hinted at in Season 2. However my biggest gripe overall is the way the film handles it's characters. There's virtually little character development. Again, watching the TV Series is essential since it's there that all the characters reach the peak of their development. Feldt is the only one who gets any sort of relevant change and she's not even a main character. Because there's little development, I couldn't help but question the presence of two of the new characters: Mena who looks and sounds like Nena Trinity (something which is never explained) mostly serves as Billy's new love interest and does provide us some info on the ELS, but not much else. And then there's Descartes Shaman. The trailers seemed to hype him up as the potential new rival to Celestial Being, and honestly he was the character I was most looking forward to since I always felt that 00's villains were lacking compared to antagonists of the past. Sadly Descartes is merely a throwaway character. Although I will give props to the film for redeeming Graham Aker. Thank God he dropped that whole Mr. Bushido nonsense. However for a sequel to be good it needs to properly re-establish the returning cast (assuming they do return), and the story needs to stand out without needing to rely on past sources. Don't believe me? Watch Terminator 2. In the end much of my enjoyment for the film's characters and story was mainly due to the fact that I liked the TV series and I wanted to see how it all ended. But if you never saw the series, you won't understand why there are aliens, and you won't understand the relationships of the characters or their motivations.
From a visual standpoint, Trailblazer looks pretty good, but when you go back and watch the TV Series, it doesn't seem like that much of an improvement. Don't get me wrong, the animation is smoother and the art is fairly detailed, but it's not like in Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa where the already good visuals that the TV series boasted where upped two times over. Still the visuals don't disappoint, though I am still annoyed by the male characters looking effeminate. The mech designs is one area that will be hit or miss with some people. I do find the designs of the new Gundams fairly unique. They take some of the elements from their Season 1 predecessors (such as the vent-less mouths) while still retaining the bulkier look of their Season 2 predecessors. Though I do admit that the Zabanya (Lockon's new Gundam) does look goofy with those picket fences hanging on it's hips. The ELS on the other hand remind of the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Hm. No wonder they're intimidating. However as far as battles go, they're fast paced, explosive, and damn entertaining, but I was disappointed by the lack of screen time that two of the main Gundam's have in the film (not gonna say which ones. If you saw the movie, you know which ones I'm talking about). The 00 Raiser does appear again although I was disappointed by the way it's final moments were depicted.
Much like the series, the music is pleasing to the ears. The opening song "Closed World" by the Back Horn does have some of that heavy dark mood that L'arc En Ciel's "Daybreak's Bell" opening had, but without any of the hopefulness, and comes off as more impending. The ending theme "Qualia" is performed by Uverworld, who sang Season 2's first opening song. Personally I wish they got L'arc back for the movie, but I guess beggars can't be choosers. Much of the background music is from the TV series, which is okay by me since they suit the scenes just right, and fit in with the tone of the film.
In the end Gundam 00 Awakening of the Trailblazer does succeed in being an entertaining action film but it stumbles in doing so. From a thematic standpoint I was able to understand what Director Mizushima was trying to get across with the show's themes about ending war and understanding one another. These are themes that date back to the original Gundam series, and for the most part it deals with it in it's own way, but it didn't work for me until I sat down and thought about it. Because of that, I feel that the movie does get better with time, but then again that could just be me thinking too much about it. I liked the movie. It was fun, it was entertaining, but there were things about it that disappointed me. I'd say the film is on par with Gundam F91, but not as good as Char's Counterattack. Still if you liked the series, I say watch the film and decide for yourself.
To be very serious in reviewing this movie, I would say this is not at all a gundam series and that falls into several big problems that this series has.
Art; 8 points
Firstly, the art it is self is great, it is what you would be expecting out of a movie at this time from the Gundam anime industry. It represent a lot about how much the art has developed through time in the Gundam history. However, it is not the best art and graphic you can find from Gundam. Unicorn on the other hand is an OVA series yet, its attention to small details
and effects are amazing and flawless. Therefore, in compare to an OVA airs about the same time that has better qualtiy overall, a movie has this level of art cannot receive its full marks.
Sound: 8 points
The sound effect is solid. It fits the movie really well.
Characters: 5 points
Even more new characters are being introduced and follow second season's fashion, they are underdeveloped. Some very great characters are presented heroicly but was given less attention; while other, included even some core characters, are being overexagereated in a very unrealistic way and could not resolves much about them granted extensive time spent on these characters overall.
Story: 3 points
The worst aspect of this movie is the story. There is no clash between ideals, the story is very cartoonish and lacks the freshness value that a movie should have had. the untolerable point of this movie is that it has more elements of a super robot movie than a Gundam. Many striking similarities to Fafner can be recognized. The movie has a increasing amount of meta-science elements that leads its collapse at the end due to its conflict with the logical based concept that has always been the core behind any great Gundam series.
Enjoyment: 7 points
The battles are great as akways but that all it has...again, there are 'supermans flying around destroying everything' to a point, it becomes very typical. Anyone that dislike beam spamming should be dissappointed watching this movie since this has 10 times more beam spamming than Seed or Destiny ever had and for 90% of the time the Gundams would flying around spaming fangs, bits and beams...again.
The story is the crucial part to a Gundam movie or to any anime series overall since the art quality has been steadily improving in recent time while the level of depth to a story has been long given far less attention than it should really have. In addition, 'Awakening of the Trailblazer's failure to distinct itself as a Gundam series from the super robot series is perhaps its greatest weakness.
Thus, overall, even the beautifully done animtion cannot covers for its easily recognizable weaknesses, so the overall score I can give ti tis 5, average.
To sum up, the series has done very well in the first season but starts to decrease in quality over time while could not able to meet expectations from experienced old Gundam fans. If you are a new comer to Gundam and you prefer action rather story then 00 may not be a bad place to start with; however, it should be note that even if you watch 00, you can't obtain a throughout understanding of what a Gundam series should be as well as the greatness in the stories of many great old Gundam series. I would highly reccomend any UC series over 00
Gundam is one of the largest anime franchises today, made up of more than a dozen TV shows, as well as movies, OVAs, and more. With so many stories split up into multiple timelines, it can be tough to know where to start. But don't worry. This comprehensive Gundam guide will help light your way.