"Gundam SEED" The Spark of Evolution Conflicts Within You, Gundam!
As we near the end of the series, it feels weird to be back up in space after spending the past thirty-something episodes on Earth.
Last disc, the Archangel and the Orb cruiser Kusanagi escaped the destruction of Orb by heading into space. With the death of Lord Uzumi, Cagalli is in pieces after learning the identity of her brother. As Cagalli struggles to accept the new direction her young life has taken, Athrun heads back to the PLANTs to talk to his father. Finally understanding that his dad’s insane, Athrun is arrested and taken into custody. Meanwhile, Lacus and an old friend of Kira’s steal ZAFT’s newest ship, the Eternal (sheesh, what happened to security?), which is specifically configured for the Freedom and the Justice. As if things weren’t crazy enough, Natarle, who was transferred off the Archangel in Volume 7, is now the captain of the Dominion, which is basically a black Archangel, and holds Azreal and the druggies. Their first mission: destroy the meddlesome Archangel! ZAFT, in pursuit of the Eternal, also ends up in the same area. While thinking about his next plan of action with Flay, whom he kidnapped back in Volume 7 as well, Rau Le Cruset heads out to face off against Mu and Kira, the results of which will shake both of them for the rest of their lives!
Close to the end, the series’ pace picks up immensely, which makes for a vast improvement. And now that the whole gang is back in space, fighting returns to a full three dimensions. And there are fewer flashbacks.
The character development, especially between Lacus, Cagalli, Kira and Athrun, is equally swift and well-executed. Also, the battle between the Archangel and the Dominion is very well done, and contrasts the styles of Natarle and Murrue. But the zenith of the disc is by far the first half of Phase-45, in which Rau explains his origins and his connection to both Mu and Kira. This scene is so spectacularly well done that it knocks off Freedom’s first battle and the CYCLOPS scene as my new favorite scene in the series. The flashbacks (this time with new footage!), the music, the acting, the imagery all work together to create an unforgettable moment.
Unfortunately, the space battles aren’t nearly as exciting as the Earth battles were, which is weird, as the opposite is usually true in a Gundam series. Poor animation and dull choreography add up to some lackluster battle scenes, even if the plot compensates. Mu’s uselessness as a Gundam pilot is also disappointing. After all this time of being stuck in crappy fighter planes and Mobile Armors, he never gets a chance to shine piloting the Strike. In addition, the druggies remain underdeveloped, essentially piloting machines rather than characters.
The animation is decent overall, but since we’re back into space, that means the return of several pieces of stock footage, and the animation problems regarding Forbidden just get worse. One scene with Forbidden’s energy beams almost seems to be in slow motion. The CG still doesn’t look right on the Archangel, and it doesn’t look right on the Dominion either. Thankfully the Kusanagi and the Eternal aren’t in CG. There’s also another new opening, which means slightly new animation (albeit the vast majority reused or retooled from previous openings), and we get more of the third ending, though the most interesting thing about that is that all the Mobile Suits/Armors (except the Skygraspers, which are mysteriously missing) are wrecked except Freedom and Justice, which are sparkly clean. Interesting.
More same old, same old on the audio front too. The music still rocks (though “Believe” edges out “Realize” just a little), and the dubs are still the same great quality they have been in previous discs. Both Mark Oliver (Rau) and Trevor DuVall (Mu) deserve major props for completely owning their roles, which is exemplified in Phase-45. These two were born to play these roles, and it’s a shame we won’t be with them much longer.
Extras are, unfortunately, also same old, same old. We’ve got the textless version of the newest opening, the Gundam Encyclopedia and a pathetic term definition booklet. The most interesting thing is the return of the “Believe” music video. I would imagine that Nami Tamaki made a “Realize” music video, and since she’s under the Tofu Records label (as is T.M. Revolution), it’s strange that Bandai didn’t go ahead and grab the “Realize” music video and put it on this disc. And with one more volume to go, I’m not entirely positive we’re ever going to see the music video over here. A shame, really, I would’ve liked to see that.
Gundam SEED is approaching a climax and the spectacular final episode on this disc is hopefully just a taste of what’s to come.
Episodes on Volume 9: Evolutionary Conflict
Phase-41: “Trembling World”
Phase-42: “Lacus Strikes”
Phase-43: “What Stands in the Way”
Phase-44: “Spiral of Encounters”
Phase-45: “The Opening Door”