The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Whole-Series Review and Reflection At The End of a Sixteen-Year Journey

“If we kill people to protect ourselves and this future, then what sort of future is it, and what will we have become? There is no future for those who have died. And what of those who did the killing? Is happiness to be found in a future that is grasped with bloodstained hands?” –Lacus Clyne

After undergoing repairs at Orb, the Archangel prepares to head for Alaska. However, the Zala team ambushes them shortly after they leave Orb’s territorial waters. In the ensuing chaos, Kira kills Nicol, and Dearka is shot down. Athrun retaliates by killing Tolle, and ultimately engages Kira in a fight to the death, resulting in the Aegis’ complete destruction. Kira is presumed dead, and while the crew grieves for him, Kira winds up in Lacus Clyne’s care. Meanwhile, Cagalli confronts Athrun and learns that they’d been friends. Upon their arriva in Alaska, the Archangel’s crew are detained and questioned. ZAFT prepares to mount an offensive on the Alaska base, while the Earth Alliance forces prepare to evacuate the facility – they’ve prepared a microwave weapon known as the CYCLOPS and activate it, destroying the facility and a large portion of ZAFT’s forces. However, Kira arrives in the ZGMF-X10A Freedom to save the Archangel from certain doom: Lacus had entrusted the Freedom to Kira for his conviction in fighting to bring an end to the bloodshed. However, she is marked a traitor, and Patrick Zala reassigns Athrun to retrieve the Freedom. In retaliation for Alaska, ZAFT attacks Panama and destroys the mass driver here. Without a mass driver, the Earth Alliance give Orb an ultimatum: to join them or be branded an enemy. To assist their forces, Blue Cosmos’ leader, Muruta Azrael, oversees the attack personally and three new mobile suits: Forbidden, Raider, and Calamity. These new mobile suits prove a match for Kira, and after Athrun arrives in the ZGMF-X09A Justice, he is convinced to begin fighting for what he believes in. Against the Earth Alliance and their new mobile suits, Orb is overrun and prepare to evacuate into space. Their leaders decide to destroy the nation entirely and entrust its future to Cagalli. However, there’s no time to lose – the Earth Alliance is hot on their trail with a new Archangel-class, the Dominions. They are intent on capturing the Freedom and Justice to learn their secrets. Athrun decides to return to ZAFT and see what they are fighting for, only to be arrested after learning from Patrick Zala himself of his intends to wipe out the Naturals. Lacus openly opposes this and with assistance from Andrew Waltfeld, seizes the Eternal, a ship designed to support the Justice and Freedom. Together with Cagalli and the Kusanagi, the Three Ships Alliance is formed. They are pursued by the Dominion, but manage to shake them off in a derelict colony. Here, Kira and Mu confront Rau le Creuset, who reveals that he is the clone of the late Al Da Flaga, who had desired clones of himself for eternal life. However, upon learning that Rau’s lifespan was similarly finite, he abandoned Rau, who in turn killed him and left behind his old identity with the aim of annihilating humanity for having brought him into the world. To this end, he gives Flay the technical data for the neutron jammer cancellers, which is the technology that allows Justice and Freedom to operate indefinitely. With this information, the Earth Alliance use nuclear weapons to destroy Boaz and prepare to fire on the PLANTs themselves. While Kira and Athrun stop these missiles, they cannot prevent Patrick from using GENESIS, which destroys a large portion of the Earth Alliance fleet and the lunar base. Kira and Athrun sortie again; while Kira defeats Rau in single combat, Athrun and Cagalli destroy GENESIS before it can fire again. Patrick Zala is killed by one of his officiers after demanding they fire even though allied forces have not cleared the weapon’s line of fire. Amidst the sheer chaos, PLANT’s moderate leaders call for a ceasefire. This is Gundam SEED‘s second half, a petal-to-the-metal ride as Kira and Athrun, having both come to terms with one another and their past sins, now fight together to prevent escalation of hostilities that would bring about humanity’s extinction.

