The universe of the future is divided between the Earth Alliance and ZAFT. After a year of war, ZAFT attacks the neutral colony Heliopolis to steal five prototype mobile suits. The mission is a success, but a young man named Kira stumbles upon the fifth Gundam, and he may be the Alliance's only hope...
PHASE-01 False Peace
PHASE-02 Its Name is Gundam
PHASE-03 Collapsing Land
PHASE-04 Silent Run
PHASE-05 Phase Shift Down
PHASE-06 The Vanishing Gundam
PHASE-07 The Scar of Space
PHASE-08 The Songstress of the Enemy Forces
PHASE-09 The Fading Light
PHASE-11 The Awakening Sword
PHASE-12 Flay’s Decision
StoryEvery now and again, I feel the need to put out the feelers and sample the delights of a genre I tend to dislike, and this week my anime palette was drenched with mech in the form of Gundam Seed. Now, not only do I usually hate giant robots with a passion, but I am also completely baffled by the Gundam fanboys who get moist as they reel off the names of each unit and their special features. So, prepare yourselves for a review from an anime fan that couldn’t pick out a Gundam in a line-up filled with the Transformers... Playing up to my extremely low expectations, the opening episodes see an Earth base attacked by the evil ZAFT and a young boy, Kira, jumping to the rescue by piloting a humanoid-shaped fighting unit. But wait! Not only does he successfully get the thing moving, but he also manages to completely re-write the operating system whilst in the midst of battle! The neighbours probably heard my moans of disgust that *this* passes for entertainment. Swallowing my pride, I continue with the supposed epic, cheered on by the lovable Gundam-a-holics. As the show gathers momentum and delves deeper into the characters, the true heart of Seed shows through. I personally detest contrived coincidences and impossible superhero feats, so once the political drama that drives the series bursts forth magnificently from a mechanised egg shell, my interest was suddenly piqued. Blurring the already skewed line between good and evil, there comes a point where the viewer wonders which side they should be cheering for. But very much like real life, there isn’t always a definitive answer to this. In fact, the series almost feels like a history book on world events, with names and faces changed to protect the guilty. Throughout Gundam Seed, there are far fewer epic mech battles than I had expected, with much time spent on gritty drama and a group of bewildered kids trying to come to terms with their situation. It also poses difficult questions about the effects of war, something that is given extra depth by the relationship between Kira and Athrun/Asran. If two close friends fight on opposite sides, what will happen as their colleagues fall around them? Although the resultant fallout is reasonably childish as the two bucks lock horns again and again, it is probably closer to the truth than an idealistic, hand-holding solution.AnimationOne thing I learned after watching this show is explosions in space are bright pink and look like giant poufs of candyfloss. Another is that people who are unimportant in war have heads like misshapen potatoes. Ugly characterisations aside, the scenery in Gundam Seed is beautiful – from a verdant off Earth colony, to the mundane and clinical interior of a war-class ship, the artists have certainly spent much of their time watching decade’s old sci-fi for inspiration. A big surprise for me is the minimal use of CG; instead of a willy waving contest using technological advances, the graphics remain true to their roots and only occasional gargantuan bases are rendered by pc. Sadly, my lack of Gundam knowledge meant the flashy battles flew over my head, along with bright green death rays, leaving me in utter confusion as to who was winning. Ah well, at least it looks pretty.SoundExpect the worst and be pleasantly surprised: that seems to be the overriding theme of this review, and the sound follows suit. A host of beautiful opening and ending tracks were marred only by some bizarre lyrics. “Why do you, with your small hands, try to carry all these wounds on your back?”. A strong cast of seiyuu bring the animated personalities to life brilliantly. That is apart from moments of anguish the characters undergo, with forced crying that is almost painful to listen to. I understand that the crew are in the middle of a life or death situation, but the whining does become a little tiresome and spoils an otherwise exemplary performance.CharactersAlthough most Gundam Seed fans seem to worship at the temple of Kira Yamamoto, I found the most believable characters came in the curvaceous forms of the leading ladies. Flay/Fray plays a tragically fragile role that stirs alternating feelings of sympathy and utter loathing for her selfish and manipulative games. It feels like a slow motion train wreck as she loses her sense of rationale, but like said accident, you find yourself straining your neck to get a glimpse of the gory entrails. Lacus seems at first to be nothing but pretty decoration to redress a typically male cast. Instead, she is admirably strong in difficult situations and posesses a sharper political mind than I gave her credit for. And lastly, Murrue Ramius is an excellent second in command, who squares up to her captain, giving the ships deck an interesting dynamic. It’s not that the male characters are bad, it is simply that they display generic characteristics that are blatantly abundant in this genre. Brave heroes who dive in last minute to save the day are as common as Simon Cowell tv productions. But overall, the honesty of the humans contained within this show is what keeps me coming back for more. Finding out what makes them tick, or why they react a certain way flows through the series in an extremely natural way. Gundam Seed also taught me another couple of important lessons: 1. In the midst of battle, you *will* have a relationship with someone 2. Somehow, you will be related to someone else on the battlefield (and probably given a giant mech to fly if your parents are important military figures)OverallStill adamant that I don’t like mech, I don’t think anything is going to change my mind about that; however, Seed has given me a new perspective on the entire genre. See past the silly boys in their big robot toys, and the heart of the series lies safely in the hands of a rich cast who display many faults, only to make you love them more. If the entire Gundam franchise were more focused on the convoluted relationships and intricate politics that make the show tick, I would probably be a huge fan. Although it isn’t the amazing piece of work promised by the fanatics, I still need to hold up my hands and admit to being wrong: Gundam Seed is actually pretty good, despite giant mech being rubbed in my face at every opportunity.
