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Tag Archives: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED

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

“No matter how many times people blow away the flowers, we’ll always plant them back. I’m sure of it.” –Kira Yamato

Shinn brings Stella on board the Minerva for medical treatment, and the Minerva heads towards a ZAFT medical installation at Crete, while Lacus and Andrew Waldfelt head back to space by commandeering a transport meant for Meer. Meanwhile, Miriallia reunites with the Archangel and takes up her old post. En route to Crete, the Minervan comes under fire from the amassed Earth Alliance and Orb forces. The Archangel intervenes, and Kira manages to destroy Athrun’s Saviour, while Shinn eliminates one of the stolen Gundams. When Shin learns that Stella is dying, he decides to return her to the Alliance against orders. Rey ends up helping Shinn, who implores her handler, Neo Roanoke, not to send her into combat. For their actions, both Shinn and Rey are detained, but Chairman Durandal orders the charges dropped after the Alliance deploys their new mobile armour, the Destroy, and annihilates three European cities for harbouring people supporting ZAFT, including Berlin. To stop the Destroy, Kira sorties, while Shinn does the same. However, Shinn is shocked to learn Stella is piloting the Destroy, and although he tries to talk her down, Stella ends up panicking when she spots the Freedom, forcing Kira to annihilate the Destroy. Stella succumbs to her wounds, and Durandal comes forward, identifying LOGOS as the culprits behind the latest atrocities and declaring war on them. In the aftermath of Berlin, the Archangel also capture Neo Roanoke and are shocked to learn he’s actually Mu La Flaga, although Mu has no recollections of anyone. The Minerva sets off in pursuit of the Archangel after Durandal determines that their inability to control them renders them a dangerous foe, and during their engagement, the Archangel is seemingly destroyed, while Shinn bests Kira in combat. When Durandal assigns Athrun and Shinn to the latest ZAFT mobile suits, Shinn takes his offer with enthusiasm, while Athrun begins to doubt his role in ZAFT and ends up being branded a traitor. During his escape, he ends up taking Meyrin with him, and although Shinn shoots down Athrun, both Athrun and Meyrin survive. Durandal subsequently orders an attack on LOGOS’ main headquarters, Heaven’s Base. Despite taking the upper hand early on, LOGOs falls after Shinn and Rey sortie. LOGOS’ leader, Lord Djibril, manages to escape and takes refuge in Orb, leading ZAFT to mount an assault on Orb. Having received the Strike Freedom from Lacus, Kira arrives in Orb and saves Cagalli from the attacking forces. During the battle, Lacus also gives Athrun the choice to fight for what he believes in, or turn his back on those who need him. While Djibril escapes yet again, Kira and Athrun are able to force ZAFT to retreat. Durandal retreats his private base, the Messiah, to makes a press conference on the events with Meer, Lacus overrides the broadcast and questions Durandal’s intentions. Lord Djibril arrives at the Daedalus Lunar Base and fires the Requiem laser at the PLANTS’ capital, Aprilius. The shot misses, but several PLANTS are destroyed in the process, prompting ZAFT to mount a massive counteroffensive. The Minerva sorties, and Lunamaria manages to disable Requiem’s main emitter, while Rey kills the fleeing Djibril, who sought to escape when the battle turned against him. To find out more about Meer, Lacus, Kira, Athrun and Meyrin visit Copernicus City and decide to spring a trap set for them. During the meeting with Meer, she ends up taking a bullet meant for Lacus. Durandal unveils his Destiny Plan, which is intended to assign people to their roles based on genetics, and awaits the world’s decision. Orb and the Atlantic Federation reject this plan, leading Durandal to order Requiem to be used against Arzachel, killing the Altantic Federation president. The Archangel reunites with the Eternal and begin an assault on the Messiah. The Minverva is sunk during the combat, Kira defeats Rey, and Athrun shoots down Shinn. Kira enters the Messiah and confronts Durandal, but is shocked when Rey shoots Durandal after taking Kira’s words to him, to live on his own terms, to heart. Durandal’s death brings the Second Bloody Valentine War to an end, and in the aftermath, Shinn, Kira and Athrun make amends, while Cagalli and Lacus work towards a new peace. So ends Gundam SEED Destiny, the sequel to 2004’s Gundam SEED that remains mired in controversy even a full sixteen years after it finished airing.

Par the course for a Gundam series, Gundam SEED Destiny deals in several themes during its run. Despite suffering from production challenges, as well as a desire to show warfare from three different perspectives (Shinn’s, Athrun’s and Kira’s), which resulted in the conclusion rushing towards a dénouement, Gundam SEED Destiny nonetheless has several key points to make. The first of this is that situations are never as black and white as they initially appear. Gundam SEED Destiny portrays Gilbert Durandal as a reasonable and accommodating leader, willing to hear other sides out and weigh all possibilities before acting. Through his words, viewers are given a sense of reassurance, that under his command, ZAFT will not repeat the mistakes its predecessor had. Indeed, it is easy to see Durandal as a natural leader – he identifies rational causes of warfare and then focuses his efforts on stamping that out. Unlike his counterpart, Lord Djibril, Durandal’s weapon of choice are words, rather than bullets, and his proposals initially seem attractive. Whereas Lord Djibril is busy using mobile armours to flatten cities and has no qualms in firing a superlaser against the PLANTs, Durandal, seems to believe in using the appropriate amount of force to achieve his aims. All of this is, ultimately, a sham – Durandal ends up playing most of the world, save a few (such as Archangel’s crew and the Clyne faction), for fools. Kira’s misgivings end up being correct, and Gundam SEED Destiny hints at this during its run. Durandal is seen with a chessboard in hand, and the world is his game, to manipulate and set up according to his design. All of the atrocities that Lord Djibril are responsible for ends up provides the justification for Durandal to implement his Destiny Plan, and this plan ultimately ends up being a world where genetic determinism will be imposed on all humans. The Destiny Plan similarly sounds attractive, promising society prosperity and a harmonious existence at the expense of stripping away free will. In this second half of Gundam SEED Destiny, determinism and free will are pitted against one another. Durandal champions determinism, arguing that as a species, people would be okay with giving up freedom in their lives for stability, whereas Kira and the others believe humanity should have the power to make their own choices, so long as they accept responsibility for the consequences. This topic is of no small significance in reality, and the debate between free will versus destiny is vociferous and unending amongst philosophers. Similarly, the question of where control and power should rest is a major point of contention in politics: proponents of liberal democracies view socialism as evil for diminishing an individual’s rights to choose their future and limiting power to a small group of elites, while socialists perceive democracies as inefficient, being constrained by the will of individuals who may not fully understand the scope of their decisions. Gundam SEED Destiny, on the other hand, has a much more concrete conclusion – through Athrun and Kira, the series posits that it is preferable to be given an uncertain future that one has a hand in shaping; acquiescing to a pre-determined fate would be equivalent to giving up everything that makes living worthwhile, and that any happiness found as a result of someone else’s design isn’t genuine. At the very least, Gundam SEED Destiny shows that the will to pursue one’s own future freely will prevail over any desire to precisely control humanity’s future, because where power is allowed to be concentrated in any one individual’s hands, tragedy may potentially follow. My stance on the matter is a little more unremarkable; I’ve seen enough of the world to conclude that life is a combination of destiny and free will, in the sense that the set of possible outcomes for an individual is finite, but every individual has the capability to choose which outcome they wish for, in turn affecting their path in life.

While broad themes are present to a satisfactory extent in Gundam SEED Destiny, where this series shines lies with its mobile suits, and in particular, how the Cosmic Era presents the progression of mobile suit technology. Gundam SEED established the idea that mobile suits are a powerful weapons platform, versatile in functionality, but limited by the fact that their operational time is determined by its battery. Mobile suits thus were strategic weapons, to be deployed for special assignments or when defending high value assets. By the time ZAFT acquires the first-generation Gundams, they begin working on the neutron-jammer canceller, allowing their newest mobile suits to equip a fission reactor and attain limitless operational time. This technology remains costly to implement, and so, in Gundam SEED Destiny two years later, most mobile suits continue to retain a battery. However, by this point in time, mobile suit design has improved such that battery life becomes less of an issue. The Second Stage mobile suits use variable phase shift armour and improved beam weapons to lessen power consumption. Common mobile suits, like the ZAKU, GOUF and Windam, are now comparable to the Strike owing to how much technology has improved. In addition, the technology for recharging a mobile suit on the fly is also developed. Orb, meanwhile, has optimised their Astrays and created the venerable Murasames, a transformable mobile suit capable of equipping a diverse loadout. Rather than investing in powerful but highly expensive individual suits, Orb has focused on developing a reliable, all-around suit in the Murasame. Indeed, the Murasame is a force to contend with: during the battle of Berlin, a squadron of Murasames destroys the Chaos Gundam, marking one of the rare instances where a mass production model defeats a Gundam in direct combat. However, despite the thought and consideration that went into the technical aspects of Gundam SEED Destiny, the series has been maligned for the Strike Freedom’s so-called seemingly unfair performance, which might be seen as contradicting the principles the Murasames and ZAKUs embody. with a chest-mounted plasma cannon, a pair of hip mounted railguns and dual-wielded beam rifles, plus eight DRAGOONs, the Strike Freedom is a mobile suit capable of independently engaging entire fleets on its own. Viewers continuously assert Kira depends on his mobile suit’s power to win battles over any merits of his own skill. This is untrue: Kira’s progression as a pilot was clearly shown in Gundam SEED, and the Strike Freedom is essentially Freedom with remote weapons. The Strike Freedom is, in short, a logical progression of the Freedom design; in reality, we are closer to mounting a large number of independent lock-on weapons to a given platform than we are of semi-perpetual motion machines or harnessing thoughts and converting that into physical energy. This stands in contrast to Setsuna F. Seiei’s 00 Raiser and 00 Qan[T], which are capable of teleporting, or between the ν Gundam and the RX-0 Unicorn, whose psychoframe can shift an asteroid’s trajectory and even turn back time itself. By this standard, the Strike Freedom is certainly not overpowered; while it can eliminate weaker mobile suits in the blink of an eye, the Strike Freedom it doesn’t incorporate any technologies capable of supernatural feats. Instead, simply is as effective as it is simply because it’d been tailored to Kira’s combat style and building on the Freedom’s known strengths and capabilities. Altogether, the portrayal of mobile suit development in the Cosmic Era is remarkably similar to real-world trends, strengthened by using Gundam SEED‘s mobile suits as precedence, to show a very clear progression of both technological capabilities in a manner that is plausible and consequently, offering open-minded viewers with much to discuss even in the present day.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn had taken Stella back to the Minerva and was met with reprimand; he tends to act on his feelings rather than through thought, and while this makes him a fearsome pilot against lesser machines, it also means against a competent pilot, he will struggle. This is something that doesn’t affect Kira by Gundam SEED Destiny‘s events; he has no qualms intervening where appropriate. This post will cover the remainder of Gundam SEED Destiny, and because the second half does offer a bit to consider, this post will be correspondingly longer.

  • I was all smiles to see Miriallia return to the Archangel; she’d been one of my favourite characters of Gundam SEED despite her reduced presence compared to Flay, Cagalli and Lacus because of everyone, she tries her best to keep a cool head about her, and in fact, the only time Miriallia loses it is when Dearka badmouths Tolle. According to dialogue, Miriallia actually did end up dating Dearka briefly, but they end up going their separate ways, and both appear to be doing well. Back on board the Archangel, Miriallia resumes her old duties as the communications officer.

  • One of the lingering debates resulting from Gundam SEED Destiny that endures to this day is which pilots and mobile suits are superior in combat: at first glance, Gundam SEED Destiny is very inconsistent in its portrayal of a machine and pilot’s capabilities. However, beneath this apparent inconsistency is a simple pattern. Pilots are at their best when they have resolve, and this resolve trumps which machine is superior from a technical standpoint. When two pilots of equal resolve and similar skill battle, then the superior will to win dominates. This is why when Kira confronts Athrun and his Saviour, he is able to rend the Saviour outright: while the Saviour should technically put up a good fight, Athrun’s resolve is wavering at this point, so he’s in no condition to fight at his best.

  • The battle at Orb between the joint Orb and Earth Alliance forces ends up very poorly for Orb; Yuna’s incompetence means countless Orb service members give their lives needlessly in a battle for nothing. The Archangel ends up picking up survivors, and they wind up joining with Cagalli. The additional manpower and resources mark a turning point for Cagalli; while she’d previously felt powerless to prevent Orb from succumbing to war, realising that Orb’s soldiers are largely with her, as opposed to Yuna, does much to help Cagalli regain her determination to do right by Orb’s citizens.

  • For no reason other than to show the visual updates Gundam SEED Destiny‘s HD remaster makes over the original, I’ll feature a screenshot of Talia Gladys here: without additional screenshots, I’d say she’s even more stacked than Murrue is, although she’s never seen oscillating as much whenever the Minerva gets hit by enemy fire.  Talia is a cross between Murrue and Natarle in personality, torn between doing what she feels is right for those around her and following orders to fulfil her duties as the captain. A capable tactician in her own right, Talia was in love with Durandal but the pair’s genomes were incompatible, so she ended up leaving him, even though her feelings never faded.

  • In the end, Shinn decides to return Stella to the Earth Alliance and Neo Roanoke; on the condition that Stella never be made to fight again, Shinn reluctantly hands her over. The alternative would’ve been for Stella to be sent to a ZAFT facility and dissected for more information about the Extended. While Neo gives his word, the nature of warfare is such that one can hardly take their foe’s word at face value. For his troubles, Shinn and Rey, who helped abet Shinn in returning Stella, are placed under arrest, only to be released after ZAFT learns that Lord Djibril and the Earth Alliance have launched a massive invasion of Western Eurasian in retaliation for aligning themselves with ZAFT.

  • Under the frigid German winter, ZAFT deploys its Compton-class land battleships along with BuCUEs and other mobile suits to meet the Earth Alliance threat. However, the Earth Alliance has an ace-in-the-hole: the massive GFAS-X1 Destroy Gundam, which can transform between a mobile armour and mobile suit mode. Built purely for destruction, the Destroy is aptly-named and is three times larger than the average mobile suit; it can crush mobile suits simply by stepping on them and possesses a formidable array of beam weaponry, as well as two remote controlled detachable arm cannons. The ZAFT forces sent to stop it are completely wiped out.

  • The Destroy is piloted by none other than Stella; Neo persuades her that this machine is the only way to eliminate the scary things of the world, and so, Stella ends up laying waste to three cities. The fact that the Earth Alliance, and Lord Djibril, were willing to resort to atrocity after atrocity in Gundam SEED Destiny made it clear to viewers that there was no sympathy to be had for them; when the Archangel and Minerva sortie to stop the Destroy, viewers end up simultaneously rooting for both. It was among the snow-covered ruins of Berlin that I got my first exposure to Gundam SEED.

  • This would’ve been back during my secondary school days: Gundam SEED Destiny was a curiosity, and came to become a part of my time as a student in interesting ways. I ended up using footage from the episodes of Junius Seven impacting Earth, and where Lacus and her allies manage to steal a shuttle from Meer, for an English project, discussed whether or not the Destroy Gundam could overwhelm elements from the Warhammer 40k universe in maths with the friend who had been curious to have me try out Half-Life 2, listened to VESTIGE and METEOR with another friend during free-study periods, and during a particularly memorable moment during German class, I’d been about to wrap up my work for the day when “Kira, Sono kokoro no mama ni” began playing on my iPod.

  • I subsequently said, more to myself than anything, “this song sets me on fire”, prompting the entire class, even the instructor, to break out laughing. That Gundam SEED Destiny still evokes such memories speaks to my curiosity in the series. For my best friend, who was watching Gundam SEED Destiny at about this time, he found that the series greatest strengths lay in its portrayal of mobile suits. Secondary school was the time when I gifted him an HGCE 1/144 Murasame kit, and the Murasame had been something he’d taken an interest in. During the Battle of Berlin, three Murasames shoot down the Chaos, marking the first time he saw a common mobile suit take down a Gundam.

