Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: May 31st, 2018
Episodes: 50 | Type: TV Series | Languages: Japanese & English
One of the very best Gundam series, this is a must watch for those who love the franchise for its tragic, brutal and gritty depiction of war especially from a title known as the most “deadly” of the non-UC Gundam series. One of the best feature of the Gundam franchise is perhaps its versatility: This series is set in its own continuity, giving it more freedom to explore new horizons. That is truly one of the best thing about Gundam, even if you don’t like a series there are plenty of others available and made from different directors and staff as well; making sure that at least one Gundam will satisfy you, as long as you’re into giant robots that is.
First off, let’s make one thing clear: This is a review of the original series as it was released on physical media, no the HD remaster.
The story is fairly simple and known to most Gundam enthusiast: A young man climbs aboard the Gundam in a dire situation, ends up having to save the day with abnormally high natural skills with the machine and is entangled in the war in spite of himself. The basic premise behind the war is that Coordinators (Humans who have been genetically engineered) are now at war with the Earth Forces (The sum of Humanity on Earth). In essence, this is in fact a remake of the original Gundam released in 1979 but with additions and alterations which come out better overall; particularly since it wasn’t plagued with being cut short and has access to better animation and more resources thanks to being a 2000s series. All that aside this is, as I’ve said, a new and alternate retelling of a familiar story that aims to sharpen some of the rougher edges of the original: Such has having the mobile suit created by genetically enhance humans, which makes more sense than Zeon simply coming up with a superweapon on the fly as the war starts. Having genetically altered humans instead of people who randomly evolve into psychics because they’ve been in space for less than 100 years. Having Neutron Jammers explain why people don’t use nukes instead of trying to make us believe both sides of such a conflict simply wouldn’t use them out of virtuousness and so on… This is not to say that the original series has no merit, of course. It did start the Gundam franchise and was certainly innovative and unique. I am merely attempting to paint a picture as to why this remake is in fact, a welcome addition after all this time.
It is important to remember before undertaking this series that you’re in for the long haul as the show uses the first 30 episodes to setup the last 20. That is not to say the first 3/5 of the series is bad, far from it. But it is slower when it comes to plot progression and relies heavily on you actually enjoying psychological drama and action heavy mecha series. The last 20 episodes certainly deliver if you’re into epic and dark tales of war, that’s for sure. The only fault I can really attribute the story thus far is the abundance of recap episodes. There are 4 of them, out of 50. One of the recaps gives better insight into one of the main antagonists and provides background for the event of the series but the rest are mainly clip shows and can be hard to get through, especially if you’ve been marathoning.
The characters are where this series shines in my opinion. Each one of them is unique and has a unique reason for fighting and being a part of the war. Through the characters, psychology, especially the psychology of war, is explored. It starts slowly by establishing the characters and who they are as well as establishing their personal relationships and views of the war and then it slowly evolves and shows us how war affects them all and how different types of individuals respond to war. It is later in the series though, that major events truly shake the characters, drastically changing their psychology, the path they are on, their understanding of war and consequently, furthering the fundamental themes of the series.
The characters include protagonist Kira Yamato, an unnaturally talented Coordinator (Genetically enhanced humans), even for his kind, that is sensitive and initially only seeks to protect others. Athrun Zala is a Coordinator seeking to protect his homeland and Kira’s childhood friend and with Kira fighting alongside the Earth Forces (The Coordinators’ enemies), the two develop an intense rivalry. Kira is supported by the crew of the Archangel (Their ship) and Athrun has a supporting cast of his fellow military brothers in arms. Both sides are filled with unique characters you’d expect in this type of series: The kind soldier, the angry and cocky psycho, the ace pilot, the strict officer and so on… The exceptions are many of Kira’s friends, who became military in spite of being students with no training and react to everything that involves war with stark contrast to how soldiers do, obviously. Important characters to look out for are Rau le Creuset, Patrick Zala, Cagali and Lacus Clyne but I won’t say more to avoid spoilers.
Where this anime hits its peak is certainly with its themes. As you probably already guessed, it’s primarily centered on the general theme of war but beyond that lies a series of different, and compelling, themes that sprung from this central element. Notably, and not apparent for the first half of the series, it deals with authoritarianism, corrupt democracy, anarchy and nihilism; all of which are explored through certain characters, through their psychology and through the events of the series itself. Other important themes are the psychology of war (As I explained earlier), the politics, consequences and realities of war as well as why it occurs, the meaning of justice, revenge, friendship and the desire to protect, why we should be fighting and whether or not it is even right to fight and for whom. Due to the differences between Humans and Coordinators, racism and discrimination is also a very important theme that plays into almost all of the other aspects of the series. It also goes without saying that the true nature of humanity comes under focus at numerous times throughout the show.
Animation & Voice Work
The animation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is good and the art style is certainly a unique and interesting one. But many people didn’t click right with it and the animation could have been sharper for the era in which it came out. Then there’s also the issue of reused animation, which happens often. Of course, it is balanced with stellar fight sequences that should satisfy any mecha and sci-fi fan.
The English dub is primarily a Canadian one from Ocean Studios and is from a now long gone era of Canadian dubs. It is a great dub and I recommend it. All of the actors are suited to their roles and hit the right notes, script is sharp and the villain is offered one of the best performances imaginable by Mark Olivier.
It is a beautiful, impactful and emotional epic with stellar and exciting fight sequences, heavy thematic value delivered through expert directing and consistently sharp writing throughout. It equally explores story and characters as well as action and themes without underdevelopment in any area. The series really connects with you and manages to make you feel the horrors of war in ways few series can; and doesn’t drown in its own despair, even giving you hope in humanity. The story is one of Gundam’s bests and in the few areas where it falls short in the early episodes, the compelling characters keeps the show together. This incarnation of Gundam truly impressed me.
This is very much a mecha series certain to please giant robot fans but, being located in a continuity of its own and requiring no previous Gundam knowledge and having strong sci-fi elements, it is also accessible to more general and less robot-centric fans. The character designs are of a more “bishonen” nature and should appeal to those who enjoy this style. But most importantly, you should remember that this series takes a while to start so if it doesn’t click right with you after the first 5 episodes, it might be best not to continue. If you enjoy what you’ve seen or don’t mind waiting for later rewards, then I promise the second half of the show will not disappoint.
Source: Article Image: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed visual (Sunrise)
- Original Title: 機動戦士ガンダムSEED <シード> (Kidō Senshi Gundam Seed)
- Additional Notes: Original home video version
- Director: Mitsuo Fukuda
- Series Composition: Chiaki Morosawa
- Release Date: 2002 – 2003
- License: Bandai Entertainment