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Shall Hatred Never Cease?

January 22, 2010

     My personal favorite of the Gundam franchise is Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, a reimagining of the original Universal Century/Mobile Suit Gundam story.  In this world, space colonies are inhabited by Coordinators, beings whose DNA was altered to improve their skills and to result in certain desirable physical traits before they were born.  The Coordinator government, called P.L.A.N.T., faces off with the Earth Alliance due to Alliance hatred of Coordinators and the Junius Seven Massacre, when the Alliance used nuclear missles to destroy a colony full of civilians.  On a neutral colony owned by the Orb Union, the Alliance’s military forces, O.M.N.I. Enforcer, is developing powerful mobile suits in secret to combat P.L.A.N.T.’s military forces, Z.A.F.T.  Z.A.F.T. discovers their existence and infiltrates the colony.  In the process, young Kira Yamato, a Coordinator trying to just live his life in peace, gets caught up in the ensuing conflict along with his friends.  All but one of the mobile suits is stolen, and he pilots the remaining one, the GAT-X105 Strike out of necessity.  He and his friends board the spaceship the Archangel, commanded by Lieutenant Murrue Ramias, Lieutenant Mu La Flaga, and Ensign Natarle Badgiruel.  However, the pilot of one of the suits, the GAT-X303 Aegis, is his old friend from his youth, Athrun Zala.  He must choose whether to fight against his old friend or to abandon his current ones, and all the while, the politics and military conflicts of the Bloody Valentine War threaten to rip apart humanity and his own ideals.  Plus, in the background, the sinister Rau Le Creuset plans his own requiem for both humans and Coordinators alike…

     A lot of people dislike this series because they see it as far too derivative.  Admittedly, there are a few more parallels between this and the original Gundam than I would have liked, but there are also many original elements, like the multiple points of view (both Kira and Athrun).  The cast is largely extremely likable, even Ensign Badgiruel at times, save only Flay Allster, who you are supposed to hate.  My personal favorites are Mu and Murrue, because they’re absolutely awesome.  Mu is the coolest pilot in the whole series, and he’s voiced by Koyasu Takehito, the most prolific seiyuu in the business.  Murrue is a great captain, and she’s voiced by Mitsuishi Kotono, the voice of Sailor Moon and Katsuragi Misato.  The plot is rather predictable at the beginning, due to its parallels with the original Gundam, but the ethical question of the Coordinators and the elements of Athrun’s viewpoint and totally original characters like Flay and Cagalli Yula Athha, daughter of the head of Orb (okay, so she’s similar to Sayla Mass, but much more kickass) keep you going until the show does a 180 turn and just goes crazy with the questions of who is good, who is evil, and why people should be fighting.  Neither the Earth Federation nor Z.A.F.T. are portrayed as pure or good, which allows for more interesting plot developments.  And Rau Le Creuset, despite being a Char clone, is a deviously evil villain with very unique, if a tad hazy, motivations that make him the best Char clone of all, after Zech Merquise of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.

     The animation is quite nice, with very colorful yet dynamic action and mobile suits.  Sure, greater facial variety would be nice, but the mobile suits, the biggest elements of the show, are absolutely awesome.  The ZGMF-X10A Freedom is one of the single coolest mobile suits in Gundam, and as a whole, this show has possibly the best mobile suit designs of all.  The soundtrack is fairly good, if not entirely memorable.  However, songs like Invoke and Find the Way for the opening and closing theme songs quite fit both the action and dramatic aspects of the story.  I’ve seen the whole show in both English and Japanese, and the Japanese is definitely superior.  Koyasu Takehito, Mitsuishi Kotono, Ishida Akira, Shindou Naomi, Seki Tomokazu, Seki Toshihiko,  Kuwashima Houko, and Tanaka Rie are just the most prominent of this cast of stars.  And believe me, all of them portray their characters brilliantly.  Kuwashima Houko should get  an award for being able to portray two characters as different as Ensign Badgiruel and Flay.  Lacus Clyne can occasionally be annoying, but Tanaka Rie’s work as her is absolutely superb, and when Lacus gets really statesmanly, she’s quite admirable.

     I’m actually not a fan of Hoshi Souchirou’s work as Kira, however.  Although I really like Kira as a character, I find Souchirou’s interpretation of him to be often too melodramatic.  There’s one scene where Kira cries that sounds more like he’s having an epileptic seizure or is about to vomit.  And another issue is that, like most Gundam series, this one does not answer most of the philosophical questions it poses.  In addition to the typical “is war an acceptable means of achieving peace” question (although Uzumi Nara Athha makes it seem clear, the good guys do achieve victory by fighting), there’s the ethical question of genetic alteration which is never answered.  Kira and Athrun are obviously pretty awesome, but is it okay that they are given these advantages over other people that are so great?  But really, this is a show about giant robots, so although those are important, those aren’t the main issues.  This is a great story with a bunch of really likable characters, and unlike Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, you actually dislike the people you are supposed to dislike.  I would have liked more strong women characters, but at least there are virtually no weenie female characters (except Flay, who you hate anyway).  It’s very familiar for people who have seen the original Gundam, but I find it to be superior in almost every way.  Every fan of the Gundam franchise should check this series out, as it’s one of, if not the best, of the lot.

Story: 9.4      Animation: 9.3      Soundtrack: 8.8      Acting: 9.7      Overall: 9.5

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