  • In the end, Kira ends up being forced to impale the Destroy’s chest cannons, causing it to explore. Stella dies from her wounds, and Shinn, who had been close to talking Stella down from firing, vows revenge on Kira. It is not lost on me that Stella continues on in the trend of female pilots being exploited to pilot mobile armours; off the top of my head, Char’s Counterattack had Quess Paraya, Gundam 00 had Louise Halevy, and Gundam Unicorn had Loni Garvey. Back during secondary school, I wouldn’t have known this: Gundam 00 was still airing, Gundam Unicorn wouldn’t air for another two years, and I hadn’t watched Char’s Counterattack.

  • However, I do remember watching the Minerva and Archangel square off against one another back in secondary school; the Archangel’s goal was to evacuate Western Eurasia after taking out the Destroy, while the Minerva’s received orders to destroy the Archangel. Despite the Minerva being better armed, the Archangel’s better experienced and is able to escape in the end. Meanwhile, Kira has his hands full fighting Shinn and his Impulse. While the Impulse is an inferior suit compared to the Freedom, Kira’s similarly preoccupied during the entire fight with the Archangel and is holding back his punches, while Shinn himself is fighting to kill.

  • As such, it isn’t correct to say that Shinn is the better pilot, or the Impulse is the better Gundam. Kira ends up surviving, since the Freedom’s cockpit is actually located in the upper chest, and Kira powers down the Freedom’s reactor, preventing it from going critical. The massive explosion seen at the end of this episode is actually the result of the Minerva’s positron cannon striking the ocean. Altogether, this single moment speaks little about actual combat capability and was more meant as a bit of an excuse to give Kira a new mobile suit, as well as take the Archangel out of the picture for a while.

  • Back in the Minerva, Shinn is given a hero’s welcome for having shot down the Freedom in combat. Athrun is completely dissatisfied with this outcome, and the attitudes of those around him lead him to increasingly doubt his place in ZAFT. With the Archangel and Freedom seemingly out of the picture, Durandal capitalises on the moment to reveal LOGOS as being the root of the world’s evils, rallying those in the PLANTS and on Earth to denounce LOGOS. When citizens take it upon themselves to punish known LOGOS members, Lord Djibril flees his mansion for a facility called Heaven’s Base, along with several other LOGOS higher-ups.

  • During the Battle of Berlin, the Archangel also manage to capture Neo Roanoke, and to Murrue’s surprise, it turns out Neo is none other than Mu La Flaga. While his memories have been tampered with, Mu retains his old spirits and enjoyment of making witty remarks even during serious moments. He vaguely feels things are familiar, but otherwise cannot put his hands on why. The Archangel’s crew regard him cautiously, but over time, Mu does show that despite the conditioning the Earth Alliance put him through, he still remembers Kira and Murrue. For the time being, the Archangel decides to return to Orb for repairs and resupply.

  • Meanwhile, Durandal grant Athrun and Shinn new mobile suits, the Legend and Destiny, to replace their older units. Both mobile suits are equipped with a neutron jammer canceller and a nuclear reactor, giving them the same limitless combat potential as the Freedom and Justice. However, Athrun is far from thrilled and wonders why there is a need for such weapons, as well as why ZAFT is embarking on what appears to be yet another show of force. These thoughts lead Athrun to be branded as a traitor. On the other hand, Shinn eagerly accepts his new Gundam, which is equipped with the Voiture Lumiere system, providing unparalleled mobility and speed in combat.

  • Lord Djibril arrives at Heaven’s Base in Iceland, prompting ZAFT to demand the installation to immediately surrender Djibril and other members of LOGOS. The Earth Alliance’s incompetence and propensity for committing atrocities is augmented by the fact that Gundam SEED Destiny makes extensive use of flashbacks to remind viewers of what they’ve done, and for me, it was clear that, so long as Djibril lived, whatever Durandal had planned would be far from the viewer’s minds. In this way, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s writing did come across as being inconsistent, but the finished product is surprisingly effective at conveying the sort of smoke and mirrors that exist in politics – at this point, it can be said that ZAFT and Durandal have succeeded in distracting even the viewers from his plans.

  • Meyrin had played a limited role in Gundam SEED Destiny during the first half, being the young communications officer who maintained a cheerful demenour, as well as possessing a bit of a crush on Athrun but, unlike her sister, never had the courage to admit it. Moreover, Meyrin’s figure is a little less slender than that of Lunamaria’s; she’s unable to wear a skirt that Lunamaria has no trouble wearing. When Athrun comes under suspicion and is ordered to be detained for questioning, Meyrin suddenly finds herself thrown onto centre stage; she creates a diversion to buy Athrun some time to escape, and ends up escaping with him on a stolen GOUF.

  • My fondness for Meyrin grew once she was given a chance to show more of her character beyond being a capable, if shy, communications officer – she is seen wearing her hair in twintails throughout Gundam SEED Destiny, but after escaping with Athrun, she lets her hair down and looks more mature as a result. In fact, her appearance is similar to that of Flay’s, although minute differences in their facial expressions mean that Meyrin’s allegiance and intentions are never questioned; like Athrun, she ends up choosing to do what she feels is right.

  • The Destiny’s first kill is against Athrun’s GOUF; this machine was custom-built to match Shinn’s fighting style, but unlike the Impulse, equips all of Shinn’s preferred weapons without needing additional parts to be launched. The transition from the Impulse to the Destiny would imply that Durandal counts Shinn as being capable enough to make his own decisions, much as how Kira graduates to the Freedom from the more limited Strike. However, the analogy doesn’t hold in Gundam SEED Destiny, which is meant to show what happens when Shinn finally attains the power he thought he would need to make a difference. Whereas Kira uses the Freedom’s power to stop a fight at JOSH-A in Alaska, Shinn’s first act is to “kill” someone who his higher ups have deemed a traitor.

  • I will concede that in Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half, the characterisation goes out the window – Lunamaria’s relationship with Shinn seems to have been conjured out of nowhere, and Shinn’s characterisation was particularly weak. While he is ostensibly a Gundam pilot and therefore, a protagonist, Shinn exhibits the traits of an anti-hero: he is impulsive and brash, shows little respect for authority and fights for revenge. Unlike Athrun, who begins hesitating, Shinn convinces himself that Durandal’s way is the only way to achieve a peaceful world, where tragedies like the one he suffered will not occur again. While seeing the consequences of Durandal’s actions do change his mind, this occurs very suddenly, giving viewers little time to empathise with or understand his character.

  • However, not all of the criticisms surrounding Gundam SEED Destiny are valid. One complaint is that the mobile suit performance is completely inconsistent: for instance, the battle among the snowy wastes of Heaven’s Base sees Shinn, Rey and Lunamaria effortlessly wipe the floor with Destroy Gundams, whereas Kira struggled to fight Stella despite the Freedom’s power. However, it is established that Destroy Gundams are vulnerable to melee weapons. Knowing this, the Minerva and ZAFT forces are able to turn the battle here around quickly, prompting Lord Djibril to flee once more. The snow-covered locales in Gundam SEED Destiny stand out vividly to me mainly because they were the episodes I saw on TV back when I was in secondary school. Having now seen Gundam SEED Destiny in full, all of the contexts become clearer to me, and I no longer feel that the series is an impenetrable fog to understand. In particular, the technical aspects of Gundam SEED Destiny are strong, although these strengths are all-too-quickly forgotten.

  • For me, the most memorable moment in the whole of Gundam SEED Destiny occurs when ZAFT orders an assault on the Eternal; while the Archangel is undergoing repairs at Orb, Kira sorties in the Strike Rouge and, in the HD Remaster, deals some damage to the attacking ZAFT forces before boarding the Eternal to reunite with Lacus. It turns out the Clyne Faction has managed to complete two state-of-the-art mobile suits, and with this, Kira finally feels whole again; he reassures Lacus that he’ll rejoin her after disabling the ZAFT forces and boards the new Gundam. After Kira finishes configuring the Strike Freedom, he boots up the OS and activates the Gundam.

  • Originally, Kira’s first sortie in the Strike Freedom was set to T.M. Revolution’s VESTIGE, a beautiful song that captures Kira’s determination and resolve to do right by those around him, with the power he is granted, in the manner of his choosing. The Strike Freedom is probably the most advanced mobile suit in the Cosmic Era: it is built off the Freedom’s design and tailor-made for Kira’s combat style, but similarly features a newer reactor and the Voiture Lumiere system. In addition, the inclusion of eight DRAGOONs (remote weapons, similar to the funnels of the Universal Century) allows Kira to engage multiple targets simultaneously or concentrate firepower onto a single target.

  • During my time as a secondary school student, I found myself rewatching Kira’s actions in defending the Eternal repeatedly: for me, this was the magic moment in Gundam SEED Destiny, and while the HD Remaster chooses to utilise “Kira, Sono kokoro no mama ni”, the combat itself is no less intense (although overall, I still vastly prefer VESTIGE to instrumental music here). Subsequent combat sequences are diminished by the fact that key frames are recycled en masse in Gundam SEED Destiny, and a part of me feels that the series was perhaps a little more ambitious than the animation of the day allowed. Once the animation techniques caught up, fight scenes in Gundam become better presented, and as Gundam 00 demonstrates, the resulting scenes hold up even today.

  • It was quite amusing to see a ZAFT captain recoil in shock with the fact that Kira’s basically taken out the entire complement of GOUFs and ZAKUs pursing the Eternal, and on top of this, has disabled his Nazca-class’ engines, as well. The Strike Freedom’s capabilities have been vocally criticised by detractors of Gundam SEED Destiny – in their eyes, Kira was already plenty powerful with the Freedom, so giving him an upgrade that seemingly came out of nowhere was to unfairly tip the scales even further. Gundam SEED Destiny does not directly mention that the Clyne Faction and Terminal, a Celestial Being like organisation, had managed to infiltrate a large number of organisations and thus, were able to access the cutting-edge technology needed to construct something on par with the Legend and Destiny.

  • Back on the surface, the Minerva has arrived at Orb in preparations for an assault. All pretence of diplomacy is abandoned; Durandal demands Orb to hand over Djibril and, when Yuna refuses, the ZAFT forces launch a major offensive. During this fighting, Orb’s forces are slowly overwhelmed, and Cagalli is given the Akatsuki, a gold-framed Gundam built from the Strike’s data and utilising new technologies from Orb. Its greatest attribute is the fact that its armour can repel and reflect all beam attacks, even from positron cannons. However, despite its invulnerability to beam weapons, the Akatsuki is susceptible to damage from melee weapons. Although Shinn is caught off-guard by the Akatsuki’s capabilities, he begins to intervene, only for Kira and the Strike Freedom to arrive.

  • In the end, Cagalli’s return allows her to take control of the struggling Orb forces. She relieves Yuna of his duty and orders him arrested. While Gundam SEED Destiny is almost universally reviled, fans do share the commonality of despising Yuna even more and note that his arrest, and subsequent death, stand among one of the more satisfying moments in Gundam SEED Destiny. While satisfying the role of a comic relief character, Yuna does show how individuals who care more about their political career and living a comfortable life can lead nations to ruin; this sort of thing is happening en mass in liberal democracies, where elected leaders are more concerned with elections than they are about their nation’s well-being. While Orb had gone down a slippery slope by joining the Atlantic Federation, Cagalli’s return puts new hope into the other soldiers.

  • On the whole, I found that most of the criticisms surrounding Gundam SEED Destiny are overblown at best, and invalid at worst; the more gratuitous complaints are nitpicks that fail to take into account the complexities of interpersonal dynamics and the interplay of warfare on the human psyche. For instance, while Athrun rejoins ZAFT to prevent Patrick Zala loyalists from perpetrating another atrocity, he begins to find that Durandal’s leadership ultimately will lead to a world that is no better than the one Athrun thought had died with Patrick. Consequently, Athrun is reluctant to accept the Infinite Justice from Lacus she brings the unit onboard the Archangel.

  • While the critics are often in the wrong, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s proponents were not always in the right, either – people who flocked to Kira as the “perfect” Gundam pilot who can do no wrong failed to account for the fact that Kira’s beliefs and abilities stem having cultivated them during the events of Gundam SEED. He gains no character development in Gundam SEED Destiny because he has already made peace with himself and understands why he fights: his aim is simply to protect those around him and act in a way so that battles are minimised. To this end, Kira never uses more force than is necessary to end a battle and prefers to disable rather than kill.

  • During the Battle of Orb, one detail I was fond of were the inclusion of the DOM Troopers (highly customised variants of the Universal Century’s Rick Doms): piloted by Hilda Harken, Mars Simeon and Herbert Von Reinhard, these machines and their pilots are a reference to the original Black Tri-Stars, a similar group of three ace pilots whose signature move was the Jet Stream Attack. The DOM Troopers’ primary armament is the Giga-Launcher DR1 Multiplex, an upgrade over the 360 mm bazookas the Rick Doms carried: weapons of Gundam SEED Destiny are built with versatility in mind, and the DOM Troopers’ Giga-Launcher is a bazooka with an under-barrel beam rifle, allowing them to switch from attacking fixed targets to engaging other mobile suits without a lengthy weapon swap.

  • The battle at Orb begins turning against ZAFT once Cagalli takes command, and Athrun decides to board the Infinite Justice. Here, Lunamaria attempts to shoot down the shuttle carrying Lord Djibril in a last-ditch attempt to complete ZAFT’s original mission of terminating Djibril, but this is unsuccessful. The Minerva and remaining ZAFT forces retreat after their flagship is sunk. During this battle, the Infinite Justice and Strike Freedom are instrumental in turning the tide of battle, providing the physical power to back Cagalli and Lacus’ resolve. While the mobile suits themselves are an asset, they are a means to an end, and Gundam SEED Destiny does seem to suggest that long-term solutions and soft power are the foundations for peace.

  • Back on board the Archangel, Athrun continues to recover while Meyrin looks over him. By choosing to accept the Infinite Justice, Athrun demonstrates beyond any doubt that he’s found his path again. In Gundam SEED, the Justice was a mobile suit that Patrick Zala had granted to him with the goal that Athrun use it to destroy the stolen Freedom. However, Athrun ends up using it to destroy the GENESIS weapon. In Gundam SEED Destiny, the Infinite Justice is offered to Athrun under different circumstances, and in this way, the series suggests that by accepting the Infinite Justice, Athrun has come to terms with his own choices.

  • Durandal’s use of Meer Campbell as Lacus speaks very cleverly to the idea that a pretty face can indeed sway public opinion quickly; he’d long foreseen that having a powerful symbol to act as his mouthpiece would be able to work in his favour. This tactic had allowed Durandal to quell the public’s wrath after Junius Seven was dropped onto the planet, and similarly, using a fake Lacus to give concerts raised the morale for ZAFT troops. Gundam SEED Destiny correctly captures the idea that people are easily manipulated by appearances – in the present day, people gain Twitch donations and Twitter followers on virtue of their appearances alone, and this has created a world where looks, rather than skill, are sought-after attributes. Durandal is therefore shocked when the real Lacus appears on the airwaves and challenges him.

  • Meanwhile, Djibril arrives at the Daedalus Lunar Base and prepares to use a new weapon, Requiem, against the PLANTs. With the viewers’ focus entirely on Djibril, I found that Gundam SEED Destiny presented a clever way of drawing parallels between the viewer experience and real-world tricks: as viewers, we’re more worried about Djibril right now, as opposed to Durandal. Small details like these are inevitably missed in the debates surrounding Gundam SEED Destiny; while directional issues and problems in production meant Gundam SEED Destiny is a little jumbled and messy in places, emergent properties actually do arise from the story, as well.

