Another Gundam series done, though unusually for an alternate universe show there is still another series and a film to talk about later down the road. Gundam SEED is an odd one, it ups the teen angst and drama while following the original Gundam series’ blueprint very closely for its first half before thankfully deviating to a more original story to end. Plus it has more Gundams than you can shake a stick at! Let’s take a final overall look then, once again a more detailed breakdown of the series in four chunks of episodes can be found by clicking on the Gundam tab above…
The Orb Union space colony, Heliopolis, is attacked by ZAFT, despite its neutrality since the beginning of the Bloody Valentine War. Kira Yamato accidentally sees the Earth Alliance’s new prototype mobile suits, which have been secretly constructed at the local Heliopolis factory. He encounters his childhood friend, Athrun Zala, now a ZAFT soldier as one of the attackers…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Who doesn’t like seeing two giant mechs punch each other? No-one, that’s who!
I will give credit where its due with SEED, while I don’t actually like the lead protagonist Kira much, his relationship with fellow protagonist Athrun is a well told story. The two are both Coordinators, humans who had their genes altered before birth and have all but been exiled from Earth to the space colonies due to the regular humans fearing them. They were really close friends before Athrun moved away and suddenly a few years later Athrun is a member of the Coordinator / colony army ZAFT’s top division and is picked a one of five pilots to steal the Earth Federation’s new mobile suits. Kira, in classic Gundam lead character fashion, finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up getting into one of the suits, nicknamed Gundams, while Athrun and his three fellow teenage ZAFT pilots Yzak (quick to anger and arrogant), Dearka (bit of a knob who becomes less of a knob as the series progresses) and Nicol (really nice and sweet boy type) steal the other four. This leads to the first roughly two thirds of the series being about the two best friends being on opposite sides of the war, neither wanting to kill each other but Athrun especially getting angry at why his friend was on the “enemy’s side”.
Eventually Kira kills sweet and gentle Nicol in battle and Athrun responds by killing Kira’s friend Tolle as well, leading to the two friends trying to legitimately kill each other and losing their two Gundam suits in the process. It’s the height of the series’ main storyline, showing how warfare has torn this friendship to pieces. The pair go on two very different journeys but both end up with the same conclusion: neither side of the war is in the right. They both get new Gundams and eventually join a new third faction of ships that try to put an end to the war between Earth and the ZAFT. They both take part in the big final battle, where both sides try to use weapons of mass destruction on each other and show their leaders for the genocidal mad men they were, eventually enough top brass from both sides die that the remainders declare peace…
Mu and Ramius, both of whom barely appeared in screenshots during the past four episode breakdowns. Oh well, I made up for it here! (plus got some other regulars in the background too!)
Along with Athrun and Kira there are quite a number of other characters, some good, some bad. Lacus Clyne is an idol singer who was scheduled to marry Athrun politically as her father was a big shot at ZAFT but her love of peace ends up leading her to not only help Kira and Athrun gain new ZAFT-build Gundams but also front the resistance to ZAFT on the colonies, something that leads her father to be killed but she herself escapes and becomes one of the big wigs of the Three Ships Alliance that opposes both Earth and ZAFT. She can be quite one-dimensionally nice, which is probably why she falls for similarly super-nice Kira, but she still has her moments. Plus it’s a bit of a Macross reference, innit? Taking the role of Captain Bright Noa from the original series is Lt. Ramius, who unlike her OG counterpart never becomes too stern or strict and spends most of the series taking the advice of others while she runs the White Base of this series: the Archangel.
One of these confidants is her love interest and hotshot Han Solo-type pilot Mu La Flaga, who is good in a… well, Han Solo-like way (or Sleggar Law-like way, if you want to once again make reference to the original Gundam Series…) We also have Cagalli, the princess of the neutral nation of Orb who left to fight on the front lines before returning to her home and seeing things there way… in time for it to be destroyed. She joins the Three Ships Alliance, and she’s also Athrun’s love interest and out of all of these teen romance subplots it’s the most believable and well thought out. There is also Lt. Badgiruel, who is the strict by-the-rules type and therefore grates on Ramius’ nerves and actually ends up serving the Earth Alliance against her when Ramius and her ship and crew join the same Three Ships Alliance mentioned several times now…
It may have only appeared suddenly in the last two episodes but Rau’s Providence Gundam looks great!
