Our look at the HD remaster of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED continues! We have now reached the third arc of the series and stuff is finally getting real. Battles are going to be fought, people are going to die, and boobs will jiggle. Let’s not waste anymore time. After the cut let’s dive into the next arc: The Clash at Orb.
The third arc of the series represents a turning point in Gundam SEED, as it brings to close the conflict between Kira and Athrun. While both characters end up surviving their final battle, it is one that changes both of them, ,and much of the latter half deals with the anger both of them feel after the death of their respective friends, most notably Nicol who before this was the one member of the ZAFT crew that seemed to be in Athrun’s corner. Nicol’s death is also one of the first major changes done for the remaster release. While in the original version was more implicit that Kira kills him with the Sword Strike, the new version is a lot more vague. The new scene makes it feel more like an accident, as if Nicol ran into the sword, instead of Kira swinging it and Nicol taking the blow. I mean, it is pretty clear to see. Here is the original.
And here is the remastered version (skip to 6:50)
It’s a pretty clear difference and one I don’t know what to feel about. One of the best things about SEED, especially with the early Athrun/Kira conflict was that if the war hadn’t thrown them on opposite sides, these two would have easily resumed their friendships. Its the tragedy and reality of war that people die, despite not wanting to kill them. Having Kira kill Nicol in self-defense, instead of some muggy ‘maybe he did or didn’t’ feels like a betrayal of that premise, as if the writing staff was trying to wash some of the blood from Kira’s hand. This doesn’t happen for Athrun through, his killing of Tolle, one of Kira’s classmates is even more brutal, literally decapitating him after throwing his shield at the Skygrasper jet. Evidence of a pro Kira-bias among the staff? I’ll let you be the judge.
In regards to Athrun, the third arc also gives him some well needed time in the spotlight. As would become sort of a tradition among Gundam series, Athrun finds himself alone on a deserted island with Cagalli after both of them become stranded during a fight. The episode itself is quite well done, and the contrast between the hard-nosed, in your face Cagalli against the more gentle, but pragmatic Athrun is a good one, and sets up their future relationship later in the series. It has been clear throughout the series that Athrun, despite being a solider and the son of the PLANTs pre-eminent war hawk, doesn’t have the drive and will he probably should have. He’ll fight battles and kill people, but he isn’t bloodthirsty or driven by revenge or ideology like the others are. That only changes (if briefly) after Nicol’s death, where Athrun finally decides to take his fight against Kira seriously, which still remains one of the series best episodes.
As for the rest of the arc, everything is quite enjoyable. The Archangel taking port in the country of ORB allows the story to stretch its legs and get some more exposition done. We learn that there might be more to Kira than we expect, both with his abilities as a coordinator and the fact that his parents seem to have a connection to the leader of ORB, Uzumi Nara Athha. This will payoff quite a lot in the later arc, but I was glad that it was hinted at here, rather bluntly in some cases as with the foreshadowing of Cagalli, but still hinted at nonetheless. Kira’s relationship with Flay also comes to a head here, as her anger at Kira’s perceived pity of staying on the ship brings their relationship to an rather abrasive end. It’s again another great moment in Flay’s character arc which is rapidly becoming one of the favorite parts in the entire series.
The Clash at Orb is, upon reflection, probably one of the strongest arcs of the series. While future chapters have some real damn good moments, there is a sense of things coming to a head here as Gundam SEED moves towards its second half. The war will only get more brutal as things move towards the climax, and the main cast now has been positioned to evolve with it. While some may lament that the Kira/Athrun conflict is more or less resolved at this point, I believe that was probably the right call, as it lets the story move past it and focus on the overall themes of the war. Some may disagree, and that is totally fine, but this is overall a great that shows SEED at its best, and hopefully things will only go up from here!
- Seeing Sai, Tolle and co meet their parents was a good moment, giving them a bit of peace before they get thrown back into the war. It also helps show why Flay is so detached from everyone, her parents are both dead, and she has no one. That anger at Kira’s supposed pity is a good moment.
- Dearka becoming a POW was an interesting character move, and puts him on a nice B-plot for the latter half of the series. But also dude, you fucking lost to fighter jet, a FIGHTER jet. That’s just like.. pathetic man.
- The rest of the ZAFT team’s reaction to Nicol’s death is handle well, both Yzak and Dearka are rightfully angry, and Athrun taking his rage out on Yzak feels cathartic.
- Natarle and Murrue’s clash of command is show again throughout this story, with Natarle wanting to give up the search for Kira (and Cagalli previously) while Murrue has more compassion. I think Natarle even brings it up under her breath at one point too.
- Getting out to the ocean allows Flay to show off her girls, in another scene that was completely re-animated for the HD version. We get some jiggle and some cleavage, you love to see it.
- Also, the fight against Commander Morassim is kinda just ‘eh.’ It’s a bit of a filler fight in between the arcs, but the suits are cool and underwater combat is always neat.
- I was shocked they left in the re-cap episode, I really would have thought they’d have cut it, but I suppose to does talk about the SEED factor, which tbh, is never properly addressed after this.
- Kira surviving the self-destruction of the Aegis was always a little bit unbelievable, I wish the HD remaster had done more to explain that.
- Cagalli getting a verbal smackdown from her dad when she tries to rejoin the Archangel is a great to see. Her issue has always been the inability to see the big picture, and inability to see past her own selfish ignorance. Running off to fight some war you don’t understand is kinda fucking stupid.
- In terms of Cagalli, the new dub gives her some nice lines, and she’s started to grow on me at this point, still my least favorite among the central cast though.