  • The rise of Durandal’s Messiah was one such instance of this: viewers had been so focused on Lord Djibril that it is feasible to suppose Durandal had secretly completed the construction of this space fortress while keeping the world’s eyes trained on LOGOS. Messiah itself is likely a reference to A Baoa Qu, a Zeon fortress that was similarly built from a hollowed-out asteroid. Durandal had intended the Messiah to be utilised as a stronghold from which to execute his vision of the world, and to this end, Messiah is equipped with a powerful computer, positron deflector shielding and the Neo-GENESIS, a miniaturised gamma laser which, while lacking the raw power of its predecessor, could still be used to eliminate fleets. Gundam 00‘s Celestial Being fortress would draw inspiration from Genesis: although originally built as a vessel for deep-space travel, the Innovators would convert it into their own private installation.

  • Djibril fires the Requiem, whose laser is redirected using a Geschmeidig Panzer array, intending to destroy the PLANT capital of Aprilius One. Although the shot misses, it still destroys Januarius One through Four, causing them to slam into December Seven and Eight. Djibril’s latest atrocity crosses a line, and ZAFT is now committed to exterminating Djibril and his supporters. In a massive battle, Lunamaria manages to disable Requiem’s emitter, while ZAFT forces aligned with Terminal assault the relay stations. Gundam SEED Destiny and Gundam SEED are unique amongst Gundam series in that a vast majority of the weapons in the series have German names: this is unique to the Cosmic Era, and while I’ve not read any interviews or behind-the-scenes materials for why this is the case, I imagine this was simply done for cool factor.

  • In the chaos, Djibril attempts to escape again on the Girty Lue, but Rey catches him and finally finishes him off using the Legend’s DRAGOONS, which vapourise him outright. In some cases, there is nothing left to do but exact the most severe punishment on those who refuse to yield to reason: Lord Djibril is one such example, and letting him live would only be met with further atrocities by his hand. However, once Djibril is gone, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s final curtain falls – this is the aspect of Gundam SEED Destiny that, despite having an inkling about previously, still impressed me because the viewers end up being just as surprised about Durandal’s so-called Destiny Plan. On one hand, this could be seen as hasty writing, where things were not well-thought out, but at the same time, the choppy pacing in Gundam SEED Destiny also meant that the series could illustrate the idea that existing conflicts can be used as a political diversion.

  • Because the conflict returns to space, Kira, Athrun and Lacus part ways with Cagalli. The remainder of Gundam SEED Destiny is a veritable rollercoaster ride, and while it is nowhere nearly as sound as its predecessor in thematic terms, to the me of fourteen years earlier, the space battles were awe-inspiring. Back then, I didn’t have the same context for the different scenes or why the conflict was occurring; because I was watching odd episodes here and there, the recycled footage was never really a problem for me. Nowadays, having experienced the level of quality from Gundam 00, use of stock footage in Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny is much more noticeable, but unlike the haters, I feel that stock footage was a sign the series was trying to be larger than was feasible at the time.

  • Once the real Lacus reveals the Lacus in Durandal’s employ is a fake, Durandal sends Meer and her manager, Sarah, to Copernicus. Sarah ends up convincing Meer that it’s necessary to bump off the original Lacus, and although Meer is reluctant to go along with the plan, she ends up agreeing anyways. While Sarah’s narrow eyes and sharp facial features firmly indicate she isn’t to be trusted, she’s also got a nice figure. Meer’s story had always been interesting to me because she represents someone who Durandal valued owing to her resemblance to Lacus and therefore, could be used as a tool for manipulate the masses. Meer herself is desperate to become her idol, and while Durandal has found her an asset, how he treats those who stops being relevant to his aims is a sign of what could happen if Meer ever outlived her contract.

  • It should therefore be unsurprising that should this day come, Durandal would have no trouble sacrificing Meer, or disposing of her, to further his own goals. One bit of imagery that stuck with me when watching Gundam SEED Destiny years earlier was this scene of Durandal playing chess. He’s seen with a chessboard throughout Gundam SEED Destiny, and having now had the chance to look through the series, it looks like his role as the final foe was long foreshadowed: Durandal isn’t nihilisticas Rau le Creuset was, nor is he xenophobic like Patrick Zala, but his plan to control human destiny is misguided and selfish. Gundam SEED Destiny betrays none of this earlier, mirroring how Durandal is an expert at concealing his intentions, like a chess master guiding pieces to create a trap for their foe.

  • In the end, Meer attempts to lure Lacus to a trap, but the tables turn quickly; Lacus implores Meer to be herself, and after a firefight that leaves Sarah wounded, Meer ends up taking a bullet meant for Lacus. The wound is fatal, and Meer dies in Athrun’s arms. In the aftermath, Lacus and the others read through Meer’s diary and learns that she was ecstatic to take up this position, thoroughly convinced that she was doing good in the world. In actuality, Durandal had been leveraging her voice and appearance to advance his own goals, and looking back, this small sub-plot in Gundam SEED Destiny is not to be underestimated in terms of relevance. It is the case that people are used and deceived because of their appearances, only to be cast aside once they’re deemed to be no longer useful.

  • That Meer was being utilised for her looks alone meant that I came to view her story as one of tragedy, and while she’d only had a secondary role in the series, I came to greatly like her character, too. While she tries to be regal and composed when on duty, befitting of the original Lacus, outside of work, she’s bubbly and cheerful; Meer was someone who desperately wanted to do something meaningful for the world, who ended up in a position that she began doubting, and who in the end, ended up paying the ultimate price. However, Meer does die in the knowledge that she was able to save Lacus from the assassination attempts, making for a very bittersweet moment in Gundam SEED Destiny that remains impactful even to this day.

  • While Lacus reads through Meer’s diary, a new song can be heard: EMOTION. This is the second of Meer’s songs, and until now, she’d only performed her cover of Lacus’ Silent Night in Gundam SEED Destiny. I first heard EMOTION after picking up the songs a few days before a Thanksgiving trip out to watch the salmon spawn; having set my music on shuffle, I was on a tour bus hurtling along the Trans Canada highway over the Kicking Horse River just outside of Golden when this song came on. A few weeks later, I was sitting in biology class and doing the day’s assignment. EMOTION came back on my rotation, and my thoughts flitted back to the moment when I’d been looking at the foggy skies above and the turbulent river below while out in Golden. Curiosity led me to watch the episode, and since then, Meer’s story has remained with me as one of the moments of Gundam SEED Destiny I found most memorable.

  • Because I’d been missing so much context in Gundam SEED Destiny, I’d initially thought that Meer’s death was the catalyst that pushed Durandal to initiate the Destiny Plan, but this is one of my own misconceptions. Durandal had been working on the Destiny Plan early on, and the simple version of this is that right from birth, people would be assigned an occupation and station in society purely based on their genetic makeup. On the surface, such a plan is very appealing, as giving everyone a fixed purpose and eliminating ambition would be attacking the root cause of warfare. However, upon closer scrutiny, the Destiny Plan falls apart. Almost immediately, Orb and a handful of nations reject the Destiny Plan, while the Archangel, Eternal and allied Terminal forces set off to put an end to Durandal’s machinations: as a show of force to the world, Durandal plans to destroy Orb using Requiem.

  • After Meyrin left the Minerva, another communications officer replaces her and plays the role differently. Meyrin herself ends up becoming the communications officer on board the Eternal, and she finds herself fighting against ZAFT loyalists; Lunamaria has sortied in the Impulse and is shocked to learn that Meyrin is still alive. Although she’s under the impression that Meyrin had betrayed ZAFT, Lunamaria holds her fire. As the battle progresses, the Archangel comes under fire from the Minerva: for Talia, the battle’s become somewhat of a personal one now, and by this point in time, Phantom Pain is forgotten entirely, having fallen apart once Mu was recovered, and its complement of Extended pilots falling in battle.

  • In a scene designed to deliberately draw parallels between Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, Mu La Flaga pilots the Akatsuki directly into the path of an incoming positron beam to protect the Archangel, and the intensity of emotions in the moment are enough to overcome his brainwashing. After blocking the shot, Mu activates the Akatsuki’s remote weapons and uses them to form a protective barrier around the Archangel. These remote weapons are capable of offensive attacks, but the shield ability is a call-back to the ν Gundam and its fin funnels.

  • With Mu’s memories of the Archangel, and Murrue, back in full, Murrue smiles warmly. The Akatsuki’s special armour fully deflects the beam, and Neo Roanoke disappears. The moment was likely designed to bring Mu La Flaga back in style, and while perhaps a little overdone, seeing Mu back put a smile on my face: Neo’s character initially felt a little unnatural: beyond being an enigmatic masked man fulfilling a Gundam tradition, Neo never felt like a threat despite leading Phantom Pain. In fact, Phantom Pain itself never felt intimidating to begin with, and so, they were ultimately relegated to a secondary role in the series, especially after Junius Seven falls.

  • Thanks to their METEOR systems, as well as support from Terminal-aligned forces, Kira and Athrun end up dealing an appreciable amount of damage to the deflector system, enough to keep Requiem from firing on Orb. With the amount of damage they’re doing, Durandal finally sends out the Legend and Destiny to counter the Strike Freedom and Infinite Justice. In the original Gundam SEED Destiny, the final fight was far less impressive from a visual standpoint, ending much more quickly than it did in the HD Remaster, which sees Kira and Rey slug it out. As it turns out, Rey is also a clone of Al Da Flaga, whose attempts to find immortality resulted in Rau Le Crueset’s creation. Rey resents Kira for being the Ultimate Coordinator and sees him as an impediment to Durandal’s Destiny Plan, although this aspect of his character only comes late in the game.

  • Durandal’s designs for the Messiah means that his command centre resembles Palpatine’s throne room Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of The Jedi. The Destiny Plan’s implementation forms the basis for the series’ theme, which is less nuanced than that of its predecessor; Gundam SEED Destiny is suggesting that it is preferable to allow people to make their own choices and learn from their mistakes, rather than impose a universal system upon them and deprive them of choice. However, the route Gundam SEED Destiny posits as being the preferred one comes with a caveat: it assumes that people must be responsible enough to do so, as well. Those who stop at the idea that one should be able to make their own choices and omit the idea that this freedom comes with responsibility would argue that Gundam SEED Destiny is about “not allowing others to take your personal freedoms” when in fact, the theme is “a world where one can make their own decisions is preferable to one where another agent guides one’s path, but individuals must be willing to take responsibility for these decisions and accept that misunderstandings will arise”. This is the crux of all meaningful discussion in anime with a particularly large emphasis on social and political elements: themes are multi-faceted, rarely in black-and-white as some fans might suggest.

  • One of my goals as a blogger is to present themes in a proper level of depth such that all elements are considered, and I’ve long found that while politics form the backdrop of a given Gundam series, they are rarely the centrepiece of the series. Further to this, it is the case that very few online are capable of partaking in a civilised and constructive discourse on politics whether it be in the context of an anime or otherwise. This is primarily because politics has a tendency to boil down to identity, and this in turn precludes any meaningful conversation from happening; divergent ideas are seen as an attack on one’s existence, rather than an alternate mode of thinking that works for people of differing backgrounds. Politics nowadays amounts to little more than finger-pointing and name-calling: just recently, my home nation unwisely decided to join the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Games. But unbeknownst to those who endorse such actions or call for more drastic measures, this is ultimately a meaningless gesture that only makes it look like the politicians are doing something useful where in fact, they have accomplished exactly nothing.

  • The Olympics are intended as an event to celebrate a nation’s athletic prowess and politics or not, I intend to cheer on Team Canada once the games begin. The pettiness of real-world politics is why for me, Gundam speaks more loudly about personal improvement, understanding one’s goals and accepting responsibility for the actions one takes, than it is about influencing political systems. In every Gundam series, pilots seek to understand why they fight amidst a twisted world, and when they find this reason (to protect what is dear to them and do what only they can), they become legends in their own right. This holds true for Amuro Ray, Banagher Links and Setsuna F. Seiei, and it holds true for Kira, as well. Similarly, ace pilots and mobile suit mechanics offer interesting discussion on operator skill, hardware constraints and making the most of what one has. Char Aznable and Graham Aker are pilots capable of fighting Gundams to a standstill despite using vastly inferior machines. These other elements of Gundam are more relevant to my discussions, since there are more concrete analogs between these aspects and reality.

  • For instance, parallels between Gundam and real life can be drawn in observations like how one is most effective in their career if they are able to see the value of their contributions, and just because someone has better tools do not mean they can surpass someone with better skills. I therefore choose to focus on these aspects of Gundam when discussing them, because it is the part of these series that can impact me as an individual and compel me to be a better person. These sorts of conversations drive Gundam more strongly than partially-baked assumptions about politics, and is the reason why when pilots clash in Gundam, they also have a frank exchange of ideas; Gundam SEED Destiny has Kira and Rey doing the same, but in the original, the fight was much shorter, whereas here in the HD Remaster, the might of Kira and Rey’s respective machines and prowess as a pilot is portrayed to a better extent.

  • With this being said, while the Legend is supposed to be an improvement over the Providence, I never felt that Rey utilised its capabilities anywhere as effectively as Rau Le Creuset. Kira ultimately defeats Rey after convincing the latter that no matter what is origins were, and what expectations there were for him, he’s ultimately still his own individual. The shock of this revelation distracts Rey enough for Kira to completely disable the Legend using the Strike Freedom’s full burst mode. Kira subsequently docks with the METEOR and uses its beam sabres to cripple Messiah.

  • While Athrun’s piloting skills have been inconsistent throughout Gundam SEED Destiny, they relate directly to the strength of his resolve. In the final fight, Athrun has no trouble fighting Lunamaria and Shinn at the same time, to the point where despite its powers, the Destiny Gundam becomes a bit of a joke to behold. This was probably meant to show that as Shinn’s conviction in supporting Durandal wavers, his ability to fight similarly fluctuates. As a result, Athrun is able to take down the Destiny even after Lunamaria steps in to try and break up the fighting, putting herself in harm’s way: seeing this prompts Athrun to act, keeping Lunamaria safe and allowing Athrun to cast down the Destiny.

  • Overall, I was never a fan of Shinn’s character because his experiences throughout the course of Gundam SEED Destiny do not have a more incremental change on him. While he begins to show the same hesitation about the Destiny Plan as Athrun, this comes much later in the game, and he continues to fight for the Destiny Plan (albeit half-heartedly) right up until he is shot down. I would’ve preferred to have Shinn realise the hazards inherent in the Destiny Plan as a result of his experiences, and then have him be the one to confront Durandal instead, as this would’ve made it clearer that Shinn’s changed, too.

  • Altogether, while Gundam SEED Destiny isn’t the same powerhouse its predecessor was, I still found there to be merits in this series overall. Gundam SEED Destiny‘s strengths lie in the mobile suits themselves, as well as the fact that the series does touch on some notable topics relevant to reality and present them in a plausible manner. While the overall story is inconsistent in places, and some of characters are not as compelling as they were in Gundam SEED, I do not believe that Gundam SEED Destiny‘s outcomes warrant the sort of hatred that has surrounded this series since its original airing in 2004: back then, viewers spent countless hours on forums picking the series’ flaws apart on their DSL connections and 1024 by 768 monitors.

  • I would imagine that most of these individuals have since moved on with their lives, although these early haters set the precedence for the reluctance people have towards seeing Gundam SEED Destiny today. I will note that the words of people back in 2004 and 2005 certainly do not hold any weight today; these individuals are no longer around to defend their claims or disparage those who are curious now: flaws notwithstanding, Gundam SEED Destiny is something that is probably useful to have if one is curious about the new Gundam SEED movie. So far, no information has been released about this film, beyond the fact that it’s releasing in 2022.

  • In a private conversation with my best friend, I learnt that it would be in my interest to finish Gundam SEED Destiny so that I could pass my own judgement on it and so I was fully caught up for whatever lies ahead in the upcoming movie. Because of my old track record with anime, watching Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny initially seemed quite daunting. I had actually started watching Gundam SEED since last September, but didn’t really pick up until earlier this year. After I wrapped up Gundam SEED, I switched over to Gundam SEED Destiny and paused during the summer, before deciding to continue on with things. My journey through the Cosmic Era has taken around twenty five months, but I am very glad to have finished the series, since I can now form my own conclusions of the series, and because I’ve finally got the full context for things I’ve been wondering about for the past fourteen years.

