The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Gundam

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.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, A Review and Reflection on the First Act, Messages of Regression in Society

“Did you ever consider that I wanted both sides to lose? Bullets change governments far surer than votes.” –Simeon Weisz, Lord of War

Twelve years after Amuro Ray and Char Aznable confronted one another before disappearing in the event later known as the Axis Shock, the Federation began tightening its policies and deporting more people, dubbed Illegals, into space. Meanwhile, Hathaway Noa, Bright Noa’s son, has become an anti-government terrorist known only as Mafty Navue Erin. Striking at high-ranking Federation politicians and officials with the hope of breaking nepotism and weakening the government into a position where they can forcibly create a policy advancing human migration into space to save the planet, Hathaway and Mafty participate in strikes against the government using mobile suits, and although their actions do not have the same indiscriminate madness of traditional terrorists, nonetheless cause civilian casualties. On a flight from the moon to Hong Kong, Hathaway manages to secure a seat with Federation politicians and thwarts a terrorist attack from a group claiming to be Mafty, impressing Federation captain Kenneth Sleg. Their flight is diverted to Davao, a city in the Philippines, and here, Hathaway encounters the enigmatic Gigi Andalucia again. She arranges for Hathaway to lodge with her and is surprised that Gigi has deduced his identity as Mafty. Hoping to evade the Federation, Hathaway arranges for a diversionary strike against Davao, hoping to take out several key politicians and escape during the chaos. However, when the attack begins, Hathaway feels compelled to save Gigi, which in turns delays his extraction and return to a nearby Mafty base. Swift response from the Federation’s new model Gundam, the Penelope, further complicates things. Hathaway’s involvement and Gigi’s remarks lead Sleg to suspect that Hathaway might be involved with Mafty despite his outward appearances. Hathaway does end up returning to a Mafty base and retrieves the Ξ Gundam, fending off the Federation forces and their pilot, Lane Aim in order to cover their evacuation. He decides to set his sights on Oenbelli next and intends lend a hand to the anti-Federation forces here. Thus begins Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, a film trilogy that explores the sequel to what Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original story for Char’s Counterattack entailed. Titled Beltorchika’s Children, this original version had Hathaway accidentally killing Quess, and consumed with guilt, Hathaway would eventually join the terrorist group, Mafty, after seeing the excesses of the Federation. The trilogy was announced after Gundam Narrative broadcast, and originally set to release in July 2020, the first part ultimately released in Japan on June 11, after being delayed eleven months by the ongoing global health crisis.

Resembling Gundam Narrative in its aesthetic and atmospherics, a sense of melancholy permeates Hathaway’s Flash. This is because this film series conveys a sense of tragedy; it is no secret that Hathaway is Mafty, and the captain Kenneth Sleg seems aware of the fact that Hathaway isn’t what he outwardly presents to be. Mafty’s reputation precedes the whole of the series; because it is implied that Hathaway is involved in a variety of plots to assassinate key Federation officials with the goal of weakening the government and forcing humanity, it is clear that for Hathaway and Mafty, there will be no negotiations or discussions. However, despite his outward confidence and stoic manner, Hathaway is still haunted by his inability to save Quess during the events of Char’s Counterattack; to this day, enigmatic women seem to hold sway over Hathaway’s heart, and despite his efforts to brush off Gigi Andalucia’s flirtations, finds himself inexplicably drawn to her in spite of himself. This unusual combination of pursuing a path of destruction in a misguided aim of bettering the world and lingering doubts sets the table for tragedy. Hathaway’s conviction in his own cause is shown as wavering several times throughout the course of Hathaway’s Flash; when his allies begin attacking Davao to create a diversion for his escape, Hathaway ends up trying to protect Gigi instead and results in Mafty pilot Gahman Nobil being captured by the Federation. Upon boarding the Ξ Gundam for the first time, he silently curses his fate at having met Gigi, whose mysterious presence made his heart flutter despite himself. Where ambition and longing collide, Hathaway’s path forwards seems predestined to failure. This is a recurring theme in Gundam, and Martha Vist Carbine had, in fact, mentioned this during the events of Gundam Unicorn; women are be instruments of both great change and great catastrophe during troubled times, creating possibility in the hearts of strong men and consuming weaker men, driving them towards acts of destruction. Hathaway appears to be trending towards the latter, and while he is shown to be a capable, competent leader capable of motivating those around him and inspiring countless more, the unusual dynamics he has with Gigi could prove to his downfall.

Hathaway’s Flash also foreshadows Hathaway’s tragedy through how the film has introduced the eponymous lead machine – traditionally, Gundams are mobile suits associated with justice, possibility and responsibility. Their pilots possess a strong sense of morality, determined to do what they believe is right, respecting the power that they wield and using their machines to affect positive change. However, when a Gundam pilot is made to fight another Gundam, the symbolism shifts: a Gundam in the hands of an enemy thus signifies that the foe’s conviction is no less than that of the pilot’s, and that they see themselves as the hero, designated to carry humanity forwards with their vision. Clashes between Gundams thus become a metaphor for two unyielding forces coming to a head, and the pilot with the stronger conviction triumphs to parallel how certain ways of thinking are more resilient. Kira Yamato fought Rau le Creuset and his Providence in the Freedom, defeating him and showing that nihilism was ultimately doomed to fail against those who resolved to make the most of what they had. Setsuna F. Seiei draws Ribbons Almark despite the Reborns’ superior firepower and ultimately defeats Ribbons with his Exia, reminding viewers that people are meant to choose their own futures rather than blindly follow others. However, in Hathaway’s Flash, the Gundams themselves fight one another immediately, spend most of their time shrouded in darkness, and moreover, are bulky, cumbersome units loaded with weapons. These machines are clearly made for destruction, lacking the sleek and elegant design of earlier Gundams. In this way, Hathaway’s Flash means to shows that with the passage of time, the concept of Gundam itself has become corrupted. The Federation uses Gundams to forcibly crush opposition, while those who stand up to the government have appropriated its power for themselves and aim to cause destruction in equal measure. Where Penelope and Ξ fight, Hathaway’s Flash suggests that the gradual perversion of an idea breeds only destruction, suffering and loss. Twelve years after Char’s Counterattack, both the Federation and their opponents have lost sight of what they stand for, and where two violently opposing forces fight without any idea of what their end goal is, the inevitable result is tragedy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Universal Century – the last time was with Gundam Narrative, which released in 2018 in Japan and became available overseas in June 2019. Hathaway’s Flash opens on board a special chartered flight to Hong Kong. Hathaway’s Flash‘s principal actors are introduced in the opening: besides Hathaway himself, Gigi and Kenneth Sleg are also present. Their conversation foreshadows the instability of this world, which is placed in sharp contrast with the various amenities of commercial space travel: small details in the flight show that despite the political turmoil in the Universal Century, technology has advanced steadily.

  • In a moment reminiscent of Dark Knight, masked intruders board the flight and immediately demand the passenger manifest. They claim to be a part of Mafty, a name that refers to both the terror organisation and its enigmatic leader, who fancies themselves to be the next coming of Char Aznable and acts with the aim of forcing space migration. However, unlike Char’s impassioned madness and grand scheme of dropping Axis on Earth to force said migration, Mafty instead takes a different route: assassinating the political cabal composing the Federation’s leadership and using these deaths as a bargaining chip for their ends. While the passengers are immediately frightened by their arrival, Gigi seems unusually calm in the situation.

  • The terrorists show they mean business by executing one of the ministers on board, but Hathaway ends up creating an opening, allowing him and Kenneth to eliminate the terrorists. Kenneth is impressed with Hathaway’s combat training – according to the documents, after Char’s Counterattack, Hathaway briefly entered military service and subsequently took a post-secondary degree in plant science, working with Amada Mansun with the aim of eventually becoming a botanical and agricultural inspector. Seeing this progression in his career provides key answers for why Hathaway joins Mafty: pursuit of the sciences opens one’s eyes to reality and strips away idealism. In secondary school, for example, I wondered why a cancer cure was not already possible, but after taking medical science courses, it became clear that owing to cancer’s nature, eliminating it is a desperately tricky proposition, since the very act of breathing could technically cause cancer (free oxygen radicals from respiration can damage DNA, resulting in uncontrolled cell growth).

  • It is therefore the case that the tragedies Hathaway experienced during the Second Neo Zeon War, coupled with his education and background, would lead him to see the Federation as irredeemably corrupt, a system that could not be fixed with diplomacy or discussion. Whatever his beliefs might be, Hathaway has a helluva poker face: here, he plays the part of the reluctant hero who happened to be in the right place at the right time and speaks with high ranking Federation officials, even though viewers know that Hathaway would have no qualms orchestrating an operation to kill them later on.

  • While Hathaway’s fieldcraft is stellar, Gigi seemingly sees right through him and concludes that he must be Mafty himself. Hathaway betrays nothing to her, but internally, he is shocked that the conclusion could come so easily to her. There certainly is an allure about Gigi, and her piercing blue eyes give the impression that she’s able to see right through deception. Because this is mentioned often enough in Hathaway’s Flash, it would be reasonable to say that Gigi might be a nascent Newtype, evolved humans with increased mental awareness.

  • After Gigi leaves, Hathaway is left to deal with his conflicting thoughts about her. Members of the military have a few questions for Hathaway surrounding the incident, and then subsequently arrange for his accommodations in Davao until he can be on his way. The Federation’s treatment of Hathaway here is important, as it shows the difference between how the elite live, and how ordinary people live: the elites have access to unimaginable luxury and bottomless wallets, all covered by the taxpayers. Their facilities are well-appointed and clean, with mirror-smooth reflective surfaces to denote how clean they are.

  • Given her interactions towards Hathaway, and with the possibility that she’s a Newtype, I would suppose that Gigi is genuinely interested in Hathaway and his role as Mafty. She certainly does seem to enjoy getting very close to him despite his cold manner towards her advances, and expresses curiosity about Mafty’s methods and intentions. Her character description shows that she’s connected to some immensely powerful individuals, and moreover, doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. This creates simultaneous discomfort and allure for the folks around her, and Kenneth certainly has taken a liking to her.

  • For Gigi, her frustration is the fact that Hathaway seems so disinterested in her: it seems that Gigi is used to using her charms regularly to sway those around her and isn’t accustomed to failing. Hathaway regards her bluntly, and in fact, I see a bit of myself in Hathaway where this is concerned: Hathaway’s actions stem from Quess’ death years earlier, and I imagine that he deliberately distances himself from people who might cause him heartbreak.

  • Hathaway’s Flash spends a great deal of time on its principal and supporting cast, marking the first time I’ve seen the characters spend so much time in a civilian setting: other Gundam series focus almost entirely on the Gundams themselves and the conflicts surrounding them, so to see something like Hathaway and Gigi at odds with their accommodation arrangements was a breath of fresh air. The visuals in Hathaway’s Flash are similarly impressive, and the view of Davao outside of the window looks absolutely stunning here.

  • The classic anime staple of “walking in on someone who’s changing” even makes an appearance in Hathaway’s Flash: hoping to make use of the private pool that her suite provides, Gigi’s given no thought to the implications staying with someone else and swiftly changes into her swimsuit while Hathaway decides to step out for a walk. The nature of Gundam characters means that unlike the average romance comedy or slice of life, one can never be too certain if Hathaway had been on the money about Gigi trying to elicit a reaction from Hathaway or if she’d been genuinely careless.

  • Gundam‘s always been a series where fanservice consists of variants of timeless mobile suits and cameos, so to have Hathway’s Flash portray such a moment was not done to amuse viewers; instead, it’s to show how ordinary things that are a big deal in other genres don’t bother Hathaway at all. In the aftermath, perhaps irate that Hathaway doesn’t see her that way, Gigi disappears back into her room and irately tells him to knock himself out with his walk. Hathaway does seem to lack tact in this area: he remarks that they’re no couple, and I imagine Gigi is more annoyed than embarrassed.

  • Hathaway arranges to meet other members of Mafty in town in a clandestine fashion, asking them to relay back to the team that he’ll need a diversion in order to escape. The two who meet him are young and certainly don’t have the grizzled look of a resistance fighter: Mafty’s ideals appear to appeal to a wide range of people from all walks of life, and truth be told, the young man and woman that Hathaway speaks with feel more like his colleagues at university rather than fellow Mafty associates. A large number of viewers from Southeast Asia, specifically from Indonesia and the Philippines, were pleased that Hathaway’s Flash featured their parts of the world in such detail.

  • Because Gundam is predominantly set in space and the Sides, there is hardly a chance to see how Earth is. Previous works suggested that the world is wreathed in pollution and is on the verge of an ecological disaster – Char’s Counterattack and Mobile Suit Gundam did indeed present the world as being a grim place to live, with yellow-grey skies and a film of haze covering everywhere, but as of Unicorn, the world doesn’t seem all that bad in some places: the world still has blue skies. Here, Hathaway discusses his plans with Mihesssia Hence and field agent Kenji Mitsuda, fellow Mafty members.

  • However, it is clear that the Federation’s use of force is unwarranted – by UC 105, the Federation has set up an organisation to deport individuals vocal about the government into space, even implementing a special task force to periodically root out dissidents. My thoughts on expression of dissent has always been moderation: in any democratic system, using appropriate channels to offer reasonable arguments and using one’s ability to vote is the appropriate measure (as opposed to violence). Gundam does away with the idea of nations so things like foreign interference are abstracted away – in reality, governments routinely interfere with other nations in the name of democracy for their own gain, and introducing this into Gundam would add complexity that may take away from Tomino’s primary aims.

  • With his arrangements made, Hathaway returns to his suite and dines alone (presumably to avoid Federation surveillance), at least until Gigi and Kenneth show up. Despite Gigi’s attempts to make Hathaway jealous, he betrays nothing, and turns down an invitation to go dancing at the hotel’s club. Before leaving with Gigi, Kenneth sits down and shares a brief conversation with Hathaway. The Universal Century is fond of featuring mysterious women that, as Kenneth suggests, have the power to reign back powerful men. From Lalah and Quess, to Rita and Mineva, their roles indicate in a war, perhaps the hearts of men, and their resolve, matter more than the weapons they wield. Thinking back to Rita and Gundam Narrative from two years earlier means recalling that at this point two years earlier, I’d just picked up a new Magic Trackpad to replace a failed Magic Mouse.

  • Hathaway has dozed off, but his plan comes to life when pilot Gahman Nobil deploys to carry out the diversion: he capitalises on the fact that so many Federation big shots are present and shoots out the hotel where they’re staying before preparing to engage the Federation mobile suits that have taken off to deal with him. The fact that Mafty has access to mobile suits holds two implications: that they have enough support to garner the resources needed to acquire such equipment, and that there exists a manufacturer willing to sell to terrorists.

  • The report of nearby explosions awaken Hathaway, who realises he’s behind schedule and needs to hightail it to the extraction point: knowing that the Federation politicians are here means that the hotels will be a target, and while he’d asked his pilots to be mindful of which floor he’s staying on, the power of a mobile suit’s primary armament means that collateral damage is inevitable. That Mafty uses these approaches indicates the organisation, despite their conviction in their ideals, are still relatively untrained and lack the resources or know-how for more precise methods that nation states have access to.

  • A more sophisticated organisation would go with a combination of active measures and wet teams to strike at critical events without harming bystanders: while Mafty might allege to be acting in the planet’s interests and have gained approval from those dissatisfied with the Federation’s policies, their open approach only fuels the Federation’s determination to defeat them. J.K. Rowling briefly mentioned this in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Voldemort’s rise to power is one shrouded in shadow, and while he hasn’t openly overthrown the Ministry of Magic, the uncertain possibility of him being in control means people can’t be sure who to trust. Had Voldemort openly seized power, enough people would’ve resisted and destroyed his forces before he could achieve anything notable.

  • Politics is a game of deception and manipulation rather than force, which is something that Gigi understands as being Mafty’s weakness: for every successful assassination and operation, those who oppose Mafty gain the justification to ramp up military spending and the erosion of liberties. Terror groups invariably fail for this reason: even if their aims are commendable, their methods will only cause governments to tighten their grip. For the purposes of my posts, the terrorist group Hathaway leads will be referred to as Mafty, and I will refer to Hathaway by his original name rather than his pseudonym.

  • In the elevator, Hathaway encounters two other guests: a man and a woman who appear quite close, leading Gigi to get close and question Hathaway about their earlier conversation. Hathaway’s body language suggest he’s uncomfortable with what Gigi is doing, and cues in the scene suggest that, contrary to his cold reception towards Gigi, he is enamoured. Meanwhile, Gigi feels that her intuition is on the money: while Gahman circles outside and prepares to fire on the hotel in an example of danger close, Gigi deduces that Hathaway is the sort of person who is willing to take great risks for his cause.

  • One of my favourite things to do in any given Gundam post is discussing the mobile suits and their traits. Mafty has access to the Me02R-F02 Messer, which is derived off Zeon’s Geara Doga and the Sazabi. Manufactured by Anaheim Electronics, the Messer is a heavily armoured mobile suit that nonetheless sports high mobility and is able to equip a variety of armaments, making it suited for Mafty’s operations. While Gahman is fighting the Federation forces, he deliberately turns his back on the ground, reasoning the Federation pilots wouldn’t risk hitting the populated area below.

  • However, the Federation pilots continue firing, surprising Gahman and showing viewers how little human life matters to the Federation. On the ground, Hathaway decides to stay with Gigi rather than make his exfil, surprising Emerelda Zubin, the Mafty operative who’s supposed to help with his exfil. With a bold and decisive personality, Emerelda is a skilled pilot in her own right, but off the battlefield, treats her allies as her own siblings. She is shocked that Hathaway has been sidetracked; one would’ve expected him to compartmentalise his emotions and focus on the mission given his background and mindset, but Gigi appears to have created an exception to this rule.

  • Mobile suit combat in Hathaway’s Flash is limited, reminiscent of those early episodes of Gundam: The Origin that portrayed the young Casval Rem Deikun’s transformation into Char Aznable. However, what is shown in Hathaway’s Flash is, as one of my friends puts it, a kaiju battle, featuring slow, lumbering motions and an emphasis on destruction in their surroundings as these mobile suits duke it out on the ground. From a symbolic standpoint, this shows the disconnect between the combatants inside their mobile suits and bystanders on the ground: so focused are the pilots on their fight that they  have no time to consider how much collateral damage is being caused, mirroring how militaries and terrorists alike never stop to consider what side-effects their actions have, so long as they win.

