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"Gundam SEED" Continue Your Eternal Quest for Freedom and Justice, Gundam!

With ZAFT and the Archangel hogging the spotlight, the Earth Alliance is feeling a little jealous, so they decide it’s time to unleash their own Mobile Suits, including three new Gundams (one of which is butt-ugly), on the poor little country of Orb. Will our heroes survive this battle? OK, so that’s not that hard a question. Oh, and Mu finally gets his own Gundam.

Cover art for Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Volume 8: Eternal Crusade.With JOSH-A (the Earth Alliance’s Alaskan base) wiped out thanks to the CYCLOPS system, the Archangel is in deep trouble. They need repairs and the only thing up to full strength within miles is Kira’s shiny new Freedom. What’s more, the Earth Alliance isn’t going to be happy when they find out our heroes are still alive. The only thing they can do right now is head to Orb and hope they’re still allies. Up in space, Athrun finds out that Lacus assisted in the theft of Freedom and begins to doubt his father’s ideals. But there’s no time to worry about that, as the Earth Alliance has lost their Mass Driver, which they need to go back into space, and decides to take Orb’s. Kira in Freedom and Mu in a rebuilt Strike head out to protect the country from the Earth Alliance’s new Mobile Suits (the mass-produced Strike Daggers and the new Calamity, Forbidden, and Raider Gundams) while Athrun struggles to define his enemies, piloting his brand new Justice Gundam, a present from his father.

After the awesome last disc, this volume has a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, it falls just short of reaching that mark. Still, these episodes are not bad. The battle between the “druggie trio” (so named because the pilots of the new EA Gundams are enhanced by drugs) and our pretty boy heroes is well done, with lots of high flying, some sweet evasive maneuvers, and nice acrobatics. It may not be realistic, but at least it’s cool. But the biggest surprise on this disc involves the relationship between Kira and Athrun. Athrun’s “Let’s kick ass!” battlecry rocks no matter how you look at it.

Still, there are still some problems. The biggest by far is the excess of flashbacks. Lacus makes a little speech to Athrun in Phase-36, and it is repeated in every single episode on this disc, until the viewers are just sick of it. And it’s not just that speech, the vast majority of the previous 35 episodes are repeated in some shape or form in these five episodes, and it gets really irritating, especially when watching more than one episode back-to-back. Other than that, my main problem comes from the designs of the new GATZ-series Gundams. Calamity looks OK (though I like the Sword version seen in the manga better), Raider just seems off to me, and Forbidden is by far one of the ugliest Gundams I have ever seen, ranking up there with a multitude of G Gundam Gundams.

Athrun and Kira make an awesome team, don't they?The animation continues to trend upward, as it has since Volume 6, but much of that is probably due to the constant flashbacks. Forbidden’s beam cannon is, surprisingly, very badly animated. There’s also a bit of an overuse of stock footage, though the final scene in Phase-40 is a very well-animated moment. Aside from that stuff, the animation is pretty normal for this series, so if you loved it before, you’ll continue to like it. If you didn’t like it before, this won’t convince you.

Music is pretty much the same as well. There’s some new tunes thanks to the druggies and their commander, Mureta Azreal (head of Blue Cosmos, aka the new-age Klu Klux Klan), and as expected, they all rock. Both voice casts are their usual selves as well, though this disc contains a new song for Lacus to sing, so if you hate Chantal Strand’s singing voice, you may want to switch to the Japanese for that segment. And there’s yet another insert song that isn’t subtitled. Thankfully, “River” is gone at the end of this disc and replaced by “Find the Way,” the final ending theme. This theme is better than “River,” but it’s just too slow for this series.

The extras go from decent to disappointing in one volume flat. There’s the Gundam Encyclopedia, the “Believe” music video (again) and a whopping two term definitions, though they are rather big this time around. Fukuda, the director of the series, has done tons of interviews in Japan, so it couldn’t have been that hard to get some of them translated and put on the DVD. Then again, Bandai can’t even be bothered to subtitle the music videos or the insert songs in the series itself, so it’s not too surprising that they can’t manage decent extras.

Despite this volume’s problems, it’s still a worthy purchase if you’ve enjoyed the series so far. Seeing Mu pilot a Mobile Suit and watching the introduction of Azreal is well worth the price of purchase. Now if only we could get fewer flashbacks.

Episodes on Volume 8: Eternal Crusade
Phase-36: “In the Name of Justice”
Phase-37: “Divine Thunder”
Phase-38: “Decisive Fire”
Phase-39: “Athrun”
Phase-40: “Into the Dawn Skies”

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