  • Because I’m rocking the HD Remaster, Gundam SEED Destiny ends with Kira and Athrun making amends with Shinn before they vow to keep the peace in their world. Kira’s also become a ZAFT commander now, and here, he reunites with Lacus, who’s en route to a meeting with Cagalli to discuss their plans for what directions the world will take next. As such, some fourteen years since I first caught wind of Gundam SEED Destiny, and almost sixteen years since the series concluded, I finally cross the finish line. Gundam SEED Destiny isn’t going to rank up there with my favourite Gundam series of all time, but I found that all of the anger and hatred directed towards the series is uninformed: I daresay that it takes a better mind to see what different Gundam series are doing, and broadly speaking, haters only succeed in demonstrating how little they know. As it was, I’ve no regrets about following my own judgement for something like Gundam SEED Destiny and saying despite its flaws, I still enjoyed the series.

Altogether, it should be evident that I enjoyed Gundam SEED Destiny. This series is not without its shortcomings – the pacing at which Durandal’s plan was revealed was abrupt, and Shinn’s portrayal meant he is not shown as learning to overcome the hatred and thirst for revenge that led him to join ZAFT. Kira’s role is similarly limited: having found his reason to fight, Kira becomes a static character, standing in contrast with Athrun, who is forced to rediscover his place in the world anew after the events of Gundam SEED. Animation limitations are also especially visible in Gundam SEED Destiny: the frequent use of flashbacks also breaks the flow of a moment, and similar keyframes are recycled for combat sequences. However, in spite of these negatives, Gundam SEED Destiny still manages to tell its story in a way as to expand the Cosmic Era. It is clear that, if production issues among the staff hadn’t been an issue, and more resources were allocated to animation, Gundam SEED Destiny would easily have had the narrative and visuals to back what was, fundamentally, a strong concept. While detractors of the series are quick to fixate on the superficialities of Gundam SEED Destiny‘s flaws, underneath the flaws is the groundwork for what is otherwise a worthy successor to Gundam SEED, as well as an exemplary demonstration of how attention paid to detail makes Cosmic Era’s mobile suits among the most realistically designed in the Gundam franchise. Rather than allowing the technology to run away with the series and perform acts bordering on the supernatural, all of the mobile suits seen in Gundam SEED Destiny are logical developments from existing technology. In short, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s haters are wrong; while Gundam SEED Destiny is far from perfect and is rough in many spots, the concept is fundamentally viable. Similarly, any issues in Gundam SEED Destiny are often erroneously applied to Gundam SEED, as well. With this being said, viewers do need a bit of an open mind entering Gundam SEED Destiny in order to get the most out of things, and now, having watched Gundam SEED Destiny to completion, I can say that I am glad to have finally finished a series that I’d been curious about since my time in secondary school. Back then, the local TV channels played the English dubs on Friday nights, but because of the hour at which they aired, I would only catch glimpses of the episodes before retiring for the evening. Thanks to what contemporary technology allows, I’ve been lucky enough to finish Gundam SEED Destiny and find the answers to the questions I’ve had for the past fourteen years. There are no more mysterious on the table, leaving me ready to enter Gundam SEED‘s Twentieth Anniversary events fully caught up with things – I’ve heard that the MG Eclipse is well-received, and I am now looking forwards to see what Gundam SEED The Movie will entail.

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

“Anyone who’s ever cried because they felt weak and powerless has thought, ‘if only I had the power’. But the moment you acquire the power you dreamt of having, you become the one who causes others to cry. Try not to forget that.” –Athrun Zala

Two years after the Battle of Jachin Due, the PLANTs and Earth Alliance have reached a truce. Cagalli visits the new chairman, Gilbert Durandal to express her concerns about ZAFT’s latest weapons programme, but during their meeting, a group called Phantom Pain commandeers three units. In the chaos, ZAFT pilots Shinn Asuka, Lunamaria Hawke and Rey Za Burrel manages to intervene, but Phantom Pain manages to escape. ZAFT’s latest battleship, the Minerva, is deployed to pursue the Phantom Pain pilots, but upon encountering the Girty Lue, Phantom Pain’s vessel, the battle turns. It is only with Athrun’s help that the Minerva manages to escape. While the Girty Lue has the initiative, an unexpected change in Junius Seven’s trajectory forces the Minerva to intervene, and although they are successful in breaking up the abandoned colony, the remnants impact the Earth’s surface and causes widespread damage, giving the Blue Cosmos justification in pushing the Earth Alliance to declare war against the PLANTs. While the Earth Alliance immediately uses nuclear weapons, ZAFT deploys a new weapon to neutralise the weapons. Meanwhile, the Minerva arrives in Orb Union, and Cagalli struggles to convince the other leaders that they shouldn’t be hasty in joining the Earth Alliance. Athrun briefly meets with Kira before taking off: almost immediately after the Minerva leaves Orb’s waters, they come under attack from the Earth Alliance forces. Shinn manages to fend off the fleet, and Athrun rejoins ZAFT, being assigned to the FAITH Special Forces unit after speaking with Durandal about his wishes to prevent a conflict of the sort Patrick Zala desired. While Kira extracts Cagalli from Orb after an attack on Lacus’ life forces the Archangel to reactivate, the Minerva undergoes repairs at Carpentaria and receives a request to destroy an Earth Alliance positron cannon keeping the area locked down. Despite his reluctance, Shinn accepts Athrun’s mission plan and succeeds in the operation. In the aftermath, FAITH member Heine Westenfluß is assigned to look after Athrun and the others, and Durandal invites Shinn, Athrun, Lunamaria and Rey to dinner, revealing that ZAFT is investigating Blue Cosmos and their manipulation of the Earth Alliance; it is suspected that Blue Cosmos, under the organisation LOGOS, is creating war to drive profits. Since Shinn and the others have some downtime, he heads off to the coast and saves a mysterious girl, Stella Loussier, from drowning. Shortly after, the Minerva is attacked by the joint Earth Alliance and Orb fleets before Kira intervenes in the Freedom. Cagalli attempts to get the Orb forces to stand down, but are unsuccessful, forcing Kira to engage both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT forces. Kira’s actions frustrate both sides and ends with Heine’s death. While Athrun heads off to speak to Kira about his actions, the Minerva make a disturbing discovery; the Earth Alliance has a secret facility where they produce the Extended, enhanced humans made purely for combat. This is about the gist of things at Gundam SEED Destiny‘s halfway point, the sequel to Gundam SEED that continues with the Cosmic Era from a more ZAFT-focused perspective.

At the heart of Gundam SEED Destiny‘s first half is the idea the world’s events are likely to be manipulated and influenced from the shadows. Blue Cosmos and Patrick Zala’s supporters had manipulated their respective sides into open warfare, and here in Gundam SEED Destiny, things are no different: this time around, the enigmatic Lord Djibril and LOGOs is the main foe, allowing extremists clinging to the Zala ideology to drop a colony on Earth for the sake of renewing a new war with the PLANTs and continuing on with Blue Cosmos’ stated goal of destroying the Coordinators. On the other side of the equation is PLANTs’ Gilbert Durandal, who on first glance, appears to have no appetite for war, and even after the Earth Alliance uses nuclear weapons against the PLANTs, attempts to negotiate; he reluctantly agree to defensive operations only once all other options are exhausted. With such a leader at the helms for the PLANTs, it does appear that the Earth Alliance, and their secretive benefactors are indeed the root cause of this latest conflict to strike the Cosmic Era. While Durandal reassures the PLANTs and orders his soldiers to be cautious, the Earth Alliance has no qualms about committing genocide or employing excessive force on suspected PLANT synthesisers. However, even this early on, it is clear that Durandal is not being entirely transparent. He may have a reassuring way with words, so that even Athrun is swayed into returning to ZAFT, but the appearance of a second Lacus (Meer Campbell) and Durandal’s explanation of the necessity of such an image stikes doubt into his objectives. In the case of Durandal, the mystery is what Durandal’s true intentions are. Gundam SEED Destiny suggests that despite the outward differences in appearance, ZAFT and the Earth Alliance are no better than one another once the chips are down and warfare begins. The clear delineation of sides in Gundam SEED Destiny is, in a way, strikingly similar to the geopolitical issues of the real world at the time of writing, and while the different sides may purport themselves to be economically, culturally and morally superior to their adversary, the reality is that both sides remain more alike than unlike, conflict will benefit neither party, and moreover, the sort of political posturing seen in reality now could prove disastrous, allowing even the smallest misunderstanding to ignite into open conflict.

Of note is Durandal’s mention of a Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) during a dinner with Athrun and the others. A MIC arises when a nation’s economy and public policy is tightly coupled to the military and defense industry. Gundam SEED Destiny‘s explanation of an MIC is admittedly an abstraction of the concept: Durandal notes that during wartime, industries involved with arms and equipment production see a boom in business. Weapons are fired, ammunition expended, parts wear out and machines need to be replaced, providing a vast stream of revenue for these companies. By comparison, during peacetime, weapons, ammunition, gear and vehicles sit in their hangars and silos. There is no question as to which of these two are better for business, but the tradeoff is that, in order to drive the most revenue, such companies would necessarily require there to be warfare. Durandal postulates that some individuals might even be willing to start a war to turn a profit. In reality, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against how the United States was headed down such a path and that a nation where the military was too tightly coupled with the economy would endanger liberty and democracy itself. While Eisenhower suggested that diplomacy and other peaceful methods were necessary to ensure American prosperity with the rest of the world, his warnings would go unheeded. The problems with this relationship began to materialise during the Vietnam War; historian George F. Kennan suggested that, if the Soviet Union were to collapse, America would need a new adversary in order to maintain their economy. Today, the MIC is a concept that has fallen out of favour, but one that remains relevant in works like Gundam SEED Destiny; Durandal’s theory behind why some wars never seem to end certainly does have a rational basis, and where money is involved, there are those who would gladly discard any principals and cast aside morality to assure themselves of a future even if it comes at someone else’s expense. This unusual symbiosis is one that benefits both LOGOS and Lord Djibril – Djibril leverages LOGOS in order to fuel his war of genocide, and by helping Djibril, LOGOS gains a tidy profit. The extent of these excesses are most apparent in the Extended facility that the Minerva’s crew finds, and any sympathy viewers might’ve had for the Earth Alliance will have evaporated by this point in time, leaving viewers to wonder how many more atrocities will unfold so long as Djibril lives.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Gundam SEED had been a solid experience, but I never expected that I’d be watching Gundam SEED Destiny, as well – the sequel is one of the most reviled works on this side of the planet, and per discussions with a friend, the series’ inconsistency was a result of troubles during production. However, said friend also remarked that with the Gundam SEED movie upcoming, it would be prudent to catch up with the series, especially now that the means were available to do so.

  • I therefore began watching Gundam SEED Destiny back in August, but ended up getting sidelined while trying to keep up with other things, and ended up delaying my journey until now. Gundam SEED Destiny begins similarly to SEED in that it starts with a special forces team taking possession of ZAFT’s Second Stage mobile suits on the same day Cagalli arrives to discuss disarmament with the PLANT’s leader, Gilbert Durandal. Inevitably, she and Athrun are caught up in things and end up boarding the Minerva in pursuit of the stolen mobile suits.

  • While ZAFT felt more to be the antagonists in SEEDSEED Destiny‘s foes are the Blue Cosmos and LOGOS – their portrayal as a shadowy organisation is both figurative and literal, as their discussions are often held in dimly-lit rooms. It turns out that Blue Cosmos and LOGOS acquiesces to Lord Djibril’s conflict of interest; he leads Blue Cosmos in place of Maruta and simultaneously runs LOGOS, keeping both the Blue Cosmos members happy by promising them a war, and then promising the stakeholders at LOGOS a tidy profit by fuelling said war. However, Djibril is also uncommonly arrogant and prideful, reacting childishly whenever his plans fail.

  • Early in Gundam SEED Destiny, Djibril watches the chaos unfold around the world from the safety of his base: to him, the deaths in the world are of little consequence because they occur behind his monitors. This is reminiscent of how people nowadays act wherever politics are concerned, and by dehumanising one’s opponents, arguments quickly become polarised. One could say that Gundam SEED Destiny, more so than its predecessor, represents what happens when short-sighted extremists are allowed to take charge – tragedy and chaos follows.

  • The Second Stage mobile suits are upgrades over the original G Project suits: while lacking the nuclear reactors seen on the Freedom, Justice and Providence, the Second Stage suits utilise a wireless energy transfer system for extended combat, and Variable Phase Shift Armour replaces the original Phase Shift Armour, allowing a mobile suit to dynamically adjust its defenses as required. Here, the Chaos and Abyss can be seen evading a shot from a ZAFT mobile suit: Chaos is intended for high-speed combat and possesses wire-guided weapons, while Abyss is an amphibious suit. All of the Second Stage units are able to transform into MA mode to enhance their mobility.

  • Besides the Gundams, ZAFT also fields the ZAKU (all-caps, to differentiate it from the Universal Century Zakus) – Gundam SEED Destiny‘s ZAKUs are an all-new mobile suit whose base performance exceeds those of the G Project suits, and unlike Universal Century Zakus, have an inner frame around which the armour is placed, rather than a heavily armoured outer shell. The average ZAKU thus has impressive performance all around and can be equipped with a wide range of weapons, making them formidable machines all around.

  • Here, Shinn’s Impulse and another ZAFT suit attempt to load a drill onto Junius Seven after it is found that the colony remains have unexpectedly accelerated towards Earth. The perpetrators are Patrick Zala loyalists, and their presence shakes the otherwise calm Athrun: Athrun’s greatest concern is that he will eventually follow the wrong path and bring others to ruin as his father did, as well as the fact that there are those who still believe extremism is the only way to correct past wrongs. In the end, while the Minerva is able to break up Junius Seven, the pieces still deal massive damage around the world.

  • The Vatican, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Monument National Park among the locations devastated: the entire scene is set to Rie Tanaka’s Fields of Hope, Lacus’ inset song for Gundam SEED Destiny. I’ve long been fond of Tanaka’s performances: Token of Water is the song that opened me to vocal music in general, and Fields of Hope is a similarly melancholy and wistful sounding song. I ended up using footage from Junius Seven’s earthfall and other parts of Gundam SEED Destiny as a part of an English project back in secondary school: because it’s been over a decade, I can’t remember what sort of project it was for, but I do remember that I excelled in English that year, enough to win the English award and surprise the folks who always figured the humanities wasn’t my jam.

  • The reality is that being effective in the humanities depends a similar skill-set one requires to succeed in the sciences: an analytical but open mind, logical thinking and a willingness to be wrong. However, I’ve found that a lot of people do not see things this way; these individuals believe that humanities require an appeal to emotion. This is the main reason why the thinking behind contemporary trends like activism and cancel culture is flawed: it is dependent on accepting a logical fallacy as a valid argument. Here, Talia and Murrue meet for the first time: Talia is unaware that Murrue is the Archangel’s former captain, creating a bit of dramatic irony.

  • The fact that the Earth Alliance strikes first, and with nuclear weapons, during their retaliatory strike on the PLANTs is actually not so unbelievable: in contemporary politics, I do not doubt that there are nations who have at least considered first-use in their efforts to get the upper hand over competition. In reality, there is no Neutron Stampeder to prematurely set off incoming nuclear weapons; ZAFT utilises such a device to render ineffectual the Earth Alliance strike, and this serious attempt at what amounts to genocide riles the PLANTs, enough for them to wish for a retaliatory strike.

  • Durandal, however, plays his new trump card to placate the citizens: he has his own Lacus Clyne double, Meer Campbell, and through her as a mouthpiece, Drandal defuses the situation enough to indicate that he is raising ZAFT’s alert level and preparing for defensive measures, but otherwise, will not authorise offensive operations. At this point in time, Athrun has also confided in Durandal and ultimately decides to accept Durandal’s offer of returning to ZAFT as a pilot, as well as becoming a member of FAITH, a special forces group with license to operate independently. Athrun believes that becoming the Saviour’s pilot will allow him to shape the course of events and stave off open warfare.

