"Gundam SEED" Wade Through the Unexpected, Gundam!
It is rare to find a series that is so polarizing. For every person that loves Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, there’s another one who absolutely hates it and everything attached to it. From these early episodes, it’s kind of easy to see why.
One of those reasons is the harsh serial format. For instance, see if you understand any of the next two paragraphs without having seen the first disc. Consider it a challenge of sorts.
After a pretty good first disc, this second disc kind of slows things down. Last time, Kira barely escaped with his life in his first battle against the other four Earth Alliance G-weapons. Only some quick thinking by ace pilot Mu La Flaga saved him from becoming ZAFT property. However, there are still huge problems to be solved. The nearest supply station is at Eurasian Federation Base Artemis, but the bigwigs of the base are a little jealous of their Atlantic Federation cousins and want the Strike all for themselves. And their only source of water happens to be where over 200,000 people were killed during one fateful day. And just to add to the craziness, Athrun’s fiancée and daughter of a ZAFT Supreme Council Chairman, Lacus Clyne, becomes stranded on board the Archangel. To cut through the babble, things are rough.
The first episode on this disc moves along pretty well, foreshadowing the harsh and corrupt Earth Alliance bigwigs, but the whole Lacus arc seems to take forever. Tighter writing and better transitions would have helped immensely. Then there are the characterizations. Kira still feels a bit too angst-ridden, his friends still have very little development (truthfully, their personalities are reflected more in their voice acting than in their actions), and Mu is still the most interesting character on the ship. The beginning of a conflict between Murrue and Natarle is as far as development of the bridge crew grows. Heck, you have to look online just to find out the names of the rest of the crew!
(To my dear series newbies: Confused yet?)
Still, there are some positives on this disc. The first and last episodes are easily the best. Phase-06 has good action, nice animation, and the first signs of development for Nichol and his Blitz Gundam. Plus, Kira goes out in Sword Strike, which is always a positive in my book (alas, Sword Strike disappears until disc five). Anyway, the last episode ends the Lacus arc (though not everything’s wrapped up). In it is the start of Flay’s descent and a really nice moment where Kira tries to rescue Lacus by bringing her to Athrun. Lacus’ dialogue and Rau’s actions bring that scene together. Finally, things are starting to move forward as ZAFT knows about the G-Weapons, adding a diplomatic dimension. This disc also offers some nice background information, as we get the full story of the Bloody Valentine incident, which will come back to haunt later.
While I wouldn’t say the animation is bad, it’s not exactly good either. There are way too many instances of stock footage and digital pans that bring down everything as a whole. Whenever there is actual animation, though, it is often stilted, as if the animators didn’t have enough time to finish the cycle and just winged it. I will say that I did like the fight between the Strike and the Blitz in Phase-06 a lot. It’s too bad we never get a similar fight ever again. Another problem presented here is the use of flashbacks. While it’s not too bad here, it poses a major problem down the road, to the point of utter annoyance and the urge to hit fast-forward. That said, I do like the designs of most of the characters as well as the Mobile Suits (though I’m not a big fan of Aegis’ head or Buster as a whole), despite problems with a few of the model sheets that will get worse in the second half of the series. And the credits are still left untouched with the English translations saved for after the last episode, which bugs the hell out of me. With this system, many, many extras are left uncredited and it looks really cheap and lazy. Transfer is crystal clear as per usual. No complaints on that front.
Gundam SEED‘s strong point continues to be music. From the awesome opening theme to the absolutely perfect ending theme, the music is just a joy to listen to. Toshihiko Sahashi’s score is about as perfect as can be and electrifies the action. The only problem I have with it is that Bandai didn’t put it in Surround Sound, opting instead for regular ol’ stereo for both the English and Japanese tracks. Other than that, the transfer is very nice and works extremely well. I still love the English dub, including Matt Hill’s Kira, but I also like Chantral Strand’s Lacus. Yes, Lacus’ dub singing voice doesn’t match up at all with her character or her speaking voice, but it’s still a nice voice all the same, though it sounded awfully sour for a pop song in “In This Quiet Night.” The Japanese cast is decent as well, with the possible exception of Kira.
Extras are just a slight grade above your average Dragon Ball Z disc. The main feature is T.M. Revolution’s “Invoke” music video, which has confused and confounded each and every person who I’ve shown it to. To add to the confusion, Bandai decided to skip the subtitles (which are present on the Tofu Records TMR DVDs). There are also your standard Mechanical Files as well as a bunch of trailers, and every volume contains an insert with a glossary of important words in the SEED universe. Not exactly a Special Edition-worthy package, I can tell you that right now.
Overall, it’s hard to judge this disc. As a Gundam series, the entire story is very serial, with one episode flowing into the next. If you enjoyed SEED‘s run on Cartoon Network, pick this up by all means. If you’re one of those people who think the U.C. Gundam shows rule everything else out there, this likely won’t change your mind.
Episodes on Volume 2: Unexpected Meetings
Phase-06: “The Disappearing Gundam”
Phase-07: “The Scar of Space”
Phase-08: “The Enemy Songstress”
Phase-09: “The Disappearing Light”
Phase-10: “Divided Paths”