Despite being an immensely busy series from a thematic standpoint, Gundam SEED presents its messages in a succint and precise manner. The dangers of genetic engineering and the cost of ignoring bioethical concerns manifest through Rau le Creuset and his nihilistic contempt for the human species, suggesting that possibility brings with it the danger of creating something monstrous that would seek the destruction of its creators. Kira and Athrun’s fight with one another highlights how war desecreates what is sacred, no matter what one believes in. These are complex matters, and it is owing to the series’ lengthy runtime that Gundam SEED is able to cover its messages in a satisfactory manner. Amidst the themese in Gundam SEED, one of the most standout is the notion that atrocity and calamity follows when societies are handed over to madmen holding extremist ideals. As Blue Cosmos infiltrates the highest echelons of the Atlantic Federation and meddles in the military’s operations, the Earth Alliance’s policies and actions become increasingly immoral. This is best embodied through Muruta Azrael: director of the arms manufacturer Atlantic National Defense Conglomerate, Muruta also heads the Blue Cosmos organisation, whose intent is the total annihilation of all Coordinators even if it means killing Naturals who stand in their path. While the Earth Alliance is ostensibly moderate and do not actively seek out war with the Coordinators, as the horrifyingly misguided Blue Cosmos gains sympathisers with their rhetoric, the world is placed on the precipice of catastrophe. Similarly, Coordinators would prefer to live in peace, but radicalism within their upper echelons eventually displaces reason with madness. Patrick Zala holds the belief that existence belongs to the genetically superior Coordinators, viewing Naturals as an infestation. Gundam SEED thus illustrates what happens when two unyielding forces meet: atrocity and desolation is the end result. While Gundam SEED presented this to set up a scenario depicting the outcome of extremist ideologies clashing, it is unfortunate that the story is not without basis in reality. One of the largest consequences of social media usage for politics is that people have become increasingly polarised and sympathetic to radical rhetoric. Where incorrect and dangerous beliefs manifest and become mainstream, they will even seep into the corridors of power, impacting policy and decision-making alike. The media’s insistence on dæmonising certain nations, and the internal strifle between the radical left and far right are both examples of how misunderstandings begin: much as how Blue Cosmos and Patrick Zala lack the ability to listen and understand, proponents of extreme viewpoints dehumanise their opponents and will flat-out refuse to listen to reason and logic. When taken to its logical conclusion, as Gundam SEED portrays, things will not end until one side is completely annihilated. This is a very grim outcome, and humanity does run the risk of hurtling towards unprecedented destruction should media pundits and social media continue be treated as a valid and useful form of discourse. However, while there are those who would seek to destroy the world for their own gain, Gundam SEED also provides hope; there are selfless individuals who oppose extremist rhetoric and fight to return the world to a state where different sides, and different opinions can co-exist. Where things are too far gone for sitting down to peace talks, Gundam SEED introduces the power known as Gundam, wielding it to force all sides of a conflict to look in the mirror and see how far they’ve deviated from their original aims when blinded by hatred and anger.

Any discussion of Gundam would be incomplete without considering the role that the eponymous mobile suits that give the series its name. Gundam SEED‘s Gundams are so-named for their operating systems and occupy several leading roles. In the second half of Gundam SEED, after Kira and Athrun annihilate the Aegis and Strike, respectively , they are forced to reconsider their beliefs on what warfare is worth and what they each fight for. Lacus helps Kira to understand why he took up the responsibilities of a pilot, while Cagalli presses Athrun to do the same. In this way, both Kira and Athrun grow; Kira accepts that a certain amount of force will inevitably be required to force combatants to take a step back and realise what they’re doing, and that it is possible to fire a gun and stop a war without reducing the other side to rubble. Athrun comes to understand that while a soldier is beholden to their nation, when a nation goes astray in its thinking and leads its people down a path to ruin, the soldier’s obligations are to protect the people, first and foremost, irrespective of what side they might be on. Gundam SEED demonstrates that there are ways to fight without exterminating every last enemy: once Kira and Athrun understand this, they gain the right to pilot two exceptionally powerful machines, having proven themselves worthy. The Freedom and Justice, with their nuclear reactors and neutron jammer cancellers, are able to operate indefinitely and bring considerably more firepower to the battlefield than the Strike and Aegis. In the wrong hands, as Rau le Creuset proves, such Gundams are dæmons capable of untold destruction. As Gundam SEED progresses, both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT begin building increasingly powerful machines. While ZAFT constructs the Freedom, Justice and Providence, the Earth Alliance’s Calamity, Forbidden and Raider appear; these machines are operated by biological CPUs, modified humans who fight with ferocity and violence surpassing that of ordinary pilots. While they may bear the appearance of a Gundam and be counted as such for possessing a specific kind of operating system, they are not Gundams from a symbolic standpoint. Like the Providence, these machines were used purely for destruction. Conversely, because Kira and Athrun are fighting for what they believe is right, the power that the Freedom and Justice possess give them the tools to swiftly and precisely end battles. With the Freedom, Kira has enough control to disarm his foes and force them to retreat, rather than killing them outright. Having Kira and Athrun become responsible enough to handle machines of such potential represents how individuals come to handle positions of power well. Had these neutron jammer canceller machines been available from the start, Athrun’s devotion to ZAFT, and Kira’s naïveté would’ve only caused more sorrow. The symbolism in the Freedom and Justice is handled extremely well, and it is unsurprising that both Gundams were wildly popular amongst viewers: with their bold, sleek designs, these machines visually represent what Gundam SEED is about.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After Kira and Athrun’s titanic duel, the pair are both out of action. Their fight was meant to show how warfare can desecrate everything we hold as sacred, and after coming to the brink of killing one another, both Kira and Athrun are pulled away from the abyss. Kira ends up rescued by Lacus Clyne, who takes him back to her home in the PLANTs, while Cagalli finds Athrun yet again. Unlike Lacus, Cagalli is a bit more impulsive and desires to shoot Athrun herself, at least until she realises that killing Athrun won’t bring Kira back.