  • The phony Lacus, Meer, has fully embraced her duties as an idol and symbol of hope for the PLANTs. However, whereas the real Lacus was introspective and thoughtful, Meer is excitable and bubbly: she sings more energetic versions of Lacus’ iconic songs and wears more revealling outfits. Athrun is somewhat embarrassed by her manner: Meer tends to cling to Athrun, both because the original Lacus had been engaged to him before Patrick Zala called things off, and because Athrun himself exudes a very calm and composed demeanour.

  • Upon returning to the Orb Union, Cagalli has her hands full in trying to convince the cabinet of declining the Earth Alliance’s demands to join them. Since the events of Gundam SEED, Cagalli remains an idealist and is committed to the belief that Orb’s survival is contingent on being resolute in neutrality. However, the other members in the government feel that it is a necessary evil to join with and fight alongside the Earth Alliance owing to the fact that their nation technically owes no favours to the Coordinators. Cagalli’s wishes are ultimately brushed aside, and she’s forced to wed Yuna Roma Seiran.

  • While contemplating his next move, Athrun runs into two old colleagues, Dearka and Yzak. According to the materials, Dearka is reinstated into ZAFT, while Yzak now leads his own vessel and acts as a mentor for inexperienced pilots. While still somewhat impulsive, Yzak has matured. The group head out to visit Nicol’s grave: Nicol’s death had hit particularly hard, and Gundam SEED had done a fantastic job of showing how people on both sides of the conflict were human. This is something that I found to be absent in Gundam 00, where Celestial Being squared off mostly against nameless soldiers in the first season, and an openly evil organisation in the second.

  • After Coordinator special forces infiltrate the castle the Archangel’s crew are staying at, Kira sorties in the Freedom to take them out, stating that while he would prefer not to employ physical force where possible, there are things that must be defended through force. The Kira of Gundam SEED Destiny is more mature and resolute than the Kira of Gundam SEED, but for the first half of Gundam SEED Destiny, Kira’s role is minimal as the story focuses primarily on Athrun and who he’s become after the events at Jachin Due. The Freedom’s return, then, signifies how Kira is returning to play a larger role in the unfolding conflict.

  • The biggest action the reactivated Archangel crew take is kidnapping Cagalli from her wedding ceremony: while it saves Cagalli from an uncertain fate with the manipulative and controlling Yuna, Cagalli herself is unsure if this action would’ve been beneficial. One thing that is notable is how the Orb armed forces are actually reluctant to follow Yuna’s orders to recaptuire Cagalli, and several of the captains even salute the Freedom, placing their faith in Kira to do the right thing. This indicates that outside of Cagalli, Orb’s leadership has also grown corrupt and decadent, preferring band-aid solutions to options that would be more beneficial in the long term.

  • With Athrun’s decision to rejoin ZAFT, Durandal assigns him to the Minerva, which has already made a bit of a name for itself after eluding the Girty Lue and participating in breaking up Junius Seven. Here, Athrun makes to familiarise himself with the Saviour’s controls and finds himself face-to-face with a curious Lunamaria. She quickly became my favourite character of Gundam SEED Destiny: friendly, respectful, competent but also prone to jealousy, having her as a part of Minerva’s crew means that there’s reason to support the Minerva and hope they get out of difficult situations alright.

  • Whereas the old 4:3 aspect ratio of Gundam SEED Destiny meant there was a little screen space for things, 16:9 allows Lunamaria to put the ass back in the HD Remasster as she looks about the Saviour’s controls, giving me one more reason to be fond of her character. Compared to the Justice, the Saviour has superior technology, more efficient weapons and can hypothetically operate indefinitely so long as it was in range of a power transmitted, but lacks the Justice’s nuclear reactor, which enables the latter to definitively run on its own for extended periods of time. Overall, documentation suggests that the Second Stage Gundams surpass the Justice and Freedom in terms of pure combat capabilities and could theoretically overcome the older two suits if the circumstances are right.

  • Gundam SEED had Rau Le Creuset, and Gundam SEED Destiny brings on Neo Roanoke, a mysterious masked man who commands Phantom Pain, a black ops unit answering directly to Blue Cosmos. While Neo has a preference for mobile armours, he also pilots a highly customised Windam. The Windam is one of the Earth Alliance’s mainstay mobile suits, being developed from the Dagger (itself developed from the Strike Gundam): these mobile suits are comparable to the Strike in terms of mobility and firepower, and moreover, are highly flexible because they can equip Strike packs: Neo’s rocking such a pack here for improved atmospheric performance, and his own skill as a pilot means he can fight ZAFT forces to a standstill. Conversely, conventional Windams are shot down left and right: these excellent mass production units are given almost no chance to shine despite their technical strengths to show viewers how capable the Minerva’s crew are.

  • It feels a little unusual to watch a Gundam-type sortie alongside Zakus: of the pilots on board the Minerva, Shinn pilots the Impulse, which was itself a derivate of ZAFT’s ZAKU Splendor, a prototype ZAKU with a nuclear reactor. The Impulse’s main feature is that it can be assembled and disassembled on the fly, allowing it to be highly versatile in combat by switching out its loadout to suit whatever the situation demands. However, this does require that the Minerva be nearby. Save the nuclear reactor-powered Gundams, Cosmic Era mobile suits have always been particularly well-balanced and are employed in a strategic manner during battle. Moreover, their limitations continue forcing pilots to improve themselves, and here, Shinn fights Stella’s Gaia, a mobile suit that can transform into a quadrupedal form resembling the BuCUE.

  • While the PLANTs’ citizens readily accept Meer as Lacus, there are several indicators to allow viewers to swiftly tell the two apart: Meer sports a star hair ornament, while the real Lacus has a more subtle hairclip, and whereas Meer dresses more provocatively, the real Lacus prefers elegant but practical clothing. To emphasise the idea that the two are similar, however, Rie Tanaka voices both Meer and Lacus, although even then, one can hear nuances in how Tanaka delivers the real Lacus’ and Meer’s lines differently.

  • When the Minerva leaves a base on Carpentaria after undergoing repairs following a bout with the Earth Alliance forces, which saw Shinn enter SEED mode for the first time and single-handedly demolish several Earth Alliance ships, they come under attack again, and during the combat, Shinn disobeys orders and attacks the base. This earns him a reprimand from Athrun. Athrun later speaks to Shinn privately and notes that being a pilot comes with responsibilities (hence the page quote): this was something that Gundam SEED had spoken to well, by having Kira and Athrun pilot the more limited GAT-series Gundams before coming to an epiphany and gaining access to the nuclear powered ZGMF-series’ nigh-unlimited power.

  • Athrun’s treatment of Shinn is tough but fair, and ultimately, Athrun is able to convince Shinn to use his prodigious skill on the battlefield without overstepping his duties. During an operation to take out a positron cannon, Shinn accepts the assignment after Athrun reminds him that he would not have been placed on the assignment, if Athrun hadn’t been confident that Shinn would be able to complete the mission. In the aftermath, the townspeople living near this cannon are overjoyed to see the Earth Alliance on the backfoot, although in response to the Earth Alliance’s brutal treatment of the locals, the remaining Earth Alliance soldiers are spared no quarter and summarily executed. Once the area is secure, Meer shows up to put on a performance for the ZAFT soldiers.

  • In recognition of their accomplishments, Athrun, Shinn, Rey and Lunamaria are invited to dinner with Durandal and Talia, where they discuss the possibility of conflict being fought for profits. I was particularly impressed with how Gundam SEED Destiny brought this topic into the open: Gundam Unicorn only touched lightly on the EFSF government’s unusually close relationship to Anaheim Electronics, and similarly, while Gundam 00 presented the PMC Trust and mercenaries as a factor in warfare, the military-industrial complex was never explicitly mentioned. The idea of wars being fought solely to enrich corporate pocketbooks is nothing new, and in retrospect, is one of the reasons why wars continue to persist in the post-Cold War era: for some companies, wars are good for business, and this demands that there be an enemy to fight (in the absence of a foe, these companies would report quarterly losses).

  • In private conversation, I’ve also noted that Gundam SEED Destiny captures real-world geopolitics surprisingly well, with there being analogues of both the Earth Alliance and PLANTs alike. The Earth Alliance is well-established and possesses vast resources, but is influenced by a shadowy group from behind the scenes, while the PLANTs are technologically advanced but led by a single entity, the PLANT Supreme Council. Misunderstandings between the two grow into open hostilities as a result of media rhetoric, and this is used as flimsy justification for increasingly extreme policies on both ends. Gundam SEED Destiny further suggests that whereas the Earth Alliance is openly corrupt, Durandal appears to be hiding something, as well; despite being the more sympathetic of the two sides, viewers should not be so hasty as to trust Durandal at this point in time despite his reassuring words and measured reasoning.

  • While Gundam SEED Destiny is primarily about the causes and consequences of warfare, more so than its predecessor, there are more lighthearted moments, especially where Meer and Lunamaria are concerned. Their antics are often accompanied by the whimsical-sounding piece of incidental music, Kaze no Kodou. On their break from the front lines, the most outrageous moment occurs when Athrun wakes up to find a half-naked Meer sleeping beside him, and things are cranked up after Lunamaria barges in and immediately jumps to conclusions.

  • Lunamaria spends the remainder of the episode in a huff over things: she’s not exactly good at concealing her jealousy, and this is another part of her character that I am fond of: while she’s a soldier and a pilot, she and her younger sister, Meyrin have common interests and worry about the sorts of things appropriate to girls of their age, on top of their usual duties. One thing I found especially noticeable in Gundam SEED Destiny is the fact that Meyrin will always append どうぞ to her ATC instructions to pilots (e.g. 発信どうぞ, hasshin douzo, literally “please launch”). This is something that carries over from Gundam SEED when Miriallia was running the Archangel’s comms, and because the Impulse has a lot of parts, this meant we got to hear Meyrin issue more instructions. I suspect that this is a way to indicate their youthfulness, standing in place of the usual “cleared for launch”.

  • One of the pivotal moments in Gundam SEED Destiny occurs when Shinn meets Stella for the first time, unaware that she’s an Earth Alliance pilot with Phantom Pain. Shinn’s story is a familiar one: he loses his family during ZAFT’s attack on Orb. While the battle is under way, civilians begin evacuating, but crossfire from Earth Alliance pilots kill off his family. Since then, Shinn had desired to fight for a world without conflict, and being a Coordinator himself, ends up joining ZAFT. As a result of his losses, Shinn is very impulsive and arrogant, even challenging superior officers, but his skill as a pilot is also evident, and when the moment calls for it, he is understanding and caring.

  • Being with Stella gives viewers a better idea of what sort of person Shinn is in the absence of conflict, and while Shinn is counted as an unnecessary addition to the Cosmic Era by some viewers, his brash attitude stands in stark contrast with Athrun and Kira, who both once stood in his place and ended up maturing as a result of their experiences. By the events of Gundam SEED Destiny, Athrun has matured considerably, and so, when FAITH sends Heine Westenfluß to take command, Athrun has no qualms deferring to him, and the pair even share a conversation about the nature of warfare that leads Athrun to reconsider what he’s fighting for.

  • This is why in the Saviour, Athrun’s combat is much more restrained than he had been in a ZAKU: his doubts are weighing him down and causing him to be more mindful of his actions. To the external observer, Athrun is pulling his punches. Conversely, Shinn has no qualms about beating the living daylights out of his opponents, and so, when the Minerva is faced with the combined Earth Alliance and Orb fleets, he sorties in the Impulse and sets about attacking Orb’s Astrays and new-fangled Murasames. The latter is a transformable mobile suit with strong all-around performance and a good mixture of both beam and physical weapons. The Murasame remains my best friend’s favourite mass production unit because of its characteristics; these suits have versatility, and the only reason they fall in large numbers is because they’re going against named characters.

  • During this particular fight, the Archangel moves in to intervene, preventing the Minerva from firing its main armament, the Tannhäuser positron cannon, at the Orb fleet. With the distraction Kira provides, Cagalli gets onto the communications channels and orders the Orb forces to stand down, but an inconsolable Yuna orders the Orb forces to attack anyways: he is deluded into thinking that this isn’t the real Cagalli, and this ultimately forces Kira to attack the Earth Alliance, Orb and ZAFT forces alike. While the Freedom is two years old at this point and lacks the features contemporary mobile suits have, its nuclear reactor and corresponding limitless power means it remains a powerful presence on the battlefield.

  • My friend and I have a fondness for drawing analogues between computer hardware and mobile suits in our discussions, and when it comes to computers, high on our list of priorities is designing a machine that gives good performance for value. There are some folks out there who enjoy building systems with the best parts money can buy, but because computer hardware always advances, one’s parts are obsolete before they even are launched. For instance, Intel just released their Alder Lake line of CPUs today, and while they look very promising, the reality is that Intel’s already got their eye on the thirteenth generation line, while AMD is going to be keeping a close eye on things as they develop even better CPUs of their own. As such, it is more prudent to build for a computer that does just a little more than what one needs for the present, and then upgrade parts if needed.

  • This is more cost-effective than trying to future proof a computer, and at the end of the day, things like a ten to fifteen percent improvement in performance does not always justify the thirty percent increase in cost. A well-built computer needn’t break the bank but can still last a very long time. In Gundam SEED Destiny, while the Impulse makes use of newer technology compared to the Freedom, overall, I would count it as an inferior suit purely on the basis that its operational time is limited, whereas the Freedom can operate indefinitely. In spite of this, it is still a superior suit to anything from the original G Weapons programme, taking flexibility and versatility to the next level.

  • Overall, I’d consider Shinn the inferior pilot compared to Kira: Kira’s strengths come from being able to fight with such a level of precision that he can disable enemy suits without much trouble, whereas Shinn typically goes for kills and struggles against foes in machines of equivalent power. While Shinn can only fight the Gaia to a standstill, Kira is able to lop off a limb without much trouble, showing that despite the Second Stage Gundams’ upgrades, the combination of Kira’s own prowess as a pilot and the Freedom’s still-impressive specs allow the Freedom to remain relevant by the events of Gundam SEED Destiny.

  • Heine’s death hit me particularly hard – I took a liking to him because, despite being more senior than Athrun, he has an easygoing personality and contemplates what war is for, as well as whether or not there are “preferred” foes to fight during war. While engaging the Freedom, his GOUF is destroyed by Stella, who had also been trying to attack the Freedom from behind. In the chaos, Heine’s GOUF is bisected, killing him instantly. The pain of his death was amplified by the fact that unlike Nicol or Tolle, few seem affected in the aftermath. This speaks to the callous nature of warfare, and while Heine had his own story to tell, things were cut short as a result of bad luck on his end.

  • After the events involving the Archangel, Athrun is determined to contact Kira and have him explain himself before miscommunication and assumptions lead to another tragedy between the two. To this end, Athrun speaks with Miriallia in an attempt to get in touch with Kira after the Archangel’s intervention, and is surprised that she’s got ways to contact Kira after all this time. It turns out Miriallia is now a freelance journalist, and she was present at the battle between ZAFT, the Earth Alliance and Orb forces, and the Archangel.

  • While Kira is more of an idealist, Athrun is more pragmatic – the two part ways on rocky terms and neither can really reconcile with what the other’s decisions are. Kira and Athrun have clashed previously, with devastating results (Nicol and Tolle both die from crossfire when they get between Kira and Athrun); the two are more mature now, but still find themselves at odds because, despite sharing the same desires, Kira and Athrun do not agree on how the same outcome should be reached. The two part ways, resolute on sorting things out in their own way.

  • For me, the Extended facility was probably the most difficult part about Gundam SEED Destiny to watch, and solidified the fact that the Earth Alliance and LOGOS were meant to be detestable: the extent they were willing to go in order to defeat the Coordinators is appalling, and Shinn rightly asks why the Naturals would stoop to such lows when they considered tampering with the human genome immoral. The site is traumatic to Rey, who collapses after entering, and if memory serves, for several episodes after, the horrors the Minvera’s crew witnesses inside the facility return to them in flashbacks.

