June 6, 2008
Gundam SEED started off as just another Gundam series for me. I watched it because it was airing and convenient… I didn’t expect it to become my new favorite Gundam series.
STORY – At this point, you’d have to stretch pretty far to find a Gundam series with a mindblowingly different premise, so there’s no point in really focusing on the fact that yes, this is another series about teenagers in giant robots fighting a war that’s pretty pointless. There is nothing new about Gundam SEED, but then, it deserves points for being able to stand out despite that very fact. For me, one of the most appealing things about SEED was its very easy-to-understand plotline. The root of the war, while decidedly trivial to some extent, is simple. I’m sure more than a few people were confused, and subsequently put off, by the political madness that ravaged the plots of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, as well as newer classics like Gundam Wing, so it was nice to see something so simple come along.
In addition to the war, one of the strongest story points for me was the conflict between Athrun and Kira. The cruelty and tragicness of pitting friend against friend works very well here, and I know I’ve said before that I’m just a sucker for this kind of stuff. For SEED, this conflict was well done, progressed smoothly, and resolved rather satisfactory. It was pretty neat to see the same conflict mirrored later with Dearka and Yzak too. Also, this series was one of the first in a long time to surprise me so much with things happening in the story. People died. People you really didn’t expect to die died. So many people die that at some point, you kind of started wondering if anyone was actually going to live! But despite the number of deaths, you never got the feeling that it was overdone, or that any of the characters’ deaths didn’t have some significance or meaning, and that’s definitely a feat.
Those two aspects of SEED made up for all the cliches that came with being a Gundam series — white mask’s ulterior motive was nothing amazing, and the ending to the war wasn’t anything special either. But by the end of it all, it isn’t the basics of the story that’s important, it’s all the progress you’ve made with the characters and their own personal resolutions.
CHARACTER – The characters in SEED probably contributed the most to gaining my favor. All of them are exceptionally well done. Yes, even the minor characters, which is definitely a rarity in anime. All of them seem like real people; they’re complex and have emotions, motives, flaws. Both of the protagonists are split between a side that has to fight and a side that hurt because of everything that’s happening. After all the stoic personalities in Gundam Wing, it was incredible for me to see characters that would actually cry. On several occasions, even. In fact, for the first half of the series, it seriously surprised me just how much of a crybaby Kira was. But it worked for his character, so even though he kind of turned into a godmodding, self-righteous bastard later on, it was okay.
Kira aside, for me, Athrun was the most interesting character and had the most depth. Throughout the entire series, he was in conflict. And as soon as one conflict was resolved, another would present itself. The poor guy was in constant turmoil, which was really great to see. He was easy to relate to and never grew out of reach like Kira did. Secondary characters like Cagalli and Lacus were also refreshing to see — female characters that had strength to stand up on their own. Indeed, one might venture to say that our male protagonists depended much more on their female counterparts than the other way around, as is traditionally the case.
It would be exhausting to go through the list of other characters, though many of them are also important and very relevant. Suffice to say that there are almost NO flat characters in SEED. All of them have dimension and depth and develop throughout the series. I don’t really think this happens in many other anime.
ARTWORK & ANIMATION – I rather like the art style of SEED (the same people also did Sokyuu no Fafner); it’s pleasing to the eye and works well for the content of the series. The animation itself is pretty average, and I’m still waiting for the day when explosions in the distance graduate from looking like Pacman, but oh well. There’s nothing else really worth noting, but it certainly isn’t an ugly series.
MUSIC – I… adore the music for this entire series. The battle music is strong and epic! The introspection music is interesting and intriguing! The tragic music makes the already tragic scene ten times more touching. It’s just fantastic all around, and there are several beautiful leitmotifs that stay with you throughout the series. After the bigshots Yoko Kanno and Yuki Kajiura, it’s Toshihiko Sahashi that makes it on my playlist the most. All four instrumental soundtracks are well worth getting, not to mention the special Symphonic SEED that contains various orchastrated versions of notable tracks.
The OP/ED themes are all pretty top notch as well. I’ve been a fan of T.M. Revolution for a long time, so “Invoke” was perfect for the first opening. SEED introduced the world to Nami Tamaki, and I must say I’ve definitely become a fan since her debut. “Believe,” the second opening theme, is incredibly addicting and catchy. SEE-SAW and Mika Nakashima are always welcomed additions to the lineup, and the handful of lesser known artists really make their mark as well.
VOICE ACTING – I saw the first half of this series in English but ended up seeing the second half subbed (because SEED was, for some reason, so unpopular that CN shoved it in a death slot). The dub was nothing spectacular certainly, but it was decent. None of the voices were up to par with their Japanese counterparts, but the only one that seriously annoyed me was Richard Cox, and that was mostly because the man can’t seem to change his voice between characters (and thus, the character he voiced sounded like Inuyasha to me). Lacus’s songs were also translated into English, though her singing and spoken voice are different people; unfortunately, neither really capture the eerie emotion that Rie Tanaka manages to in the original Lacus. The rest of the Japanese cast is also top notch. Akira Ishida as Athrun remains one of my favorite performances ever, and Souichiro Hoshi as Kira was pretty great too.
OVERALL – I know I haven’t seen all of the Gundam series out there, but of those I’ve seen, this is definitely my favorite. The characters come to life and everything else falls into place behind that. A lot of people cling onto Mobile Suit Gundam or the older UC titles as the only good Gundams because they are the originals, but though those were all good series that obviously propelled the creation of all subsequent Gundams, for this generation of anime fans, many are outdated and hard to find. I really feel like Gundam SEED can be the series that serves as a gateway for the post-2000 generation of fans. That statement may bode well in Japan, as this series was wildly popular, but I’m disappointed to see that it failed miserably in the States. Chalk that up to other factors though, ’cause this series is damn good.