  • Over time, Athrun and Cagalli come to understand one another better, while Kira slowly comes to terms what sorts of things must be done after speaking with Lacus. These developments ease the pain both Kira and Athrun experience as a result of their conflicting objectives, although for Athrun, things are a bit slower because he is a soldier and therefore, torn between serving his nation and doing what he feels is right.

  • This meeting between the Earth Alliance’s command conveys the shadowy corridors of power; while ZAFT has a massive operation planned out, the Earth Alliance are confident they can lure ZAFT to their doom at JOSH-A, their Alaskan base. While the EFSF in the Universal Century was corrupt, in Gundam SEED, their counterpart is outright racist and acquiesces to extremist behaviour. The phrase “for our blue and pure world” becomes synonymous with fanaticism, a sign that one cannot reasonably expect the Earth Alliance to be rational and helpful towards the Archangel and its crew.

  • Sai, Tolle, Miriallia and Flay begin to play a lesser role as Gundam SEED progresses; with the Archangel having landed in Alaska, the situation between the Earth Alliance and ZAFT have deteriorated to the point where open conflict is inevitable. The story thus focuses on how Kira and Athrun come to determine what their role in things is. However, before that point is reached, the tensions on board the Archangel reach new heights when Miriallia, grieving for Tolle, encounters Dearka and tries to knife him after he mocks Tolle.

  • The Archangel’s crew prepare to separate as Mu and Flay are transferred elsewhere, along with Natarle. However, when Mu comes upon abandoned command centres, he immediately suspects something is off and returns to the Archangel. Flay winds up being captured by Rau Le Crueset, of all people; the outcome is not unlike how Char Aznable is able to come upon Lalah Sune and Quess Paraya in the Universal Century. Seeing how Rau Le Crueset and his team operated leads Flay to understand that Coordinators are not conceited monsters as she’d made them to be, and Flay does begin to realise that war is a highly complex matter.

  • Lacus was ultimately the reason why Gundam SEED became a series on my backlog: as the story goes, back when I was a secondary student, I come across the song Token of Water while searching for the Gundam SEED soundtrack. I’d been looking for Seigi to Jiyuu and Strike Shutsugeki, but found this one instead; I decided to stick it on my iPod, and the next morning, I listened to it while waiting for the bus. I was immediately hooked. The song opened my mind to vocal pieces and J-Pop, as well as anime as a whole. Since then, I’d had a curiosity to see the context behind the songs, and I finally decided the time had come to really check Gundam SEED out.

  • After Kira finds his footing anew, Lacus decides that Kira’s conviction is worth something, and she helps him to commandeer the ZGMF-X10A Freedom, a next-generation ZAFT mobile suit equipped with a neutron-jammer canceller, allowing for it to carry a nuclear reactor that confers unlimited combat endurance. Such a powerful weapon mirrors the idea that, with his heart in the right place, Kira has earned the privilege of piloting such a powerful machine into battle. No longer concerned with power constraints or clouded by his doubts, Kira is therefore able to fight at his full potential and bring out the Freedom’s power.

  • Indeed, when Kira escapes the ZAFT PLANTs, his first move is to disable the mobile suits shooting at him, and similarly, he now shoots to disable and warn rather than kill. Because of the Freedom’s exceptional precision despite its firepower, Kira is able to prevent a ZAFT mobile suit from destroying the Archangel’s bridge, and subsequently uses the Freedom’s most powerful ability, full-burst mode, to disarm a large number of combatants and force them to retreat. Even when confronting Yzak, Kira now is confident that he can make his point without harming him, and severs the Duel’s legs from the base-jabber.