  • Details like plasma rounds melting stanchions on the ground and buildings crumbling as mobile suits land on them accentuate the size and mass of these weapons. The Universal Century has always excelled in showing the sheer mass and size of mobile suits; Gundam Unicorn had done a particularly fine job during the first fight between Marida Cruz’s Kshatriya and a Federation Stark Jegan. The weight of every swing, and the momentum that needs to be bled off prior to each turn conveyed the idea that mobile suits are heavy, sturdy machines. The bulky Messer, and its Federation counterpart, the FD-03 Gustav Karl (named after the M2 recoilless rifle) are both cumbersome looking machines designed for survivability and mobility.

  • Gigi becomes overwhelmed by the battle around her, prompting Hathaway to hold her close. In the end, despite Gahman’s best efforts, he is shot down and taken as a prisoner of war. Meanwhile, Kenneth has arrived on the scene to sort things out, and Gigi runs off into his arms, prompting Hathaway to flashback to a moment twelve years earlier. The fistfight between Char and Amuro here is about as personal as it gets, and really demonstrated how divergent the pair’s thinking is: whereas Amuro embodies hope for a better future, Char became a symbol of despair.

  • Being young and impressionable, Quess took an immediate liking to Char’s ideas after observing their fistfight and subsequently defected to Neo Zeon as a pilot. Char’s interest in Quess was purely for her combat potential as a Newtype. Quess’ defection left a hole in Hathaway’s heart, and in Tomino’s novel, is the leading reason behind his guilt and desire to build the world that Quess had yearned for. In Hathaway’s Flash, whether it’s a continuation from Char’s Counterattack or Beltorchika’s Children is left ambiguous, but what is clear is that, even now, he hasn’t healed from Quess’ death twelve years earlier; the flashback to Char’s Counterattack is a sign that Hathaway sees Gigi as similar to Quess.

  • Assuming this to hold true, it means that in spite of himself, Hathaway is falling for Gigi. These are merely my thoughts, of course, and while I am fond of writing about Gundam series, I am aware that the Gundam universe is very extensive: because there is so much going on, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to learn that I’ve gotten my facts incorrect, or unintentionally make a massive subjective leap in my assessment somewhere. With this in mind, one of my best friends, whom I’ve known for over twenty-five years, is my go-to resource for all things Gundam: his knowledge on the mobile suits for every universe is encyclopaedic, and his insights are unparalleled when it comes to what every Gundam series is going for.

  • As such, when I write about Gundam, I often bounce ideas off him, and some of the insights here are credited to him. It is superbly enjoyable to be able to speak with folks who really know their Gundam, and in the process, I learn a few things, as well. Of course, said friend is most interested in the political and mechanical aspects of Gundam: for things like character dynamics, outside of the motivation that drives the different pilots, our discussion is more limited. Things like Gigi being cool with sharing her coffee directly with Hathaway, in what’s referred to as an indirect kiss, is something that we wouldn’t normally cover, and in general, I don’t mind hearing from viewers what they made of things, so long as discussion remains civilised.

  • The next day, Kenneth takes both Hathaway and Gigi to the nearby Federation base where he is stationed. Before breakfast, Gigi kits herself in clothes from the base’s store. Hathaway only notes that “it ain’t bad, given what you had to work with”, prompting her to remark he’s difficult. Hathaway does have the slightest bit of tsundere in him, and I don’t really blame him: I similarly have never been good with complimenting people for their appearances, and usually, when I offer my praise, it’s in response to what people have accomplished. This is fine for professional settings, but is disadvantageous for things like relationships.

  • Kenneth’s clearly taken a liking to Gigi, reminding Hathaway of how Char and his charisma was able to charm Quess twelve years earlier. He wonders if she’d like to stick around and act as a Goddess of Safety for them, noting that soldiers tend to be quite superstitious. Unsurprisingly, the navy is almost always the most superstitions: the beliefs that seafarers have had stem from centuries of braving the unpredictable open ocean, and even now, some superstitions persist. However, from the superstitions I’ve read about, women at sea were once counted as bad luck, so the ghost of a woman clad in white seen on the high seas would be especially terrifying. Gigi’s presence resembles the yuki-onna, a yokai who led travellers astray in snowstorms with her great beauty.

  • Assuming that this analogy holds true in Hathaway’s Flash, Hathaway’s fate is sealed, and Hathaway himself conjectures that he will be sacrificed in some way. For now, however, Hathaway remains in charge. After the Federation interviews him about what’d happened on the flight to Hong Kong, they let Hathaway go, feeling confident that Mafty will lose public favour over time if their actions continue to result in the loss of life. While the Federation may have become quite corrupt and unyielding, there is truth in the statement: regardless of how noble a cause is, the moment its proponents see fit to disrupt society, destroy property and take lives, their very own supporters have invalidated it.

  • After the interview concludes, Hathaway signs the discharge papers and learns from Kenneth that had he been a soldier, Kenneth would’ve had no qualms asking Hathaway to be the Penelope’s pilot. Hathaway himself publicly considers the events of the Second Neo Zeon War a fluke, downplaying his skills as a pilot. When Kenneth asks about Gigi, Hathaway mentions that it’s better to leave without seeing her again. For me, this removed any doubts about the fact that Gigi is interesting to him, enough to distract him from his original goals.

  • Hathaway heads to the local ferry terminal and drops off his luggage for someone from Mafty to pick up. To the Federation, who are monitoring transportation into and out of Davao, it would appear as though Hathaway had arrived, purchased his ticket and then left the island. Hathaway’s fieldcraft isn’t half bad, but unlike The Campus’ most experience operators, Hathaway isn’t able to compartmentalise his mission, which has threatened things on a few occasions in this film alone.

  • While at the ferry terminal, a Mafty broadcast overwrites the previous programs being shown. Mysterious broadcasts have long been a headache for television companies: poorly-secured signals can be defeated by setting up a transmitter near the original broadcast point or a headend and impersonating the signal by reading out uplink parameters. Today, signals are more difficult to hijack because they also carry a sort of key to ensure that the recipient only receives what was intended. As such, it stands to reason that Mafty’s also got a few electrical engineers and signals communications people on their payroll.

  • After leaving the terminal, Hathaway arrives on a lonely beach a ways away and sits down. It’s a gorgeous looking day, and again, the superb visuals are apparent in Hathaway’s Flash. I’ve found that of late, many productions are beginning to approach Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s films in terms of quality; with artwork and animation becoming increasingly consistent in their quality, anime films are likely to be immersive if they can get their story and characters right. As Hathaway settles into thought, a small sailboat soon pulls up and its operator asks Hathaway to board.

  • Hathaway thus links up with Emerelda and sets off for the next leg of his journey, while Kenji takes his place to ensure that his original travel plans are seemingly fulfilled. While riding the boat to Mafty’s Pacific base. Here, Hathaway feels much more in his element, dealing with a group of dedicated (if misguided) band of individuals who are confident that they are working the world to make the world a better place. While I’d come into Hathaway’s Flash knowing that Mafty boils down to a terror group, seeing the people within the organisation humanises them somewhat, and I became intrigued to see what their goals were.

  • Gigi outlines her accommodations to Kenneth, who is disappointed that she’s planning on leaving so soon. At this point in time, Gigi’s given up none of her secrets, save the fact that she’s very well connected and has an intuition that can seemingly foretell the future. However, Kenneth isn’t so sure, and suspects that something is off about Hathaway. Hathaway had suspected that even if she hadn’t said anything, Gigi might give away Hathaway’s identity inadvertently. Since Kenneth had stated he would capture Mafty himself, this sets the stage for the conflict in Hathaway’s Flash, which is a battle of the minds as much as it is a conflict between Gundams.

  • Upon arriving at the hidden Mafty base, concealed in the ruins of Side 2, Hathaway is brief on their latest operation: to retrieve a container from space containing supplies and a high value asset. This operation is risky, entailing the use of a rocket to get Hathaway up into the container so he can secure the asset, while in midair, to ensure that prowling Federation forces don’t get to the supply drop first: ever since the attack at Davao, the Federation’s been on high alert, and Kenneth’s been itching to have a go at Mafty with Lane Aim and their latest toy, the Penelope Gundam.

  • Mihesssia reminds me a great deal of Iroduku: The World in Colours‘ Kurumi Kawai. Seeing the people behind Mafty makes it clear that while they are terrorists, they are people nonetheless – reading about Mafty and coming at them from a purely abstract concept, it was easy to count them as faceless terrorists disrupting the peace, and I came into Hathaway’s Flash expecting the story to be about wiping Mafty from the face of the solar system. However, because Hathaway’s Flash takes the pains of humanising Mafty’s members (Mihesssia wouldn’t look out of place in a slice-of-life anime), viewers suddenly gain the sense that every death will be strongly felt.

  • At the Federation command centre, officers monitor the developing situation and notice irregularities, prompting them to send Lane and the Penelope out. At this point, Kenneth has made it very clear that he intends to beat Mafty himself – besides his charisma, Kenneth is a former mobile suit pilot and therefore, well aware of the tactics needed to meet them in combat. His prowess throws off Mafty’s members, who are surprised at how the change in command has made their operations all the more difficult. My friend had suggested a disinterest in Hathaway’s Flash, in part because the film adaptation changed things like character appearance, and having seen the first movie, as well as the original artwork, I get where he’s coming from.

  • It appears that Bright Noa had let Banagher off the hook fairly easily when he’d spoken to him about the Unicorn’s key; Kenneth is nowhere nearly as patient as Bright was, and after Gahman refuses to speak during an interrogation, Kenneth knocks him out and has him act as a hostage on their operation, accompanying Lane into battle. Despite Lane’s natural talent, which resulted in his being assigned to the Penelope, Lane has little combat experience and tends to let the moment get the better of him.

  • Emerelda is nervous about the operation, but there isn’t a moment to lose: kicking off their operation is a rocket launch: Mafty’s engineers have mounted a Galcezon to a rocket propulsion system and two solid-fuel boosters, which provides them the power needed to rendezvous with the cargo container in orbit. This scene speaks to how far animation has come: the launch itself surpasses the details seen Makoto Shinkai’s presentation of a rocket launch at Tanegashima Space Center in Five Centimetres per Second, a film dating back to 2007. Both the smoke and exhaust from Hathaway’s Flash are an order of magnitude more impressive in this scene, really capturing the scale and energy of Mafty’s operations. I remark here that a cursory Google search for Five Centimetres per Second continues to return results for the misconception that the film was about loneliness when in fact, it was about how our lives can feel as though we don’t have control over where we end up, similarly to the fluttering of cherry blossoms.

  • Folks who have read the novel One More Side or A Sky Longing for Memories artbook will find that the whole of the internet is mistaken about things. However, this isn’t a talk about Five Centimetres per Second, and back in Hathaway’s Flash, the emotional tenour during launch is quite tangible: the worry and doubt that Mafty’s members express, especially Emerelda, express, indicates that a fair portion of their number are playing things by ear and not always trained for the tasks they undertake, nor do they always take the optimal approach for sorting out their problems. However, what Mafty’s members do have is camaraderie: their words to one another prior to a mission does much to help everyone keep focused.

  • The act of aligning her Messer to match the container’s velocity is taxing on Emerelda, but after some effort, she is able to make the contact, allowing Hathaway to enter and take control of the prize: the Ξ Gundam. Manufactured by Anaheim Electronics, the Ξ Gundam was derived off the Zeta Project and built in conjunction with the Penelope: both mobile suits are massive, upwards of thirty-two percent larger than the RX-0 Unicorn, but despite their impressive silhouette, both mobile suits are highly manoeuvrable and capable of sustained flight thanks to their Minovsky Flight systems.

  • Upon spotting the Ξ Gundam for the first time, his immediate remark is that it’s a knockoff inferior to his Penelope. However, the Ξ Gundam quickly proves that there’s a reason its designation is higher; being a newer design, the Ξ Gundam sports an integrated flight system, lowering the suit’s mass (compared to the Penelope, which requires additional gear). While the Federation is better equipped with respect to having trained, skilled staff for operations, Lane is similarly inexperienced as a pilot; against someone like Hathaway, he is unable to keep up and utilise the Penelope’s powers fully.

  • Because the Ξ Gundam (read “Xi” and pronounced ksi) and Penelope are both descendants of the Zeta project, they resemble heavily armed air-superiority units rather than conventional mobile suits. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere, gravity and physical constraints the environment poses means that any lengthy battles here would feel more like a dogfight between two pilots, as opposed to the high-speed sword-play that is seen in the vacuum of space. Gravity is why the Universal Century deploys Base Jabbers, thermonuclear flight platforms that offer mobile suits limited flight in an atmosphere. Early Base Jabbers are cumbersome, but by Unicorn, they’ve become more versatile.

  • Gundam 00 got around this limitation by starting the AEU and Union with transformable mobile suits as their mainstay, allowing them to operate in an atmosphere for extended periods of time, and the GN Drive’s unusual properties eliminate the need to worry about gravity. One of the joys about Gundam is watching how the different universes address common problems, and newer series like 00 and SEED have both impressed from this standpoint. Back in Hathaway’s Flash, use of Minovsky Particles to assist flight is reminiscent of how GN particles were used for flight, although it’s clear that the technology is a work in progress, on account of how bulky both the Penelope and Ξ Gundam are.

  • The Penelope and Ξ Gundam are similar in their armaments; both Gundams carry mega beam cannons, a beam rifle, beam sabres and a novel weapon referred as Funnel missiles. These missiles use a psycommu to guide them, and when fired in bursts, can quickly overwhelm enemy mobile suits in spite of their low yield. During the course of battle, Hathaway also swats a few Gustav Karls out of the air before he realises that Gahman is inside the Penelope, as well.

  • By UC 105, the meaning of Gundam has clearly eroded from the earlier days. Bright had stated to Banagher that every Gundam pilot had been a worthy individual chosen by their machines to make a difference before Banagher participated in the Garuda transfer to retrieve Mineva from the Vist Foundation’s hands. Pilots like Amuro Ray and Kamille Bidan have shaped history with a combination of their skill and resolve to do what’s right, regardless of whether or not they’d wanted the responsibility.

  • Banagher was quite reluctant to take on this role, but as he began understanding the sorts of things that Mineva and Daguza were speaking off, he would accept that it would be necessary to get into the cockpit and do what he could, eventually becoming a legend in his own right by stopping Gryps II from obliterating Industrial Seven. By comparison, Lane pilots the Penelope simply because in test flights, he is the most promising, and Hathaway himself simply bought the Ξ Gundam from Anaheim Electronics, who had been all too willing for his business. We’ve not seen Captain Noa yet, but I imagine he’d be disappointed to see what Gundams had become by UC 105.

  • The fact that two Gundams are fighting one another further speaks to the immorality present in the Universal Century: Anaheim Electronics evidently has no qualms about building Gundam-type machines and selling them to opposite sides of the war. In one corner, we have a corrupt and decadent government with a bloated military, and in the other is a terror organisation. On paper, neither faction have the moral right to possess what the Gundam represents: the very fact that this is precisely the case speaks to the despair that Tomino aimed to convey through Hathaway’s Flash. Anaheim’s decision is not as sophisticated as Lord of War‘s Simeon Weisz: while Weisz had been playing politics through arms dealing, Anaheim Electronics simply wants to maximise their quarterly earnings.

  • It does feel like that Hathaway is a poor judge of character: he goads Lane and wonders if the latter is such a poor pilot that he will only sortie with a hostage in tow, only to retract his statements when Lane allows Gahman to walk. However, Lane was not doing this out of honour: Hathaway had pressed the right buttons, and Lane’s pride as a Gundam pilot is bent quickly when Hathaway suggests he lacks the integrity to fight like a man. With Gahman back with Hathaway, both pilots prepare to have a proper throw-down with nothing held back.

  • Lane thus finds himself eating crow when Hathaway begins fighting him in earnest: between his own inexperience and the fact that the Ξ Gundam has slight edge in performance in the atmosphere, he is unable to deal any damage to the Ξ Gundam, and Hathaway manages to dodge his shots. I’m not sure if the two Gundams would be more evenly matched in space, but given the extensive presence of mobile suits and equipment built for atmospheric operation in Hathaway’s Flash, I cannot help but feel that between this and the main machine’s lineage, Hathaway’s Flash will largely be set on Earth, which is a bit of a departure from the space environments that Gundam series tends to make full use of.

  • Hiroyuki Sawano returns to score Hathaway’s Flash‘s soundtrack. I was introduced to his music through Gundam Unicorn and found the soundtrack to be absolutely brilliant. Sawano, like Kenji Kawai (Gundam 00Ip ManHigurashiMaquia and Dark Water), has a very distinct sound: his compositions make extensive use of percussion and string to convey a sense of scale, but outside of Gundam Unicorn, his signature style can be easily spotted. Hathaway’s Flash, while possessing a generally enjoyable set of background songs, lacks the same iconic motifs as the Unicorn Gundam that made Gundam Unicorn‘s soundtrack so iconic.

  • In the end, Lane is shot down after he takes a shot at the Ξ Gundam, sees a massive explosion and assumes he’s won the dogfight. He is left open and unprepared for Hathaway’s counterattack; when multiple missiles impact the Penelope, Lane is knocked into the ocean. Hathaway spares him and proceeds to the next step of their operation, and by the time Lane comes to, Hathaway and Mafty are long gone.

  • Lane is unable to believe that he lost this engagement, and after exiting the Penelope, he looks around, desperate for any sign that he’d successfully shot down Hathaway and the Ξ Gundam. I imagine this will be a turning point in Lane’s career as a pilot, and what happens next will likely be a part of the second film, whose release date remains unknown. One thing I particularly liked was the fact that Hathaway’s Flash will be available on Netflix, making it highly accessible for everyone who wishes to check it out. This is an excellent decision, since it maximises the films reach, and selling a license to streaming services also provides a boost in return (versus not doing so at all).

  • The approach is one I’d wish ACTAS would take for Girls und Panzer: delays on Das Finale‘s third act are unbelievable. I have a hard time believing the argument that the long gaps between theatrical screenings and home release stem from a want of maximising profits from the die-hard fans, who are willing to watch the movie several times. I have yet to see any evidence suggesting that the Girls und Panzer model, with location and timed exclusives to said die-hard fans, brings in the majority of their revenue. A Netflix release, on the other hand, would benefit Girls und Panzer greatly. Back at base, Hathaway is given a hero’s welcome after successfully completing his assignment: while some of their supplies were lost, they were able to retrieve most of things, and the Ξ Gundam is now secured.