StoryJust like walking into a McDonalds, approaching anything with ‘Gundam' in the title instantly brings to mind a menu of things to expect: a pacifist philosophy of war; robots piloted by teenagers; and of course, lots and lots of action. If ‘Gundam' is a fast-food joint, then Gundam SEED is the quintessential burger; needless to say, the part of me that has refused to grow up certainly appreciates what's for sale. First of all, it wastes no time getting straight to the action; barely two episodes into the story, ZAFT has destroyed a colony and Kira is wreaking havoc in a new, custom-made mecha. Following that is a protracted chase across the galaxy, during which the crew of the Artemis spend their time dodging ambushes and worrying about low fuel supplies. Since I'm not a fan of the ‘race for the next space station' format, it was the strong character focus that kept me engaged during this phase; they may not be the most complicated of characters, but their intense development seemed far more interesting than their constant space battles. The rest of the series is then devoted to portraying an intergalactic disaster for which nobody is ultimately to blame; it's a classic security dilemma where each side attacks the other because they fear being attacked first. Central to this theme is the conflict between Kira and Athrun, who are bound by duty to fight each other despite being best friends. I'm not sure how believable this is since the two spend more time trying to blow each other up than talking things over; even at the best of times their behaviour is stand-offish. Not to say that this is the worst contrivance in the world; at the least, the Kira-Athrun subplot provides for one or two emotional moments along the way. The gist is this: Gundam SEED has nothing new to say about war or politics that we didn't know already. However, it manages to deliver a plot that is familiar in content and yet much better put together than a lot of similar shows. This undemanding style actually makes it easy to get absorbed in the story. My own addiction is a classic example; I knew it was bad for my health and that I'd regret it later, but before I was aware, I had watched thirty episodes back to back.AnimationFirst and foremost, the CGI is great and generally blends well with the hand-drawn cels. Unfortunately, the special effects must have been allocated the lion's share of the budget; apart from bright explosions, Gundam SEED offers nothing but bland character designs and bog-standard backgrounds. On top of that, everyday movements look wooden whilst the action sequences involving the Gundams remain relatively fluid. If that weren't enough, the recycled use of generic destruction sequences during the battles is obvious. Given that, Gundam SEED looks decent for its time, and certainly remains on par with the majority of anime being produced today; whilst I might normally be bothered by its inconsistencies, the CG sequences and well-animated action scenes keep it nicely above average.SoundGundam SEED provides a small selection of different electro-pop opening themes, none of which can be called technically inventive; on the other hand, they are catchy and fit the epic tone of the series like a glove. Two of them even made it onto my mp3 for a while. As for the voice acting, the Japanese performances are convincing, if not the most inspirational in the world; the actors must have been chosen more for their ability to work with a plot-serving script than their skill at highlighting subtle emotion. However, compared to the American voice actors, they are positively award-winning: Kira sounds just like a member of the Backstreet Boys trying to spell ‘emotional turmoil', and Lacus' ditzy intonations make me want to take my own ears off with an egg slicer. The only reason to watch the American dub is because you can't read the subs fast enough; even then I recommend using the pause button instead.CharactersAt the least Gundam SEED manages to develop a big cast that is both believable and memorable. One of them, Flay Allster, will even be remembered for the wrong reasons; her relentless conniving was irritating as hell, and not an episode went by when I didn't wish her an aneurism. Still, considering that she does everything out of fear, her behaviour also comes across as rather tragic. Amongst the more admirable characters are Mu La Flaga, the ace pilot with lots of experience to offer his struggling crew, and Murrue Ramius, whose subtle rivalry with her Captain brings a refreshing angle to the crew's dynamic. Out of all of them, though, Kira Yamato's emotional journey turns out to be the most interesting: In the first episode, Kira is a nondescript, happy student who knows a thing or two about science; as events overtake him, he rapidly descends into a cycle of confusion, rage, and loneliness. The tragedy of his situation is that he hates war (surprise, surprise); but, since he is the only one who can pilot the Gundam, his friends depend on him for survival. To make things worse, his best friend is also his worst enemy, and some of the people he wants to protect don't actually trust him. As much as it lacks subtlety, Kira's development is still thoroughly engaging; watching every turn of events erode his humanity bit by bit makes his eventual cold-heartedness feel natural.OverallI'd warn anyone looking for an innovative portrayal of war and its effects to stay well clear of this title; keeping in mind that the story is about two teenagers piloting what are in essence giant Lego figures, Gundam SEED is unlikely to exude the necessary gravitas. While the series may be as substantial as a Happy Meal, it still provides more than a few excellent thrills along the way. Kids and grownups will enjoy it alike for its fast and easy plot; the juicy characters; and its bloated action sequences.
This is the first and only gundam I have ever liked. I have seen tons of the others and this one is the only one that made me understand why people enjoy it. I loved the characters, the conflict in the story, the resolution of the conflict, and everything in between. The charcters are diverse and realistic in the sense that none of them come off as perfect. They make mistakes and learn from them. They grow. The story is never boring and moves along at a good pace. no jumping and skipping, everything is explained so there is no confusion. the art was good, not great but good, the sound was good, again not the highlight but good. All in all a definite must see.
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