  • This scene is set to T.M. Revolution’s Meteor, a phenomenal song that captures the Freedom’s power. Once Kira has the Freedom, Gundam SEED takes on a different tone: the series had kept battles fairly localised and in comparatively smaller scale while Kira piloted the Strike, but with the Freedom, entire fleets of enemies become the norm. Gundam SEED elegantly shows how as one’s skill grows, the attendant responsibility follows: from here on out, viewers are reasonably confident that Kira has the power to fight in his own style to defend what matters to him.

  • Athrun, on the other hand, is given the ZGMF-09A Justice. Although he originally accepts the post to serve his nation, doubts about ZAFT and Patrick Zala’s intentions eventually lead him to defect and help Kira in his fight. The Justice is similarly powerful: had Athrun chosen to follow orders, he’d be a very challenging foe for Kira. Athrun’s turning point comes when he learns Lacus was the one who’d given the Freedom to Kira, and he ends up confronting her: her betrayal leads Patrick to scrap the two’s arranged marriage and organise Siegel Clyne’s assassination.

  • However, Lacus ends up convincing Athrun that there’s more to fight for than his orders: of the female characters in Gundam SEED, Lacus is an ethereal character whose sense of unwavering morality and idealism remains constant throughout Gundam SEED. While she might’ve been presented as a bit of an air-headed celebrity with a solid singing voice and good public image, Lacus does seem infallible, changing the lives of those whom she meets.

  • Back on Earth, Muruta compells the Earth Alliance to mount an all-out assault on the Orb Union’s territories in order to capture their mass driver after ZAFT annihilates the mass driver at Panama, denying the Earth Alliance a critical asset that would allow them to easily send manpower and materiel into space. During this battle, Orb’s new mobile suits, the Astrays, are deployed to fend off the Earth Alliance forces. While each individual Astray is more powerful than the Alliance’s Strike Dagger, the Earth Alliance’s powerful manufacturing base allows their numbers to pose a threat to Orb. Here, Mu takes to the battlefield in the Strike, inheriting it from Kira after it was rebuilt and modified to allow a Natural pilot to wield it.

  • The biggest surprise came with the introduction of the Calamity, Forbidden and Raider, second generation machines built using data derived from the original GAT-X series. Despite still possessing their predecessors’ limitations, these machines have been given minor updates that leave them far more formidable in combat, to the point of giving Kira trouble when fighting them. The Forbidden is equipped with a scythe and a special deflector system that renders it nearly impervious to ranged attacks. It is operated by Shani Andras, who listens to music outside of combat and prefers working alone.

  • The Calamity is a heavy bombardment unit purely designed for ranged combat and lacks any melee weapons. Owing to its design, it is cumbersome in the atmosphere, and although capable of hovering, cannot fly for any distance. It is piloted by Orga Sabnak, who fights with a wild abandon and will not hesitate to engage even if his allies are in his line of fire. When not fighting, he’s reading a paperback of some sort.

  • The Astrays end up being quite effective against the Earth Alliance’s Strike Dagger, a cut-down version of the Strike possessing only a beam rifle and beam sabre. While technically inferior, the Earth Alliance has the advantage of numbers and begin overwhelming Orb’s Astrays. The design philosophies of mass-production suits have always been of interest to my best friend, and there are numerous parallels in Gundam SEED to real-world decisions: prototype and experimental technology is often over-engineered, and circumstances result in many unfeasible or challenging features being omitted.

  • The Strike Dagger exemplifies this pattern entirely, and is meant to act as a callback to the RGM-79 GM series, which was essentially a stripped down Gundam meant for mass production. While lacking any of the RX-78 II’s most powerful features, these mobile suits were superior to the Zaku IIs, being equipped with a beam spray gun that could still melt through mobile suit armour despite lacking any serious range. The Strike Daggers definitely prove their worth at Orb, although many of them are still wiped out.

  • When it looks like Kira is about to be overwhelmed by the new model Gundams, Athrun appears in the Justice. He fights off the Raider, whose most distinct armament is the heavy-duty mace that can punch through even Phase Shift armour and is operated Clotho Buer, an unstable pilot who games outside of combat. Watching Kira and Athrun fight these machines, and only barely keeping up, puts to bed the tired claim that Kira is an invincible pilot in combat: Gundam SEED had always portrayed Kira as being talented, but even his skill has limits. Together, Shani, Orga and Clotho continue to challenge Kira and Athrun: it turns out they’re “biological CPUs”, super soldiers who’ve been put on a drug to enhance their reflexes and eliminate fear, but also was highly addictive – this is something that the Earth Alliance would use to keep their Gundam pilots in check.

