"Gundam SEED" Refrain from Retreating to the Familiar, Gundam!
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED trudges along with this third disc. Billed as “Mobile Suit Gundam for the 21st Century,” this series has a lot to live up to. Well, it’s finally starting to do that after a visibly shaky start. But the problems from the last disc still haven’t been corrected yet.
After spending the last two discs wandering around space, the crew of the Archangel have finally met up with the rest of the Earth Alliance, filling their need for supplies and an actual staff. For Kira, however, a decision must be made. Should he continue to pilot the Strike for the Earth Alliance, even if it means he will be fighting his former friend Athrun? And if he leaves, who will be able to protect the Archangel? Those questions will have to be answered quickly, as ZAFT has followed the Archangel this far and isn’t giving up so easily. With the 8th Fleet (a subtle nod to another Gundam series?) being annihilated left and right, Kira has to make a choice here and now. But what happens when those he swore to protect are killed? And that young blonde-haired girl in the desert looks awfully familiar…
With the descent to Earth, SEED manages to get out of its lull from last disc and get back into awesomeness. Though the fight in Phase-11 isn’t all that spectacular (aside from the first appearance of the plot device known as SEED Mode), it does feature one of the more memorable moments from the series: Yzak gets a horrible scar thanks to the Strike. Like any good pretty boy, said scar causes him to go insane by the next fight, resulting in one of the darkest moments in Kira’s young life. [Escaflowne, anyone? -Ed] With that, we shift our focus to Earth, but not before our first real clip show, which gives a brief summary of the five Gundams and their features, some backstory on George Glenn, the first Coordinator, and on how the war started in the first place. Though you wouldn’t think so, this is easily the best episode on the disc, as it significantly enriches the atmosphere. Mark Oliver’s wonderful performance as Rau Le Cruset certainly helps elevate the episode towards greatness. The episode before it is fun as well, as we get our first multi-man melee (not Nintendo’s version) of the series, though seeing the four Gundams completely own the Earth Alliance was a little boring near the end.
But when there’s a positive, there’s always a negative. The animation still relies too much on stock footage (in Phase-13 it seems to take an eternity for actually new Gundam footage to show up) and the flashbacks start to pile up here much more than in the previous two discs. Story-wise, things move pretty smoothly until the actual descent to Earth happens. Then we get the official start of the Desert Arc, which could have been cut down to half an episode, but the creative staff wanted to pad things out, to viewers’ dismay and boredom.
Aside from the stock footage, the Archangel’s CG still doesn’t look right compared to everything else in the show. And the digital pans continue to injure my eyes. However, the effects, particularly the lighting, are impressive, covering up some of the bad animation. The problem with the credits remains, however.
Not much has changed musically from the past disc. We get a new opening, “Moment,” starting with Phase-14, and while it’s not as horrible as some make it out to be, it’s still not as good as “Invoke.” The ending is still the same, thank goodness, and the already impressive score goes up a notch during Phases 13 and 14 with some masterful composing from Toshihiko Sahashi. Music remains SEED‘s strong point. Now if only we could get it in Surround Sound.
There’s very little in the extras department: a textless version of the ending to Phase-01 (which includes more music than normal) and Mechanical Files. There could have been more. How about some of the interviews with director Mitsuo Fukuda? Perhaps a featurette detailing the composition of the music? Interview with T.M. Revolution? Anything! And I know these things exist because they happened in Japan, so why can’t we see them?
If you somewhat enjoyed the past two SEED discs, you’ll definitely like this one. While the series still hasn’t exactly reached pure brilliance yet, this is a step in the right direction.
Episodes on Volume 3: No Retreat
Phase-11: “The Awakening Sword”
Phase-12: “Flay’s Decision”
Phase-13: “Stars Falling in Space”
Phase-14: “Within Endless Time”
Phase-15: “Respective Solitudes”