As for antagonists we have our Char Aznable-a-like in the masked, blonde haired Rau Le Creuset, who is generally unhinged and wants both sides to wipe each other out all because… *sigh*, well, a really stupidly convoluted thing I’ll get to in the bad section. Still, he was a good antagonist really and his final showdown with Kira was fun. Once Athrun and Dearka join the Three Ships Alliance (the latter because he fell for an Earth woman on the Archangel) some new baddies had to be introduced and they come in the form of super racist Muruta Azrael and his trio of mentally conditioned pilots in three new Gundams. The trio have literally zero character beyond “someone for Kira and Athrun to fight” but there you go. Again, they get the job done… Azrael on the other hand is properly deplorable and seeing him and Badgiruel get stuck in a stand-off due to the formally by-the-numbers Lt. realising how much of an evil arse he is was great.
Finally although the HD version’s zoomed in nature sometimes gave a slight blur to the picture, the actually Suit to Suit combat was often enjoyable, and the final few episodes of battle were proper edge-of-your-set stuff.
“Andrew?! I thought you died!” “Yeah, I didn’t. I escaped.” “How?” “… Let’s move on shall we?”
The biggest negative that hangs over the series is Flay, a spoiled daughter of a rich businessman (or was it politician?) who ended up on the Archangel during the original evacuation. She acts like a spoiled brat, then a really unpleasantly racist, erm… bitch, frankly, against Kira who at that point had already saved her life several times. Then she begins having a relationship with Kira in order to motivate him to “protect her until he dies”, then spends some time away from him and suddenly acts like she was legitimately in love with him before the finale of finally dying in the war which is ruined because Kira starts crying like he lost the love of his life… MAN. She was detestable, and never did anything you could call redeeming in any way. No character arc beyond “rich racist might be having second thoughts about her ways before being killed”. Forty. Eight. Episodes.
There are some really weird “Luke and Leia are twins” arse-pulls in this series. For a start they pretty much copy that by revealing that Kira and Cagalli are twins, two characters that very nearly got romantically involved before splitting off to other characters. Then Rau Le Creuset reveals that he is a clone of Mu La Flaga’s father and that Kira was actually some super coordinator who was not only heavily modified pre-birth but actually created in a large tube rather than an actual mother’s womb. So Cagalli’s mother didn’t really give birth to him and her, just her and then sort of… “had” Kira at the same time before he was shipped off to some random coordinators in the colonies. The most annoying things about all this? It didn’t really have a purpose. It didn’t add much more drama to the final battle than it would have had already. Mu lost in battle to Rau and then sacrificed himself to save Ramius and the Archangel (well… *sigh*, no never mind…) and Kira defeated Rau while he was spouting nonsense about Kira being the ultimate goal of humanity but frankly Kira would’ve finished him off in the battle one way or another anyway…
Another offender is Kira himself, whose character arc is “I just want to help my friends” followed by “I just want the war to end because killing each other is wrong!” and… that’s it. His whole personality is just “really naïve nice guy who has lots of firepower so he can actually get close to his dreams through force”. Very odd. Also the first half of the series being an often literal re-tread of the original Gundam series is a negative, including redoing the whole Ramba Ral “highly regarded soldier in the desert that befriend the protagonist before being killed” story, except the SEED equivalent Andrew Waltfeld is brought back from clearly exploding in his mobile suit JUST because he was a popular character. It completely destroyed his otherwise enjoyable character arc all so he can sit in a command chair during the final few battles. Also lots of the non-Flay drama also doesn’t land for me personally, and the artstyle (all pointy angles, bright hair and copy-and-paste faces) just doesn’t appeal, again to me, you may like it. The HD version’s occasionally blurry zoom may also not be to everyone’s taste, I frankly would stick with the original 4:3 series and just skip the two recap episodes that HD cut out.
Two friends finally shake hands with their two killer Gundams by their side. Brings a tear to your eyes…
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has its moments, the core storyline between protagonists Kira and Athrun is good and the final battle is quite the spectacle, but it is full of really annoying teen drama and some baffling decisions to do with certain characters. Add in heavily following the original Gundam’s blueprints for half of its run and I’m putting this squarely in the middle of the ratings.