  • In the aftermath of their battle alongside one another, Kira and Athrun come to terms with what’s happened – even without exchanging words, it’s clear both Kira and Athrun have the strength to forgive one another. Of course, Cagalli rushes in and embraces the two to really drive home this point. From here on out, the Justice and Freedom are on the same side, separate from either the Earth Alliance and ZAFT’s objectives. However, despite being driven off for the present, the Earth Alliance has no intention of giving up their conquest of Orb to make an example of them.

  • Of the characters in Gundam SEED, I personally found Muruta to be the most despicable individual – despite his outwardly cordial appearance (in fact, I can’t help but wonder if CLANNAD‘s Youhei Sunohara was modelled after him in looks), Muruta believes that all Coordinators should be destroyed at any cost and will endanger even his own forces to accomplish his goals. It is later revealed that as a child, he was bullied by Coordinators and grew envious of their abilities, wishing he were their equal until he was berated by his parents. Since then, his resentment of Coordinators grew, leading him to join and lead Blue Cosmos.

  • In order to assure Orb’s future, Uzumi stays behind to destroy Orb’s primary base and entrusts the future to Cagalli. He reveals that Cagalli and Kira are actually siblings (in a very Star Wars-like twist), which surprises her. However, in her despair, she receives support from Kira and Athrun, who remind her that irrespective of her parentage, Uzumi had raised her. Despite her reluctance, Cagalli is better equipped than anyone else to lead Orb forwards.

  • With Orb’s Earth territories overrun, survivors prepare to head out into space using a special phenomenon created from the Archangel’s Positron Cannons, the equivalent of the Nahel Argama class’ Hyper Mega-Particle Cannon: the positrons fired are highly damaging and will eliminate ordinary matter. In an emergency, firing these cannons in the atmosphere creates a vacuum along the beam’s path, allowing the Archangel to escape. To ensure that the Kusanagi and Archangel can focus on their flight, Kira and Athrun do their utmost to hold off the Earth Alliance’s mobile suits.

  • This image of Lacus sitting at a desk lingered in my memories for the past sixteen years, and for the longest time, I’d wondered what the context behind this scene was. It turns out that after fleeing from the PLANTs after being branded a traitor, Lacus continued to broadcast her message to the world from obscure locations, with support from loyal ZAFT forces. Eventually, Lacus and her supporters, known as the Clyne Faction, gain enough momentum so that a sizeable number of ZAFT’s forces defect and declare their loyalty to her.

  • Once in space, the Archangel and Kusanagi link up with the Eternal, a special vessel dedicated to supporting the Freedom and Justice. An old face, Andrew Waltfeld, makes a welcome return. Disillusioned with the way ZAFT was conducting themselves, Waltfeld defects and joins what would later be known as the Three Ships Alliance. The Eternal is a highly mobile vessel, capable of a top speed exceeding that of ZAFT’s Nazca-class, the fastest vessels in their fleet. Despite being lightly armed, the Eternal’s power comes from its two mobile suit complement, and in this way, resembles the Ptolemiaos II.

  • While eluding ZAFT and Earth Alliance forces, the Three Ships Alliances seeks refuge at the aptly-named Mendel Colony, which had been wiped out by a viral outbreak. The colony is where research into genetic engineering first gave rise to the Coordinators, including Kira. For folks familiar with hereditary genetics, the name Mendel isn’t too surprising; Gregor Mendel’s experiment with pea plants gave rise to the laws of Mendelian inheritance, which propose that traits are passed on through genes. While revolutionary for his time, Mendel’s work only gained traction in the twentieth century with the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid as the information-carrying molecule.

  • The revelation that Mu la Flaga and Rau le Creuset share the same genetic materials would’ve been a surprise to viewers, and in their confrontation here, Rau reveals that having grown up knowing nothing but hatred and pain, and seeing the suffering human ambition created, his intent is to utterly destroy the world and free the entire species of its hubris. The confrontation yields Gundam SEED‘s main themes about the juxtaposition between progress and its results, as well as its dangers. However, for me, it is also worth noting that, had Gundam SEED followed a more traditional model and eliminated the Blue Cosmos faction, it is likely that the moderate ZAFT factions would’ve eventually turned against Patrick Zala and Rau le Creuset the same way Zeon and the moderate factions within the EFSF ultimately united to defeat the Titans, and how Celestial Being found unlikely allies in the Earth Federation when fighting the Innovades and A-LAWS.