  • If I had to guess, this is Kelia Dace, Hathaway’s girlfriend who greatly admires him: the two seem close, and moreover, Hathaway seems much more comfortable around her than someone like Gigi. With this post very nearly in the books, I remark that writing something like this on short notice was a bit of an exhausting process, and with the spring season wrapping up, there’s going to be a busy few weeks ahead as I get Super CubYakunara Mug Cup Mo86 EIGHTY SIX and Higehiro sorted out. Gundam SEED‘s second half is also on my horizon – I finished Gundam SEED on Thursday and wrapped up Hathaway’s Flash on Friday, but I figured I’d get the latter written about first while thoughts of the film are still fresh in my head.

  • Overall, I enjoyed Hathaway’s Flash for its introduction into the latest animated adaptation of one of Tomino’s novels. The fact that this is a three-part film means that there will be sufficient space to explore everything that needs to be explored; while my friend did express concern that three parts means that the story might become bloated as did happen with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit, which added new elements which were never in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novel, The Hobbit‘s movies averaged two hours and thirty eight minutes each, while Hathaway’s Flash‘s first part is an hour and thirty five minutes. I imagine that the decision to have three parts for Hathaway’s Flash was precisely so mobile suit combat could be shown in greater detail; assuming this to be the case for the second and third films, I wouldn’t have any objections to things.

Tomino has stated that Hathaway’s Flash is especially relevant today: Hathaway presents himself as a charismatic leader with a clear idea of what his objectives are, but at heart, is perhaps no more mature than he had been when he’d first met Quess. The world seen in Hathaway’s Flash has evidently learned nothing after the Axis Shock event, or from producing the monsters in the Unicorn, Banshee and Phenex. There are parallels in reality; society today is in many ways, taking steps backwards as the lessons of the past are forgotten. People insist on deleting figures from history for their past deplorable actions rather than using them as an example of how not to act. Emotions and social standing matter more than evidence and truth. This sets the world on a perilous precipice – as people increasingly refuse to listen to facts and lose their history, they become prone to making the same mistakes, potentially creating tragedies and atrocities even worse than those of their predecessors. Much as how the real world is losing perspective by backing things like cancel culture and Twitter politics “experts” who have more followers than common sense, Hathaway’s Flash is showing that both Mafty and the Federation are sowing the seeds for more suffering and chaos as a result of having lost the lessons from Char’s Counterattack and Gundam Unicorn that should have never been forgetting. As a consequence, Hathaway’s Flash has gotten off to a fine start – the first film focuses on the more human aspects of Hathaway, his connection with Mafty and how Gigi has begun sowing seeds of doubt in his heart. The human side of Gundam has always been enjoyable: humanising Hathaway and helping viewers to become familiar with who he has become since Char’s Counterattack, means that his hubris and ruin will be all the more poignant or cathartic, depending on one’s perspectives. This in turn creates a sense of anticipation for what Hathaway’s Flash will present to viewers next in its two remaining films. The first part had been worth the wait, and while uncharacteristic of a Gundam film in that mobile suit combat is quite limited, the preamble sets the stage for what follows; I’m rather looking forwards to seeing what happens next, and one cannot fault me if I say that I am also looking forwards most to seeing Ξ and the Penelope fight again.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point

“What the can you hope to protect when your feelings are the only weapons you’ve got?” –Kira Yamato

The creation of genetically enhanced humans, Coordinators, results in a rift that eventually erupts into open hostilities, prompting the Coordinators to settle in space in colonies called PLANTS. When an attack on the PLANT, Junius-7, is destroyed by nuclear weapons, the Earth Alliance and PLANTs go to war. With their superior technology, the PLANTS develop mobile suits, weapons that give them a massive advantage. To counteract this, the Earth Alliance strike an agreement with the neutral Orb Union to develop G-weapons at Heliopolis – when ZAFT catches wind of this programme, they mount an operation to steal these new mobile suits. Coordinator Kira Yamato ends up piloting the remaining G-weapon, the GAT-X105 Strike to fend off the mobile suits, and with his friends, boards the new model carrier, the Archangel, for a trip to the Earth Alliance’ base in Alaska. However, this journey is fraught with challenges – ZAFT’s Commander Rau Le Creuset is intent on destroying the Archangel, and Kira Yamato’s longtime friend, Athrun Zala, has become a ZAFT pilot. The Archangel manages to elude Creuset’s team on several occasions, and after an ill-fated stop at the Artemis station, stops to retrieve frozen water from the remains of Janius-7. Here, the Archangel captures Lacus Clyne, daughter of PLANT chairman Siegel Clyne. Resupplied, the Archangel manages to reach Earth’s defensive fleet. During the battle, Flay Allster’s father is killed by enemy fire, and Lacus manages to encourage him. In turn Kira chooses to return her to the ZAFT forces against orders. Kira’s friends end up enlisting to protect those around them, but after approaching Earth, Athrun and his team manage to destroy the entire fleet that had shown up. Kira and the Strike manage to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere with the Archangel, landing in Northern Africa. They meet a resistance force after fending off Earth-based ZAFT forces and their commander, Andrew Waltfeld. Kira also encounters Cagalli, who is with the resistance. Both are captured by Waltfeld, but Waltfeld chooses to spare them. Later, when members of the Creuset team join them, Waltfeld launches an attack on the Archangel, but is seemingly killed after Kira defeats his custom mobile armour. The Archangel subsequently heads for Orb Union, but in an engagement, Cagalli is shot down and encounters Athrun for the first time, but is later rescued. Upon arriving in Orb Union, Kira is asked to share his expertise on mobile suit operating systems to aid in their own programmes. With the Archangel’s arrival in Orb Union, I’ve reached the halfway point of Gundam SEED, a Gundam series dating back to 2002. With an intimidating fifty episodes, Gundam SEED had been a series I had difficulty approaching, but with encouragement from my friends, I’ve now opened my journey into one of the most recognisable and iconic Gundam series of the 2000s.

Out of the gates, Gundam SEED wastes no time in establishing its themes: with Kira and Athrun on opposite sides of the war, their simultaneous reluctance to fight one another and desire to do right by those around them creates an internal conflict that must be reconciled. For Kira, he fights to keep his friends safe, and constantly wonders what the point of war is. At the same time, as Kira becomes accustomed to the Strike’s capabilities, he also reluctantly accepts that there are things that only he can do, although in doing so, Kira also feels an increasing disconnect from his parents. At the opposite end is Athrun, a ZAFT pilot who seeks to end the war between the Coordinators and Naturals through force: after losing his mother in the Janius-7 incident, he resolves to beat down the Earth Alliance and help to bring about peace. Gundam SEED goes to great lengths to show the human side of warfare in its first half: behind every gun sight is a human being, and one’s enemies on the battlefield might get along fine as friends outside of war. Nowhere is this more apparent than Andrew Waltfeld, a devoted soldier but honourable man: while he and Kira might be on opposite sides of the conflict, Waltfeld is genuinely interested in Kira’s potential and greatly respects him. Similarly, having now spoken with Waltfeld, Kira hesitates to strike a killing blow in combat. As it stands, Gundam SEED suggests that in a given war, politicians and calculating officiers are the true enemy, seeking conflict as a means of achieving their own ends. Both the PLANT’s councillors and Earth Force brass seem quite unconcerned with the cost of war, and similarly, the calm, calculating but unstable Rau Le Creuset suggest that beyond Kira and Athrun’s genuine desire to protect those around them and end the war, more sinister forces are at work for both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance. These forces account for why the Orb Union has been developing their own mobile suits, as a means of defense against an increasingly unstable world.

No discussion about Gundam SEED would be complete without mention of the G-weapons, and in particular, the GAT-X015 Strike. Despite being a powerful prototype mobile suit equipped with a sophisticated OS and Phase Shift armour, which negates all physical attacks, the Strike (and its brethren, the Aegis, Duel, Blitz and Buster) is limited by its use of a battery. Owing to the constraints that Neutron Jammers introduce (it’s suggested they block neutron movement, suppressing fission reactions), mobile suits are forced to rely on batteries as their power supply, and as a result, despite offering firepower equivalent to that of a battle ship, mobile suits remain constrained by their operational time. This forces pilots to act in an efficient manner to achieve their goals, and initially, Kira pushes the Strike to its limits during combat, to the point where the Phase Shift armour powers down as a result. Limitations in the Strike’s capabilities forces Kira to grow as a pilot: from not being baited by enemy forces to placing his shots more carefully, Kira improves with each operation, assisted by his innate abilities as a Coordinator. While Kira’s prowess as a pilot has been the subject of no small discussion for the past two decades, Gundam SEED demonstrates that even Kira Yamato began as a novice, and it is over time that he ends up becoming the pilot that he is. Gundam SEED thus opens in a very strong manner, and being a re-telling of the Universal Century’s story, ends up with many parallels. In fact, having now seen Gundam Unicorn, it is fair to say that Gundam SEED‘s first half inspired Unicorn‘s progression: both Banagher and Kira are reluctant pilots who only get into the cockpit to protect those important to them, suffer a catastrophic loss while fighting an enemy combatant during re-entry, land in the desert and rediscover their will to fight in the process. However, unlike Gundam Unicorn, Gundam SEED takes its time in presenting its story, and in this area, Gundam SEED fully utilises its run time to flesh things out; in conjunction with a phenomenal soundtrack, Gundam SEED excels in conveying the emotions each of the characters feel as they navigate the horrors and desolation of warfare.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While character dynamics are just as integral to Gundam, the mobile suits are the centrepiece of any given Gundam series, so I’ll open the post with Kira destroying a GINN using the Strike’s anti-ship sword. Gundam SEED is no different: the first three episodes deal with ZAFT’s operation at Heliopolis and Kira boarding the Strike. I believe this marks the first time I’ve ever written about a 50-episode anime, which means that there’s enough going on such that I won’t be able to cover every conceivable detail, and even the collection of screenshots I’ve amassed only cover a very small faction of the series.

  • The Strike was very much an interesting lead machine for me: until now, every Gundam I’ve seen features a lead machine that was nigh-unstoppable, without limitations. The Exia had no equal in melee combat in Gundam 00, and its successors improved on the basic concepts further. while the Unicorn was leagues above its predecessors in performance. Amuro Ray’s RX-93 was similarly a highly powerful machine utilising unexplored technology. While these machines have their drawbacks, their base operations are solid compared to other mobile suits. Conversely, while the Strike is powerful, it is primarily limited by its battery’s operational time, forcing Kira and the Archangel to fight strategically with it.

  • Gundam SEED‘s Sai, Tolle, Miriallia and Flay are ordinary youth at the series’ beginning, thrust into extraordinary circumstances as a result of warfare. For a novice like myself, they’re equivalent to Gundam Unicorn‘s Micott and Takuya, Banagher’s friends from Industrial Seven who are brought on board the Nahel Argama. Unlike Sai, Tolle and Miraiallia, who become bridge crew, Takuya and Micott end up helping the engineers instead, and it is said that Takuya’s mechanical skill led to the conception of the Full Armour Unicorn. Similarly, Sai, Tolle and Miriallia end up contributing to the Archangel’s combat operations.

  • At the opposite end of the conflict are Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty pilots, Dearka, Yzak and Nicol fight alongside Athrun and the enigmatic Rau Le Creuset. Their operations at Heliopolis begins this conflict, and while Yzak is utterly devoted to ZAFT, the other pilots in Athrun’s group are more sympathetic individuals. In particular, I’m rather fond of Nicol: his moderate characterisation and preference for music over warfare serves to remind viewers that while Athrun and Kira might be on opposite sides, both Athrun and Kira have things they want to protect.

  • In the Universal Century, I have an inclination to side with the EFSF, and in Anno Domini, the Earth Federation and their A-LAWS made them the antagonists. The Cosmic Era suggests that things are more complicated: the higher ups in ZAFT are split between annihilating the Naturals and stopping their war, and similarly, while the Earth Alliance clearly despise Coordinators, there are some among them with a more moderate and tolerant outlook. Upon arrival at the Artemis space station, the Earth Alliance’ treatment of the Archangel’s crew gave the impression that the Earth Alliance military are conceited, more interested in themselves than the bigger picture.

  • Yzak’s Duel is a general purpose mobile suit for a variety of combat situations, while the Dearka’s Buster is an artillery-oriented suit intended for bombardment. Nicol pilots the Blitz, which uses the Mirage Colloid active camouflage system for stealth operations. Meanwhile, Athrun’s Aegis is the most advanced of the group, being capable of transforming into a mobile armour during combat. The stolen mobile suits offer the ZAFT forces an overwhelming advantage in combat, and it is only owing to Kira’s growing skill with the Strike, as well as the sophistication of the Archangel, that allows Kira and the others to escape the Le Creuset team’s clutches.

  • Gundam SEED‘s politics are on par with the Universal Century and Anno Domini’s in terms of sophistication, but as with the other universes, Gundam SEED also takes the time to properly flesh things out and make it clear on where each character and faction stands. This becomes important: my introduction to the Cosmic Era had actually been through Gundam SEED Destiny, whose execution left me confused for the episodes that I did end up watching. Gundam SEED Destiny became a lesson in why one should always start at the beginning, and while I had some apprehension entering Gundam SEED, it turns out that Gundam SEED is very focused and clear, making it very easy to keep up with.

  • Lacus Clyne is a Gundam icon: she’s voiced by the legendary Rie Tanaka, a voice actress of great talent and fame (her roles include Azumanga Daioh‘s Koyomi Miuhara, Chobits‘ Chii, Minna Dietlinde-Wilcke from Strike Witches and Girls und Panzer‘s Maho Nishizumi). Initially, Lacus is Athrun’s fiancé, and is presented as being a very happy-go-lucky, air-headed princess with an unparalleled talent for singing. While on a memorial visit, she happens upon the Archangel and is brought on board. The idea of a lead ship capturing a princess is similarly a Gundam staple: Minerva Lao Zabi similarly boarded the Nahel Argama and was used as a bargaining chip by the Federation Forces.

  • One aspect of Gundam SEED that was noticeably strong was the soundtrack: Sahashi Toshihiko’s music for the series is excellent, both for combat sequences and for melancholy surrounding warfare. Because Gundam SEED proceeds more slowly than Gundam 00, the selection of incidental music is much wider, and the series also has a chance to really allow the characters time in between combat to reflect on what’s happening. The longer runtime of Gundam SEED speaks to a time when anime series had the timeframes and budget for longer stories, really allowing things to be fleshed out.

  • After leaving Heliopolis, Marrue Ramius, Mu La Flaga and Natarle Badgiruel are the highest-ranking officers on board the Archangel, and in each battle, do their best to ensure everyone’s survival. Marrue was the one responsible for pressing Kira and the others into service, and decides to look after everyone until they can reach Earth Alliance authorities in order to determine how to best handle everything. Having now seen Gundam SEED up to the halfway point, the similarities between Sumeragi and Marrue are apparent, as they are between Natarle and Kati Mannequin. Here, the Archangel’s highest ranked officers speak with Lacus about her origins and objectives, determining her to be of potential strategic value similarly to how the ECOAS team attempted to use Mineva as a bargaining chip against Full Frontal in Gundam Unicorn.

  • The topic of racism is implicitly covered with the gap between Coordinators and Naturals: the former look down on the latter for their lesser abilities, while the former resent the latter for possessing what they do not. In particular, Flay’s dislike of the Coordinators is apparent, and while Kira is the exception, she displays open hostility towards Lacus when they first meet. Flay’s friends wonders if she is sympathetic to the Blue Cosmos, an extremist group that is politically involved with the Earth Alliance. The Blue Cosmos do not figure heavily in Gundam SEED‘s first half, but I imagine they’ll have a much larger role to play at some point, if they’re being mentioned now.

  • Having Kira’s friends around as assistant staff on board the Archangel really helped to create the sense that Kira was never really alone in his struggles. Gundam pilots have always been conflicted about doing what they feel is right, and initially, Kira is forced to accept that it might be necessary to take lives in order to defend those around him. However, even if Sai, Tolle and Miriallia don’t fully understand Kira’s situation, their presence helps him to regroup.

  • While appearing to be purely for show, the different beam colours in Gundam SEED were chosen to make it easier to identify what was being fired: standard particle beams are green, while physical projectiles are orange. Rail gun rounds have a yellow discharge, and plasma rounds leave a distinct blue-red trail. The plasma rounds are unsurprisingly the most powerful, and weapons that fire them have the highest energy consumption. The differences bring to mind the Universal Century, where mega-beam launchers are used in a similar capacity.

  • After the first half of Gundam SEED, Rau Le Creuset remains an enigmatic individual: possessing Char Aznable’s penchent for wearing a mask at all times, an air of confidence and calm assuredness, Rau is also seen to be consuming pills and appears to be in great pain at times when off duty. This does lead to questions of what Rau Le Creuset is about, but owing to the pacing in Gundam SEED, it does mean that viewers will have to be patient. With this in mind, Gundam SEED never once gives the impression that things are dragging on.

  • Kira finds himself face-to-face with the Le Creuset team on several occasions, and while he initially only just escapes thanks to the Strike’s capabilities, with time, Kira’s improvement as a pilot allows him to fight on even footing with Yzak and the others. This eventually culminates in Athrun and Kira resolving to take the other down if necessary, a sign of their resolve. Here, Kira’s equipped the Strike’s Aile equipment, which enhances the Strike’s mobility. During combat, Kira’s latent potential awakens: dubbed SEED (Superior Evolutionary Element Destined-factor), it greatly enhances a Coordinator’s focus and reflexes, giving them superior control and awareness in combat.

  • SEED mode is what gives Gundam SEED its name, and upon entering it for the first time, Kira disables Yzak’s Duel. SEED mode is something that, in-universe, is not fully understood, but what is known is that particularly advanced Coordinators can enter it at will. Initially, however, SEED mode can only be entered when one develops a resolve to fulfill their objectives during a situation of high stress. There is an analogue in reality: flow, the state of being so immersed in something that one’s perceptions are altered. Like SEED mode, circumstances can push people into a state of flow, but especially disciplined people can enter this state at will. For me, it always takes me a bit of warm-up to get into this state, but I can consistently do so.