  • The revelation that the Extended facility has been infiltrated sends Auel into shock, and Stella sorties to protect him. While they are still unpredictable and dangerous, the Extended are much more stable than the Biological CPUs of Gundam SEED, and considerably more human; this aspect does look like it will continue to create tensions in Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half, as Shinn has come to regard Stella as a bit of a younger sister figure in his life.

  • One of the other challenges about writing for something like Gundam SEED Destiny is whittling down the screenshot collection into a manageable count for this post. I’ve opted to end with a shot of the Impulse cutting open Stella’s Gaia, surprising Shinn. With this, I am now ready to enter Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half; I believe that things are slated to become more inconsistent and crazy in the second half, but this time around, since I do have some context as to what’s going on, it will be time to determine for myself as to whether or not the existing reception online to Gundam SEED Destiny holds any merit. With this post in the books, I will aim to finish Gundam SEED Destiny before 2021 draws to a close, and in the meantime, because it is Thursday, I now need to catch up on The Aquatope on White Sand.

Halfway into Gundam SEED Destiny, I am not experiencing the same level of confusion and lack of understanding that I imagined would be the case; Gundam SEED Destiny has a reputation in the West for being unpolished and inconsistent which, in conjunction with recycled animation and an overwhelming number of mobile suits, sets the stage for a series that could prove difficult to follow. However, at this point in time, I have had no trouble in keeping up with things. This was my main concern entering the series; I’d seen glimpses of Gundam SEED Destiny when it had been airing on television some fourteen years earlier, and further to this, had only seen clips of the more iconic moments on YouTube. Beyond this, I had no personal experience with the series beyond the decidedly negative reception surrounding it. Back then, the technology available meant that watching the series in full was only possible if one caught episodes on Friday nights, and during this time, I had Chinese school on Saturdays, so I always needed to sleep right as episodes were starting. The only way to have watched Gundam SEED Destiny would have been to rely on the torrents of that era, but between the fact that I had dial-up internet and the fact that the torrents themselves would’ve likely had malware, downloading them was off the table. Fast forward to the present, and things have changed completely: Bandai’s official Gundam channel, GundamInfo, is host to the whole of Gundam SEED Destiny on YouTube, and broadband internet makes it trivially easy to legally stream the series and watch it at my own pace. Technological advances have allowed me to experience Gundam SEED Destiny for myself, and now that I’m here, I’ve gotten some of the answers to the questions that had arisen when I watched snippets of the show fourteen years earlier. I now know the context behind the Extended, the destruction of Junius Seven and where Shinkai no Kodoku fits into Gundam SEED Destiny. While the series hasn’t aged quite as gracefully as Gundam 00, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s first half has proven satisfactorily engaging: for one, watching this series in a relative vacuum has proven to be a remarkably enjoying experience, and the absence of know-it-alls picking apart every second of the series in internet forums means that I am able to properly watch things at my own pace.

The Human and Material Costs of Ambition, Dispelling Controversy in a Collaborative Discussion with Dewbond on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED

“If you don’t do something because you think you can’t do it, you’ll never be able to do anything in the future.” –Kira Yamato

Gundam SEED first crossed my path when I was a student. Back then, the local television station ran English-dubbed episodes on Friday evenings, and I caught a glimpse of the series late in the game. One of my best friends had taken an immense liking to the series and picked up all four volumes of the soundtrack some time later, sharing two iconic songs, Strike Shutsugeki and Seigi to Jiyuu, with me over MSN messenger. I subsequently longed to hear more of the soundtrack, and stumbled across Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water. With her singing voice, I was captivated. However, back then, it would’ve been very tricky to get ahold of Gundam SEED, and for the next sixteen years, what sort of series Gundam SEED was would remained unanswered. Recently, at my best friend, and Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime‘s recommendation, I would finally begin Gundam SEED. What followed was a fantastic journey; going in, the only knowledge I had was that internet opinions of the show were not entirely trustworthy, and so, I entered with an open mind. The road from the first episode to finish took ten months altogether; I actually started back in September of last year, but only really accelerated my experience in the past six months. With the whole of Gundam SEED now in the books, I am finally in a position to say I’m ready for a collaborative talk about Gundam SEED. I welcome back Dewbond for this discussion; with my best friend, Gundam discussions never stray far from mobile suit mechanics, their analogues in real life and video games, and how politics in Gundam always seem to predict or speak to current events with a chilling accuracy. Such topics form the bulk of discussions I am most familiar with, but this approach comes at the expense of things like characterisation and other topics. Gundam is, after all, a franchise whose largest successes come from a balance of character growth and development, exploration of a plethora of themes as varied as current events to bioethics, and thrilling, well-animated combat sequences. Having Dewbond for this collaboration thus represents a fantastic opportunity to talk about the sorts of things that I might otherwise miss while conversing with more familiar faces, and this in turn will confer, as my best friend puts it, a “most” experience.

  • The HD remaster brought new life into a series, bringing the visuals upwards to improve the experience. It’s not a complete overhaul, but having seen the side-by-side comparisons, the changes are noticeable: to put things in perspective, it’s the difference between 2007’s Halo 3 and Halo 3 from The Master Chief Collection. I’ve heard that subtle changes were also made to the order of events compared to the original, but I’ve not seen the original, and Dewbond similarly enters with the HD remaster, so for our conversation, we’ll be sticking with the HD remaster.

Firstly, Dewbond, I’d like to welcome you back to our latest collaborative project. Before we delve further into the heart and soul of things, I will note that I enjoyed every step of this journey. I’ve always been intimidated by long-running anime; at first, the prospect of watching all of Gundam SEED‘s episodes seemed daunting, and watching the series in a Netflix-style marathon was off the table. However, as I delved into the series, I did find myself watching episodes in twos and wishing I had the time to polish off one more before lunch break ended, or before I turned in for the night. The experience ended up reminding me of YU-NO, which similarly led me to watch multiple episodes in one sitting the further I got, speaking volumes to how much fun I had with Gundam SEED. In fact, I’m now wishing I bought an MG Aile Strike back in the day; that’s how enjoyable Gundam SEED is. However, that’s enough from me: Dewbond, I’d like to hear a little more from you and how you came upon Gundam SEED!

I actually have MGs of each of the Gundams in SEED, at least the first few!

Gundam SEED is a show that I watched in the tail end of the 4kids/Toonami Era, and the start of the Fansub Era. It was a show on late nights on Friday, and having been one of the people who watched Gundam Wing, I was for sure going to watch anything else with Gundam on it. To that end, SEED has been a show that’s been with me for a long time, and a personal favorite of mine. As I’ve gotten older and other Gundam series have come and gone, I’ve always retained the belief that SEED isn’t just good Gundam, it’s good anime period. Which is a surprisingly contrary opinion as most fans look down heavily on the series.

But for me, I love the characters, the story, the mechs, the themes, the music and the ease of which it brings new viewers into a classic Gundam story. Not a perfect show by any means, just look at the animation recycling, but something that I think is unfairly judged, and helped in no small part by the it’s own sequel.

That is something I didn’t know, and it’s great to meet a fellow Gunpla builder! We should swap photos and stories some time. Unfortunately for me, SEED always aired a little too late for me, so I always ended up seeing the first five minutes of episodes before turning in; my first Gundam was Gundam 00, which I’ve heard is similar to Gundam Wing in some ways. Having now seen SEED, I am aligned with the idea that it’s a fantastic series for beginners. The protagonists’ goals are clearly defined, and the scope of the ZAFT-Earth Alliance conflict is slowly expanded upon as not to overwhelm viewers, the mobile suits are similarly smaller in number early on so viewers can get accustomed to what the G-project’s implications are before more variety is introduced, and Kira himself represents a viewer who is similarly thrown into the story.

In many ways, Gundam SEED succeeds in bringing the best aspects of the Universal Century into a fresh environment – it would’ve been a bold new project during its time, and I can’t help but feel that perhaps the animation shortcuts were a result of having spent more time writing out the story; if this is the case, then the story in Gundam SEED more than offsets the fact that the Freedom’s full burst mode is identical in no fewer than six scenes. In the heat of the moment, these can be hard to notice, so in that department, I’ll also give it a pass. Finally, I’ve not seen Gundam SEED Destiny in full (save a few iconic scenes like the Strike Freedom’s launch, which is awesome no matter how the rest of Destiny is perceived), so I entered Gundam SEED with more or less a blank canvas, and will reserve all judgement for Destiny once I’ve gone through it. Further to this, I have heard the unjust hate Kira Yamato himself gets, and SEED demonstrates that almost none of these assertions hold true.

Gundam SEED was the first time a Gundam series was done on the computer instead of traditional hand-drawn animation. I’ve also heard that most of the budget went towards booking top-tier voice actors and music, though I can’t confirm that. What I can say is that the animation recycling is very noticeable, especially after a re-watch. It gets only worse in Destiny, but again we are keeping things to SEED here.

Now on to the series proper. I’ve said before in my own posts that I have little love for the UC timeline of Gundam. I’ve watched quite a bit, enjoyed some parts, but it has never pulled me in as much as the Alternate Universes have. Simply put, the UC’s vaguely defined space politics (and also telepathy) never gripped me as much as say SEED‘s story of science, or Wing‘s “philosophical” nature, or 00‘s peace through violence. I think it is important, for me at least, to point out that SEED has at least two central themes running through it. One for the overall Coordinator-Natural conflict, and one for the characters themselves. Both of these intertwine throughout the show, but I do think they are quite separate.

For the characters and most notably the lead, Kira Yamato, his story is about stepping up to the plate. By using your gifts and powers to do something, and not just run away. This is very present in the first half of the series where Kira, like Amuro Ray before him, struggles with becoming involved in a war he has no interest in. He is a kind and gentle soul who doesn’t want to kill, which is made even worse when his friend Athrun is on the other side. But things are out of his control and to protect his friends and later, the world, Kira comes to terms with realizing what he can do and what he should do.

And this theme is present in all of the characters. From Mu and Murrue on the Archangel, to Miriallia, Tolle, Sai and Kuzzy, to Cagalli and Lacus, and even to Flay. Everyone in the cast has to reckon with whether they will try to do something, or let the world go the way it is suppose to. But I’m getting ahead of myself, Zen, let’s talk about the central two characters of the story, Kira and Athrun, what do you make of them?

A long-standing question that people are asked about anime is, if the visuals weren’t exceptional but the story was, would said anime still be okay? I’ve never given my thoughts on that until now, but Gundam SEED is the perfect example of a series whose visuals might not swing with say, the likes of Gundam 00 (the mobile suit fights and combat scenes have aged very gracefully and look amazing to this day), but as far as story, emotional investment, character growth and world-building, Gundam SEED is remarkably well done: Gundam 00 was my first Gundam, and looking back, if I’d seen Gundam SEED first, I probably would’ve found it to be every bit as enjoyable then as I do now (although the “me” of a decade earlier is unlikely to have articulated his thoughts quite as coherently!).

Once we step away from the internet memes and forum discussions surrounding Kira Yamato, I found a very relatable individual who rises up to the challenge. While his Coordinator abilities certainly would’ve been an asset, it is his heart that makes all the difference. He simultaneously detests war and wishes that other options were available to sort out disagreements, but at the same time, knows that since he’s the only one capable of stepping into the cockpit and defend those around him, he does so whenever needed (however reluctantly). His first few battles open his eyes to the reality of warfare – sometimes, there really is no other way, and hesitating to pull the trigger means watching one’s friends or allies die. Indeed, the worst of it is when he is made to confront Athrun, his best friend.

Athrun might be on the other side of the war, but his convictions and beliefs are equally as strong as Kira’s. Whereas most Gundam series delineate things very clearly, having one’s best friend on the other side immediately changes things by humanising one’s opponents. It was easy to vilify Zeon, but seeing Athrun with ZAFT meant understanding him and his team, too. They’re soldiers, whose sense of duty is no less than Kira’s, and who genuinely believes that swiftly beating his foe is a route to peace. Athrun is not one of the bad guys, and in fact, one sympathises with him for the fact that he is conflicted between his duty and what and what he feels is right. Amidst the horrors and losses accrued in war, Gundam SEED brings these two to the brink, and Athrun’s fight with Kira was a milestone in the series, representing how war and its brutality strips us of what makes us human. It is a tragedy in the making, but fortunately, we have Lacus and Cagalli speak with Kira and Athrun, respectively helping them to mentally recover. By the time the two meet again, they are able to reconcile, and this moment put a particular smile on my face.

Once Kira and Athrun understand one another, as well as what they desire, Gundam SEED symbolically grants them superior mobile suits, armed with a nuclear reactor and possessing the power to finally affect positive change on the world. Had the two been given the Freedom and Justice early on, their brash impulses would’ve taken over and inevitably result in tragedy. This was a brilliant move on Gundam SEED‘s part, in using the mobile suits themselves to visually denote the characters’ state of being. The early Gundams are limited by their batteries, and constrain the pilots, who must be mindful of how they fight. The natural progression of the technology and pilot skill is synchronous with character growth – seeing Kira and Athrun improve and overcome their trials was a rewarding part of Gundam SEED. However, the two do not do this alone. Kira has the crew of the Archangel and his friends to support him early on, and eventually meets Lacus, who changes his life. Similarly, a chance encounter with Cagalli also pushes Athrun in a direction that forces him to choose what matters more to him, and her presence eventually pushes him to follow his heart. Lacus and Cagalli are similarly integral players in Gundam SEED – while they are formidable and capable individuals in their own right, their power lies in being able to inspire and support those around them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Cagalli and Lacus!

I like your view that when Kira and Athrun are given the Freedom and Justice, they are in a sense given power on par with their new resolve. I never really thought of it that way, though in hindsight, Lacus kinda does spell it out.

Kira and Athrun’s relationship is of course, the backbone of the series and it is interesting in how similar and different they are. There are both gentle souls and would avoid killing if they have too, yet while Kira fights for his friends, Athrun fights, at least the start, for a sense of duty. He feels like he has too, that it is expected of him, and that because he lost his mother in the Bloody Valentine, he should be a solider who seeks vengeance. But he isn’t really that kind of person. Even after Nicol’s death (which is changed in the HD version to make it more of a mistake, then intentional by Kira), Athrun’s rage against his friend is only for a few fleeting, but crucial days.

When he learns Kira is alive, he isn’t bent on furthering his revenge, or killing his friend. Through Lacus, he realizes he needs to figure out what he is fighting for. As she puts it to him. “Is it the medal you received, or your father’s orders?” This conversation I think helps pull Athrun out of a rage-filled revenge fest that might have driven him otherwise (as it does Yzak), and allows him and Kira to sit down and talk it out. That is a great conversation and they both reach a sense of peace that is rare both in Gundam and Anime in general.

As for Lacus and Cagalli, they are both interesting characters, and I want to talk about them both. I’ll put Cagalli aside for the moment and focus instead on Lacus. I’ll admit, that when it comes to Lacus Clyne, this is where the anime comes up short in terms of character work. There is too much “tell” and not enough “show” for Lacus, and there feels like we are just supposed to accept parts of her character with it really being shown the A to B road.

Zen, what did you think of the Pink Pop Princess?

It is probably no joke when I say that Lacus Clyne fuelled much of my interest in the series prior to my knowledge of what Gundam even was. I’d been long itching to see what role such a character would play in a series where warfare was a core concept, and where space battles were the norm. One evening, when I’d just started high school, while trying to find more music from Gundam SEED, I inadvertently downloaded Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water. At that point, I wasn’t a fan of any sort of vocal music newer than the 80s, let alone contemporary J-Pop, and Rie Tanaka’s stunning performance in that song blew me away. This one song, with Tanaka’s clear singing voice and emotional delivery, single-handedly changed my mind about songs with vocals. I would similarly fall in love with Tanaka’s other songs as Lacus Clyne (Quiet Night, and Fields of Hope come to mind), and that led me to watch Chobits. But, that’s going off topic: on Lacus herself, I entered Gundam SEED knowing she was an excellent singer and an idol of sorts with a profound dedication to peace as a result of having listened to her songs so extensively.