  • Gundam SEED‘s story was able to proceed the way it did because of the Earth Alliance’s extremism and unyielding stance which, in conjunction with Patrick Zala’s superiority complex and Rau le Creuset’s nihilistic beliefs, sets the stage for a confrontation that was unique to Gundam SEED and therefore, refreshing from a narrative standpoint. Here, Rau le Creuset reveals his plans to create war of gargantuan proportions: he gives Flay a drive containing information he calls the key to opening a door. This information is the schematics to the Neutron-jammer Canceller technology, which would allow the Earth Alliance to have access to nuclear reactions again. The move is reminiscent to how Char Aznable had leaked psycho-frame technology to Anaheim Electronics solely for the purpose of being able to fight Amuro on even footing.

  • The METEOR System acts as a support craft for the Freedom and Justice, greatly amplifying their anti-fleet and mobile suit capabilities greatly. During the conflict at Jachin Due, Kira and Athrun use their METEOR Systems to destroy the Earth Alliance’s nuclear missile attack after their opening offensive on Boaz completely destroys the base. The use of nuclear missiles in Gundam SEED demonstrate that while the Earth Alliance is behind in their technology relative to ZAFT, their weapons nonetheless remain effective and are a reminder of the lengths that extreme factions among the Earth Alliance forces are willing to go in order to wipe out the Coordinators.

  • The final few episodes to Gundam SEED are non-stop action as the Earth Alliance and ZAFT forces duke it out, but unlike something like, say Gundam 00 or Gundam Unicorn, battles tend to utilise the same keyframes in different contexts. Gundam SEED and its reused footage is actually so controversial that it remains a point of contention to this day, and some people flat-out refuse to watch Gundam SEED because of this reputation. Further to this, all of my experiences with Gundam SEED comes from the HD Remaster, which was done in 2011 (coinciding with the fact that 2011 also saw Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary release), so I can’t speak to what the original experience was like (whereas, having played the original Halo: Combat Evolved, I can compare the two). With this in mind, I did enjoy the HD Remaster considerably.

  • The loss of Boaz to nuclear weapons gives Patrick Zala the justification he needs to field GENESIS, a powerful weapon that uses the gamma radiation from nuclear explosions to power a laser. This weapon is far more sophisticated than anything the Earth Alliance has, and in their first shot, ZAFT wipes out most of the Earth Alliance’s attacking fleet, before turning the weapon against the lunar base. The battle is practically won, and under normal conditions, ZAFT would probably just need to mop up any hold-outs. However, Patrick Zala isn’t fighting for victory, but rather, the extermination of the entire Natural population. He thus sets the GENESIS weapon on Earth and prepares to wipe out Washington D.C. During the course of this battle, Yzak eliminates the Biological CPUs and their Gundams to defend the PLANTs.

  • At the same time, the Earth Alliance begin to realise their losses are severe, but their leadership refuses to stand down: Muruta states as long as they have nukes, they’ll use them. While Natarle had been doing her utmost to follow orders, the military’s directions cause her conviction to falter. In the end, she understands why Marrue ends up choosing the path that she does, and to prevent Muruta from perpetuating hatred further, chooses to defy his orders and fights him, while ordering her crew to abandon ship. Muruta’s final act is to fire the Dominion’s main cannons at the Archangel, but is thwarted by Mu, whose Strike is destroyed in the process.

  • Grief-stricken, Marrue orders her gunners to fire on the Dominions, killing both Natarle and Muruta. The moment is bittersweet: on one hand, Muruta, leader of Blue Cosmos, is dead, but so is Natarle, a dedicated but not unkind officer who’d been through so much with Marrue and the Archangel. I imagine that Natarle’s death had an impact on the community back in the day: Gundam 00‘s Kati Mannequin fulfils a similar role in the Anno Domini timeline but lives, and in games, players can choose a sequence of events where Natarle manages to evacuate the Dominions before it is destroyed.

  • Flay herself also dies after Rau le Creuset shoots the shuttle she’s in, killing her instantly. Folks familiar with the Universal Century will see the parallels between this and Lalah Sune’s death, but unlike Amuro, who accidentally killed Lalah during his fight with Char, Flay’s death comes deliberately at Rau le Creuset’s hands. Flay dies completely different than when she first started the journey, having come to accept that Coordinators were as human as any natural, and that her prejudices were inconsequential compared to the costs of war. In addition, despite having started a relationship with Kira on a lie, in time, she would come to genuinely fall in love with him.

