#1 Edgelord Gundam
As franchises become popular and start to accrue prequels, sequels, side-stories, and anything else that seems fancy, it becomes increasingly hard to guarantee all of it will live up to the series’ highpoints. Gundam 00 is a clear example of this and that makes it the first black sheep of the franchise that I had the misfortune of encountering.
The Gundam stories are war dramas that focus on how conflict shapes the lives of otherwise regular people, which is what endeared the original MSG universe to me so much. 00 is more like a war melodrama, in ways that often left me a little perplexed. The world is cut up into 3 unified blocs representing the USA and allies, Europe, and a Russian-Asia alliance, the three of which are constantly fighting and also have individual problems. That is when a 4th player enters the field, a secret organization called “Celestial Being” that seeks to end all wars by intervening in conflicts with their technologically-superior Gundam mobile suits.
None of the Gundam pilots I found to be likable or relatable at all. They are all improbably-skilled teens and young adults with pre-packaged TRAGIC backstories or big emotional hurdles. There is very little chemistry between these characters and many of their interactions don’t go beyond obnoxious bickering. At least three of the pilots have little personality beyond HAHAHAHAHAHAH MURDERMURDERMURDER KILLING PEOPLE = FUN and much of the drama they encounter or cause felt forced in just to shock the viewer.
And pointless shock value is just boring. I found myself tiring of the drama quickly, losing interest in characters critical to the story, or even laughing at just how bad some of its scenes turned out to be.
#2 Too many characters
On top of Celestial Being’s pilots all being bad characters, there is another issue in just how many people are involved who oppose or support them. You got the pilots, a whole lot of support staff, each of the 3 blocs has its own political figures and soldiers, there are agents and third parties at work, and even civilians that are barely connected to the plot, yet still keep popping up everywhere.
The show juggles so many characters that all need screentime and all play some role in the overall narrative. It keeps jumping across the entire world and even to and from space, showing us 40-second fragments of what all these international characters are up to. Trying to keep track of it all and memorizing how all these people are connected to each other is a chore, let alone growing any kind of fondness for them or getting invested in their development.
The tragic thing is that I have to admit that Gundam 00 shows brief signs of improvement towards the end of season 1, which is also the point where many of those characters start dropping like flies. Just when it finally starts getting appealing, they kill all the salvageable characters and we’re back to square one.
#3 The magic plot twist hat
You may have noticed that all my complaints thus far have been story-related. This is still Sunrise we’re talking about and Gundam 00 looks absolutely stunning, especially during combat scenes. Watching these battles gets me excited and I find myself constantly giving the show another chance just to see more of them. However, it’s also here that I often end up feeling betrayed.
Gundam 00 has a big problem with introducing threats for our heroes that actually amount to something. Plot twists that get the Gundam pilots in trouble often feel like they come out of nowhere and are then resolved with textbook cases of deus ex machina solutions. It puts a big damper on otherwise engaging fight scenes when the main characters get into trouble, only to suddenly pull some new power, ally, or trick out of the magic hat that solves everything instantly.
And that is just in regards to fight scenes, arguably the least story-dense moments of the series. When 00 starts doing intrigue, builds mysteries, or engages in politics, it only gets worse. It frequently feels like listening to the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist that brings in elements like supercomputers, brain waves, and mysterious all-governing councils with reckless abandon. The storytelling ends up feeling utterly contrived with new side-stories appearing constantly and being unceremoniously killed off with little fanfare or build-up.
Gundam 00 falls for the storytelling fallacy that just having a lot going on means your story must be deep and interesting. In reality, the plot is overcomplicated and bloated, unable to carry the weight of all the characters and threads it introduces, and you really begin to notice this in the second half when it begins to feel almost desperate to make drama happen or introduce new elements to retain interest.