  • This is why when it comes to different tasks, I always start out weaker and only hit my stride after warming up. For instance, whenever I play online multiplayer, I fare poorly for the first five minutes or so, but subsequently, I perform significantly better. Despite a rocky start, Marrue comes to respect Kira for both his skill, commitment to his duties and his drive to do what’s right; she acts as a big sister figure for Kira, looking out for him and offers him advice where needed.

  • While rendezvousing with Earth Alliance forces, Flay’s father accompanies the escort team, but they’re shot down. In the aftermath, Flay falls into a depression and becomes consumed with thoughts of revenge. However, lacking the technical skills of the others, and the ability to pilot a mobile suit on her own, Flay can only push Kira to fight and leave none standing, counting on Kira’s own emotional weakness and sense of loneliness to further her own aims.

  • Voiced by Sōichirō Hoshi (Higurashi‘s very own Keiichi Maebara), Kira Yamato is intended to represent a Japanese perspective of warfare. Because Kira is peaceful and frequently doubts the use of force, director Mitsuo Fukuda suggests that conflict is something that finds resolution when people reluctantly take up a weapon to defend what’s around them, but never otherwise participate in warfare for the sake of aggression. Time and time again, Kira steps up to protect his friends, and comes to see the bigger picture around him, much as how Amuro Ray had done in Gundam, and how Banagher Links would in Gundam Unicorn.

  • Realising that Kira’s power is key to getting revenge against the other Coordinators, Flay begins a relationship with Kira and encourages him to fight with greater aggression. Flay is probably one of the most reviled characters in the whole of Gundam, although with the benefit of hindsight, I can clarify that anime fans of the early 00s were likely lacking in the big picture: Flay enters Gundam SEED as the daughter of an Earth Alliance politician who is accustomed to being the centre of attention, but was otherwise unfamiliar with warfare.

  • As such, I count the hate against Flay the consequence of incomplete knowledge: while what she does with Kira is morally dubious, her actions were the result of her coping with what was happening given her background. Fellow blogger and peer Dewbond has written extensively on the subject, and I imagine there will come a point in the near future where we will be doing a collaborative series on Gundam SEED. Dewbond’s insights into the characters stands in stark contrast with that of my best friend’s intrigue in the hardware and politics: when I speak with my best friend, our conversations are largely on how the machines and leadership (or lack thereof) impact the way wars are fought in Gundam.

  • By comparison, Dewbond’s focus on the characters and their response to extraordinary circumstances serve to paint a more compelling picture of why characters act the way they do. As such, I foresee that when it comes to discussion, my goal will be to reconcile the hardware with the characters, and individual motivations with the conflict at scale. Gundam has always excelled at covering things at both ends of the spectrum, and Gundam SEED is no exception, so a collaboration would offer a chance to see how all of the elements come together to create a Gundam series that’s definitely deserves the acclaim it has received over the years.

  • This single scene probably created more controversy for Gundam SEED than any other: the implications were that Flay slept with Kira, and the idea of underage activity can be a bit of a minefield to write about. In Japan, viewers wrote to television studios to complain, noting that Gundam SEED had been broadcast at a time when youth would be watching. For me, the viewers’ concerns were legitimate, but I also imagine that this was originally written to show how warfare impacts people’s judgments, especially when all norms are thrown out the window, and also serves to illustrate the lengths Flay would go to have her revenge on the Coordinators.

  • While Gundam SEED is technically lighter on fanservice than Gundam 00, the latter of which took the pains of showing how hot Sumeragi was on several occasions during the first season, Marrue oscillates more than strictly necessary whenever the Archangel takes any impact from enemy fire. Gundam 00, on the other hand, only had one such moment during the second season, when the Ptolemiaos II is impacted by torpedoes. I’ve typically never found such moments to add any notable value to Gundam, but they are infrequent enough as to not be distracting from what I showed up for.

  • After Kira fails to protect a shuttle carrying civilians during re-entry, he becomes despondent, and Flay further saw this as a chance to fuel his desire for striking down his enemies. Gundam Unicorn would later present a similar scene, where during re-entry, the protagonists bear witness to horrors unmatched as they are captured by the Earth’s gravity well. Re-entry is considered one of the trickiest parts of space travel, and its presentation in Gundam is to suggest a sense of helplessness. Much as how Banagher accidentally kills Gilboa with a shot meant for Full Frontal, Kira is powerless to stop Yzak from destroying a shuttle carrying civilians.

  • Upon landing on Earth, the Archangel finds themselves in the Sahara desert, far removed from their original landing point. Amidst the desert sands, the Archangel crew learn that the resistance group, Desert Dawn, are fighting a war against ZAFT’s Andrew Waltfeld with the goal of trying to take back their homeland. Kira also runs into Cagalli, who is a member of the resistance. While the Archangel’s crew find the Desert Dawn’s aims to feel somewhat futile, seeing the extent the desert’s inhabitants are willing to go to defend their home leads Marrue to help out.

  • On Earth, ZAFT’s mainstay mobile suits are the TMF/A-802 BuCUEs. These panther-like quadrupedal mobile suits are designed for ground combat: their lower centre of gravity makes them more stable and capable of navigating rough terrain. For armaments, BuCUEs come with a pair of rail guns and missile pods. Against the Desert Dawn, who are only armed with RPGs, the BuCUE is a formidable machine.

  • When Kira fights BuCUEs for the first time, he quickly finds that the Strike’s inertial compensators have not been set to deal with the soft desert sands. After readjusting the configurations, Kira fares much better and decimates the BuCUEs attacking the Archangel. Gundam SEED‘s dialogue and materials indicate that Kira is actively re-writing the Strike’s OS to accommodate to different situations, and being a developer, I appreciate that writing an OS is probably the single most challenging and tedious task available. Without any core libraries or SDKs, one must build their own kernel, and write two programs: a loader, written in assembly, and then the OS itself. The way Gundam SEED presents things, there are two alternatives: either Coordinators are so far above ordinary humans that modifying OSes on the fly is trivial for them, or the writers mixed up their terminology, and Kira is simply writing subroutines and configurations to make piloting the Strike easier.

  • I personally am inclined to think it’s the latter, given that once the operating system is defined, it’s the routines and software above that communicate with the hardware. As such, it is not inconceivable that Earth Alliance developers have already defined a decent set of services for allowing software to interact with the mobile suit itself, but the intermediate software (such as balance algorithms, routines for movement, etc.) simply aren’t of the same standard. Thus, when Kira’s typing away, he’s working on improving functions and reorganising the high-level software that maps controller inputs to movement. Back in Gundam SEED, the Archangel’s crew finds that their provisions are running out, and must secure some from local inhabitants, who are all too happy to inflate their costs. However, without any options, the higher costs must be paid out.

  • While visiting the town market with Cagalli, Kira meets Andrew Waltfeld for the first time. Despite being a dedicated and serious soldier, Waltfeld has a likeable personality and outside of combat, enjoys a good cup of coffee. He argues with Cagalli about whether donair kebab goes better with hot sauce or yogurt. A scuffle breaks out, and in the aftermath, Kira finds the combination to be delicious. This isn’t terribly surprising, since the heat is diminished by the yogurt, which adds a creamy taste that also lets the hot sauce’s flavours be felt. Midway through their meal, Blue Cosmos extremists appear, and Kira manages to fend them off, saving Waltfeld’s life in the process.

  • Waltfeld is not ungrateful about this turn of events, deciding to bring Kira and Cagalli back to speak with them. Had they met under any other circumstance, Waltfeld would’ve probably let them off the hook, but because it’s warfare, Waltfelt notes that he’s within his bounds to kill enemy combatants – the moment a soldier sees his opponents as human and hesitates is the moment they could themselves be killed, and this is one of the grim aspects of war that Gundam SEED aims to convey to viewers. In spite of this, Waltfeld’s friendly and amicable personality, coupled with a sense of honour that Rau Le Creuset lacks, gives him a different vibe than other ZAFT commanders and suggests to the viewer that irrespective of sides in a war, there are fair and foul folks alike.

  • An entire episode is devoted to Athrun and ZAFT – as the ZAFT higher-ups discuss the execution of Operation Spitbreak, Athrun and Nicol are given shore leave. Nicol returns home to visit his parents, while Athrun catches up with Lacus and discuss Kira. It’s a change in pace that gives viewers a chance to watch the characters regroup; ever since the Archangel landed on Earth, it’s been nonstop pursuit and combat as the Archangel attempts to aid the Desert Dawn in resisting Waltfeld’s forces.

  • Indeed, true to his word, Waltfeld and his co-pilot, Aisha, take to the battlefield in a custom BuCue known as the LaGOWE, an upgraded mobile suit equipped with beam cannons and a double-bladed beam sabre that was derived from the G-project’s data. Although Waltfeld puts up an impressive fight, in desperation, Kira impales the LaGOWE with his daggers, defeating Waltfeld and Aisha. True to Waltfeld’s words, humanising an opponent made it much difficult to fight them, and I am reminded of a similar scene in Gundam Unicorn when Marida berates Banagher for thinking of her as a fellow human being when she’s fighting the Unicorn.

  • Amphibious mobile suits figure more prominently in the Cosmic Era and Universal Century than they did in Anno Domini. Gundam 00 only had a handful of mobile armours, like the Trilobyte, for underwater combat, although the Gundams themselves could operate underwater without trouble. Here, Kira fights a UMF-4A GOOhN, which looks like it was modelled after the Universal Century’s MSM-07 Z’Gok. Despite fighting a foe optimised for underwater combat during their flight over the Red Sea, Kira does manage to defeat a number of ZAFT mobile suits, attesting to his increased combat performance.

  • When a support mission goes awry, Cagalli and Athrun encounter one another on a desert island. Cagalli attempts to fight Athrun and is bested, but the two do share a conversation about their thoughts on war. While Cagalli had seen conflict as a matter of sides, her conversation with Athrun, a ZAFT soldier, does open her eyes to the idea that the enemy might not be wholly evil, and that warfare isn’t as simple as a matter of black and white. The two subsequently are rescued and returned to their respective allies, although given the episode title, this meeting should be is a fateful one that affects both Cagalli and Athrun greatly.

  • Having seen the Strike in combat now, it’s become a mobile suit that I greatly respect, balancing new technologies and combat advantages with operational limits to create a platform that is powerful, but not overpowered. If and when I’m asked, the Master Grade Aile Strike Ver. RM would be something I would’ve considered buying had I watched Gundam SEED earlier run: the Gundam itself looks powerful and has design elements resembling the classic RX-78 II. Of course, the Perfect Strike would allow me to run with any Strike setup, but as a P-Bandai exclusive, it’s not available in my area.

  • Upon approaching the Orb Nation’s territorial waters, the ZAFT forces are forced to retreat. Cagalli reveals that she’s the daughter of Orb’s leader, and Colonel Ledonir Kisaka vouches for her identity. The Orb fleet consent to not shoot them down on the spot and take them in. Although Orb is a neutral nation, their technological sophistication is impressive: the use of geothermal energy and a lack of discrimination against Coordinators has allowed Orb to develop weapons that gives their small military comparable power to a larger force, and it appears that Orb was founded by Japanese immigrants.

  • With their quarry lost, Athrun supposes that an infiltration mission might be needed to ascertain as to whether or not the Archangel are still present at Orb. As the first half draws to a close, Athrun’s team can be seen inserting into Orb’s islands and pick up phony identifications intended to get them past some security checkpoints. I had been curious to see what kind of operation this entails

  • Once the situation is cleared up, Orb Union’s command decide that they’ll repair and resupply the Archangel, as well as the Strike, on the condition that Kira assists their engineers with configuring their mobile suits. Cagalli is shocked to learn that Orb is developing mobile suits of their own, the MBF-M1 M1 Astray, a mass production model intended for use in defending Orb from foreign powers. However, while impressive from a hardware standpoint, their configurations are incomplete, and the Astrays can barely move.

  • The Astray series would end up getting their own spin-offs in Gundam SEED Astray, which follows the development of these mobile suits. With this halfway point post now finished, I’ll be pushing onwards with Gundam SEED, and given the average pacing, I’d estimate that it’ll be August by the time I wrap this series up. I am excited to keep going: with the characters, factions and objectives established, it’s clear that things will continue to intensify as the Archangel continues with its original mission. I will do my best to make this objective: at the time of writing, I’m actively following Yakunara Mug Cup MoSuper Cub, 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. The first two, I intend to write about periodically, and the latter two is a bit of a wait-and-see type deal. Since I only need to catch up with Kamisama ni natta hi, I imagine that keeping up with Gundam SEED shouldn’t be too challenging.

Indeed, the long runtime of Gundam SEED was the main reason why I’d not gotten into the series until now. Having begun my journey, however, it turns out that Gundam SEED‘s pacing works to its ability: while perhaps slow by contemporary standards, Gundam SEED is able to fully portray emotions Kira and the others experience because of the extended time frame. From the transformation of doubt to conviction through Kira’s friends, or Flay Allster’s manipulative behaviours towards Kira, Gundam SEED is able to really show how different people are impacted by warfare. Some folks rise to the occasion to defend what matters to them, while for others, warfare exposes the worst traits in an individual. Here at Gundam SEED‘s halfway point, I am thoroughly impressed: the animation might not stand up to what was seen in Gundam 00 or later, but a captivating narrative, compelling cast of characters and solid music all come together to tell a strong story thus far. Moreover, Gundam SEED never overwhelms viewers: one long-standing concern I had with the Cosmic Era had been the idea that there were too many mobile suits and factions to keep track of, but because Gundam SEED is the Cosmic Era’s beginning, viewers are introduced to things at a proper pace. Kira only fights GINNs (ZAFT’s mainstay mobile suit, Cosmic Era’s equivalent of the Zaku II) in the beginning, and encounters BuCUEs in the desert. With its pacing, Gundam SEED never feels rushed, introducing new things to viewers at the appropriate time and allowing them to piece together what’s happening in a detailed world where resentment and past grievances between Coordinators and Naturals are every bit as strong as they are between the EFSF and Zeon. I’m definitely excited to continue on in my Gundam SEED journey, and given that I started watching back in January, I imagine that it’ll be closer to August by the time I wrap this one up. This suits me just fine: the slower pacing in Gundam SEED works to my advantage, and I look forwards to seeing what awaits Kira and the Archangel next.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season Two: A Review and Reflection, Chasing Shadows and Taking Responsibility For Bringing About Change

“The only thing the past can change is how you feel about things in the present.” –Neil Dylandy

Four years after Celestial Being engaged the UN forces in a titanic battle, the world has unified into the Earth Sphere Federation and established the A-LAWS autonomous peace-keeping unit. Although their objective is officially to handle security and deal with rogue actors, the A-LAWS begin committing atrocities in the name of unity. Setsuna F. Seiei has been keeping an eye on the A-LAWS’ activities during these four years, and during an operation at a colony, encounters Tieria, who rescues him. After rejoining Celestial Being, Setsuna gathers Sumeragi Lee Noreiga and recruits Lyle Dylandy as the next Lockon Stratos. He also acquires the 00 Gundam, a next-generation machine equipped with a revolutionary power plant that renders it superior to all existing Gundams. After rescuing Allelujah and Marina Ismail from a prison, Celestial Being sets about disrupting the A-LAWS and assisting Katharon, an anti-government resistance. Tieria learns that a shadowy group of individuals, the Innovators, has been manipulating the conflict from the beginning. Saji Crossroad, a civilian who despises Celestial Being, was also rescued and ultimately joins Celestial Being, hoping to reunite with Louise Halevy, who had joined the A-LAWS to take revenge on those who killed her parents. After Celestial Being disables a powerful new satellite weapon known as the Momento Mori, the Innovators begin taking a more active role in the combat. Wang Liu Mei decides to entrust Setsuna with VEDA’s location, desiring a changed world at all costs. Realising that retaking VEDA could bring an end to the Innovator’s influence, Celestial Being embarks on a titanic operation against the Innovades, genetically enhanced humans originally intended to serve as the intermediaries between ordinary people and evolved humans, Innovators. Elements of the Federation government and Katharon also participate in the operation. After Tieria secures Veda, Ribbons Almark, leader of the Innovators, sorties to fight Setsuna, claiming that humans were meant to be ruled by superior beings. While both Ribbons and Setsuna fight to a draw and destroy their respective machines, they resume their battle in the first Gundams both respectively piloted. Setsuna ends up victorious, and in the aftermath, the A-LAWS are disbanded, while Celestial Being vows to keep an eye on the world and begin operations again should the need arise. Gundam 00‘s second season continues directly on from where the first season had left off, airing a mere six months later and delves into the details the first season had only hinted at to complete the story and bring closure to unresolved plot elements, from Ribbons and the Innovade’s roles, to the mysterious nature behind benefactor Aeolia Schenberg’s plans – it turns out he intended his technology to assure humanity’s survival and push the species to evolve.

Compared to its predecessor, Gundam 00‘s second season is considerably more black and white in terms of its conflicts. The A-LAWS and Innovades are undeniably the antagonists, irredeemable and hurtling towards defeat from the first episode. Respectively devoted to the idea that the ends justify the means, and acting in selfish interests, the A-LAWS and Innovades interactions with Celestial Being, as well as their relationship with one another, paints a very clear picture of how the world’s excesses are often a consequence of powerful individuals acting behind the scenes to manipulate events and perceptions, creating a certain narrative that is convenient for those in charge. While Celestial Being’s initial goals were simply to destroy the A-LAWS, it became clear that the A-LAWS themselves were a symptom of the actual problem; they carry out atrocities with the Innovades’ blessing, confident that they are building a better world, but when the A-LAWS proved to be an impediment, the Innovades have no trouble wiping them out. This is a phenomenon that has been observed in recent years with respect to contemporary movements; social media activists and proponents of cancel culture act in the belief that they are beneficial to the world, unaware that those financing or supporting their operations are only doing so out of convenience. Much as how Ribbons vapourised the A-LAWS fleet and allowed Celestial Being to crush much of their operations, individuals participating in some causes have found themselves in trouble after their benefactors disavowed them because it became inconvenient to continue providing their backing. The benefactors had achieved their goals, but those working under them would be made scapegoats. Gundam 00‘s second season thus serves to indicate that in a given cause, it’s wisest to work for the position itself and not for an ideology – Arba Lindt and Arthur Goodman are dedicated to their work but end up dying, while A-LAWS commander Homer Katagiri commits suicide rather than facing criminal persecution. Conversely, Kati Mannequin, a stern brigadier general by the second season’s events, fights for peace but joins the A-LAWS to keep an eye on their activities, eventually defecting to help Celestial Being defeat the Innovades: unlike the other leaders, Kati fights for what she feels is right, and as such, is able to make key decisions at critical junctures that allow her to live according to her own principles. Blindly devoting oneself to a cause is presented as being destructive, especially if one isn’t aware of what one’s superiors intentions are, and Gundam 00‘s second season expertly portrayed the consequences of what results from subscribing to ideology without having thought things through entirely.