  • In a scene reminiscent of what happened after Lalah dies, Flay’s spirit reassures Kira that she’d come to understand what she missed in life, and that from here on out, she’ll protect him as best as he can. Overcome with emotion, Kira enters SEED mode with a fire in his heart, prepared to defeat Rau le Creuset and his ZGMF-X13A Providence. This battle is a clash of fundamentally different ideology, with Ray le Creuset representing nihilism, and Kira’s corner hosting existentialism. For Rau le Creuset, nothing matters, and human ambition is a curse that must be eradicated. Conversely, Kira is determined to find a way to make things work, whatever that might be; while pain and suffering are a part of life, but so is happiness, and as such, one has a responsibility to figure out how people can live their lives in a manner of their choosing.

  • Nihilism and existentialism are polar opposites, and nowhere is this better portrayed than the design philosophies behind the Freedom and Providence: the Freedom’s sleek design and use of white indicates an operator who believes in humanity, whereas the Providence and its dark colours suggest a forsaking of humanity. Moreover, the Providence’s most lethal weapons are its DRAGOON system, remote weapons that act similarly to the Funnels from the Universal Century (and the Bits from Anno Domini): carrying a total of eleven DRAGOONs for a total of forty-three guns, the Providence was meant to overwhelm enemies with pure firepower.

  • Patrick Zala’s madness is ultimately his undoing: so blinded by his desire to remove the Naturals from the world and avenge his wife, he fails to realise that his actions contradict what the PLANTs had been intended to be about. When he demands to fire GENESIS despite the allied casualties, one of his own officers ends up shooting him after Patrick had shot him for questioning orders. Without Patrick at the helm, the officers desert their posts as Athrun arrives with the aim of destroying the weapon: its immensely tough construction had made it resistant to all external attack.

  • Kira is often counted as an overpowered pilot whose exceptional skill and talents simply come from the plot demanding his survival and triumph. However, Gundam SEED presents Kira as a pilot who earns his victories; beginning out inexperienced and uncertain of himself, Kira comes to master the Strike and find his footing. However, against the Biological CPUs and Rau le Creuset, Kira struggles: he’s certainly not the invincible walking deus ex machina people suggest him to be during the events of Gundam SEED, and for this, I’ve come to greatly respect Kira as he is in SEED.

  • Unlike Lacus, whose strength lies in her ability to sway hearts and minds, Cagalli is very much a hands-on individual. She accompanies Athrun onto the battlefield and ends up pulling him out in her Strike Rogue before he detonates the Justice to destroy GENESIS. The Strike Rogue was made from leftover parts from the original Strike, and its reddish hue comes from a special component that increases the unit’s operational time compared to the original Strike. The concept behind the Strike Rogue appears to be a precursor for the Trans-Am system seen in Gundam 00, which was itself modelled on Char Aznable’s signature trait of rocking red mobile suits tuned to have three times the speed of their ordinary counterparts. While Athrun had intended to finish the job himself, Cagalli convinces him that living takes more courage than dying, and moreover, there are people who care for him, as well.

  • As Rau le Creuset’s madness sets in, he becomes increasingly unpredictable, standing in contrast with Kira, who begins to regroup after Flay’s death. Kiramanages to whittle down the Providence’s DRAGOONs and is able to land a killing blow, taking him out of the fight. GENESIS subsequently misfires from the damage it sustains, vapourising Rau le Creuset, bringing Gundam SEED to a close. A special episode, titled After Phase, follows up on what happens after Kira is rescued: he, Cagalli, Athrun and Lacus share a meal with Reverend Malchio and the orphans under his care, sharing their thoughts on the war.

  • While my Gundam SEED posts are larger than average, I remark here that it remains very difficult to cover off every conceivable thought that passed through my mind while I was watching. I will remark that, having seen Gundam SEED now, questions that have stood for sixteen years are now answered, and I am glad to have watched this series. With news of a host of projects announced ahead of the two decade anniversary, this is excellent timing, and my best friend actually did recommend that I go ahead and watch Gundam SEED Destiny all the way through for the “most” Cosmic Era experience; he feels that despite SEED Destiny‘s flaws, there remain merits in that series.