Gundam SEED‘s portrayal of Lacus is indeed limited – upon meeting her, viewers get the sense that her ditzy, easygoing manner is a veneer, and underneath, she has a strong sense of justice and stands strongly behind her ideals. Beyond speeches and the Clyne name, Lacus doesn’t have quite as direct a role as her popularity amongst viewers suggest. However, I believe that this element is deliberate – despite not stepping into the cockpit herself, Lacus does venture onto the battlefield and rally those around her to see what’s going on around her. Moreover, she’s the one who convinces Kira to forgive himself for what’s happened, and upon seeing Kira’s devotion to what he believes in, boldly steals the Freedom from ZAFT for him. Lacus’ actions in Gundam SEED are indirect, but they nonetheless have a large impact on how the war turns out. Princess-like figures in Gundam hold an unusual power in the series, driving pilots to do things they otherwise won’t do without a bit of encouragement, and in the most recent instalment, Hathaway’s Flash, Federation Commander Kenneth Sleg, remarks that the right women in the right place can tame even the fiercest man’s heart, suggesting that for all of their weapons and power, at the end of the day, those feelings within the heart remain more powerful still.

In Gundam SEED, Lacus is able to impact both Kira and Athrun in this way, though hearts and minds, by gently guiding them along rather than more openly propelling the to open their eyes. This is where Lacus can seem a little less prominent, especially where compared to her counterpart, Cagalli Athha, who is very much a woman of action. Where Lacus is composed and graceful, Cagalli is direct and action-oriented. She speaks her mind and is an untamed spirit, preferring to meet injustice with force compared to Lacus, who would rather sit the sides down and have them talk out their problems. With the rambunctious and daring Cagalli, whose devotion to Orb compels her to even pilot the Strike Rogue, Lacus does seem to have a lesser presence. However, I feel that Lacus is no less important, affecting the story in her own way, and before we delve deeper into Lacus’ counterpart, I would also be curious to hear more about how Lacus would’ve been able to play a larger role in SEED (and be credited accordingly).

As always Zen, you are more abstract, while I look at things like they are on the page, but it is a good counterbalance when we have conversations like this.

Like I said before, Lacus in my view, is the weakest of the four main characters, and the least developed. While Kira and Athrun both go on journeys to find their place in the war and Cagalli learns that you can’t shoot your way through everything, Lacus really doesn’t have any kind of journey. The switch from idol pop princess to the philosophical and measured leader of the Clyne Faction feels very much out of left field. There is just no connective tissue that links the two together. Was Lacus a follower of her father? We know that a little, but did she make her own speeches, did she study the issues? What is her stake in all of this? Hell the only time we see Lacus show a sliver of actual human emotion is when she runs to Kira after her father’s dead. It’s a good moment, and shows you there is a human underneath, but to be honest, we never got to see the ‘icon’ side of her that much either.

It’s not that it isn’t believable, Lacus’s role in the story is to be the guiding force for the other characters. She is in a sense, the figurehead to counter balance Rau Le Crueset and Patrick Zala. There is just no legwork done to try and connect what feels like two different version of the character. Maybe that was due to scripting reasons, critics of the series have said that the show’s tone takes a marked shift after the Kira and Athrun fight, but I can’t say for sure.

What do you think Zen, did you see any of this?

Now that you mention it, following the Kira and Athrun fight, Gundam SEED sets aside the idea of being forced to do extraordinary and difficult things (like shooting to kill even though it’s one’s best friend on the receiving end) in warfare, to the greater conflict between the Coordinators and Naturals. In retrospect, this does come across as a bit jarring, coinciding with the arrival of Muruta Azrael and the Biological CPUs. Gundam SEED suddenly feels bigger – the smaller scale and focused battles suddenly give way to a much larger war, with the racism and hatred between the Coordinators and Naturals really coming to bear. Before, we’d seen it briefly with how Naturals regard coordinators, such as through Flay and her initial treatment of Kira, but Muruta really came to embody the worst excesses of the Earth Alliance.

I would say that the shift is noticeable: even though the arrival at JOSH-A and the beginning of Operation Spit Break showed that the Earth Alliance and ZAFT both sought escalation, the series’ main conflict only comes to the table after Kira and Athrun have sorted out their own differences. The timing is quite convenient, and it does feel like ZAFT and the Earth Alliance were politely waiting for the two to reconcile before unveiling their own hostilities. If memory serves, Gundam SEED did have some directorial challenges (not as severe as Destiny’s, however!), so the tonal change might also be related to why Lacus received less development than she could’ve otherwise.

With this in mind, Gundam SEED still manages to apply the lessons learnt from earlier conflicts to guide Kira and Athrun along, so that when the world descends to extremism and madness, the pair remain resolute in their convictions. This gives a constant beacon for the two that allow them to convey Gundam SEED‘s themes. While SEED might be rough about transitioning from its character-vs-character and character-vs-self conflicts to a character-vs-society conflict in its final third, SEED continues to intrigue because of its messages. As you’ve mentioned earlier, the larger conflict in Gundam SEED deals in the ramifications of genetic engineering and pushing science faster than ethics can keep up. This has always been a fascinating topic for me (and I’m not just saying this because a part of my undergraduate education dealt with research ethics); science fiction is fond of demonstrating the risks of uncontrolled progress (“just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”), and I’d love to hear your thoughts on where Gundam SEED excels in its portrayal of dangerous knowledge.

Gundam SEED, and its outer theme (the inner theme being the characters stepping up to heroism and the right thing), has been to me, after so many re-watches: the good and bad of human ambition, which is represented in many ways by both Kira Yamato and Rau Le Creuset

For Kira, the ultimate coordinator. He represents the strive for humanity to do better. To reach for the stars, to, as Rau says “to be the strongest, to go the farthest, to climb the highest.” Man always tries to go above and beyond their limits, to break them and do them again. It’s for the greater good of humanity. Coordinators were created for that purpose, to help guide humanity into the stars and help create a more perfect earth. Kira’s abilities are the best they possibly can be, but it is only through other people, coordinators and naturals, that he is able to fully become who he is. Kira ends the story as a mature and understanding young man, aware of the evil of humanity, but always willing to see the goodness that is there.

The problem is that while humans are capable of great compassion, they are also capable of great cruelty. And that’s Rau Le Crueset.

If Kira represents the goodness of science, the Rau is the bad. He is a product of greed, ego, ruthless ambition and doing whatever it takes to get ahead. Instead of accepting your limits, that you only have one life. we see Mu La Flaga’s father try to cheat death with his money, to create a clone to replace his ‘inferior son.” Rau only sees the worst in humanity, a greedy war obsessed people who will destroy the planet as long as they can remain on top. And unlike Kira, who has friends and loved ones to guide him, Rau only has himself and he only sees what created him and the misguided hatred of the Patrick Zala and the rest of the hardliners in the PLANTs.

It is a great contrast to me brings the ‘outer theme’ of the series into focus, especially during the Mendel episodes, which remain my favorite part of the series.

This is definitely where Gundam SEED particularly excels: in order to address the larger challenge of forbidden technology, Kira must first understand what he himself is fighting for before gaining the conviction to deal with the embodiment of evil that is Rau le Creuset. Gundam villains have greatly varied, from Char Aznable himself, who initially fought for revenge against the system that wronged his family, to Ribbons Almarc, who was created to guide humanity but deviated from his aims and Full Frontal, who believed that there was a more elegant way to force human migration into space. Rau le Creuset is unique in that Gundam SEED starts him as a masked character who appears immensely devoted to ZAFT and the PLANTs. However, at Mendel, when the cards are finally laid on the table, Rau le Creuset takes on a new menace to Kira and the protagonists. The beauty in Gundam SEED comes from Kira now having the maturity to remain true to his convictions despite hearing everything Rau le Creuset had thrown at him and Mu.

The timing of this confrontation was appropriate: having now come to terms with the idea that he should do what he feels is right, Kira is able to focus even though his world has been rocked with Rau le Creuset’s revelation (and in fact, during their final fight, Kira demonstrates that Rau had been unsuccessful in changing his mind). SEED’s portrayal of how humanity deals with possibility is an optimistic one, and at the same time, suggests that, armed with the sort of compassion and empathy Kira possesses, even the fouler consequences of progress can be overcome. We see this time and time again in Gundam, where protagonists and antagonists, when possessing or given equal power, choose to wield that power differently. When that decision is to wield it selfishly, the very power they sought to control ends up consuming them. Rau le Creuset’s existence was ultimately self-destructive, and no matter how strong his desire to annihilate humanity was, his hubris would be his undoing: he is so focused on the idea that he is unequivocally right that he cannot comprehend that there could be others with a will exceeding his, to protect and defend. While Rau le Creuset might’ve had a smaller role during Gundam SEED‘s first half, his prominent role in the second makes him the perfect foil for Kira.

With this in mind, wars are fought not as single combat between titans, but a result of politicians and people in power giving orders to their subordinates as though they were pushing pawns on a chessboard. On one end of the extreme, we have Patrick Zala and his utter hatred of Naturals, believing their inferior abilities as the singular cause of his wife’s death. In the other corner is Muruta Azrael of the Blue Cosmos, who believes that the Coordinator’s enviable abilities are unfair and personally have wronged him. Where leaders convince their followers that there is an inhuman foe to be exterminated, tragedy can only result: both Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael are completely consumed with hate, so when someone like Rau le Creuset guides them down a path of destruction, the pair are so blinded by their ideology that they would choose to fight without question. In this sense, I also see Rau le Creuset as a natural force that merely is: immensely powerful to be sure, but one that is only as potent as people allow. Dewbond, where do you stand on the PLANTs’ Patrick Zala and Earth Alliance’s Muruta Azrael?

I’ll be honest, I found both of them to be rather one-note characters to the story. Not bad, but just doing what was advertised on the box. They serve a purpose showing the two sides of the coordinator vs natural debate. Azrael representing the fear, resentment and jealously of the naturals and Zala the arrogance and superiority of the Coordinators. They more plot devices than characters, and I honestly really didn’t think much about them. Though I will say Azrael getting his comeuppance by Natarle’s sacrifice is one of the series best moments.

One of the most interesting things in the story however, is that despite the hatred shared between the naturals and coordinators. Had they let things take their course, the Naturals would have ended up winning. The show makes references to the fact that Coordinator’s are becoming increasingly sterile, and that they actually need naturals to make more of their children coordinators to help stablize the population.

I was always surprised this plot point never really got fully addressed in the story. It gives the entire world of the PLANTs a ticking clock, that despite their supposed superiority, they are a doomed race regardless. It’s almost as if they want to be ‘king of the ashes’ as Game of Thrones put it. Did you pick up any that?

There is no question about that particular moment, although Muruta’s death comes at a cost to Natarle. It’s true that Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael were the products of decades of resentment and mistrust, which in turn speaks to the writing in Gundam SEED; enough world-building was done to create a compelling and plausible backdrop for the events which lead up to the Alliance-PLANT conflict.

Regarding the reproductive challenges Coordinators face, this is another detail that I enjoyed. Had the Coordinators been created as flawless, the Naturals would have no edge to speak of. Instead, this seemingly small flaw in their genetics ends up being how the Gordian Knot could’ve been cut were it not for resentment and contempt. It’s a very clever way of showing how the simplest solutions (here, the idea of cooperating to better the world, per George Glenn’s original ideals) are often forgotten. Further to this, the genetic limitations in Coordinators also suggest that extremism and patience don’t usually go hand-in-hand. The Earth Alliance very nearly pay the price for this at Jachin Due: had GENESIS fired a third time at Earth, it would’ve probably eliminated the whole of humanity.

These small details really speak to what makes the Cosmic Era so enjoyable: we have the central theme that guides the story’s events, but then the tangents can each lead to a rabbit hole in their own right, giving viewers something further to think about. It is therefore unsurprising that even now, nineteen years after Gundam SEED aired, there can still be meaningful and engaged discussion about the series’ messages, and what it had contributed to the Gundam franchise. (If we go down the characters route:) Of course, no theme can exist in a vacuum, and Gundam SEED‘s characters are very much at the heart of what happens. One of the advantages about Gundam SEED was that with its runtime, it was able to satisfactorily explore a lot of character dynamics. Where do we begin?

I think Gundam SEED has a good run-time. There is enough time to tell the story and I honestly don’t feel that anything was left out. Everything felt wrapped up and explored to an adequate level.

I mean, we could Monday morning quarterback the series to death. There would be somethings I would do differently, I would try to tie the second half closer to the first, I would make the sterilization of the coordinators a bigger issue. I would absolutely give Lacus more backstory and quite frankly, I’d add more boobage. But what we have ranges from good to really great.

Most Gundam Series often fall apart in the back half, as they run into ‘third disc syndrome’ where they need to tie their ending up with some philosophy, but SEED, with it’s coordinator vs natural fight, gets most of it done without it feeling shoved in.

It’s a shame more anime don’t go the 4-cour approach nowadays, when everything is based off BD sales rather than telling a well-explored story, and Gundam SEED‘s first half was solid for this reason. Now that you mention it, the dwindling Coordinator question would’ve been perfect materials in a continuation: it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Naturals to exploit this and use this to start a new war. Of course, this never materialised, which is a shame, because Gundam SEED laid down the groundwork for what could’ve been exciting directions. I don’t believe Gundam SEED Destiny can be said to achieve this, but that’s going off-mission: I mention Gundam SEED Destiny only because, having only seen glimpses of Gundam SEED Destiny on TV back when children’s channels actually aired anime, I’d always gotten the sense that the Cosmic Era had a lot of moving parts.

Gundam SEED‘s first half shows that my misconceptions were untrue; the Cosmic Era is very accessible to newcomers, which is great. Beyond Kira, we have Sai, Flay, Tolle and Miriallia, whose friendship with Kira provides him with his initial desire to fight and protect the Archangel. They’re not soldiers, but ordinary people propelled into extraordinary circumstances. Sai, Tolle and Miriallia each rise to the occasion several times over, as do Marrue, Natarle and the Archangel’s crew. Their initial mission of reaching JOSH-A at Alaska was a very self-contained adventure, giving the characters plenty of time to grow, and despite the tragedies they suffer, continue to fight for the hope of a better world and for survival.

Of the initial group that Marrue encounters at Heliopolis, I am probably not mistaken in saying that Flay is probably the most nuanced, but also the most controversial. Whereas her friends willingly volunteer to keep one another safe and out of harm’s way, Flay herself is reluctant to fight and demonstrates a degree of prejudice towards Coordinators. However, if memory serves, Dewbond, you’ve previously noted that Flay’s portrayal often is not given proper credit: after all, Flay represents the average individual unaccustomed to war and its demands. Beyond the controversies and angry internet discussions, Flay is an integral part of Gundam SEED in many ways. I’d like to hear a little more on her and how her actions are central towards Gundam SEED‘s progression!

Ah yes Flay. If people have followed my look at the series from earlier this year, or my character dive on her. They’ll know that I came out of the series with a newfound appreciation for the character. Where once I sort of dismissed Flay as a ‘nothing character’, someone who was there to cause drama, going back to the series I found that Flay is both a damn compelling character, and a key aspect of the plot.

I won’t re-hash what I said in my blog post (pluggity, plug), but I will say that Flay Allster serves as a mirror to most of the character themes of the story. While Gundam SEED is about the crew of the Archangel, especially Kira and his friends, stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing, Flay is the opposite. She is weak, cowardly, and has absolutely no place in the situation she is. She is shunted from one ship to another, never having stability or purpose. She seeks comfort in Kira’s arms, but then runs right back to Sai when he vanishes. While Miriallia, in a moment of weakness, attempts to kill Dearka, she pulls back, while Flay goes for the gun. She is weak willed, cowardly and often bitterly racist person. Yet it all works in the series.