The central theme Gundam 00‘s second season presents to viewers through Celestial Being is the idea of atonement: it was Celestial Being’s actions that gave justification to the A-LAWS’ existence, and in a way, Celestial Being can be seen as equally responsible for the massacres the A-LAWS perpetrate. Setsuna, Lockon, Allelujah, Tieria and the others were aware of this, feeling that their actions would lead the world down a worse path before things could look up, and indeed, Sumeragi openly states that they’re responsible for what happened since their appearance before the final battle with the Innovades. She resolves to make up for these sins by defeating the Innovades and guiding the world back along a more desirable path. These sentiments have their parallels with activism: such movements are born of noble goals, typically with the betterment of humanity in mind, but as movements progress, people can lose sight of what these goals were originally, increasingly resorting to violence and force on the assumption that the ends justify the means. In time, the movement becomes distorted, removed from its original goals, and the world responds in kind with an equal and opposite reaction that can have far worse consequences than the conditions the activists sought to address. While the world has unified in Gundam 00, the A-LAWS routinely suppress dissidence with force, trivialising human life in the name of peace. Celestial Being had not meant for this to be the outcome, which has affected billions of lives. Rather than kicking back and calling it quits, Celestial Being owns the consequences of their actions and willingly put their lives in harm’s way to set things right. Goals do change when it comes to activism, and one of the challenges any cause faces is having a well-defined end goal. Celestial Being had achieved its goal for unifying the world, but not a unified world where people were routinely subject to unfair treatment, and in the name of easing this suffering, Celestial Being sets out to free the world from the Innovade’s grip. Here, Gundam 00 speaks to the necessity of being aware that getting what one wants might not necessarily be the end goal, and further to this, that it is important to possess the willingness to step up and do things correctly when things do not turn out as one envisioned.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A half year after Gundam 00‘s first season ended, the second season began airing. Right out of the gates, I was treated to an immensely captivating episode: the incidental music when the Federation’s new model mobile suits appear indicates that the world has definitely changed since the events of the first season. In this time, Setsuna F. Seiei’s left Celestial Being to pursue his own path, but at a colony called Proud, he steps out of the shadows and encounters Saji Crossroad, who is being detained on suspected anti-government activity. After rescuing Saji from military automaton, Setsuna sorties in the Exia to fight the A-LAWS’ squadrons.

  • While the Exia looks menacing with its red eye and cape, and Setsuna’s improved as a pilot, the Exia hasn’t been well-maintained in the past four years. Setsuna finds himself being bested by the Ahead, a new-generation mass-production mobile suit modelled after the former HRL Tierens. With superior output compared to the GN-X III line, the Ahead here cuts through Setsuna’s GN Sword, demonstrating beyond any doubt that Setsuna will need some new hardware if he’s to make any sort of difference. Tieria’s timely arrival forces the A-LAWS to scatter, and Setsuna rejoins Celestial Being, intent on righting the wrongs that had resulted after Celestial Being’s actions four years previously.

  • After returning to Celestial Being, Setsuna successfully recruits Neil’s younger brother, Lyle, as well as convincing Sumeragi to return to their ranks. Sumeragi is initially reluctant to rejoin, feeling personally responsible for the deaths of her crew four years earlier. However, upon seeing what is at stake owing to the A-LAWS and the atrocities they commit, Sumeragi would turn around and find her reason for fighting anew. For now, with the A-LAWS hot on their tails, Setsuna returns to the Ptolemaios II, a hulked-out version of the Ptolemaios with dedicated catapults and a weapons system.

  • With Setsuna’s return, Ian was able to finally test the 0 Gundam and Exia’s GN Drives for the powerful new Twin-Drive System, where two GN Drives synchronise their operations to effectively square their output. Tests insofar had been unsuccessful, but when Setsuna decides it’s time to fight the A-LAWS head-to-head, he uses Trans-Am to kick start the system, which stablises and renders the 00 Gundam fully operational. The subsequent launch is a spectacle to behold, being set to Kenji Kawai’s appropriately titled track, “00 Gundam”. Kenji Kawai scores the incidental music to Gundam 00, and it is therefore unsurprising that elements from Ip ManHigurashiDark Water and The Ring can be heard.

  • On its maiden sortie, Setsuna and the 00 Gundam shred through the pursing A-LAWS formation without any difficulty: after one-shotting an Ahead with its GN Sword II’s beam rifle, Setsuna cuts a GN-X III in half after its pilot boldly claims that he’s got the edge in CQC. Saji has accompanied Setsuna and is confined to one of the holding cells on board the Ptolemaios II, but Lasse and Mileina (the latter is Ian’s daughter, a youthful but skilled mechanic) provide Saji with a laptop that gives him insight into what had happened four years earlier. Reading this information helps Saji to understand what Setsuna and the others are doing, and over the course of season two, Saji becomes an integral member of Celestial Being.

  • Ribbons Almark is firmly established as the antagonist in Gundam 00‘s second season: a genetically enhanced human known as an Innovade (equivalent to a Cyber-Newtype), Ribbons leads his group of Innovades with the intention of ruling the world. He is responsible for the events of the second season, and while originally a staunch believer in Aeolia Schenberg’s plan, came to resent his role as a placeholder. While supremely confident in his own skill and power, Ribbons is easily unsettled when there are surprises, such as the existence of the Twin Drive System. Ribbons is voiced by Tōru Furuya, the voice actor for Mobile Suit Gundam‘s very own Amuro Ray.

  • With the 00 Gundam activated, Celestial Being sets about recovering Allelujah, who had been captured and detailed at a HRL prison. This bold operation sees Sumeragi orchestrating Celestial Being’s actions, and she assigns Lyle to provide support. While Lyle indicates he’s a novice with mobile suits and combat, he manages to shoot down several GN-X IIIs here. One of the biggest questions early in Gundam 00‘s second season was Lyle’s loyalties; he’s a member of the anti-government group, Katharon, and initially, there was always the chance that Lyle might betray Celestial Being for Katharon if the need had arisen. However, this would never materialise, and Lyle would come to fully accept his duties as a Gundam Meister for Celestial Being.

  • Now a member of the A-LAWS, Soma Peries is sent to secure Allelujah after Setsuna frees him. The connection between Allelujah and Soma had been a major point in the first season, where it was shown the two had known one another. Because Hallelujah is Allelujah’s alternate personality, it stood to reason that Soma must also have another personality, Marie. However, there’s no time for a reunion, and Allelujah boards his new Gundam, the Arios, promising to free Marie in the future.

  • Setsuna also was able to retrieve Marina from the facility; I imagine that she was held because she was suspected of having knowledge on the whereabouts of her former political advisor, Shirin Bakhtiar, who had left for Katharon. Once Marina is recovered, Celestial Being figures it would be safest to have Katharon look after her: Azadistan had been burned to the ground when Ribbons sent Ali Al-Saachez there. For now, Marina remains with Celestial Being on board the Ptolemaios, which comes under siege from the A-LAWS, who are seeking them out for destruction.

  • With all four of the Gundams operational, even the A-LAWS find themselves sustaining losses as the Union, AEU and HRL had previously: GN-X IIIs fall quickly to the Gundams, and even the A-LAWS vaunted Ahead struggles: while the third generation Gundams were weaker than an individual Ahead, the upgraded Gundams have been given updates that leave them a step above. Prior to the second season, there were numerous debates as to whether or not the Cherudim, Arios and Seravee were all-new Gundams or rebuilds. Official documentation would later clarify this: the Gundams seen in season two are all-new machines.

  • While standard Aheads have troubles fighting the Gundams, the A-LAWS also begin developing customised units as well: Graham Aker, now “Mister Bushido”, seeks out a one-on-one with Setsuna, resolute in his belief that Setsuna stripped him of his pride and disgraced him. Things are at the point where Aker refuses to fight anyone else, and will even spare Setsuna if he suspects that the 00 Gundam isn’t in top condition. Aker’s one-sided rivalry with Setsuna means that viewers are treated to some of the most impressive duels in Gundam 00 whenever the two clash: even now, the combat scenes in Gundam 00 hold up very well.

  • Even compared to Gundam 00Gundam 00‘s second season was very light on the fanservice: Sumeragi’s being fetched the Celestial Being uniform in the wrong size is about as far as it gets, and the first season only had Sumeragi, Christina and Feldt show up in swimwear while on break between operations. The infamous mammary oscillation only happens once in season two with Sumeragi, when a Trilobyte mobile armour assaults the Ptolemaios: this stands in contrast with Gundam SEED, where Marrue Ramius seems to suffer from this every time the Archangel is hit. I’m now halfway through Gundam SEED, and I will say that I’m enjoying the series far more than I initially thought: SEED is on par with 00 in terms of enjoyment for me.

  • Allelujah’s promise to retrieve Marie is sorted out early in the second season: after the pair crash, Soma suffers from the same debilitating headaches that Allelujah did when the pair were in close proximity, and her Marie personality is restored. The pair reconcile, and Sergei Smirnov, who’d shown up to rescue Soma, decides to allow the pair their happiness, having seen how much war can take away from people. Despite being a dedicated soldier, Sergei is also an honourable individual, understanding what Soma wants. He subsequently allows Allelujah and Marie to depart, promising to note in his report that Soma was shot down in combat to keep the A-LAWS from pursuing her.

  • Tieria learns that the enemies controlling the world aren’t the A-LAWS, but rather, the Innovades. Gundam 00 has the characters refer to them as Innovators, but after A Wakening of the Trailblazer, I’ve defined an Innovator as someone who naturally developed the powers similar to that of a Coordinator or Newtype. Instead, the Innovades are artificial humans made to assist with Schenberg’s plan. Over time, they began pursuing their own interests, resulting in the conflict seen in season two. Tieria, being an Innovade himself, initially hesitates to tell Sumeragi and the others about this, fearing they might reject him, but with this information, Sumeragi is grateful, knowing now what their foe is.

  • Setsuna delivers Marina to a Katharon task force, where she reunites with Shirin. Fans have long wondered what the relationship between Setsuna and Marina would be during the first season, and the second season suggests that Setsuna views Marina as someone admirable, whose conviction in peace and desire for a normal life stands in stark contrast with his own experiences. While romance never explicitly happens, Gundam 00 does show Setsuna as being pulled by Marina: during an operation, his thoughts briefly stray to Marina’s invitation for him to set down his arms and return to Azadistan with her once they rebuild.

  • Ali Al-Saachez and the Throne Arche make a return, overpowering and damaging the Seravee while simultaneously fighting 00 to a standstill. My best friend remarks that Ali Al-Saachez’s return in the second season was quite unnecessary, since he represents Neil’s inability to let go of the past. This makes sense from a narrative standpoint, but I imagine that positive fan reaction to Ali Al-Saachez and Keiji Fujiwara’s excellent performance meant writers brought him back to life. The Arche is a highly customised machine for aggressive close quarters combat, enhancing the Zwei’s loadout further for Ali Al-Saachez’s fighting style. Lyle and Allelujah later arrive to back up Setsuna and Tieria, and Setsuna explains he was once in the terror cell that killed the Dylandys.

  • Lyle is disinterested in revenge, and instead, his biggest struggle is internal: he strives to set himself apart from Neil. After eluding an A-LAWS patrol, the Ptolemaios II returns to space and a hidden Celestial Being facility to pick up new crew and the 0 Raiser, a support unit meant to bring out the 00 Gundam’s true power. Meanwhile, the A-LAWS test an orbital laser called the Memento Mori, wiping out a Middle Eastern nation called Suille. The series really began to pick up here, and from this point on, it’s a non-stop ride to the end as Celestial Being squares off against the Innovades. However, at around this time, blogger “Dark Mirage” took it upon himself to proclaim Gundam 00 as the worst series of the franchise, more interested in selling models than telling an “authentic and mature” story by incorporating period events. He thus announced his intention to drop the series for the reason, and I quote, “due to real-life circumstances unrelated to World of Warcraft“.

  • What Dark Mirage had failed to understand about Gundam 00‘s second season was that, after Celestial Being had united the world, they created a simpler dynamic where things were more black and white. This is why the so-called geopolitical paradigm is simplified: the world has become simultaneously simpler to deal with (fewer in-fighting factions) and more complex to address (shadowy benefactors manipulating things behind the scenes). Dark Mirage was a bit of a famous blogger a decade earlier, widely respected for posting frequently about wide range of anime and was envied by many. Dark Mirage’s comments sections certainly gives the sense that many treated his word as gospel: after Dark Mirage announced his intention to drop the series, numerous people praised his decision and decided to follow suit. Why people would follow suit when someone popular does something remains a mystery to me, and while I constantly remind viewers to always make their own judgment, I can remark that this is a problem I’ve never had with my readers because this blog was nowhere near as popular as Dark Mirage’s.

  • While Dark Mirage gave the impression that he was an extraordinary writer with unparalleled insight into most everything, I found this to be quite untrue. Dark Mirage’s writing style was impeded by a jarring combination of elitism combined with self-deprecating humour, and his ramblings always came across as immature rather than helpful. Particularly egregious was a post about his declining some scholarship in a long-winded post because he did not intend to enter civil service (which is what the scholarship was for). This came across as a fine display of ostentation, making a seemingly self-critical statement that was actually meant to highlight how brilliant he was. Dark Mirage took similar tones towards Gundam 00, claiming that “[Gundam 00] is not going to suck just because I say that it sucks. It will suck on its own merits. There’s no need to argue about it on this blog because I am not the authoritative voice on anything”, implying that he was indeed the authoritative voice on things. Back in Gundam 00, following the Memento Mori’s test shot, Tieria finally makes the revelation that he isn’t a human, and instead, is an Innovade, specially made to interface with VEDA and carry out functions to assist Aeolia Schenberg’s plans.

  • Dark Mirage ended up being wrong about virtually every aspect of Gundam 00‘s second season: Memento Mori represented the extent of the A-LAWS and Innovade’s desire to rule the world, and it is not a single-shot weapon, instead, being able to fire multiple times on both surface and space-based targets. The existence of such a weapon spurs Celestial Being into action, but with A-LAWS and Innovade forces closing on their base, Celestial Being takes a gamble on the 0 Raiser. After Ian is injured when one of the Innovades fires on the Ptolemaios, Saji decides to deliver the craft to Setsuna instead: while Saji had been vehemently opposed to any operation where there were human opponents, he begins to take on a more active desire to help keep those around him safe.

  • Once the 0 Raiser reaches 00 Gundam, Setsuna initiates the docking sequence, and with the stablising gear connected, the 00 Gundam’s Twin Drive system finally works at full power on the battlefield. The docking sequence brings to mind how the Strike Gundam’s striker packs could be switched out mid-battle, as well as how Tony Stark’s Mark VII suit could automatically adjust itself to be equipped. With the GN Drives now reading maximum output, the 00 Gundam’s true potential is brought out: until now, Setsuna had really been fighting with a Gundam that only slightly surpassed the Exia in terms of combat effectiveness.

  • Setsuna’s first kill with the 00 Raiser is on Barack Zinin, the Ahead pilot who’d totally wasted the Exia during the first episode. Barack’s story is a bit of a tragic one: he joined the A-LAWS to keep the peace after his wife died to a Katharon attack and genuinely believes in his assignment, but in the end, this conviction amounted to nothing of note: the 00 Raiser gains such a considerable boost in performance that Setsuna is able to fly around the asteroid and emerge behind him for the kill. Once Barack is downed, Setsuna single-handedly destroys Bring Stability and Revive Revival’s mobile suits with ease, taking Ribbons by surprise.

  • The Innovades are forced to retreat, taken aback at their defeat, and the Gundam Meisters set off to destroy Memento Mori. A Katharon fleet is already on the attack, but lack the firepower to breach the A-LAWS defensive fleet. They begin taking losses from the Memento Mori and A-LAWS’ combined firepower, but Setsuna arrives ahead of the Ptolemaios to assist them. In return, Katharon sends Setsuna what data they have on the satellite weapon. This episode remains one of my favourite Gundam episodes ever, being reminiscent of the Rebel Alliance’s assault on the Death Start in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

  • As Setsuna mops up A-LAWS mobile suits and fights Hiling Care to a stand still, the Ptolemaios II arrives on station, travelling along the orbital ring to avoid the Memento Mori’s beam. This operation gave Lockon a chance to shine, as he’s tasked with targetting the optical resonator that regulates the weapon’s power supply. This also marks the first time that Cherudim deploys its shield bits, remote shields that also possess beam guns that make them highly versatile in offensive and defensive roles. Lockon counts on the on-board Haro to manage these, using them to great effect.

  • Once Memento Mori is destroyed, an unknown mobile armour attacks the Ptolemaios II and forces it to surface. From here, Setsuna is separated from the crew. He encounters Ribbons face-to-face for the first time and learns that Ribbons was the 0 Gundam’s original pilot, before very nearly killing Ali Al-Saachez in a fight shortly after. Meanwhile, the Ptolemaios receives assistance from Katharon and sets about defending themselves from yet another A-LAWS assault. However, the situation quickly changes when Pang Hercury, one of Sergei Smirnov’s friends, directs a coup d’etat and seizes control of the Africa Tower.

  • While it seemed little more than a detour at the time, the Africa Tower Coup represents the first time where those in the government express their discontent with the Earth Federation’s decisions and actions. In a manner reminiscent of Gundam 00‘s first season, the coup demonstrates the fact that warfare and conflict exists in shades of grey rather than the black-and-white Celestial Being versus A-LAWS fight. Pang’s rationale is to demonstrate to the world what the A-LAWS have been doing. To cover up the incident, the A-LAWS authorise a strike on the tower, and despite the 00 Raiser’s power, Celestial Being are unable to stop the Memento Mori from firing on the tower, causing it to purge its outer walls as as safety measure.

  • As the tower begins discarding its layers, the Katharon, Federation and A-LAWS forces work together to prevent civilian casualties on the surface. In the aftermath, Andrei Smirnov, Sergei’s son, kills both Pang and Andrei, holding his father responsible for his mother’s death years earlier. These deaths cause Marie to revert back to her Soma personality. Four months after the incident, dubbed “Pillar Break”, the A-LAWS’ hold over the world tightens, and Celestial Being destroys the second Memento Mori. However, their latest crew member, Anew Returner, is an Innovade and has inadvertently been broadcasting the Ptolemaios’ location to Ribbons.

