With both the Earth Militia and the Dianna Counter refusing to back down in their conflict over the Moonrace’s re-settlement of Earth, Dianna, Queen of the Moonrace, knows that she has to return to the Moon and settle things with Agrippa Maintainer, her shifty chancellor, who appears to be controlling the war from behind the scenes. However, both sides underestimate the power of Gym Ghingham, commander of the Moonrace’s armed forces, and his desire to return humanity to the old ways of war and conflict in order to satisfy his lust for battle. As the events of the Dark History threaten to repeat themselves, Loran Cehack, as pilot of the Turn A Gundam, must take on Gym and his Turn X Gundam as the fate of both Earth and the Moon hang in the balance.
While the first half of the series was surprisingly set completely on Earth, this second half finally takes us up into space, and in some respects I kind of wish it had kept its feet firmly planted on the ground as it opens itself up to a range of flaws that do put a bit of a dampener on things.
The biggest of these is how the show tries to fit this trip to the Moon around everything else that is going on. Despite the need to go there being established at the end of the first half, it’s still a long while before we do, as there’s still various other plot points that need filling out first in order to put all of the players in the correct places.
There’s actually some fantastic storytelling in this segment, particularly looking at the horrors of war as the Dianna Counter and Earth Militia uncover a nuclear weapons cache buried underground and accidentally set some of them off. The gap between what you know as a viewer and what the characters don’t creates a very tense feeling that’ll definitely have you throwing expletives at the screen, and even after things calm down a bit and Loran is entrusted to dispose of the remaining missiles, it still keeps that tension going by reminding you every so often that they could go off at any moment.
There’s also some good development for the Dianna Counter forces, as the well-intentioned Poe gets misled down a slippery path by Phil Ackman’s rather pointless power-grab, while our favourite bunch of hippies return as Cancer and Muron misunderstand Loran’s intent in taking the nuclear missiles up into space. Meanwhile, the assault on Manupichi (based quite obviously on real-world Machu Picchu), offers not only a fun couple of episodes but also some development for Joseph.
So, there’s definitely nothing to be skipped here, but they could have better emphasised early on that getting to space isn’t easy and is actually more of a journey. A later episode handles this thought really well as it shows the crew of the Earth Militia’s ship struggle with getting accustomed to spaceflight and being in zero gravity, so it is surprising that it wasn’t reinforced earlier.
Once up in space and on the Moon, however, the show’s pacing really slows down as it gets caught up in political machinations and has to constantly shuffle characters around, particularly with the Dianna and Kihel combo becoming seemingly hard to manage. This involves a set piece with an asteroid housing an agricultural research facility (rendered in some very early and dodgy-looking CG) which offers the chance to both get rid of the nukes and get the cast in the correct places for the upcoming peace negotiations.
However, a standoff quickly erupts between the Earth Militia and the Moonrace forces, which under the control of Gym Ghingham, don’t want the negotiations to proceed. The stalemate that emerges here results in some very subdued action sequences, as to avoid damaging the city they push forward into some close combat that felt like it was reluctantly animated. Everything at this point just has a very clumsy feel to it, and even the little space combat that we do get lacks the finesse and impact of its predecessors. There’s a lot of standing around waiting for someone to pull the trigger, which then never really goes off with a bang. Meanwhile, characters flit between situations with little or no explanation, with at least one fight being resolved off-screen.
It does however offer a great opportunity for character building, as being on the moon gives all of the characters a different perspective and allows them to reflect on what exactly they are fighting for, as the Pandora’s Box of the Dark History is finally opened up. This is particularly important for Loran, who, despite being a pacifist throughout the series, finally comes to realise why fighting is sometimes necessary, although it does take a big defeat for that to happen.
Taking the fight back down to Earth for the finale then, is perhaps the best thing that the series could have done as it quickly returns to form. The sense of urgency in the combat that was felt throughout the first half is back, as the show really takes it up a notch for the final climactic fight scenes which show off the designs of the Turn A and Turn X to their full potential. It’s also rather harrowing, as you see the full fallout of the conflict take its toll on Earth’s cities and people, really getting to the point of what the show has been getting at from the beginning – war is brutal, devastating and should be avoided at all costs.
Anime Limited’s release of the series features Episodes 26 to 50 across three discs in Japanese with English subtitles. The Japanese voice acting is still really strong, with Gundam franchise mainstay Takehito Koyasu (more recently known for being the voice of Zeke Jaeger in Attack on Titan and that of Dio in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) feeling like a perfect fit for the warmongering Gym Ghingham. Yoko Kanno’s music for the series is still great to listen to, but is sometimes far too loud in the audio mix, which can distract you from what is going on. The opening theme for the latter stages of the series, “Century Color” by RAY GUNS, is just as silly as the first, however the series does offer two very touching ending themes, with “Tsuki No Mayu” and “Kagirinaki Tabiji”, both by Aki Okui, following closely the themes of the series.
On-disc extras include clean opening and closing animations, along with a fascinating three-part interview with designer Syd Mead. This limited-edition release also comes with a bonus 32-page booklet featuring character and mobile suit designs and a key art gallery.
Overall, Turn A Gundam works best with its feet planted on the Earth, where it can truly deliver on its strong story and fantastic cast of characters, telling of a planet that was previously ravaged by war and its people rising up to stop it from having to face that fate once again. While the arc on the Moon does over-constrain it with too many rules, significantly hampering the action and overall pacing; it’s easy to overlook it at its conclusion and say that this is definitely a Gundam series worth watching.