Alright, my first anime entry. I chose Gundam 00 because its second season just began last Sunday (my time, I think). But I'll only be talking about the first one.
To start, Gundam 00 throws a lot of common design elements of previous Gundam series out the window. The mechs are thinner and more streamlined, and perhaps also a bit more fleetfooted as a result. It may be worth mentioning that 00 is the first Gundam series to be shown in High Definition. And with those sharp designs, it looks absolutely beautiful.
Typical of a Gundam series, the plot revolves largely around philosophy, international problems with the government, intertwined with lots of mecha smashing action. The universe of 00 is a little bit more small scale however, as the characters are still anchored to Earth. Living in space is still a really new thing, and relatively few people actually stay up there for long periods of time. 00 is also the first Gundam series to take place in an actual timeline: Anno Domini (A.D.) 2307. So just under 300 years from now, we could be flying around in 50 foot tall mechs and be able to live in space.
Taking a leaf from GundamW's book, Gundam 00 revolves largely around four main characters, who are introduced as Gundam Meisters. They each pilot a unique Gundam. In this instance, the Gundams are a technological marvel, at least a decade ahead of the current mechs in use. The Gundams and their pilots are employed by a mysterious organization known as Celestial Being, whose stated purpose is to stop and prevent war. To this end, they deploy the Gundams wherever large scale battle is taking place. In a nutshell, the Gundam's decimate both sides, forcing them to band together to defeat this sudden and new threat. It is Celestial Being's theory that by gathering all the hatred of the world onto themselves, they can create peace.
Technologically, the most impressive aspect of the Gundams is their power source, known as a "solar furnace". These things supposedly take at least a decade to create, but the results are quite rewarding. Gundams are operated by an engine called the GN Drive, which, with the power of the solar furnace, glow a green ambient light and produce particles known simply as GN particles. These particles serve a number of uses. They can be used for propulsion (eliminating the need for thrusters), shield the Gundams from the intense heat of atmospheric reentry, form around them to create near impenetrable GN fields or cloak them, or even be coated onto solid blades to increase their durability and cutting power. In addition, the particles disrupt most form of airborne communications, so all radio and satellite communications around whatever area the Gundams are present in tend to short out immediately. The GN Drive recharges itself constantly, so the Gundams can basically run indefinitely, without running out of power.
The first of the Gundams to introduced is GN-001 Exia, which is the topmost mech in the above picture. Exia is a close combat mech if I ever saw one. Exia's arsenal consists mostly of knives and blades. In fact, it carries seven of them. The largest one is a huge solid blade cleaver mounted on the left arm. Despite its size, its fairly flexible, being capable of swiveling backwards to reveal Exia's only proper ranged weapon, a portable beam rifle. The whole ensemble is held together by a small shield. The blade can be detached and handled as a broadsword. Next up, Exia has two more solid blades, known as GN Swords. The blades are razor sharp, are coated with GN Particles, and possess sonic functionality (so they can act as vibro blades). One is very short, like a dagger, and the other is very long (Longer than the cleaver blade, though much thinner). They are mounted on Exia's hips. Inserted onto Exia's back are four beam sabers; Two beam daggers that are probably better off thrown, and two regular sized beam sabers. Exia's shield may also be worth mentioning. Mounted on the arm opposite of the cleaver blade, this large shield is capable of fending off most forms of attacks with ease. Its bottom is also extremely sharp, making an effective last resort stabbing weapon. Exia is piloted by Setsuna F. Seiei, a very quiet, taciturn young man (the youngest on the team, actually). He is from the Middle East, and had a troubled childhood. Setsuna was inspired to join Celestial Being when he saw Exia's predecessor, Gundam O intervene in a battle taking place in his homeland as a child.
Next up is Dynames, piloted by a cheerful Irish guy codenamed Lockon Stratos. A fitting name, as Lockon's aim with a rifle is top notch. Typically, his Gundam's primary weapon is a large sniper rifle capable of firing from extremely long distances. Lockon's aim almost never wavers; By hooking his rifle up to a power booster so the shot wouldnt short out before it met his target, Lockon was even able to attack and pick off enemies fighting in space...from the ground on Earth!
In Lockon's hands, Dynames is a force to be reckoned with. From a distance, Lockon can pick off even the most agile of targets with his rifle. If they get too close, he has two beam sabers, two mid range beam pistols and revolving blast shields to protect him from harm. In addition to this, lots of missiles . Most of the time, Lockon doesn't actually pilot Dynames. He uses a Haro ball, which pilots for him and operates the shields while Lockon himself handles the weapons. Dynames is the mech on the lower left side of the above picture.
Piloting the most versatile of the four Gundams is Allelujah Haptism, a fairly calm, gentle guy who pilots Kyrios, the orange mech in the bottom center of the above picture. Kyrios is a transformable Gundam, capable of switching between a mobile armor (Gundam lingo for jet fighter) and a mobile suit (Gundam lingo for mech). In fighter mode, Kyrios is quite fast, making a very effective unit for getting places faster than the other three, perhaps to intercept incoming enemies. It can also be equipped with a large container of Air-to-ground missiles for bombing raids. Kinda like Exia, Kyrios's shield is also an effective weapon, capable of splitting apart up the middle to reveal an incredibly sharp stabbing weapon. Though Allelujah is gentle, before he was part of Celestial Being, he was a test subject of genetic testing. This caused him to have a split personality. His other side, Hallelujah, is extremely violent, and often takes over whenever Allelujah is having trouble doing something that is a little too mean for him.
Last, and often considered least (Kidding, mostly), is Tieria Erde, piloting the large Gundam on the lower left of the picture. Almost everything about Tieria is somewhat of a mystery, but we do know that he's a real straight laced guy. He's not above reprimanding and threatening to discpline his own teammates (and his superiors) if he sees fault in their actions. Tieria pilots Virtue, which is a heavily armored mech packing some serious weaponry. Though its extremely slow compared to the other three, Virtue is equpped with shoulder mounted heavy beam cannons and a huge GN Bazooka. In Full Burst Mode, this thing could cripple a colony. In addition, Virtue is equipped with two beam sabers, though I doubt its fast enough to wield them with much efficiency. Virtue also has another very special ability, but that comes later in the series.
Really, this show is pretty darn great, I'd say. The premise is simple enough: Celestial Being is a mysterious military organization whose only aim is to stop war. Ironically, it does this by deploying its Gundams to wage war wherever war is fought. So how does this work out? Watch the series and find out.