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"Gundam SEED" Don't Get Sand in Your Joints, Gundam!

In the Cosmic Era, genetically enhanced Coordinators have caused a deadly war. One young Coordinator, Kira Yamato, actually fights for the Earth Alliance, who is trying to exterminate all Coordinators. He feels pretty dedicated to his cause now, but what happens when he meets the coffee-loving version of Tony the Tiger?

Cover art for Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Volume 4: Desert Warfare.Previously, the Archangel descended to Earth, hoping to get to Earth Alliance H.Q. in Alaska. However, Kira, being Kira, decided to screw that up by passing out and going off course. Now, the Archangel is in the middle of the Sahara, far from friendly forces. Kira is broken emotionally after the battle and Flay decides to take advantage of this to strengthen her relationship with Kira by comforting him in ways only a woman can. The Archangel runs into even more problems when it becomes involved in a scuffle between Desert Dawn, the local resistance group, and the ZAFT unit led by Andy Waltfeld, also known as the Desert Tiger. Kira reunites with Cagalli, the blonde “goddess of victory” from Phase-01 and they become fast friends, but a chance meeting with the Desert Tiger flips Kira’s already delicate world upside down.

This is the start of the infamous “Desert Arc.” Infamous, that is, for slowing the already problematically paced series to a crawl. The initial battle between the Strike and new BuCUE Mobile Suits is downright dull, saved only by Kira’s dedication to protecting Flay. The second episode on this disc is all plot development, and it too moves pretty slowly. The episode’s standout scenes involve Kira’s heavy-duty emotional rejection (Andy’s love of coffee is a close second). The disc ends on another lazy day where not much happens. I think the episode’s only purpose is to remind the audience that Lacus is still around. We also get our first look at Blue Cosmos here, but nothing at all is explained about the terrorists other than that they despise Coordinators.

But the Desert Arc isn’t a complete waste. The middle two episodes (Phases 18 and 19) are the best of the disc, spotlighting the conflict between Kira and Cagalli over why to fight and the conflict between Cagalli and Andy over chili and yogurt. Most importantly, though, Andy shows Kira the real nature of the war: that no one wants a conflict but no one can compromise their visions of the future. I never get tired of watching these two episodes and they easily make up for any negatives the other three have.

Andy Waltfeld is the best thing about the Desert Arc.With the introduction of the BuCUEs, we get even more CG, and it really looks awful. The BuCUEs’ movements are much more fluid in 2D. Though there are some really nice shots of the Strike (particularly in Phase-18), the animation is still stiff, as though someone broke into the studio and stole every third frame. We get our first look at the Skygrasper, a fighter plane that replaces the Mobius Zero and allows easy switching between the Striker Paks, in action, though it doesn’t really do much but fly around. The change in scenery is nice though, as the desert offers up a pleasant change from the blackness of space.

New arc means new music, and like previous discs, the new tracks simply rock. The Middle Eastern-style music fits in very well, adding to the already exemplary soundtrack. The voice acting is pretty much the same in both languages, with Brian Drumwood adding some star power to the cast as Andy. I enjoy Brian’s laid-back attitude more than the Japanese VA’s rendition of the character, but overall both dubs are pretty good. The lack of Surround Sound is still bothersome, but the stereo mix works well enough.

T.M. Revolution’s “Invoke” music video returns to the extras menu, along with a textless version of the second intro. Aside from that, there are the usual Mechancial Files and Trailers. This section is getting more and more pathetic every time.

If you’re enjoying Gundam SEED so far, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick up this disc. Two enjoyable characters are officially introduced, some new battle tactics are used, and we even get some comedy to lighten up the mood. But the disc’s pacing problems may leave you more than a little impatient.

Episodes on Volume 4: Desert Warfare
Phase-16: “Burning Sandstorm”
Phase-17: “Cagalli Returns”
Phase-18: “Payback”
Phase-19: “Fangs of the Enemy”
Phase-20: “On a Calm Day”

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