Tag Archives: Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Gundam SEED

 

Related: Gundam SEED Destiny (sequel)

Similar: Gundam 00

Aldnoah.Zero

Code Geass

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Adventure Drama Romance

Length: 48 episodes (HD remaster), 50 Episodes (original)

 

Positives:

  • Great characters with plenty of interpersonal drama.
  • A well-woven adventure that doesn’t rely on exposition dumps.
  • Love the music and English voice work.
  • Rich lore and world building between the factions.

Negatives:

  • Cagali – what an irritation.
  • Repeated battle animations.
  • Unnecessary flashbacks.

Thinking back on Gundam SEED, I am actually surprised that I like this anime. I rarely buy into the idea that teens are best equipped for the job in anime, yelling an opponent’s name during combat is one of the stupidest tropes imaginable, and teen melodrama often makes me cringe. And yet, Gundam SEED manages to execute these irritants with a surprising amount of skill.

When the ZAFT military attacks the space colony of Heliopolis to procure the Earth Alliance Gundams, Kira and his friends are forced into a war between Naturals (ordinary humans) and Coordinators, genetically modified humans from ZAFT. They flee the crumbling colony aboard the Earth Alliance spaceship, Archangel; however, Kira is a Coordinator and this is a Natural ship. As a Coordinator, he is the only one capable of piloting the single Gundam they could save, though he is reluctant to kill. To complicate life further, his childhood friend Athrun is a Gundam pilot for ZAFT. Kira’s inner turmoil when facing his friend and as the one everyone relies on makes for great conflict.

This setup is what sold me on the ‘teens as soldiers’ premise. They attended military school before the attack and only fill bridge crew positions, never portrayed as sudden professionals. There are two exceptions to this: Kira, of course, modified for war, and Flay (the love-to-hate type), a spoilt rich girl who contributes nothing and has a particular hatred towards Coordinators. The challenge comes, not from their talents, but from how they cope with the conflict in which they reside. Their home is destroyed, their parents are probably dead, ZAFT hunts them, and they have to deal with the realities of war. These kids receive little respite between battles.

I love the sense of camaraderie aboard the ship and the regular life moments while on the move – reminds of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where the ship feels like home.

On the other side of the battle, we have the ZAFT ship with Athrun aboard. They cannot allow the Archangel to regroup with the Earth forces and create more of these new weapons. ZAFT is interesting because they are no more evil than the Alliance. Both sides have shades of honour and malice, creating an interesting dynamic, as you can’t be sure which side you want to prevail. We see plenty of politics, in particular where it involves the animosity between Naturals and Coordinators – the lore is at the heart of most conflict.

More factions soon enter the narrative, such as Blue Cosmos (they are to Coordinators what the Nazis were to Jews), and a desert tribe, which brings with it, the worst character – Cagali. When I said earlier that I don’t buy teens as being right for the job, she is what I meant. Nothing about Cagali inspires confidence or skill, and yet, we are told repeatedly that she is an asset to the war. She couldn’t be more useless. It doesn’t help that she is so incredibly whiny either. Believe it or not, she is tame here compared to the sequel, Destiny. If only she had died at the start.

Cagali is the one character that sees little development. Many other characters that you likely hate from the start may grow on you before the end, or vice versa.

Gundam SEED starts strong and had me hooked to the very end, barring a few flashback slowdowns. I kept moving from one episode to the next – Gundam in general has that effect.

HD Remaster: The remaster updates the visuals to HD with Destiny’s art style (I am not a fan of the baby-face, though it is better on a technical level), which includes reanimations. The major changes are a few extra scenes (backstory for a villain, a relationship scene), less recap scenes (cuts two episodes total, though still leaves one in the middle for some inexplicable reason), and a reworked conclusion. Problems? Too many flashbacks remain; I swear to you, they play this one flashback for several episodes in a row. Why not remove them all with the remaster? Also, they pull a George Lucas with a ‘Greedo shot first’ style retcon for a character’s death.

Art – Medium

The mech designs, characters, environments, all look good; however, the sheer amount of repeated battle animations when dealing with cannon fodder is inexcusable. The HD remaster does remove or reanimate some of these scenes, but still, it isn’t enough. Also, pink explosions in space? Is this to be more kid-friendly? I wish they had brought the visuals up to the level of Gundam 00 with the remaster.

Sound – High

Fantastic soundtrack of techno and electronic music. I love all of the opening and ending songs – OP gets you hyped, forlorn in the ED. Good Japanese track, greater English track, as some voices don’t sound right in Japanese. Kira crying in Japanese is…something. Also, we get Trevor Devall as Mwu La Fllaga, Archangel’s Han Solo, in English.

Story – High

Gundam SEED is a close observation of individuals at the heart of a space war. The characters and interpersonal drama that crosses faction boundaries elevates SEED above the standard Gundam fare.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Highly recommended for Gundam fans or those looking to start the franchise. Gundam SEED requires no prior knowledge. Despite a couple of stumbles, the remaster is preferable.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Extensive Character DevelopmentGreat MusicPositive Recommended English Voice TrackStellar Voice Acting

Negative: None

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Gundam 00

 

Related: Gundam 00 Season 2 (included in review)

Gundam 00 The Movie – A Wakening of the Trailblazer (conclusion – included in review)

Similar: Code Geass

Full Metal Panic!