  • Anew Returner’s story seemed quite tangential to Gundam 00, but in retrospect, it was meant to show that in the absence of bias and prejudice, different people could get along with one another to the extent where they might fall in love. Lyle, being much more open-minded and future-oriented than Neil, develops a relationship with Anew, and even after learning that she’s an Innovade, same as Ribbons and the others, declares that the labels are meaningless. Unfortunately, Anew is still susceptible to being hijacked by Ribbons, and on his overriding orders, returns to him after helping Revive steal the 0 Raiser.

  • Despite shooting up the 0 Raiser’s cockpit, Revive does little to stop Celestial Being: Ian swiftly replaces the unit and has the 00 Raiser ready to deal with the Innovade’s next assault on the Ptolemaios. During this fight, Setsuna helps Saji to reunite with Louise using the 00 Raiser’s quantum field, creating conflict in Louise – while she’d been a steadfast believer of the A-LAWS, seeing Saji again causes her to break down.

  • Lockon ends up duelling Anew and defeats her Gaddess, a mobile suit following the Gaddessa and Garrazzo in design. The Gaddess uses a heat blade and funnels as its primary weapons, being the polar opposite of the Cherudim’s emphasis on long-range combat. For the briefest of moments, Anew returns to her old self and consents to return to Lockon’s side. However, Ribbons takes over at the last second and has Anew nearly killing Lockon, until Setsuna snipes her. With the 00 Raiser’s quantum field, Lockon and Anew share one last moment together, affirming their love for one another, before Anew’s Gaddess explodes. While Lockon is grief-stricken and beats up Setsuna in the aftermath, Setsuna later confides in Saji, indicating that his gut told him there was no other way to save Lockon.

  • With Sumeragi’s plans to take back VEDA, help comes unexpectedly from Wang Liu Mei: desiring change to the world at all costs, she states that she’ll sacrifice anyone to achieve her ends, and compared to her composed self in the first season, Wang appears much more worn by the second season, sporting bangs under her eyes by the time she meets with Setsuna to hand him the coordinates to VEDA. Wang subsequently dies when Nena shoots down her transport, and Nena herself is killed by Louise’s new mobile armour, the Regnant. While the Regnant is powerful enough to match a Gundam in combat, Setsuna’s own skill at a pilot allows him to drive it off in their first encounter. Nena is not so fortunate: Louise uses the Regnant’s power to brutally kill her.

  • While Louise’s appearance is a cause for concern, Setsuna and Saji have a larger problem on their hands when Graham Aker appears, his heart set on duelling Setsuna. Without another way out, Setsuna reluctantly agrees to fight Graham, and the two engage their respective suit’s Trans-Am systems. Billy Katagiri had independently developed Trans-Am using Professor Eifman’s research: he installed the system to Graham’s Masurao, later redubbed the Susanowo. Modelled after the Flag, this purely-melee focused mobile suit boasts unmatched speed and ferocity for close-quarters combat, being a match for Setsuna and the 00 Raiser. As GN particles flood the battlefield from their duel, Setsuna and Graham enter a quantum field, where Setsuna realises that this combat is leading to unprecedented changes in the future related to Aeolia Schenberg’s plans.

  • Awakening fully as an Innovator, Setsuna disables Graham’s Susanowo and implores him to live on before heading off. Setsuna’s found the meaning in his fight now, believing that Aeolia’s plan had been about seeing humanity unite and evolve so that they could handle something that was cryptically called “the coming dialogues”. Graham is left to wonder about the nature of his opponent, and contemplates seppuku, but recalling Setsuna’s advice, that one can only fight by being alive, renounces his decisions and pursues a new path in his life.

  • Celestial Being’s final operation against Ribbons is of a hitherto unseen scale: their plan is to first smash through a massive A-LAWS fleet guarding the coordinates where VEDA is supposed to be located. By this point in Gundam 00, everyone’s got their own reasons for stepping onto the battlefield, whether it’s for the sake of a better world, protecting those they love, fighting for the memories of those fallen or securing a path into the future. The preparations for this final sortie is inset with Unlimited Sky by Tommy Heavenly6, who also performed the first season’s opening song, Ash Like Snow. Both seasons of Gundam 00 have an inset song with a youthful vibe: the first season had the Ptolemaios crew and Gundam Meisters bond while Taja’s Love Today was playing.

  • Feldt’s feelings for Setsuna came a little out of left field for me when I’d first watched Gundam 00, but in retrospect, seeing Setsuna becoming increasingly open and fighting for the future would’ve doubtlessly made him inspirational. Prior to their launch, Feldt gives Setsuna a flower that he carries into his final battle. For Setsuna, the strength of these feelings would have him associate flowers with peace and life. While Feldt wonders if Marina might disapprove, Setsuna remarks they aren’t romantically involved.

  • Once the Gundams sortie, they begin making quick work of the A-LAWS fleet. The combat sequences are jaw-dropping, and even after the A-LAWS deploy a gas disrupting particle beams, the arrival of Katharon and Federation forces led by Kati keep the A-LAWS on the back-foot. Setsuna ends up firing a blast from the 00 Raiser that kills Arthur Goodman, sending the A-LAWS fleet into disarray. At this point, Ribbons finally reveals himself, firing a massive particle beam that neutralises the remainder of the A-LAWS. While thrilling, static images cannot capture the battle, so I’ve opted to only showcase the absolute highlights from Gundam 00‘s second season for the remainder of this post.

  • Once the Celestial Being space colony is revealed, the Ptolemaios pushes to close the distance and land so that they can secure VEDA. Ribbons deploys a vast swarm of Gagas, a mass-production mobile suit lacking any legs. For me, this was probably the weakest aspect of Gundam 00, showing the enemy as being incompetent to the point of wasting resources on manned suicide units: cruise missiles equipped with a GN Tau Drive set to self-destruct would be more useful at this point. This perhaps speaks to the Innovade’s desperation in holding onto power even as the tide turns against them, and indeed, even though the Innovades’ mobile suits are upgraded, they simply lack the resolve to fight Celestial Being.

  • Despite being shot down, Tieria eventually manages to make his way to VEDA’s core. Ribbons kills Tieria’s physical body, but not before he and Regene Regetta merge their consciousness to become a part of VEDA itself. While Regene had been presented as a traitorous double agent, it turns out his plans align completely with Aeolia’s, and it is only his ego that leads him to comment how his goals are original. Ultimately, Regene and Tieria remain completely faithful to Aeolia’s plan, and Tieria finally has access to the most secure data in VEDA. Here, he learns that Aeolia’s plan had been to prepare humanity for “the coming dialogues”, contact with extraterrestrial life.

  • Setsuna, meanwhile, helps Saji to recover Louise. Fighting to neither kill or maim, Setsuna stops the Regnant while Saji opens fire on the Gagas, marking the first time he’s pulled the trigger of his own volition. Saji is able to pull Louise from the damaged Regnant and brings her to a dock inside the colony, where her conflicting programming causes her to try to kill Saji. Meanwhile, combat outside forces Setsuna into a corner, and in desperation, he taps into the 00 Raiser’s true power: the Trans-Am Burst system saturates the battlefield with GN Particles, forcing the Innovades to back off and filling the protagonists with a newfound resolve to win. Lockon had engaged Ali Al-SAachez deep in the bowels of the space station, and while outmatched, begins gaining the upper hand. Meanwhile, Allelujah defends Marie after she’s knocked out, and when she comes to, she forgives Andrei for his actions after he expresses remorse.

  • Sumeragi and Billy had been within moments from shooting one another, and after the quantum field allows the pair to reconcile, they fight off the automaton threatening the Ptolemaios’ bridge. Louise and Saji also embrace after the quantum field heals her. Trans-Am Burst creates an environment similar to the Universal Century’s psychofield, converting willpower into something tangible. Setsuna uses this to heal the combatants and help them reach an understanding with one another. The output from the 00 Raiser is impressive, allowing Setsuna to single-handedly turn everyone around in a moment that equals a scene in Char’s Counterattack where Amuro Ray and Char Aznable’s psychoframes resonated to push Axis away from Earth.

  • Tieria, meanwhile, activates the Trial Field on the Seraphim Gundam remotely, shutting down the remainder of the VEDA-connected suits, bringing the battle to a close. This includes Ali Al-Saachez’s Arche, which Lockon subsequently destroys. While Ali Al-Saachez attempts to flee, Lockon stops him, but gives him a chance at redemption. Being irredeemable, Ali Al-Saachez attempts to shoot Lockon and is met with a bullet to the face, the ghost of his last laugh written all over his face. Lyle is uninterested in revenge, and his defeating Ali Al-Saachez was probably meant to show that clearing up the past can only be done if one is motivated by something beyond vengeance.

  • Gundam 00 wraps up with Ribbons sortieing onto the battlefield himself, shooting down the Seraphim before facing off against Setsuna. The resulting battle was one of the best-choreographed I’ve seen, and while Setsuna’s 00 Raiser is still recharging from using Trans-Am Burst, Setsuna nonetheless manages to hold on long enough to gain a sense of Ribbons’ combat style. During this final fight, the ball was in Ribbons’ court the entire time: his Reborns Gundam is fully charged at the onset and Ribbons has been watching Setsuna long enough to know the latter’s fighting style. This is why early in the battle, Setsuna has no answers to the Reborns Gundam and its seemingly overwhelming performance.

  • The final fight in Gundam 00 was well-done to the point where forum-goers spent over three quarters of the year analysing whether or not the Reborns was a superior Gundam to the 00 Raiser, attesting to how much discussion can be had when an anime gives people the materials to go off of. Thoughts from fizzmaister and GN0010 Nosferatu suggested that the Reborns was the better machine: their arguments were that the Reborns had a proper Twin Drive System, a more versatile arsenal and didn’t require an external craft like 0 Raiser to operate. SonicSP added that the performance seen in Gundam 00 should make it clear that mechanically, the Reborns is superior to the 00 Raiser in every way. While I agree that the Reborns has a better loadout for combat, we only had Ribbons’ word to go on at the time about his having a Twin Drive System. As it turns out, the limitations of a Twin Drive System using GN Tau Drives are given by documentation, which states that a Twin Drive System with GN Tau Drives, while impressive, is still vastly inferior to a system with genuine GN Drives. As such, while perhaps a feat of engineering capable of performing in a wide range of operations, the Reborns doesn’t have any access to new technology that gives it a complete edge over the 00 Raiser.

  • While Ribbons and Setsuna fight, Hallelujah and Hiling fight. Having now accepted Hallelujah as a part of himself, Allelujah is able to completely dominate the fight, destroying Hiling’s Garrazzo after tearing out her escape pod. However, Allelujah has very little experience fighting against funnels, and is promptly knocked out of the battle afterwards. This was a particularly impressive fight, during which Hallelujah calls out Hiling for being overly dependent on VEDA: while the Innovades are formidable pilots, VEDA or no, they used VEDA’s support to provide intelligence that greatly assisted them.

  • Lockon, on the other hand, is outmatched: unlike his Cherudim, which suffered extensive damage in Lockon’s fight against the Arche, the Gaddessa is still in great shape. However, shaken by Setsuna’s power and stubbornly insisting on his own superiority, Revive dies after Lockon feigns defeat, only to engage Trans-Am and get behind the Gaddessa, subsequently blasting it into oblivion and taking Revive out in the process. Lockon’s final words after defeating Revive is that this is what Celestial Being is about, affirming the fact that is allegiance and loyalties lie with the organisation, implying that Lyle’s accepted the idea about fighting for the future even when one has sustained loss in the past. In this way, Lyle succeeded in differentiating himself from Neil in that he is able to let go of the past, which is something that the latter could not do.

  • As such, I am not convinced that the Reborns is outright better than the 00 Raiser. 00 Raiser’s greater endurance and mobility means that a pilot who could outlast the Reborns would be at an advantage. Setsuna has the skill to do so, but had already exhausted the 00 Raiser’s power earlier: he wasn’t fighting at his best. Indeed, when all of the factors come into play, the Reborns Gundam draws with the 00 Raiser: I note that while both are capable of going toe-to-toe in a one-on-one situation, the Reborns was built with heavy combat in mind, and it was Ribbons’ knowledge of Setsuna’s fighting style that initially gave Setsuna a hard time. Once Setsuna began seeing patterns to Ribbons’ fighting style and the 00 Raiser had begun recharging, he was fighting on a much more even footing, critically damaging the Reborns by using the 00 Raiser’s ability to quantise (in this context, teleport). However, because of the lag the 00 Raiser experiences after exiting quantisation, Ribbons manages to sever a GN Drive.

  • Both Ribbons and Setsuna continue fighting in their original Gundams, respectively, the 0 Gundam and Exia. Without the powers conferred by the Twin Drive System, it’s a back-to-the-basics fight where Setsuna is completely on the offensive; Ribbons doesn’t even land a hit in until Setsuna cuts the cockpit hatch, giving Ribbons an opening. Overall, Setsuna’s powers as an Innovator, and his piloting, surpasses Ribbons’. Here, I will note that while I disagree with SonicSP, fizzmaister and GN0010 Nosferatu, they put a respectable amount of effort into their explanations so that I can understand where they are coming from. Back then, forum-goers spent a considerable amount of effort explaining themselves, and so, even if their speculations proved completely wrong by the events of A Wakening of The Trailblazer, it was nice to follow their train of thought for how they reached their conclusions. My best friend and I similarly speculated about GN Drives and the tech, but similarly ate crow after more information was released. However, rather than being a matter of right or wrong, we found that these discussions were always fun, since they allowed us to simply explore whatever directions were appropriate.

  • Indeed, going back and reading Gundam 00 discussions and speculation now was generally quite enjoyable an experience because of this level of effort. Gundam 00 has aged remarkably well, and even now, the anime still looks amazing, with fight scenes that are comparable to those of contemporary Gundam series. Since Gundam 00, I hold that besides Gundam Build Fighters, there have been no real worthy Alternate Universe Gundam series – the only Gundam projects of note that I enjoyed since 00 were Gundam UnicornGundam: The Origin and Gundam Narrative. Similarly, I am looking forwards to Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash. All of these share the commonality in that they’re set in the Universal Century, the original Gundam timeline.

  • After Setsuna defeats Ribbons, he returns to Celestial Being and promises to keep an eye on the world. When the second season ended, the end of the episode showed five lights emerging from Jupiter and the enigmatic text, “Mission Incomplete”. Shortly after, A Wakening of The Trailblazer was announced, and I remember that the wait for this movie was excruciating: during the summer of 2010, I remember listening to Uverworld’s CHANGE constantly and watching the trailers featuring the new Gundams almost non-stop. A Wakening of The Trailblazer would release in September 2010, and in a rare move for an anime movie, saw a home release a mere three months later, in December 2010. Gundam has always been excellent about release timeframes.

  • Both Gundam 00‘s seasons are an A+ for me, having introduced me to anime, and showing what was possible within the medium. Having taken my best friend’s recommendation, I became a fan of anime, and Gundam 00 is where everything began: we spent countless hours speculating and discussing things offline, and I think for said friend, it must’ve been a breath of fresh air to finally have someone to talk to about Gundam to the depth he was looking for. Today, upon realising the impact Gundam 00 had on me (reading blog posts and forum discussions on Gundam 00 led me to start my own website and blog), I’ve made the call to begin watching Gundam SEED, as well – my best friend finds it a superb series, and Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime has also expressed a wish for me to check it out. Since Hathaway’s Flash is still a ways out, I am more than happy to oblige. At present, I am halfway through Gundam SEED and will look at writing about my experiences in the near future before continuing onwards: I am greatly enjoying the series thus far and look forwards to where it is headed.

Despite possessing a more straightforward, cut-and-dried story in its second season, Gundam 00 continued to impress as its predecessor did from a thematic and visual perspective; fights are much larger in scale in the second season to really convey the scope of the battles (and by extension, what the stakes were every time Setsuna and his team sortied). One-on-one battles were also captivating to watch, being more fluid than even those of the first season (especially now that mobile suit technology has advanced so dramatically compared to the more primitive suits seen in the first season). I especially had fun watching the attack on Momento Mori, which feels like one long love song to the iconic Death Star run in Star Wars, as well as the final fight between Setsuna and Ribbons, which was one of the earliest instances of characters reverting to their original mobile suits for a showdown. The second season was generally solid: there are a few decisions that felt a little questionable, including Graham Aker’s appearance as the masked Mister Bushido, and the fact Ali Al-Saachez was brought back purely to be an antagonist for Lyle, who had already made it clear he wanted to differentiate himself from Neil early on in the season. Beyond this, however, the second season continued on as its predecessor did: while it may not present the same political intrigue as the first season, or any of the mystery behind the Gundams themselves, Gundam 00‘s second season did excel in many areas, acting to decisively clear up lingering questions from the first season and bringing closure to a world whose problems could finally be addressed by diplomatic means rather than force. The second season was a conclusive end to Gundam 00‘s television run, setting the stage for A Wakening of The Trailblazer, where the unified world faces a new challenge in the form of extraterrestrial life in a first for the Gundam franchise. Since Gundam 00 ended, there’ve not been any full-length Gundam series that have had any of the same political relevance and technological depth – I’d love to see another Gundam series with fifty to a hundred episodes and really flesh things out in a similar fashion. With that being said, there have been some excellent Gundam series over the years, with Gundam Unicorn, Gundam Origin, Gundam Thunderbolt and Gundam Build Fighters acting to fill the void, and Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash is supposed to continue on with the Universal Century story later this year. In the meantime, it’s been a fantastic experience to revisit Gundam 00: besides being my first Gundam ever, Gundam 00 also holds the distinction of being the first anime series I’d ever watched in full, so returning to consider the magic behind Gundam 00 on the twelfth and thirteenth anniversaries of its finales airing (for seasons two and one, respectively) was a very pleasant trip down memory lane.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A Review and Reflection, Remarks on Changing the World and The Price of Victory

Why our world is so terminally distorted?
Where did this distortion come from?
Why are there people who are unconsciously evil?
Why do they not realize that their evil hurts others?
Why is humanity an existence that only conflicts with itself?
Why are there people to rule, and those who are ruled?
Why do we wound each other?
In spite of all this, why do people go on living like they do?