  • Besides providing a solid story that brought the Universal Century’s best features into a new timeline and exploring meaningful themes, Gundam SEED also makes clever callbacks to older Gundam series, while at the same time, also helps me to spot references from later Gundam works. I therefore conclude that Gundam SEED is worthwhile, and that the criticisms directed at this series was harsher than appropriate; I imagine that the backlash was originally intended for Gundam SEED Destiny and seeped back into SEED. With this in mind, I’ll have a clearer picture of things once I do give Gundam SEED Destiny a shot. In the meantime, having finally finished Gundam SEED, I’ll be hosting Dewbond on short order such that we may cover off things that I missed in my own discussions, and I hope that readers will look forwards to a contemporary revisit of a Gundam series whose reputation isn’t always a fair one.

The Kusanagi’s assembly in orbit, and Lacus’ speech to those at ZAFT while seated at a desk were my first-ever memories of Gundam SEED, dating back some sixteen years. Back then, the local youth television network still played English-dubbed anime, and it had been a Friday night. I was preparing to turn in, since I would need to awaken bright and early for Chinese language courses on Saturdays. Those two moments in Gundam SEED captured my interest, and for sixteen long years, would continue to hold my intrigue. What was the Kusanagi being used for, and what was Lacus intending to do? However, Gundam SEED‘s lengthy two-cour runtime always dissuaded me from starting the series, and so, until now, all I’d known about Gundam SEED had been that the soundtrack was masterfully composed, featuring a wide range of incidental pieces that were iconic and touching. Finally, at the insistence of two individuals, I finally found my motivation to start. My best friend stated that Gundam SEED was an excellent series, one whose controversies were poorly-placed. One of my blogging peers, Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime, became curious to know what I made of one of the most popular and respected Gundam series. Both my best friend and Dewbond indicated that, with Gundam SEED‘s HD Remaster available, there was no real reason not to check this series out. They had me there, and with my excitement elevated, I thus set out to see Gundam SEED for myself. Almost immediately, I found that both my best friend and Dewbond had been right about Gundam SEED: it is a mature, thoughtful and well-written series that brought elements from the Universal Century into the 2000s, acting as a superb entry into the Gundam universe. While the series’ animation is a bit dated, the story and messages were themselves solid, creating an immensely enjoyable experience that withstands the test of time: although Gundam SEED might be two decades old, the core themes and ideas remain as relevant as ever. As such, I am very glad to have finally taken the time to experience Gundam SEED; this decision allowed me to finally see the context behind two scenes that have remained etched in my mind for the longest time. With full knowledge of what happens in Gundam SEED now, I am able to both share my thoughts with my best friend, who had been waiting sixteen years for someone to discuss Gundam SEED with in a rational and productive manner, as well as invite Dewbond over so that aspects of Gundam SEED I’ve not yet touched on can be covered in full; the internet’s perspective of Gundam SEED appears to remain quite unfavourable, and while our goal isn’t to alter this substantially, we do wish to demonstrate that Gundam SEED‘s merits far outweigh the negatives and as such, makes this a worthwhile Gundam series to check out. The timing of this couldn’t be better, since a host of Gundam SEED Twentieth Anniversary works were announced, and it looks like I’ll be caught up by the time these are available.

2 responses to “Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Whole-Series Review and Reflection At The End of a Sixteen-Year Journey

  1. ish July 4, 2021 at 08:53

    wow great writeup! thanks for showing that SEED can be enjoyed by fans of the original/UC timeline. i sometimes don’t get why some fanboys hate the CE universe with a passion but i also kind of suspect that it’s just blind hate (never even watched the series, maybe afraid to like it) or bashing it just for the heck of it. even compared to other anime non-mecha included, there is something about SEED’s delivery that stands out that’s why it gets a lot of credit from me. whatever the haters say though, they cannot deny that the MS designs are one of the best, it has one of the best soundtracks ever and that SEED in fact saved the Gundam franchise. that alone has me smiling heh.

    Like

    • infinitezenith July 4, 2021 at 19:30

      Gundam SEED Destiny‘s reputation was probably the main reason why for most (for me, 4-cour anime intimidate me, as I never know when I’d be able to fit everything in), and looking back, it is unfair that Gundam SEED was judged so harshly for whatever slights its successor made. Encouragement from the folks around me, both in real life, and the community I’m with eventually led me to finally give Gundam SEED a go, and having finished, I can say that the folks who insist on hating it are doing so for the wrong reasons. SEED is by no means perfect, but the story is satisfying, the progression is plausible, and the payoff is enormous. Add that to solid mobile suit design, both from an aesthetic and technical standpoint, and Gundam SEED is definitely worthwhile 🙂

      Like

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