Because the truth is, not everyone is able to step up to the plate. Not everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get it together. Just as their are strong people, there are weak people. Flay is one of those weak people. A woman in a situation she should never be in, and who doesn’t have the personality or mental fortitude to adjust. It is what makes her death at the end so tragic, because she is never able to find a true level of peace. And in a series where nukes end up flying, and a giant space laser is wiping out fleets. That one death seems to be the most tragic of them all.

In the end, all of the death and wanton destruction seen in Gundam SEED is a tragedy, a cost of politicians treating soldiers as little more than pawns on a chessboard. I’d heard of the controversy surrounding Flay, and the combination of your thoughts and being able to see everything for myself puts things in perspective. I could never hate her after all she’s gone through, and especially towards the end, being forced to accompany Rau le Creuset and hear his visions for the world might’ve changed her. Lives are cut short all the time by laser fire, both intended and unintended, in Gundam SEED; this is a series that handles death in a very mature, plausible manner.

Even among the soldiers, death isn’t something to take lightly; Gundam SEED took the time to develop characters on all sides of the conflict. In doing so, viewers come to care for Athrun and his team, as well. By giving the characters down time after their initial operations of the war, we’re reminded that each of Athrun, Dearka, Nicol and even Yzak are humans first, and soldiers second. Consequently, when Nicol dies in the fight with Kira, it mattered little that he was ZAFT and part of the team tasked with destroying the Archangel: we’d come to hope that he might get out of this war alive and survive to play the piano for those around him again. Even with the biological CPUs, once it became clear they were modified into weapons and made to suffer for some fanatical cause, it felt like for Shani, Orga and Clotho, death was a release from their suffering. This aspect was a masterful way to help remind viewers of the idea that behind every gunsight is a human being, and having explored it with you further, this part of Gundam SEED now stands out as being particularly noteworthy.

I have to agree, and while I don’t think SEED goes too deep into the ‘war is hell’ vibe that other shows, including Gundam series have done. It does a fine job when it wants to.

Before we wrap up, I do want speak about Cagalli, and I also think it would be remiss to not talk about the mobile suits of the series, as well as the music. Where do you want to start first Zen?

It makes the most sense to begin with Cagalli! She’s the second of the Gundam SEED princesses, and unlike the refined, elegant and philosophical Lacus, Cagalli is brash, impulsive and driven by a desire to do good on the front lines. She’s a fighter, and very much an interesting foil to Lacus for this reason. However, while her heart is always in the right place, her hot head often threatens what she stands for, too. Her first real meeting with Kira in the African desert sets her on a path of growth – Cagalli begins to realise that it is not prudent to rush in to everything with fists raised and guns blazing.

Things only continue to get more interesting from here after Cagalli meets Athrun after they shoot one another down, and as their paths become increasingly entwined, Cagalli, Athrun and Kira continue to have a considerable impact on one another. Having said all of this, I’d like to hear your impressions of Cagalli, as well, Dewbond!

Cagalli was the character I hated the most in SEED for a long time. For me, she was the worst example of the ‘rebel girl’ trope. The woman who has to be 110% more committed to the cause to make up for the perceived deficit of being a woman. She’s never been a character who stuck well with me, being abrasive, angry, confrontational and trying to prove something. Gundam has no shortage of these bratty characters, and Cagalli fit into that mold well.

However, with this re-watch, I paid a bit more attention to Cagalli this time, and I found that, while she’s my least favorite of the four leads, she isn’t as bad as I thought. Seeing the story with new eyes, I found Cagalli to be all those things, but also someone who has a drive and zeal that helps fill in the gaps of the other character. She may be blunt, but there is a layer of kindness and compassion that can only come from someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. Her relationship with Kira, her twin brother is a good back and forth. While Kira hesitates, Cagalli is a woman of action. Both of them have moments when they are right, and both when they are wrong.

Where Kira struggles to find his place in the war, Cagalli throws herself into it, often to the detriment of the bigger picture and her own safety. She has an emotional side to her that clashes with Athrun’s failed attempt to ‘go cold’ against Kira. It is only during the last half, after her father gave her a talking to, that Cagalli realizes that blindly throwing yourself into the fight doesn’t help anyone and that she’s only doing it for her own self-satisfaction.

So I think I liked Cagalli a bit more this time around. What did you think of her Zen?

Personally, I rather liked Cagalli precisely because she was so blunt and short-sighted early on – perhaps your dislike of her speaks to the fact that Gundam SEED did a solid job of presenting just how immature she’d been at the series’ beginning. In a way, her idealism and belief that being actively involved was the only way to change the world, was something that was exaggerated so we viewers could see how events later on, from meeting Kira and watching him fight, to that fateful encounter with Athrun, culminate in her finally realising that fighting without understanding and unnecessarily putting oneself in danger isn’t the way to go.

This character growth is what makes Cagalli an interesting character; like Kira and Athrun, being involved with the conflict itself teaches them the significance of patience and thinking things through before acting, in turn giving them the conviction needed to stand against large-scale horrors, extremism and foes wielding an inhumane amount of power. I’m always fond of watching characters grow, especially if unlikeable characters become at least those we can sympathise with later on, and signifying this, Cagalli ends up piloting the Strike Rogue, a Gundam – she’s become mature enough to handle the responsibility of operating the sort of power Kira and Athrun wielded when Gundam SEED first began.

This is a fantastic segue into the mobile suits of Gundam SEED. To be honest, this aspect could be an entire thesis on its own, because Gundam SEED‘s mobile suits are awesome, so Dewbond, I’ll make a sincere effort to not to overdo things when it comes to discussing the mobile suits and eponymous Gundams!

I’ve always been a fan of the ‘less is more’ type of design when it comes to Gundam, and SEED mostly does that. The Strike is probably one of my most favorite suits, because even with it’s striker packs it wasn’t overdone. That suit is just damn fucking cool. A great example of re-imagining the iconic RX-78 Gundam, but taking it in a new direction.

The Freedom and Justice I was also a big fan of. Again, the Freedom is a great example of a suit having a bunch of cool weapons, but not overwhelming in terms of design. It’s not dressed to the nines like the Unicorn ends up becoming, or with its weapons stuck on the shoulder like the 00 Quan-T or Nu-Gundam. It’s a damn good design, and the same can be said for the Justice. I love the backpack, and I wish they’d have shown more scene of Athrun riding it.


For me, the Strike acts as the perfect first Gundam for Kira – he begins Gundam SEED a civilian, and mirroring his inexperience and naïveté, the Strike by design holds him back and forces him to think tactically. The Strike’s battery is reduced wherever the Phase Shift armour sustains a blow, and similarly, every shot Kira fires consumes limited battery power. In order to protect his allies, Kira must learn to make the most of his mobile suit. The fact that the Strike can switch so readily between different configurations also shows that Gundams can be built for a range of roles.

Indeed, when one looks at the Strike, its design philosophy goes into how the Earth Alliance and ZAFT subsequently design their mass production and special purpose mobile suits. Prior to acquiring the Duel, Buster, Blitz and Aegis, ZAFT’s GINN mobile suits were inspired by the Zaku line, being basic but reliable units that was far more powerful than the Möbius fighter craft. Subsequently, the data the Earth Alliance acquires allows them to build the Strike Dagger, a cut-down Strike that mirrors real-world design philosophies that take place whenever a given product is marked for mass production. Seeing the natural progression of mobile suits among both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance in the aftermath of the information returned from the G-Weapon project was a superb detail that again, accentuates the attention to detail in the series.

By the time Freedom and Justice arrive, mobile suit design has really accelerated, and ZAFT again takes the lead in technology when they successfully incorporate the N-Jammer Cancellers into these machines. From a design perspective, both Freedom and Justice look amazing. The Freedom’s biggest strength is that it works out of the box, and in a word, is the complete package, capable of single-handedly turning the tide of a battle without being overpowered, unlike the 00 Gundam, which spent half the season hampered by the fact that it couldn’t operate at full power. While there is considerable talk of how the Freedom is plot armour, when one considers that the Freedom’s Full Burst mode only allows for Kira to hit five independent targets at a time, the Freedom is actually well-balanced and an extension of Kira’s preference to disarm rather than kill. Compared to the likes of the 00 Qan[T] or RX-0 line, the Freedom is a thoughtful machine (the 00 Qan[T] is capable of teleporting at will, and the psycho-frame on the RX-0 series allows these mobile suits to turn back time or accelerate faster than the speed of light, which is ludicrous).

The Justice itself has a little less notoriety compared to the Freedom, and its design is strikingly similar to the Aegis. In Gundam SEED, I was initially a little less awed by its performance in battle – while similarly has unlimited operational time like the Freedom, it appears the Justice’s greatest strength is its mobility, and its loadout is correspondingly smaller. However, in retrospect, this makes sense: the reduced firepower and Fatum-00 backpack means Athrun is well-suited to assist his allies. He’d been trained as combat pilot and follows orders even if it meant casualties against his liking, so giving Athrun a high-speed mobile suit meant to support those around him allows him to follow his heart and still make meaningful contributions without causing casualties. Indeed, the Justice’s final act in destroying GENESIS was an artfully-done decision.

Freedom and Justice, the two most iconic Gundams in Gundam SEED‘s second half, also form the name for one of my all-time favourite songs on the soundtrack. It’s a tense, urgent sounding piece of incidental music that transitions into a haunting choral performance and speaks to feelings of resolute determination to do what’s right. When my best friend introduced me to that song sixteen years earlier, he mentioned it was for times when I needed to stay focused and not allow setbacks to keep me from doing my best. At the time, I’d been vying for spot of best student in my middle school (I was a bit of a trophy hunter when I was a student, and liked doing well in classes to collect shiny awards for the purpose of having shiny stuff). Said best friend also sent me Strike Shutsugeki, a heroic sounding track that plays whenever a Gundam takes off, ready for battle – this song, I was told, was something I should save for my moment of triumph. The soundtrack in Gundam SEED is, bluntly, amazing, and Toshihiko Sahashi did an incredible job of capturing everything from combat scores, to more melancholy and reflective pieces that speak to the sorrows of warfare. What do you think of the soundtracks in Gundam SEED, Dewbond?

I always love how you go way too deep into the weeds with things like this, while my response is always “yeah, they look pretty cool, I like the one who shoots the lasers from its wings”

Anyway, I do really like how SEED was able to look at what was done before and adapt it for this new re-telling. Like you said the GINN and such are similar, but not a copy/paste job of the ZAKU (that’s for the sequel). It shows a respect for the series that came before, but enough creatively to take things in a new direction. I forgot to mention that I was a big fan of the Buster and Duel as well, as they continued that ‘less is more’ design. The Blitz and Aegis meanwhile never sat well with me. Too busy, too much shit going on, like they were trying to hard. The same for the EA Gundams, which the exception of the Calamity. That was a cool suit.

Going to your point about the music. The tunes of Gundam SEED is where even the most vocal hater of the series has to give it points. This is a top shelf soundtrack, and absolutely where the most money was put into. Each of the opening themes was solid, with great visuals (and boobs). ‘Moment’ remains a great duet that I have yet to see repeated in anime, Believe is a great action packed song, and Invoke by TM Revolution can sit beside Gundam greats like ‘Beyond the Time’ ‘Daybreak’s Bell’ and ‘Just Communication’. The OST was great as well, especially during the final fight between Kira and Rau, or when Cagalli escapes to space.

Lacus’s singing was great as well, and I know that production community worked hard to secure a top-tier singing voice for those moments. Lacus has a beautiful voice, and I like how they were able to incorporate it into the series when they could. I have no doubt that with the movie finally coming, we’ll be able to see more of that.

Gundam SEED (and just about any series with a large mechanical piece) causes me to go a little crazy! I’ll dial it back some, but that there’s so much to go for in Gundam SEED really speaks to my enjoyment of all the different parts. The opening and ending songs were fun, TM Revolution’s Meteor is an iconic piece, and Rie Tanaka’s performance of Lacus’ songs were sublime (Token of Water was the one song that got me into appreciating vocal music and J-Pop!). I think Gundam SEED did a nice balance with Lacus: while she’s a singer, her role doesn’t overshadow the pilots and soldiers. The two songs we do get to hear (Quiet Night and Token of Water) present a very wistful and contemplative mood amidst all of the fighting and chaos, a beacon of light in the darkness, as it were. It is fair to say that my original interest in Gundam SEED came from its soundtrack, from the incidental pieces and openings, to the insets and endings!

Similarly to you, Dewbond, I’m quite excited to see what the Gundam SEED Movie entails. If I’m not mistaken, fans have been waiting for fifteen years for this announcement. That’s quite a bit of anticipation, so I hope that what results from this production, fans will be given a phenomenal experience. I personally have no idea of what to expect, but I suppose that’s also a large part of the fun.

The Gundam SEED movie is going to be very interesting to see, part that it has been so long since it was first revealed, and also because the series is well into its second decade. I hope it is good, but I mean, we can only go up after SEED Destiny.

With that, I think we’ve covered the gambit when it comes to this series. This has been a very interesting conversation Zen, and probably the first where you and I both come to with vastly different ideas. We both looked at this series very differently, but those different views make for good conversation!

Overall though, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is a great mecha show and a great Gundam series. Full stop. I’ve always loved it each time I’ve watched it, and despite some fobiles, it remains a very well done and easy understand Gundam show that newbies can get into. Great characters, fantastic music and solid designs. Like Sword Art Online, it is an anime that people love to hate, but I think those haters have it wrong, and they are missing out on what is a damn fine show.

  • Gundam SEED is indeed a damn fine show, and while Dewbond and I found different facets of Gundam SEED to be particularly noteworthy, the outcome is obvious: the reputation that the Cosmic Era has picked up is not at all deserved, contrary to what the most vocal internet discussions (circa 2003-2004) have said, Gundam SEED is well worth one’s while, and especially with the upcoming film, it could be a good idea to re-watch the series and recall where the Cosmic Era had started. In the meantime, this wraps up the latest collaboration between Dewbond and myself. Two thoughts remain from me: first, I wonder what series might make its way to our table next. Dewbond has suggested that Fate/ZERO (or perhaps Sword Art Online‘s Færie Dance arc) could be a possibility, so time will tell where we head next. The second is that folks interested in doing a collaboration can always get in touch; it’s always nice to get a different set of eyes on things, after all!

Gundam SEED has proven that internet reputation is by no means an accurate or fair assessment of a given anime: looking past the stock footage and whatever other criticisms this amassed back in the day, it becomes clear that Gundam SEED is indeed a fine addition to the franchise, well-suited for folks getting into things for the first time. With due respect, the inter-fandom rivalry has never particularly made much sense: each universe has its own strong points and charms, and speaking as someone who entered Gundam through the Anno Domini universe, I see the Universal Century and Cosmic Era as each possessing something that make them distinct and meaningful. With this in mind, there are precious few people around in the present day to talk about Gundam SEED, owing to the fact that Gundam SEED did begin airing back in 2002. Consequently, where an opportunity to speak with fellow Gundam SEED fans like Dewbond presents itelf, I am inclined to seize such a chance, and our conversation finds that despite its age and the fact it was likely discussed to death back in 2003, there are always new surprises around the corner. Gundam SEED received a remaster nine years after its original airing, dramatically improving the visual quality, and ten years after the HD remaster, it turns out there is going to be more to the Cosmic Era in the form a new model kit, manga and film. I am, of course, a little behind on the times, and while Gundam SEED is under my belt, I’ve yet to see Gundam SEED Destiny in full. I am aware that the controversy surrounding Gundam SEED is legendary, and even the Gundam fans around me indicate that Gundam SEED Destiny is a bit of a special case. However, it does feel appropriate to continue on with things, in the event that the film does reference events from Gundam SEED Destiny. My decision means I’ve got another fifty episodes ahead of me, but with the timelines anime films follow, I suppose that even if I do take another six to eight months to roll through Gundam SEED Destiny, I’ll finish it with time to spare. In the meantime, both Dewbond and myself have previously written about Gundam SEED, and folks looking for my mecha-and-politics focused threads or Dewbond’s big picture theme and character analysis will find them here for perusing.

Dewbond’s Gundam SEED Posts

Infinite Zenith’s Gundam SEED Posts

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 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.