Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: Gundam “For Dummies” (but also really good)

(Reposted from the Tumblr blog, which can be found here)

There is probably fewer series in the realm of Anime that have as long and varied history as the Gundam Franchise. Starting in the late 1970s, Mobile Suit Gundam has become a cornerstone of Japanese culture and animation, often seen by some as Japan’s version of Star Trek or Star Wars. Regardless it has spawned well over a dozen different series, several OVAs, an armful of video games, and quite possibly a literal mountain of Gunpla model kids.

With so many series, Gundam has had it’s fair share of hits and misses, as almost all franchises do when they have such length. People will argue to the end of time what is the best series, but almost all can agree that only a few have left major marks on both of the franchise, and anime in general. Today we are going to take a look at once such series, one that remains surprisingly controversial among its fans. After the cut, let’s take a look into the 2002 series Mobile Suit Gundam Seed

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Where have I seen this before?

To understand the Gundam series, it is important to know that only SOME of the series are connected through a single MCU like timeline. To make it easy to understand, Gundam can be divided up into two separate sections.

The first is the Universal Century, which consists of probably 60% of the Gundam anime series, including the original 1970s series and its sequels. While sometimes telling different stories with different casts, they all take place in the same universe and follow the same general rules and timeline.

The second is the Alternative Universe, which consists of every other Gundam anime series that does not take place in the Universal Century. These shows are often (but not always) stand-alone ventures, with no connection to each other. They take place in similar, but a different version of the earth using a different dating system in order to separate themselves from other shows (After Colony, Correct Century, Anno Domini, Cosmic Era, etc.)

Mobile Suit Gundam Seed is an interesting show to look at, mostly because it is probably one of the most beloved, and hated among the fanbase, and there are several reasons for that, some justified, others not. However, my personal view is that Gundam Seed is a well-done series, that helped set the stage for the successful runs of Gundam 00, and Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans.

To understand what Gundam Seed is, we need to take a look at the overall general plot point of the majority of the Gundam universe. Most shows can often be boiled down to a simple equation.

There is an Earth, and there are Space Colonies. The Space Colonies want more freedom, the Earth doesn’t want them to have it. Therefore, teenagers in Giant Robots fight each other.

Almost every single Gundam Series can be boiled down to that premise. Dress it up however you want, 95% of the Gundam Series is pretty much that same story told and retold again.

Gundam Seed, however, is a bit different. While it follows that above premise, it itself is also a modern retelling of the original 1970 Mobile Suit Gundam, albeit with a few overall world and plot changes to set itself apart. Much like how The Force Awakens can be considered a retread of A New Hope with some changes, Gundam Seed is very much a reboot retelling of the first Gundam Series.

Honestly, I really liked that. Having watched both the 1970s series and SEED. I have always found both the original and the Universal Century hard to get invested in. A lot of the overall conflict is implied and philosophical, with the Colonies wanting their freedom because of more grounded, geopolitical reasons that can be hard to get invested in. (Along with a healthy dose of random space telepathy through “Newtypes”)

SEED, however, opts to go for a more simple and easy to digest version, with the Colonies being populated by genetically engineered “Coordinators” (think designer babies) and the Earth filled with normal born and bred “Natural” humans. The conflict is portrayed as two variations of the human race fighting to wipe the other out, whether it be out of fear, jealousy, or a Nazi-like feeling of superiority. While the Universal Century is not bad in the longshot, it has always been something harder to sink my teeth into, and SEED wisely does the same thing, but with easier to understand themes and ideas.

Furthermore, SEED has a great cast, with characters like Kira Yamato, Athrun Zala, and Lacus Clyne bringing a layer of depth and understanding to the story. While Kira is a divisive character among the fanbase (though I would argue he only really gets bad in the sequel to SEED), him being stuck between loyalty to his Natural friends and crew, and his true Coordinator People is a good hook to bring you into the story. Additionally SEED lets Kira go through the motions of a young man thrown into a war, having to deal with the reality of killing people, fighting old friends, and then coming to terms with the world and fighting to change it in a satisfying character arc that few other Gundam man have; and fewer have done well. While he’s no Amuro Ray, Kira has enough going on with him to make him an interested and well done main lead.

Animation wise, SEED was the first to opt to be completely animated via the computer. While this leads to come beautiful shots (that look even better in the HD remaster), it also led to a rather surprising amount of recycled animation and shots that is only brought up to 11 in the sequel series. Seriously, you will start noticing the same fighting shots being used over and over again so much that you’ll wonder if any money was spent on his series. While it is not a dealbreaker for me, and future series 00 and Iron correct this with next to no recycled animation, it remains a black mark on the show. However, I can’t blame them too much for it, at least in the case of SEED as it was the first in Gundam to embrace the computer.

Mobile Suit Gundam Seed is a series loved and lauded for introducing a new generation to the world of Gundam. It is also hated by older fans for “dumbing down” the story and themes of the 1970s show. I love Gundam Seed, and it very much was my second welcoming into the franchises (the first of course being Mobile Suit Gundam Wing) I won’t tell you how to think, but I suggest anyone on the fence of jumping into the Gundam world start with this show. You’ll find it easy to understand, chalk full of wonderful action and awesome robots and some catchy music too. I would suggest SEED to anyone looking to see what Gundam is all about. It’s a perfect gateway opening, and there are plenty of even better Gundam series just waiting after if you want to keep the itch going.

Just avoid Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny.

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