–Setsuna F. Seiei

In the year 2307, the world has constructed three massive space elevators linked to an orbital solar array to address the growing demand for sustainable energy. These constructions demanded feats of engineering hitherto unseen, and the world unified around three power blocs: the Union of Solar Energy and Free Nations, Advanced European Union and the Human Reform League. While these blocs greatly benefitted from an nearly inexhaustible energy supply, nations unable to purchase access and sell fossil fuels fell into chaos. Amidst this changed world comes Celestial Being, a paramilitary organisation that claims to eradicate warfare. Armed with the highly advanced Gundam mobile suits, Celestial Being conducts armed intervention around the world, asssisted by their quantum computer, VEDA; Gundam pilot Setsuna F. Seiei had been a former child soldier and was selected to be a pilot. As he fights along the easygoing Lockon Stratos, rational and kind Allelujah Haptism and the serious, no-nonsense Tieria Erde, Setsuna realises that there is a greater meaning to what Celestial Being is doing. While the world is initially overwhelmed by the Gundam’s power and devise operations to capture the Gundams for research, Celestial Being members Alejandro Corner and his shadowy assistant, Ribbons Almark, deploys the Gundam Thrones, a group of pilots with a much more aggressive approach. They also leak the technology powering the Gundams to the world powers. With public opinion turning against Celestial Being, and the prospect of being able to fight the Gundams becoming more feasible, the world’s governments create joint task force between all of the blocs, unifying with the shared goal of crushing Celestial Being. Alejandro and Ribbons end up hacking into VEDA and seizes control of the system, leaving the Gundam Meisters at a huge disadvantage. During the combat, Lockon is killed, Allelujah is captured and Setsuna goes missing after defeating both Corner and the Union’s ace pilot, Graham Aker. In the aftermath, the world unifies under a single banner. Gundam 00 began airing during the fall season of 2007 and ran for a total of twenty five episodes. During its run, it became widely acclaimed for its portrayal of contemporary politics and the world’s reaction to the appearance seemingly unstoppable weapons whose operators claim to be fighting for peace. Gundam 00 was also notable for being the first Gundam series to be animated in native HD resolutions: compared to its predecessors, Gundam 00 featured incredibly fluid combat sequences and jaw-dropping visuals.

During its run, Gundam 00 had never been subtle about its themes: the idea of changing the world and acting on one’s own free will dominate the series. The Gundam Meisters each have their own reasons for stepping into their machine’s cockpit and challenging the world’s evils, as do the pilots for each of the Blocs and third parties. Whether it be for something larger than oneself, for money, glory or pushing one’s skill to the limit, each of the named pilots have a reason to be on the battlefield. However, protagonist Setsuna F. Seiei is different: while he initially fights to change the world and atone for his past sins, as he continues to pilot his Gundam, Exia, Setsuna becomes increasingly convinced that there must be something beyond fighting that makes his efforts meaningful. Indeed, he spends much of Gundam 00‘s second half pursing the meaning behind his actions, and comes to conclude that there are things in the world worth protecting beyond oneself, firmly setting himself apart from his foes, who fight for more selfish reasons. However, beyond the more obvious themes in Gundam 00 lie a very clever and thoughtful commentary on activism. The reason why contemporary politics figured so heavily is because Celestial Being’s interventions and actions can be seen as those conducted by activists, motivated by an ideal and a vision for the world. However, Celestial Being’s success in capturing the world’s attention can be attributed to their technology: the world has no answer for the Gundams initially, and can only watch as Celestial Being carried out its armed interventions. Activism today similarly depends on using technology to reach people in powerful ways and keep a step ahead of those who seek to suppress or silence a movement: social media platforms have become a means of swiftly rallying people. Much as how a Gundam represents overwhelming force, social media has similarly been a game changer, suggesting that it is by using the latest, mature technologies effectively that people can begin changing the world, reaching out to and inspiring people to rally behind a shared goal.

However, technology can be used for both great good and great evil. If Celestial Being represents the activists who are responsible and self-aware, then the Trinities, Alejandro Corner and Ribbons Almark would be the radical extremists and self-serving individuals who view a cause as justification for sowing chaos in the world or advancing one’s own ambitions. While Setsuna and his team usually aimed to disable enemy mobile suits and did only the minimum amount of damage needed to accomplish their aims, the Trinities are seen using extremely brutal methods, completely annihilating bases and leaving no survivors. Meanwhile, Alejandro is disinterested in the politics merely seeks to rule the world, unconcerned with how much devastation occurs so as long as he attained what he desired. Unlike Setsuna and the other Meisters, who constantly are aware of what they’re doing is wrong but feel they are a necessary evil to bring about positive change in the world, the other factions relish in destruction and suffering. It is therefore unsurprising that Michael and Johann Trinity are killed, while Alejandro himself dies at Setsuna’s hands after a joint operation to destroy the Gundams is conducted. Gundam 00 speaks to the idea that in activism, there must always be a modicum of self-awareness; those who lack commitment to a cause’s true tenants can easily be led astray and be manipulated by others, bringing about their own destruction. The Trinity siblings were convinced wholesale slaughter was appropriate and ironically died at the hands of Ali Al-Saachez, a cold-bloded murderer, while Alejandro, blinded by his ambitions, failed to see that Ribbons had architected his demise from the start. Conversely, Setsuna and Allelujah, who continue to question what they’re fighting for and wonder if their own destruction is a part of the plan, eventually coming to realise that fighting for survival, to live, is also something important. In this sense, there is no point in giving one’s life up for a cause needlessly, regardless of how strong one’s convictions are. With its progression and outcomes, Gundam 00 thus suggests that in activism, radical thoughts and selfish motivations lead one along a path of self-destruction. Further to this, Gundam 00 indicates that there will inevitably come a point when one’s convictions and commitment to a cause will be tested; during this point, it becomes clear that as long as one knowing where to draw the line and live to fight another day will be beneficial both for the individual, organisation and their cause.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Gundam 00 was the first anime series I’d watched in full – I had finished Ah! My Goddess: The Movie a few months earlier with my school’s anime club and was hooked, but back in those days, options were limited, and I never did get around to continuing with Ah! My Goddess. When Gundam 00 began airing, I was mildly interested, but as the season continued, I became increasingly engrossed with everything, from the narrative to the fight scenes. The series opens in the war-torn country of Krugis, where a boy sprints through a battlefield. This boy is Soran Ibrahim, a child soldier who would become Setsuna F. Seiei, a Gundam Meister for Celestial Being. The fateful meeting here between Soran and the 0 Gundam would change the course of his life forever.

  • To Soran, the arrival of a Gundam would change his world views forever, and the Gundam itself would come to symbolise a tool for salvation and represent hope itself. In every Gundam series, the eponymous machines possess a unique meaning, coming to be a metaphor for peace, possibility and power. Each Gundam series defines a Gundam differently. Universal Century Gundams were originally named because they were composed of a special alloy that rendered them much more durable than common mobile suits of the time (and later, any machine derived directly off the RX-78 II). Gundam Wing‘s Gundams were similarly named after their armour’s composition. In the Cosmic Era, Gundam is an acronym formed by a mobile suit’s operating system. The Anno Domini timeline presents Gundams as mobile suits equipped with a GN Drive, a special reactor that uses the products of particle decay to produce energy.

  • When they were first introduced, Gundams in Anno Domini are an unstoppable terror for the world’s militaries, who have no answers for their technological superiority. After a successful first intervention against the AEU’s Enact, Setsuna and the Exia soar into the skies to deal with an attacking AEU Helion squadron. For me, this was the magic moment in Gundam 00 – I remember that on the day I first watched this episode, my school had some HVAC problems that required afternoon classes be suspended while mechanical teams sorted things out. I thus went home, and after finishing off a project for German class, picked up the first episode.

  • In those days, anime wasn’t anywhere nearly as accessible as it was now, and the technology wasn’t quite up to the task, so I remember having trouble keeping up with Gundam 00 during its earlier episodes, rather similarly to how early in the season, Celestial Being is able to carry out armed interventions without any resistance. Setsuna fights Union pilot Graham Aker for the first time here – unlike Patrick Colasour, who was defeated in seconds, Graham puts up a much better fight. Setsuna later continues on with a mop-up operation in the Ceylon Islands and faces Sergei Smirnov for the first time.

  • Saji Crossroad and Louise Halevy initially feel like tangential parts to Gundam 00 – their dynamics and everyday life feel more akin to that of a romance comedy than a military story, but as the series progress, their presence now is to provide grounding as to how ordinary people might handle the appearance of something like Gundam. A part of the dramatic irony presented is that, despite Setsuna and Saji being neighbours, Setsuna is careful never to disclose his secrets, leaving him a bit of a mystery for Saji and Louise.

  • Besides the four Gundam Meisters, Celestial Being’s active crew include tactician and de facto commander Sumeragi Lee Noriega (completely unrelated to a certain onee-sama who troubled the military moé and forums some years later), engineer Feldt Grace and communications officer Christina Sierra, as well as helmsmen Lichtendahl Tsery and Lasse Aeon. These individuals operate the Ptolemaios, Celestial Being’s transport ship, providing transport for the Gundams and act as a mobile home of sorts for the pilots while they operate in space. Here, Feldt and Christina manage an armed intervention in Moralia while Sumeragi oversees them.

  • For this mini-series on Gundam 00, I’ve pulled my screenshots from the Special Edition, which enhanced a few of the fight scenes. Lockon was given the biggest boost: when he engages Helion squadrons, he and the Dynames, a Gundam specialised for long-range combat, really gets to demonstrate the Dynames’ capabilities. Using both the beam sniper and pistols, Lockon decimates entire squadrons with impunity in high-speed combat that demonstrates that, despite his preference for long-range combat, he is able to do well in close quarters, as well.

  • After the Exia, the Dynames is my second favourite of the third-generation Gundams: its typical loadout includes a beam sniper rifle with optics linked to a special camera mounted on the Gundam’s forehead, and for intermediate ranges, Dynames wields a pair of beam pistols. Dynames also possesses a pair of beam sabres and special missiles for special applications. When picking off distant foes, Lockon has access to a special gun controller, although the beam sniper rifle can be fired as a normal rifle, as well. Both Exia and Dynames share similarities in their frame design, featuring a glowing chest-piece and the iconic cone-shaped vernier for their GN Drives.

  • Exia, Setsuna’s Gundam, is specialised for close quarters engagements, and to this end, is equipped with seven swords: the GN sword is a large, bladed weapon that can fold to expose a beam rifle, and the Exia also equips two GN blades which are capable of defeating a GN Field, as well as four beam sabres. As a last-ditch weapon, the Exia has a pair of beam vulcans mounted in its forearms. For defensive purposes, the Exia also carries a shield into battle. Of the Gundams, the Exia has demonstrated the most agility in its movement; Setsuna uses the Exia’s power to effortlessly destroy and disable lesser mobile suits.

  • The Universal Century and Cosmic Era treated Gundam as experimental prototypes that could tip the outcome of battle when deployed properly, but were otherwise constrained by operational limits like battery life. By comparison, Anno Domini follows in After Colony’s approach: Gundams are immensely powerful, and their appearance is what brings about a change in the world. Early in Gundam 00, the Gundams that Celestial Being deploys are fully operational and do not appear to possess any weaknesses: the pilots that fight them quickly become terrified of their presence, and the anime takes the effort of portraying this to viewers.

  • However, while the Gundams are extraordinary machines, they are limited by their pilots. Against exceptional foes, it is only the Gundams’ abilities allow the Meisters to escape a bad situation unscathed. In the Moralian conflict, Setsuna comes face-to-face with an Enact pilot who seems able to read his every move. Celestial Being’s intervention in Moralia had been to take out the PMC Trust, a cabal of private military companies that offered military services to other nations for a fee. They’d been interested in capturing a Gundam, but when the tide of battle turns against them, they quickly surrender and are eventually folded into the AEU.

  • Ali Al-Saachez is one of the most interesting characters in the whole of Gundam 00: the antithesis to Setsuna, Ali Al-Saachez believes that warfare and profiting off chaos is the only way to live. Besides being an impressive pilot capable of fighting Gundams to a standstill in common mobile suits, Ali Al-Saachez is also a skillful tactician in his own right and is an expert with social engineering. It turns out that Ali Al-Saachez had brainwashed a group of children to join the KPSA, including Setsuna, and since then, Setsuna has renounced his religious teachings, intent on atoning for his past sins.

  • While the Gundam Meisters are united by their conviction in ending warfare, they do not always see eye-to-eye: after Setsuna exits his cockpit mid-operation, Tieria Erde threatens to shoot him here and now for having nearly compromised Celestial Being. One of the aspects about Gundam 00 I particularly liked was seeing the Meisters become closer to and more trusting of one another as the series progressed: their shared experiences and burdens means that the world has foresaken them, but they begin to understand that everyone’s in things together. Indeed, when Allelujah and Lockon both face their respective challenges, the previously unsympathetic Tieria begins to understand why they’re acting as they are.

  • In the aftermath of the Moralian conflict, the HRL develops a keen interest in capturing a Gundam and reverse-engineering Celestial Being’s secrets. Of the blocs, the HRL is the furthest behind in terms of military technology; their mobile suits are comparatively primitive, being based on the lumbering main battle tanks rather than the other blocs’ air superiority fighter designs. The design principles here stem from the fact that the HRL values reliability, and while the HRL is said to be developing a successor to their Tieren line of mobile suits, capturing a Gundam would accelerate this process, allowing the HRL to catch up.

  • It was with the HRL’s Operation Gundam Capture that I truly became enraptured by Gundam 00: to facilitate this operation, the HRL deploy a massive grid of communication units and use this to track the Gundams. The intent is to surround the Ptolemiaos and then separate the Gundams, allowing for Tieren teams to then surround, overwhelm and secure the unit. With Sergei Smirnov leading the operation, viewers get an idea of how vast the HRL’s resources are, but also additional insight into how Gundam 00‘s political antagonists are human: Sergei explictly orders his soldiers to be careful with their lives, contrasting leaders who view their subordinates’ lives as expendable.

  • The HRL’s operation marks the first time the Gundams have been given trouble of any sort: Sergei surmises that the Gundams must have limitations, and uses his own resources to offset the Gundams’ power. By creating a distraction and diversion, he is able to split Kyrios and Virtue from the Ptolemiaos. Sumeragi is completely thrown off by this move, and in the ensuing moments, the HRL squadrons, lead by Soma Peries, are able to capture Allelujah and the Kyrios. Meanwhile, Setsuna and Lockon have trouble engaging the space-type Tierens, who are keeping out of range and moving constantly, preventing Setsuna and Lockon from dealing with them at their preferred ranges.

  • The pressures induced by the HRL’s Operation Gundam Capture causes Hallelujah to manifest: unlike Allelujah, Hallelujah (his alternate personality) is sadistic and brutal, relishing death and destruction to almost the same extent as Ali Al-Saachez. After overwhelming Soma, Hallelujah slowly tortures an HRL soldier who’s sacrificed himself to allow Soma and Sergei to escape. It turns out that Allelujah is a failed super soldier from a top-secret HRL programme; that the HRL had been willing to resort to these means to maintain an upper hand over the Union and AEU shows the tragedy of warfare lies in the preparations for war as much as the fighting itself.

  • Meanwhile, Tieria was forced to reveal Nadleeh, the mobile suit concealed underneath the Virtue’s heavy armour. Tieria regards this as a great tactical blunder, as he’d been aiming to keep the Nadleeh secret; benig his first failure with Celestial Being, the incident sets in motion the events that would allow Tieria to be more understanding of his fellow Gundam Meisters and what it meant to be human. When Allelujah proposes destroying the HRL’s super-soldier research facility, VEDA accepts the plan, and Tieria feels that this is an important step for Allelujah, who ends up completing his mission.

  • Soma Peries is Allelujah’s nemesis throughout much of Gundam 00: she’s the single super soldier to have been successful, possessing greatly enhanced reflexes and the ability to use quantum brainwaves. However, while Allelujah’s alternate personality is uncontrollable and violent, Soma retains a very professional sense of restraint in combat. The idea of quantum brainwaves in Gundam 00 foreshadows the idea that humans are capable of evolving to new heights, and indeed, the HRL’s crude experiments do not sound dissimilar to those conducted to create cyber-Newtypes.

  • Once Allelujah ends the HRL’s super soldier program, Gundam 00 shifts its focus over to the nation of Azadistan, a Middle Eastern nation that fell into civil war after Ali Al-Saachez captured Rasa Massoud Rachmadi in the hopes of creating social unrest. While a coup was planned, Celestial Being’s intervention would prevent things from boiling over: in the aftermath, both Princess Marina Ismail and Rasa Massoud Rachmadi would express that they’d work towards mutual peace. Throughout Gundam 00, Marina Ismail would come to become a motherly figure for Setsuna, genuinely interested in his well-being, while Setsuna would see her as someone whose kindness is what the world needs to move past its troubles.

  • As Gundam 00‘s second half began airing, I was able to follow the series more regularly: I’d just upgraded from a beige IBM computer running a 600 MHz processor to a Dell XPS 420 with a 2.4 GHz Quad-Core, and with this machine, I had enough processing power to keep up with Gundam 00. After getting the XPS set up, I thus went back and swiftly caught up with the series with the time that was left during my winter break, and entered the new year ready to follow Gundam 00 with punctuality. The XPS 420 arrived right as Gundam 00 hit its halfway point, which saw Setsuna and Lockon secure Rasa Massoud Rachmadi from Ali Al-Saachez’s clutches.

  • The fight between Setsuna and Ali Al-Saachez was one of my favourite one-on-one fights during Gundam 00‘s first half, really accentuating how far animation had come. Gundam 00‘s predecessor, Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, had been criticised for recycling footage. Gundam 00 only appears to reuse launch sequences in its first season, and together with how fluid and well-choreographed fights were, the animation in Gundam 00 is said to be far ahead of its time to the point where even now, thirteen years later, the series still looks and feels amazing. Having said this, I am now going through Gundam SEED for myself, and I am finding it to be a very enjoyable, well-done series with its own merits.

  • During the course of Gundam 00, Setsuna’s interactions and words with Marina have always left fans wondering if there had been anything happening between the two: Gundam is fond of pairing princesses with the protagonists (in other Gundam series, Banagher and Minerva, and Athrun and Cagalli come to mind), after all. However, speaking to Setsuna’s relatively lesser understanding of social convention and his objectives, I always got the impression that Setsuna sees Marina as a beacon of hope more than a romantic interest. Romance has always been a secondary part of Gundam, and I’ve remained largely neutral to it for the most part, since I watch Gundam for awesome space battles and story.