Gundam SEED

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 25 episodes (S1), 25 Episodes (S2), 2 hr. movie

 

Positives:

  • A catalyst that grips from the get-go.
  • Sharp visuals and battle animations.
  • Varied and interesting Gundam designs.
  • Excellent acting in both languages.

Negatives:

  • Bland as bricks protagonist.
  • Ludicrous end to season 1, act 2.
  • Could do with more relationship conflict.
  • Several side characters receive far too much screen time before they become relevant.
  • Ultimate ending in the movie forgets why the story started.

In the year 2307, fossil fuels have depleted and the world has turned to solar power by building three orbital elevators to a ring of solar arrays in space. The world’s three alliances control an elevator each – Union (Americas), Human Reform League (most of Asia), and the AEU (Europe). However, smaller nations such as those of the Middle East don’t benefit from the arrays, forcing them into war for energy. Furthermore, the alliances secretly increase their military strength in defiance of the treaties. An independent group known as Celestial Being appears, intervening in wars and crushes all sides with the goal to end all conflict. They have the most powerful mechs the world has seen, allowing four Gundam Meisters to take on armies.

One of the best story pitches ever. Gundam 00 engaged me within minutes and kept the frames turning until the very end, despite its flaws.

We have a bloated cast here, but the focus is on the Meisters, Tieria, Allelujah, Lockon, and Setsuna, who receives the most screen time due to his Middle Eastern history. It’s a shame that he’s the dullest character. He barely says anything nor does he emote at all. He’s supposed to be the strong silent type, but delivers the bland nothing type. His archetype has a fine line between great and rubbish – I never find anyone in between. See Full Metal Panic’s Sagara (similar backstory to Setsuna, interestingly enough) for how it’s done.

The other pilots are good, Allelujah in particular with his split personality; however, while each pilot does have a short arc to illustrate their motivations, outside of those arcs, they lack interpersonal conflict, except Setsuna, for his birth country is at the centre of the main conflict. His plotline looking at child soldiers, religious fanaticism, and political conflict in a war-torn nation is interesting, but he isn’t.

Much of the cast bloating comes from a Chinese celebrity who helps fund Celestial Being, which the camera cuts to every episode, but all she does is sit there with a servant and make innocuous comments. Similar situation with uni student Saji and his girlfriend Louise; they serve to show the conflict from a civilian perspective without any effect on the plot until season two. Saji’s sister, a journalist reporting on Celestial Being, is more interesting and her investigations have conflict and tension that adds to the narrative. Saji and Louise should have been peripheral to her thread until needed.

Some dialogue made me cringe as well. Saji has to ask all the stupid questions on the audience’s behalf, though no one watching is that dumb. Setsuna (yet again) repeats barf-inducing line such as ‘I am a Gundam’ a dozen times throughout. I also hate the telekinetically linked dialogue thing they do – several people from different corners of the world, in no contact, finishing each other’s sentences by coincidence. Trying way too hard to be dramatic.

So, with these problems, how did Gundam 00 keep me watching? It’s because of the overall conflict. No faction misses the irony of using war to prevent war; the whole premise would have fallen flat if everyone had accepted Celestial Being as a great idea. In fact, a superpower uses Celestial Being to defeat an opponent, knowing they would have to interfere according to their own doctrine. Celestial Being has to intervene, always, regardless of which faction is in the wrong. The political game of RISK and its effects on the world economy and power is great to watch, and the best part of Gundam 00, coupled with intense action and a perfect pace.

Gundam 00 has its share of flaws, I grant you, and yet I have no qualms about recommending it anyone. Of course, if Gundam in general isn’t for you, this won’t be the series to convince you. For everyone else, get ready for an intense conflict that begs a marathon.

Movie: A Wakening of the Trailblazer – I get the impression the writers had no idea how to conclude such a strong opening premise. How does one end a story about achieving world peace? Well, world peace is out, since it isn’t realistic in any universe, but if it ends with more war, the audience won’t feel satisfied. So, what does one do? I’m not sure, but it certainly isn’t what A Wakening of the Trailblazer went with. The movie is rubbish. If the character names were changed and you didn’t know this was a sequel to Gundam 00, you wouldn’t guess they were related. Not required viewing. Movie Quality – Low

Art – High

Beautiful art, especially with those particle effects. Battles boast great choreography without resorting to repetition of animations. I love the mech designs, possibly my favourite in all of Gundam. Improves with season 2.

Sound – High

Really, the Gundam series in general has excellent acting in English from Ocean Production studio (Black Lagoon, Death Note, most Gundam dubs). No exception here. I enjoyed the OPs, and the music in general is good, but it doesn’t live up to the likes of Gundam SEED.

Story – Medium

An incredible start to a global conflict, unfortunately, distracted from by side characters brought in too soon and an episode that nukes the fridge in the second act. Too little character conflict and a one-note protagonist weakened my engagement to the individuals.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: A must for fans of Gundam action. Even with a few weak aspects, I found Gundam 00 thoroughly enjoyable for its sharp action and production quality. I watched all episodes within a few days.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Stellar Voice ActingStunning Art Quality

Negative:

Weak End