Reviewby Paul Fargo,
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
The Gundam franchise is often revered as a true classic that helped to redefine our perception of what a mech anime can do. Since the debut of the original Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979, numerous sequels and side stories have been created, the majority of which focused on expanding the Universal Century (UC) calendar established in the first series. However, starting in the mid-1990s, Studio Sunrise began to digress from this epic saga and focus on reinventing Gundam with fresh, new stories set in alternative timelines. The latest of these alternate realities, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, premiered in Japan in October of 2002 and is preparing to hit North American airwaves this April as part of Cartoon Network's new Saturday lineup. Viewers are in for a real treat, as Gundam SEED is not only hands down the best of the alternative timelines, but stands as one of the best Gundam titles period.
Set in the middle of a war between the Earth Alliance and the space colony cluster PLANT, the series focuses on teenage youth Kira Yamato, who, at the outset, is living peacefully with his friends on the neutral space colony Heliopolis. Without warning, the colony is attacked by a special unit of ZAFT (PLANT's military), which reveals that the colony was secretly constructing five special mobile suits for the Alliance, as well as a new space battleship. After following a mysterious young girl, instead of evacuating, Kira finds himself caught in the middle of the fighting and comes face-to-face with close childhood friend Athrun Zala, who is now a soldier working for ZAFT. Taking four of the five mobile suits, Athrun and his teammates depart, while Kira pursues them in the fifth suit, Strike. Combat ensues, which sees the colony mortally wounded, and Kira and his friends drafted into service aboard the space battleship Archangel.
From there, the series follows the exploits of Kira and the rest of the Archangel's crew as they attempt to rejoin the Alliance military, all the while being doggedly pursued by Athrun and his team. The pacing of the series at this point is decidedly slow and meticulous despite some frequent battles, but it does well to establish the large, diverse cast of characters. Before long however, things really gain momentum, and by the show's midpoint, the viewer is swept up in a whirlwind of action and emotion, as both the mental and physical fireworks rise to a boiling point. Plot twists are plentiful, and everything eventually culminates in a conclusion that is truly a sight to behold.
Visually, Gundam SEED is a very attractive package. Everything is set in a lush, rich colour palette, which gives the show a very radiant appearance while not betraying the overall serious mood of the events at hand. Character designs are very nicely done, leaving fans of both genders with more than enough eye candy to ogle over, and the mech designs are quite striking, being mostly stylish retreads of classic Universal Century predecessors. Perhaps most impressive are the Gundams themselves, which stand as arguably some of the slickest and best looking of the franchise to date. The animation, despite some noticeable shortcuts in the first few episodes and mildly clashing computer effects, is handled rather well, standing oh-so-slightly above par for a television series while falling just short of absolute excellence.
The cast of seiyuu that lend their voices to Gundam SEED includes a number of popular names that are sure to catch the ear of just about any fans who've been watching their anime in Japanese for any length of time. Such talents include Kotono Mitsuishi as Archangel captain Murrue Ramias, Rie Tanaka as Lacus Clyne, Tomokazu Seki as Gundam pilot Yzak Jule, Houko Kuwashima pulling double duty as both Fllay Allster and vice captain Natarle Badgiruel, and even Nishikawa Takanori of T.M. Revolution narrating a mid-series recap episode. These, along with the other voice talents, all provide convincing, emotional performances, and it'll be interesting to see if the dub cast is able to pull off a similarly excellent job.
T.M. Revolution provided more than simply a voiceover, however, ultimately contributing two selections to SEED's overall stellar soundtrack. "Invoke," "Meteor," and other vocal offerings by such performers as SeeSaw and Nami Tamaki puncuate a musical collection that features both memorable themes and a rousing instrumental score. Though not every piece is an absolute winner, there are far more hits than misses, and the music helps set an ideal mood for the series, whether the scene is a heartfelt conversation between friends or a pulse-pounding battle. Picking up the soundtrack CDs if they see North American release alongside the series would not be a wasted investment.
With its upcoming April debut on Cartoon Network and subsequent DVD release in the fall, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is almost certain to be a hit with the North American anime community. In creating an original story which borrows elements from previous successes of the franchise, Studio Sunrise has come up with show that carries a wide appeal, being accessible to Gundam newcomers, stubborn UC veterans, and bishounen-crazed Wing fanatics alike. One of the best Gundam titles in years, SEED is a quality production well-deserving of praise, and is something that is truly not to be missed.
Overall (sub) : A
Animation : B
Art : A
Music : A+
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