Possibly... we humans could exist without fighting, but many of us have chosen to fight. For what reason? To protect something? Protect what? Ourselves? The future? If we kill people to protect ourselves and this future, then what sort of future is it, and what will we have become? There is no future for those who have died. And what future is there for those who did the killing? Is happiness to be found in a future that is grasped with bloodstained hands? Is that the truth?
Originally created by the pair of Yatate Hajime and Tomino Yushiyuki (both having a billion of other Gundam series under their belts) and directed by Fukuda Mitsuo Gundam Seed is another great, if not the best yet, addition to the humongous franchise. Zaft (Coordinators) battle Earth Forces (Naturals). Coordinator while still human is a product of biotechnology, a person who has been born with his genes manipulated. In turn they possess superior intelligence, reflexes and physique to that of the Naturals. Unfortunately, Naturals didn't like the fact that they were inferior now and so thanks to that a lot of anti-coordinator movement groups were created, including Blue Cosmos, which tells everyone that Coordinators are enemies of the nature, God. In a situation like that it didn't take too long for Naturals and Coordinators to start fighting each other. Even though the community of Naturals was originally more than ten times bigger than that of mentally superior Coordinators, the war is being fought equally.
Anger. Greed. Envy. Misunderstandings. Racism. Religion. Politics. Fear. There are countless of reasons why somebody could start a war. Imagine that whenever you got angry, or come to want something from someone, you could start a war and take whatever you want. That's how it was in the past, when the world was ruled under monarchies. But even now, it's not like everyone decides to start a war, the ones in the government, politics do. It's not like soldiers themselves are so keen to fight, it's not like they get much out of fighting, at least not as much as they are risking. Yet even though it's pretty easy to start it, ending a war is extremely hard. People whose relatives have perished, people who were hurt in wars, all of them will want revenge, but after they get it, the other side, which was hurt by their revenge, wants their own one. In turn it creates a never-ending circle of hatred and unless something critical happens the war might never end until one side completely annihilates the other. Winning wasn't that tragic in the past, but now, when nuclear weapons are abound, what winning actually means? Extermination of the entire race?
Gundam Seed proved to be a much better show than I had originally anticipated. While I thought it will concentrate on never ending mecha fights, it actually was all about an anti-war message. Ironically, the main weakness of this show is that it is Gundam, was this show independent from the franchise it might have been even better. The main thing that dragged an otherwise semi-perfect story down was a huge load of unnecessary and useless mecha fights. It's a saving grace that even though story is slow paced and slightly boring at the beginning, character's aren't. For more than thirty episodes characters carry the story solely by themselves and do their best to mask its weaknesses. All in all, while slightly dragged down, Gundam Seed's story is a great one, never before in anime I have seen war portrayed in such a realistic way.
My only gripe with the show's setting is that even though they always highlight the fact that Coordinators are superior to humans in intelligence, it doesn't really look so when they are interacting with each other. It seems that the difference in "intelligence" only emerges when they are piloting their Gundams. Even though Coordinators, supposedly can program and work 10 times faster than Naturals, for some reason, they don't have superior Gundams deviced. What's even weirded is that the show actually starts from Zaft stealing 'superior' Gundams from Earth Forces. I mean hell, how the heck Earth Forces could have built superior Gundams when Zaft is much more advanced? Well, either way, if you can overlook such minor inconsistences, the setting and the world of the show is magnificently well done.
The only thing that plagues otherwise very intelligent and complex story, full of politics and philosophy, is Gundam fights which fail to bring any conclusion. I mean nearly all fights at the first half of the show were like - "Bad guys appear, good guy comes out to fight, damages their units, they retreat, the end". No closure, no conclusion, it took damn thirty episodes for these useless skirmishes to end and for the first casualty to finally show its face. Hundreds of nameless guys died, but who cares about them, when real characters, even though battle all the time neither die nor get hurt. Fortunately, at the latter half of the show the fights get much more brutal and immersing. You can no longer tell the ending of the battle and the number of casualties before the fight itself then.
Probably the strongest point of the story is its ability to make viewer unable to predict anything. You can't really tell what's going to happen next (except that there are going to be mecha fights either way, heh), since the show does very good job at showing how both fighting sides are both evil and good. Soon you can't really tell which side you are sympathizing with, same with the characters. There are so many unpredictable twists that it's pretty much impossible to know what's going to happen next. And that's one of the most important factors which decide either I'll like the show or not. And I did like it, and very much at that.
Finally the message of the show is simply astoundingly well done. Even I, who in essence enjoys wars, and thinks of military strategics as one of the most suitable professions for himself, started to wish that the war in Gundam Seed would finally end. Damn the wars, I'll stick with strategy computer games.
The animation done by Sunrise, while obviously of higher budget than Scryed and Infinite Ryvius, retains its old charm. Character designs are look pretty nice (just look at Lacus Clyne~~), while backgrounds are colorful and eye-pleasing (thought not particularly high on detail). Gundam fights are pretty well animated as well; though you might at first be surprised by pink explosions (heh). On the other hand the animators didn't really do miracles here, and though drawings are pleasant, I doubt this show will remain in your memory thanks to the art. Well, but I assure you, it will remain for other reasons.