  • After a protracted incident in the Taklamakan Desert exhausts the Gundam Meisters and pushes them past their endurance, three new Gundams arrive to drive off the combined HRL, Union and AEU forces, who’d been participating in an “exercise” that was really a front for exhausting the Gundams to the point where they could be captured. The operation lasts hours, and the Meisters are unable to leave the AO. By the time the sustained fire stops, Allelujah is once again captured, while Lockon is pinned down by Aker’s team, and Tieria has been taken by an AEU squadron. Setsuna is able to escape, but finds himself face-to-face with Ali Al-Saachez, who’s rocking a plasma-field equipped mobile armour called the Agrissa.

  • The new Gundams that show up belong to Team Trinity, and their GN Drives emit a deadly-looking red particle. Nena Trinity takes out the Agrissa, while Johann Trinity snipes Patrick’s team before forcing Aker’s team to retreat. Meanwhile, Michael Trinity uses his Gundam’s Fangs to decimate the HRL squad that’s taken Allelujah. In a matter of moments, the combined exercise teams between the HRL, Union and AEU are broken, allowing the Gundams to retreat. The remainder of that episode was dedicated to reviewing Celestial Being’s performance up to that point in a bit of a recap episode, making the only time Gundam 00 went down this route. Unlike most recaps, however, this episode remained entertaining to watch because it created intrigue surrounding the Trinity siblings and their enigmatic Throne Gundams.

  • The Throne Gundams differ from the standard Gundams in that they possess a Tau Drive, a GN Drive missing a special TD Core that allows the drives to semi-perpetually power its own processes: instead, these knock-off pseudo-solar furnaces are dependent on being externally recharged to maintain function, and would be rendered useless once their power was depleted. The particles these drives emitted were highly destructive and harmful to organic matter. As the Thrones carry out their interventions, their brutality is unmatched: unlike Celestial Being’s pilots, who only did the minimum amount of damage needed to send a message, the Thrones utterly decimate all those who oppose them, and even fire on a wedding that Louise is attending.

  • The incident results in Louise’s parents being killed, and Louise loses her left arm in the process: owing to the highly toxic properties of the GN Tau particles, regeneration therapy is unsuccessful, and for Louise, her missing arm continues to remind her of the cost of war at the hands of those who have little desire beyond destruction. Despite their commitment to one another, Louise and Saji begin drifting apart. Both begin developing feelings of resentment and hatred for Celestial Being, although Saji eventually sets this aside and succeeds in his aspirations of becoming an engineer working on the space elevators.

  • The Trinity’s actions eventually spur Setsuna and Tieria to fight them, making the first time GN Drive equipped machines had fought one another. At this point in Gundam 00‘s airing, contemporary events had begun focusing on the Summer Games, and one of my classmates had started a movement with the aim of boycotting the games. Back then, social media was still in its infancy, and so, far from the hundred-strong movement they’d been seeking, only a tenth of that showed up on the day of the rally in front of the consulate building downtown. This classmate’s efforts would never quite reach the critical mass: while a couple of people supported the movement, it didn’t have a tangible effect on getting people to boycott the Summer Games as they’d hoped.

  • Fridays for the Future, on the other hand, is an example of a movement that a much larger reach precisely because the technology had now matured to the point where it was possible to reach a large number of people very quickly. This is why rallies were seen everywhere around the world: large followers and retweet counts made it easy for a message to spread and compel people to act in solidarity. Celestial Being had similarly been contingent on the fact that their GN Drive technology and Gundams were sufficiently ahead of the rest of the world’s technologies, while at the same time, be functional enough to operate as expected; had the GN Drives been deficient in any way, they would’ve been left at a disadvantage, unable to complete their goals.

  • Celestial Being did have a number of aces up their sleeves on top of a mature technology: Schenberg had foreseen bad actors interfering with his plans, and equipped those loyal to Celestial Being with key failsafes, such as the TRIAL System, which allowed Tieria to remotely deactivate any Gundam connected to VEDA. During the duel with the Trinity Siblings, Tieria agrees with Setsuna’s assessment that the three are unworthy as Gundam Meisters and uses this system to put an end to the conflict. However, since Alejandro Corner and Ribbons Almark had gained access to VEDA, they were able to revoke Tieria’s clearance, deactivating the TRIAL System, as well.

  • In the aftermath, Lockon discovers that Setsuna was a part of the KPSA, which mounted a terror attack that killed his family. While Lockon initially seeks to take revenge, Setsuna’s remarks, that he is utterly dedicated to Celestial Being, convinces Lockon to stand down: Setsuna has completely reformed and seeks to atone for his past actions by righting the world’s wrongs. Dialogue in Gundam 00 was the subject of no small debate during the series’ airing, and the versions I watched had dialogue completely inconsistent with what Random Curiosity blogger Omni had wrote out. In those days, internet speeds and storage media had reduced capacity compared to their modern counterparts, so with blogs like Random Curiosity providing summaries and screenshots, it allowed for fans to pick and choose which series they wished to pick up in a given season.

  • While Omni was by no means an exceptional writer (preferring only to summarise and not discuss), he was known for its breadth, covering enough series to give readers an idea of what different shows entailed before they jumped in. Today, the site has many more writers and is more discussion-oriented, and while a few writers have fallen short of the site’s usual standards (Jaalin and Passerby come to mind), their writing is generally solid. Back in Gundam 00, after Alejandro leaks the location of thirty new GN Tau Drives to the world’s governments, each of the three blocs gains access to ten GN-X mobile suits. Far superior to anything fielded before, the GN-X proves its value when Sergei and Soma lead a full squadron in driving off the Thrones.

  • Supplementary materials indicate that the GN-X had been designed in secret, modelled on the Thrones’ frame. Compared to the Gundams, the GN-X has inferior performance individually, but is a versatile all-around machine. With the playing field levelled, the Thrones find themselves on the back foot, and even the Gundam Meisters are overwhelmed when confronted with GN-Xes for the first time. Until now, Celestial Being had operated with near-impunity, and so, when confronted with machines that rival their Gundams in performance, things suddenly become a lot tougher.

  • As it turns out, Alejandro Corner had secret ambitions to rule the world: he views himself as a god of sorts, and to this end, is the one responsible for compromising VEDA. During a critical battle between the newly-formed UN forces and Celestial Being, Alejandro and Ribbons seize control of VEDA from Celestial Being, shutting down the Gundams. Foreseeing this, Sumeragi had Christina and Feldt implement standalone OSes for the Gundams. This proved to save Celestial Being: after their Gundams were shut down, the backup OS kicked in, and Celestial Being was able to force the UN forces to retreat. However, Lockon became injured while protecting Tieria, whose Virtue was taking longer than expected to reactivate.

  • The Trinity Siblings meet their doom at the hands of Ali Al Saachez: with VEDA compromised, the biometrics in the Thrones are disabled, allowing him to take control. He seizes the Throne Zwei after shooting Michael Trinity and then destroys the Eins. While the Thrones had been terrifying machines despite the GN Tau Drives’ limitations in the hands of the Trinities, they become an unstoppable monster with Ali Al-Saachez piloting. He’s able to hold off Setsuna despite being unfamiliar with the controls, and it speaks volumes to how folks who resort to extreme means (or endorse them) are still counted as expendable, and as such, the folks running their may wipe them out in the blink of an eye.

  • Alejandro Corner’s gold-plated pistol mirrors his own hypocrisy: despite claiming to hate Celestial Being and Aeolia Schenberg for playing God, Alejandro views himself as a God, destined to rule the world and lead humanity in the manner of his choosing. However, his arrogance blinds him to the world around him: when he and Ribbons unlocks the last of the security levels in VEDA, a cryogenic chamber housing Aeolia’s frozen body. It turns out Aeolia had intended to revive himself at an appropriate time, but realising this, Alejandro shoots Aeolia in the head. However, Aeolia had foreseen even this: in the event someone had seized control of his plan, he would enact countermeasures to ensure that Celestial Being could continue operating, entrusting the Gundam Meisters with both the GN Drive’s full power and the schematics for a next-generation setup using the GN Drives.

  • After the devastating battle with the UN forces, Setsuna and Lasse return to Earth briefly to investigate the HRL’s operations against the Trinities on Lockon’s suggestion. While the operation sounds difficult, Lasse suggests using the newly-acquired GN Arms; Setsuna takes the operation to also understand what the purpose of a Gundam is. When they arrive, Setsuna finds the Trinities exhausted and beaten: it turns out that Ali Al-Saachez managed to get there first. After shooting Michael, he swiftly kills Johann and destroys Eins, before prepareing to execute Nena.

  • Despite being completely new to the Zwei’s controls, Ali Al-Saachez manages to completely disarm Setsuna. However, Aeolia’s death results in the activation of a new system called Trans-Am, which bolsters a Gundam’s performance three-fold by dumping out the GN Drive’s stored particles. Realising that this system was entrusted to them, Setsuna concludes that being given access to a Gundam’s true potential means that Celestial Being has a responsibility to see things through to the end. With this newfound power, Setsuna completely overwhelms Ali Al-Saachez, who is forced to flee.

  • I’ve always been fond of the Ptolemiaos’ crew: they represent a considerable departure from the mature crews seen in the Universal Century, bringing to mind the youthful and inexperienced, but determined and spirited crew that operated Gundam SEED‘s Archangel. Sumeragi reminds me a great deal of my secondary school fine arts instructor in appearance and manner; my old arts instructor was very friendly and supportive, going above and beyond her obligations to provide support and advice where I needed it. I was always welcome to hang out in the arts room, even during classes, and towards my final year, I spent many a spare here studying or drawing for fun.

  • With the Trinities out of the picture, the UN’s attention returns to the original Gundam Meisters. While a handful of GN-Xes have been destroyed, the UN forces still have access to most of their machines. Their fighting force is further bolstered by the fact that Ali Al-Saachez now pilots the Zwei. The odds against Allelujah, Setsuna and Tieria seem impossible, but fortunately, Celestial Being mechanic and engineer Ian Vasti has a few surprises. Besides the Dynames and Exia’s GN Arms, the Kyrios is given a powerful new Tail Booster which increases the Kyrios’ mobility and firepower, while Tieria receives an extra GN Bazooka, doubling his already impressive firepower. Even then, the combat is gruelling, and Allelujah is finding it difficult to keep up with Soma Peries, now that she’s got a GN-X.

  • In Gundam 00, Lockon rejoins the battle with the GN Arms but remains the only Gundam to never use Trans-Am. The Special Edition, on the other hand, has him use Trans-Am to trivially destroy the UN carriers. The GN Arms were a special support unit designed to greatly augment a Gundam’s individual combat characteristics against overwhelming enemy numbers. The Dynames’ GN Arms provides a double-barreled beam rifle for long range combat and a large missile container carrying enough missiles to engage a small fleet. While immensely effective for bombardment, the Dynames’ GN Arms ultimately prove inadequate against a single mobile suit.

  • Unable to let go of his hatred for Ali Al-Saachez and the KPSA, Lockon risks everything in a duel against his nemesis. Spurred on by raw emotion, Lockon manages to sever the Zwei’s right arm, but ultimately is disabled when Ali Al-Saachez quickly realises Lockon is unable to see out of his right eye. Deploying his fangs, Saachez puts the Dynames out of commission, leading Lockon to retrieve the gun controller and wire it to the still-functional GN cannon from the remains of the GN Arms. Lockon’s story is that of tragedy, and through him, Gundam 00 meant to show that rightous or not, fighting for the past would have detrimental consequences. While easygoing and amicable, Lockon is the opposite of Setsuna.

  • While both Lockon and Setsuna have lost in their pasts, Setsuna fights because he feels this is the way to atone, while Lockon is driven purely by vengeance, to use overwhelming force against those who wronged him. It was very easy to empathise with Lockon’s way of thinking, but his death really drove home the idea that one can only fight for the future, if their heart is genuinely about using power to guide an outcome towards what one desires. Lockon’s death marks the first of the Gundam Meister to be KIA, and for many fans, this moment counts as one of the most poignant in the whole of Gundam 00‘s first season.

  • Allelujah, on the other hand, struggles to deal with Hallelujah: his conflict is the classic tug of war between the rational and primal self. As Hallelujah, Allelujah is more than capable of fighting Soma and Sergei to a standstill on his own. He does end up besting them using his own innate skill and Trans-Am, but later realises that he recognises Soma as a fellow test subject. Allelujah and the Kyrios are ultimately captured: Allelujah is sent to a secure HRL prison, while the remnants of the Kyrios were brought to a secret research facility. Allelujah had managed to eject the GN Drive to keep Celestial Being’s secrets safe, but acquisition of the Kyrios gave the HRL a massive leg up in mobile suit development.

  • During the course of the penultimate episode, Tieria’s Nadleeh is disabled when Alejandro Corner opens fire with his mobile armour, and the Ptolemiaos suffers catastrophic damage, killing Christina and Lichtendahl. Feldt, Sumeragi and Ian manage to escape. During this fight, Setsuna and Lasse engage Alejandro, although early on, even the firepower conferred by the GN Arms is insufficient: Alejandro’s Alvatore was a mobile armour purpose-built for firepower, sporting a flexible beam cannon with firepower far surpassing anything seen previously. Setsuna realises that Exia’s Seven Swords system was purpose-built for such an eventuality, and uses his swords to punch through the Alvatore’s GN field.

  • Once the Alvatore is destroyed, Alejandro emerges in the Alvaaron, a mobile suit derived off the 1 Gundam (successor to the 0 Gundam). Despite being a powerful all-purpose machine, Alejandro is ultimately defeated when Setsuna uses Trans-Am. Up until this point, Gundam 00 had remained in the realm of plausible with its portrayal of mobile suits, but once the GN Tau Drives were introduced, things quickly begin escalating. The Alvaaron’s design was highly distinct and stands out: despite only showing up in the finale, the Alvaaron sported a design that was quite over-the-top.

  • The final, final fight of Gundam 00‘s first season was with Graham Aker, and this fight felt like it came out of the blue; while Alejandro is ultimately defeated, Graham appears out of nowhere to duel the Exia. The two clash, exchange opinions about the state of the world and then destroy one another. While perhaps unnecessary, the final fight between Setsuna and Graham was thrilling, a final bang to close off the first season. Gundam 00 led me to approach current events and politics a little more differently than I had previously: and I ended up concluding that a lot of the things that we value are often misrepresented. In particular, I adamantly reject the idea that because everyone has their own unique traits, they become “special”. I assess people based on not who they are, but based on how they treat others, their choice of actions and ability to keep their word to others.

  • As it stands, thirteen years after Gundam 00‘s first season ended, I believe I’ve got at least some answers to the questions that Setsuna posed to Marina: I find that the world’s ills originate from greed and laziness. These two traits account for why conflict exists at a very abstract level, why people are willing to commit atrocities for their own ends and why people desire power even if it comes at a terrible cost. Building any sort of meaningful future requires selflessness and hard work, but people accustomed to an easy life will vehemently object to the idea that hard work is a necessity, not a nice-to-have. This is further compounded by the fact that those same people often have aversions to seeing other people succeed through hard work: this is why inequalities exist. When arbitrary rules are put in place that punish or hinder people based on who they are, they exist purely so those in power can retain it (and avoid working hard as a result).

  • When coupled with the sense of entitlement resulting from the idea that being “special” renders one exempt from the social contract, a set of responsibilities and obligations that accompany rights and freedoms, the stage is set for discontent and conflict. There isn’t exactly a silver-bullet solution, but I find that addressing the root causes of these problems, and encouraging the idea that people aren’t special, but rather, team players, would go a ways in helping people to be more selfless and accept that others can succeed, as well. At the end of Gundam 00, I was left with a cliff-hanger: a second season was announced. In the four years that pass, the world unifies under one banner, one step closer to Aeolia’s dream of a unified world, but the world faces new problems. Celestial Being, meanwhile, has developed a next-generation Gundam, ready to advance Aeolia’s plan to the next step.

  • With this, the first half of my Gundam 00 revisit is complete, and my next post will deal precisely with the second season. Up until now, I do not believe that there’ve been very many comprehensive discussions of Gundam 00 out there, and I note that even mine do not fully capture every detail or thought I’ve had surrounding events within the series. It’s been a challenge to keep these talks concise: since Gundam 00 was my first-ever anime that I watched in full, the combination of solid story-telling and reminiscence means I could go on for days about the things that made Gundam 00 so enjoyable for me.

Beyond a superb story possessing political relevance (and, with the benefit of hindsight, was a very accurate bit of speculation on how the world would turn out), Gundam 00‘s great strength lay within its artwork, animation and mobile suit design. Gundam 00‘s fight scenes set the bar for mobile suit combat, being highly fluid and fast-paced. One-on-one fights convey the weight of every blow and the tenour of every emotion, while large scale battles smoothly demonstrate how powerful the Gundams themselves are. Even today, Gundam 00 has aged gracefully: the fights still look amazing and crisp. No discussion of Gundam 00 would be complete without mention of the characters: Setsuna F. Seiei is quite unlike Amuro Ray and Kira Yamato, resembling Heero Yuy in manner, but despite his taciturn mannerisms, he, like the other Gundam Meisters, undergo a great deal of development that make them more sympathetic to viewers. Gundam 00 also similarly features antagonists that are both honest and likeable (Graham Aker, Sergei Smirnov and Patrick Colasour), as well as menacing and clearly difficult to sympathise with (Ali Al-Saachez, Alejandro Corner and the Trinities). With such a large cast, the twenty-five episode runtime worked very well for Gundam 00, providing plenty of opportunity to build up the characters’ stories and create a convincing world to explore notions of activism, discovering one’s own reasons for being and building up a potential direction for humanity, as well. In conjunction with a stellar soundtrack from Kenji Kawai, Gundam 00‘s first season was an exceptional experience that acted as my gateway into the Gundam universe: all of the different elements in Gundam 00 worked together in a fantastic manner and, while I had been a little slow to start, by the time Gundam 00 hit its halfway point, I was following the series weekly. While it’s been thirteen years since the first season aired, returning to this series has found that the story and animation hasn’t aged a day: Gundam 00 still looks absolutely amazing and holds up very well in terms of visuals, while thirteen years of life experience hasn’t altered my final thoughts on the themes and messages Gundam 00 sought to convey during its run.