“History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace, and revolution continue on forever.”
Anime news was harder to come by in 2000. By the time Gundam Wing was over, I knew there was a sequel OAV called Endless Waltz, but I knew next to nothing about it. There was the general impression that Cartoon Network was going to pick it up and show it, but no date was announced. It was frustrating.
That summer I attended my first ever anime convention: Otakon. The main reason for attending, beyond wanting to check out an anime convention, was that the creators of Serial Experiments Lain were going to be in the house, and in the summer of 2000 I was in the midst full-on Lain obsession. What I wasn’t expecting when I arrived was the see a sneak preview showing of Endless Waltz.
“Looks like we’re fighting another losing battle.”
As difficult as it was for me to objectively review Gundam Wing, it’s worse for Endless Waltz. The sneak preview was shown in the main event area of the convention, packed with more people than could fit into most movie theaters. Not only was it a big crowd, it was a crowd of fans. The experience of seeing Endless Waltz with a bunch of enthusiastic Gundam fans is possibly the greatest film experience of my life. Endless Waltz isn’t even close to the best film I’ve ever seen, but nothing matches the feeling of being in that room, at that time, watching that film.
Endless Waltz is set one year after the events of Gundam Wing. Peace has come to Earth and space. The Gundams aren’t needed anymore, so the pilots have decided to rid the world of these weapons forever. Four of the five Gundams – Wufei, of course, has to stay the loner – are put aboard a shuttle and fired at the sun. But in After Colony 196, war was beginning…
Like its predecessor, Endless Waltz introduces a dozen too many political factions into a story that needs far less to work. The daughter of deceased pilot Treize Kushrenada, Mariemaia, emerges as leader of one of Earth’s colonies and declares war. Because she thinks, I don’t know, she has the right to rule, or something. Her backers are the rich and powerful Barton family, who were one of the original backers of the Operation Meteor plan that sent the Gundams to Earth. Their goal had not been peace between Earth and the colonies, though. It had been domination. They reveal that the Gundams were not phase one of the original Operation Meteor.
The plan was still to drop Gundams on Earth, but only after they had dropped a colony on it first.
Faced with the possibility of renewed war, the Gundam pilots decide to reclaim their suits to face Mariemaia. Heero, Quatre, Duo and Trowa spring into action only to learn that Mariemaia has a Gundam of her own. Altron, piloted by Wufei. His reasons? Well, I have a challenge for you. If you can watch Endless Waltz and make sense of why Wufei has sided with the Bartons, I owe you a beer.
“How many more people must we kill? How many times must I kill that girl and her dog? Zero won’t tell me anything. Tell me, Wufei.”
Endless Waltz is technically a three episode OAV, but it’s best watched all in one run. There’s a theatrical version which cuts some things out but add some other scenes, but personally I recommend sitting down with the three OAV episodes and getting it done. Partly because it takes a bit to get going, but also because, as it gains steams, it becomes a nearly perfect feast of fan pleasing events. From the reveal of the new, utterly improbably Gundam designs to the fantastic character reintroductions to the long delayed back stories of the Gundam pilots, Endless Waltz needs to wash over you in one big wave.
Maybe I’m corrupted with the experience of seeing it with fans. Every time a Gundam was revealed, the crowd freaked. When Wufei showed up, once again, as a bad guy, someone in the crowd shouted “Wufei sucks!” Then there were the little moments of badass dialogue that made everyone go nuts. And the not as badass moments of dialogue that also made everyone go nuts. Mostly, we were all nuts about seeing Endless Waltz early.
The OAV benefited from an actual animation budget. The battles, which were well handled by poorly animated in the TV series are here kind of gorgeous. As idiotic as the idea of putting actual, feathery looking angel wings on Wing Zero is, they look frakking cool in motion, even when the animators decide to animate little feathers floating around it like it’s a Sailor Moon character. The last episode is basically one giant battle, and unlike the series, they have the money to do it well.
“I will never kill anyone, ever again. I don’t have to anymore.”
Like the TV series, Endless Waltz does the right things with its characters who aren’t named Wufei. Heero, especially, gets the last bit of closure he needed, and the rest of the pilots get a bit more time to find a happy ending than was afforded them in the series. The plot is a bit muddled even by the standards set by the TV series, but it works well enough in setting a framework by which we learn about the pasts of our pilots.
And its ending. Oh, its ending. If you fear spoilers, bail now.
After Mariemaia and the Bartons are defeated, we learn that the pilots finally destroy their Gundams. Not only have they brought peace to the world for now, but for all time. The narration informs us that their war for pacifism was so successful that Gundams were never needed, ever again. That’s one way to avoid anyone doing unnecessary sequels in your alternate timeline.
Like Gundam Wing, my love for Endless Waltz is irrational and complete. In some ways it’s weaker than its television incarnation, but it gives us things – like well animated battles – that the series never could. If you’ve seen Gundam Wing, Endless Waltz is a must. It’s the capstone of the story, it fills in the back stories of the pilots and it has a mecha with flapping angel wings. How do you not give that a chance?