The only thing I didn't particularly like with the animation was the designs of mechas themselves. After hearing so much about Gundam I was expecting so see some very detailed and memorable mobile suits. Unfortunately most of the mechas look pretty plain and not that different from the old Transformers. Heck, Neon Genesis Evangelion has much better suit designs.
Music is of high quality. Most of the OPs, while mostly energetic jpop songs go with the show's atmosphere very well. Even though there is still a room for improvement, I enjoyed them, not skipping any even once. For the most part the same applies for EDs as well, save for the first one. Anna ni Issho datta no ni by See-Saw is a freaking great song, even while writing this review I'm listening to it. I was actually looking forward to the ending of every episode of the first half of Gundam simply so I could hear that awesome song again.
Background music, composed by Sahashi Toshihiko (Hunter x Hunter, Full Metal Panic!), sounds pretty nice as well. There is a lot of memorable tracks in the show which help to keep up its energetic and at times grand atmosphere. Symphonic music seriously owns in space, though it's much more energetic than you might imagine here in Gundam series. Also the vocal version of Akatsuki no Kuruma by FictionJunction YUUKA is one of the best lyrical music pieces I have heard in awhile, it even beats the first ending song of this show I have mentioned before. While played only three or four times in the whole show, it not only makes the already meaningful scenes more enjoyable, but also very inviting to re-watch as well. I was stuck on one of such scenes for more than twenty minutes. Kind of made me understand the feelings of all those Japanese youth massively going to karaoke boxes every day.
Lastly voice-actors. Well, Gundam is a massive franchise, so, it's no wonder they went with star like seiyuu cast. Anyway, the first one I would like to mention is one of the most marvelous voice performances in the history of anime, which won Tanaka Rie (Chobits as Chii, .hack//Sign as Morganna) the second place in my all-time favourite female seiyuu list. Lacus Clyne is a marvelous character, and her voice is just as marvelous if not even more so. I will never forget, neither Lacus Clyne, nor her voice, as long as I live. No wonder she was the most famous singer in the galaxy. Other voice-actors include Hoshi Soouichirou (Naruto as Gaara, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni as Maebara Keiichi, Infinite Ryvius as Aiba Yuuki) as Kira Yamato (though I must say, I didn't like him here as much as I did in other shows), Kuwashima Houko (Claymore as Clare, Infinite Ryvius as Housen Aoi, Fullmetal Alchemist as Rose Tomas) who does a great job at being hysterical as Allster Flay, Koyasu Takehito (Bobobo as Bobobo, Gungrave as Balladbird Lee) who does a pretty good job with Mwu La Flaga and finally Seki Toshihiko (Trigun as Legato Bluesummers) who makes Raww Le Klueze sound as cool as his character is. Oh, I've nearly forgotten Kotono Mitsuishi (Sailor Moon as Usagi Tsukino, Neon Genesis Evangelion as Misato Katsuragi, Great Teacher Onizuka as Urumi Kanzaki) who, unfortunately, voices one of my least favourite characters here - Murrue Ramius.
Its already Sunrise's trademark to have good characters. Both Infinite Ryvius and Scryed had great characters, Gundam Seed is no exception. Again, the show has a lot of characters, actually, so many that you might have trouble counting them. What's so good about them is that all of them have diverse personalities and actually "feel" like human beings. While there are both static and developing characters, all of them do a great job at what they are supposed to do. Main lead, Kira, undergoes one of the longest and substantial developments I have ever seen in a show to this date yet. Other characters like, let's say Cagalli, who starts as a very rash girl, Athrun, one of the most loyal soldiers of Zaft, and especially Fllay, who goes from a crybaby to a venomous avenger to a person worth of sympathy, have truly great development curves. Pretty much after every episode you can see minor changes in their personalities and perceptions. On the other hand static characters hold their ground firmly too. Through the whole running time of the show I was really interested in La Klueze and fortunately, my interest was fully satisfied. Finally, I found Lacus Clyne to be one of the best female characters in any show I have ever seen. While at first I underestimated her as an idealistic and unsophisticated songstress, I was pretty much left speechless at the latter half of the show when she finally shows her true colors (Her PVC figure stands proudly on the top of my desk presently).
The only thing I found slightly irritating in the characters department is that people like Ramius and Waltfield, are put into the shoes of military captains. Even though good and profound characters they are simply incompetent at leading an army. While Ramius is always making poor decisions influenced by emotions, Waltfield is simply too soft to be a commander. Who in their right mind would warn enemy encampment before a surprise attack? Even though I realize that this show does this intentionally, trying to make all characters on the 'good' guys side look kind and making them carry the anti-war message, I still find it quite ironical that Lacus Clyne, who is originally a songstress, is the most capable and competent person at leading the army.
Overall Rating: (8/10)
If you're a fan of mecha then this show is a must watch, though even if you dislike mecha, you shouldn't overlook it either. While I myself am not keen on mecha fights I enjoyed this show a great deal thanks to its profound, innovative characters and deep story. If you have enjoyed this, shows like Infinite Ryvius or other Gundams might be worth checking out.