I finally got around to this, and it’s about time!
Re-watching Mobile Suit Gundam SEED was fun for many reasons, but one of the more enjoyable, and surprising things, is how much I enjoyed the character of Flay Allster. She was someone I had barely paid attention to in my previous re-watches, but for some reason I just found myself really drawn to her this time around. After thinking it over for a while, I knew that this was something I wanted to talk about, so after the cut let’s take a dive into Gundam SEED’s Flay Allster!
For Gundam SEED, beyond all the battles involving giant robots, angst ridden teenagers, giant space lasers, and questions about science and human ambition, it is ultimately a story about people. More specifically, it is a story about people stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing . A story about finding the courage to shed your cowardice, your hatred, and your fears and doing what you must. This is something shown in almost the entire cast. Kira realizes what he wants to fight for, Athrun (and Dearka) decides that what he believes in is more important than the uniform or his father’s wishes. Murrue and Natarle decide that their orders and duties are not as important as the moral thing, and Lacus and Cagalli both step into leadership roles thrust upon them. Whether these character arcs work is up to personal taste, but much of the background of Gundam SEED is about young adults making their own decisions regardless of duty, personal beliefs or loyalty.
Flay Allster, the spoiled rich girl thrown into the war through circumstance is the polar opposite of that. Having watched the entire series now, with it so fresh in my mind, it is clear that Flay is meant to be the antithesis to many of the characters’ journeys. Where other characters are strong, courageous, independent and driven, Flay is not. She is scared, cowardly, and unable to really stand on her own two feet. The death of her father sends her into the arms of Kira, thinking that if she gives him her body, he’ll protect her. When Kira goes missing, she runs back to her old fiancee Sai, who promptly dismisses her. During all of the fighting she is either hiding under the covers, or out of sight completely. Compare this to Mirallia, Tolle, Sai and Kuzzy. While they are very much in the same situation, they all decide to step up and help out with the ship, becoming soldiers and fighters. Flay? She makes a big speech about wanting to fight, but it’s only so she can bring Kira to her cause, she never actually does anything to help out the rest of the crowd. Even Kuzzy, who decides when given the chance to jump ship, is more admirable than Flay, because he took the courage of being called a coward and bailing out. Flay does not have a moment of heroism, or a time where she must make a choice to do what she thinks is right. Her entire character arc consists of being tossed around ship to ship, (she is literally dragged off the Archangel by Natarle, who never paid her a second glance before) fraction to fraction and relationship to relationship. Whether it is through tragic fate, or personal motives, Flay is a character who never had a place to belong, and much of her role in the story is trying to wade through that storm.
This also allows Flay to show the other, racist side of Gundam SEED. She alone among the Archangel’s crew holds hatred towards the Coordinators, and clings to those feelings throughout. At first just out of ignorance, but then reality when her father is killed. Despite being given every chance to make friends with Lacus and later Kira, she rejects it. Her inability to form connections and look past that hatred is what, I think, drives Kira away from her. He realizes that Flay used him for her own comfort, and doesn’t really (at that point) care for him. We also see this when Miriallia, in a moment of weakness, comes close to murdering Dearka over Tolle’s death. When Flay goes for the gun, Miriallia sees what she is about to become, and lets go of her hatred. She won’t let herself be consumed with hatred because the realities of war landed at her doorstep. For Flay it is only in the last moments of her life and beyond it that she admits what everyone already knew. She was a scared little girl who needed to be protected, who didn’t know the realities of the world and hid under bed instead of confronting them.
She didn’t have Kira’s resolve, Athrun’s duty, Lacus’s beliefs, Cagalli’s guts, Miriallia’s courage, or Mu and Murrue’s moral compass. She just had her fear. And while some will criticize and lambast Flay for that, I find it not only effective, but also realistic and a needed character arc. War is horrible, and like with many things in this world, not everyone is able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Not everyone can see a problem and rise to meet it. Not everyone has the courage to step into the unknown, and more so to become a soldier and fighter. Not everyone can “handle it” and adjust to an unknown situation. Just as there are strong and confident people, there are the weak and the cowardly. Whatever you may think of her actions, they are still human and more than reasonable when you consider Flay’s life and world.
Flay Allster is a character that is easy to dismiss, and it is understandable. She’s not a good person, an outcast among a ship of outcasts, and a girl who never really truly belonged. However I am glad she is there because people like Flay do exist. Weakness is real, cowardice is real, and there are situations where people just don’t belong. It is a type of character that shouldn’t be dismissed or rubbed out of stories because it is not empowering, or doesn’t placate this or that audience. She is a tragic character, but one that I deeply sympathize with now, and it is probably the best thing I took from this re-watch of Gundam SEED. If you ever watch the show yourself, spend a bit more time focusing on Flay’s character and you may think the same thing.
At least that’s what I think.