Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Vol. #01 (also w/box) (of 10) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, August 10, 2004
What They Say
Cosmic Era 71. A war is under way between genetically enhanced Coordinators and unmodified Naturals. The Natural-dominated Earth Alliance, struggling to catch up with the Coordinators' superior technology, has secretly developed its own Gundam mobile suits at a neutral space colony.
Through a twist of fate, a young Coordinator named Kira Yamato becomes the pilot of the Alliance's prototype Strike Gundam, and finds himself forced to fight his own people in order to protect his friends.
With Gundam popularity growing worldwide, the latest entry into the franchise, a new alternate continuity, latches onto the mainstream and takes us all for a ride.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show has a fairly aggressive stereo mix with a good amount of material that's going across the forward soundstage. There's a lot of depth and detail to the audio here between the dialogue and background noises and it all sounds great. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no issues with this during regular playback. We listened to the English track while writing the review and didn't note any obvious issues there either.
Originally airing in 2002, Gundam SEED is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in this transfer. Quite possibly one of the richest looking Gundam series made, SEED takes full advantage of the latest technologies and techniques to produce a show that is incredibly lively and vivid. While there are some cheesy and bad CG shots, mostly when showing movement in depth across space scenes, the transfer itself looks sharp and beautiful. Colors are vivid, cross coloration is non-existent and I'm hard pressed to find much in the way of serious aliasing. This is a smooth looking transfer from start to finish.
Using the same artwork as the first Japanese release but with a much better looking logo, we get the proper pairing of Kira inside the Strike Gundam and a shot of said Gundam above and behind him. It's a good looking cover that pushes the Gundam aspect easily enough and had some rather good detail and colors, especially compared to some past Gundam cover artwork we've seen. The back cover provides several shots from the show and some additional artwork and has a few paragraphs worth of summary. The discs episode numbers and titles are listed here while the volume numbering is found only on the spine. The usual production and technical information is along the back cover as well though I continue to wish that Bandai would adapt the technical grid. The insert replicates the front cover but minus a few of the logos and it opens to a two panel spread that has a variety of Alliance and ZAFT terms to understand. The back of the insert has a good looking cast shot.
For the limited edition release, it's a bit weak compared to some other editions but I still like what we get. First, we get a good solid hard box to hold all ten volumes of the series (or ten thinpaks in my case with room to hold the sequel series if it runs the same length). Each of the side panels shows off a particular mobile suit while the large spine section has the main Gundam and the two antagonists side by side. The top of the box has a shot of a number of the characters from the show in their uniforms. All of this is set against a good looking starscape backdrop.
In addition to the box, there's one extra item included and it's the "Mobilesuit Gundam Seed Complete Best" collection which has been handled by the folks at Tofu Recods (which to those that don't know is basically the imprint Sony is using to launch their Japanese acts in the US from). From what I can tell, this is identical to the Japanese release and contains all the Sony related music - which unfortunately doesn't cover the ending theme used for about the first half of the series which is owned by Victor. Regardless, the soundtrack for this release has a lot of the music I like and music I've already been familiar with from past Tofu releases so this is a nice addition to a low-cost growing CD library of domestic titles.
The menu is nicely done for the show. The main menu is a close-up of the Strike Gundam's face where you see just about half of it. Inside the eye socket is some brief bits of animation playing, all set to some instrumental music from the show. The layout is easy to navigate and provides quick access to each of the episodes and other submenus. Access times are nice and fast and the disc was responsive to my players preset languages.
The only extras included on this volume is a textless opening of the first opening and a few pages of mechanical data sheets that goes over the Strike Gundam and the Archangel.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a lot of past Gundam series, particularly those set in their own continuities, I had found it to be worthwhile to not judge those shows until at least a quarter of the way into them. With most of the series running around fifty episodes, a lot of time early on is spent in simply laying out the groundwork before hitting any real plot. G-Gundam was a prime example. The first volume was rather bad and poorly paced. But when the plot started hitting in the second and then every few episodes after that, my opinion of the show went from abysmal to great anticipation.
Gundam SEED however manages to break my theory but it's not surprising why. SEED starts off in its own continuity, this time Cosmic Era in the year 71. What they decided to do is at least from the start is to seemingly re-invent the original series from 1979 by taking plot elements from there that worked well (particularly in the movie versions) as well as pieces from what looks to be a lot of subsequent Gundam series. Having seen a lot of Gundam but not all of it, this series kicks off with some familiar scenes but with interesting twists and then lots of new elements to it. In this way, it's a lot of fun since I can see things almost as a remake but not while those completely new to it will simply enjoy it as it is. As my wife has typically not cared for Gundam, SEED has managed to surprise her and actually gain her interest in the first five episodes. This particular piece of the franchise may have some wider appeal than normal.
With any new continuity, there is going to be a lot of ground to cover. We're thrown into the middle of a war (as usual) where the ZAFT forces in space are fighting against the Earth Alliance forces. The entire war was expected to end quickly due to the superior numbers of the Earth forces, but eleven months later and through some very nasty battles on both sides, it continues on. The two sides are fighting ferociously against each other while other colonies (or as the new ones are now known, PLANTs) end up either taking sides or trying to remain neutral. One of the things that has allowed ZAFT to hold on and actually press an advantage is that a lot of their pilots are something of a new evolutionary chain for humanity known as Coordinators. They're highly gifted in technical ways from what we can see early on here and they've either fallen in with ZAFT or have sought out neutral territory. When we see them dealing with Alliance members, you can feel the hatred towards them.
The opening plot is very familiar across several past Gundam properties. A team of ZAFT soldiers led commanded by a masked superior are sneaking into a neutral colony in order to steal some high tech weapons that the Alliance is having built there. The ZAFT commanders feel that this is justified since the colony is supposed to be neutral so any consequences fall on their heads. What's being developed in secrecy here is the Alliance's first real generation of mobile suits, something that the ZAFT forces have had a lock on. These G weapons, later termed Gundams, are amazing high tech pieces of combat and are unlike past versions we've seen with their phase armor. One of the amusing differences is that there's an element of programming involved in them as they're being stolen before the operating system has been finalized for it. When the Coordinator enhanced pilots steal several of them, even they're not able to do too much with them.
Through a planned coordinated attack, the invading team sets off explosions across different places of both the base where the Alliance's latest mobile battle cruiser is being finished and the company where the Gundams are being built. This sends the colony into a panic and most people head into the shelters. The cast we deal with throughout a lot of this is led by Kira Yamato, a young man who has been doing work for one of the professors working on the Gundam. He and his friends have the bad luck of being in the company when the attack goes underway and everything goes to hell. As expected, Kira takes on the Amuro role as a Coordinator who came to the colony to remain neutral only to end up becoming a pilot of the Strike Gundam, the only one of the five that didn't get stolen. Initially he's thrust into the cockpit after saving one of the soldiers who was guarding it and she takes the piloting role and tries to defend against the regular ZAFT suits that were attacking. But her skills aren't enough to do much as the Gundam requires someone of Kira's abilities. His mind simply sees the best way to do things with the Gundam and he just takes over. In a very strong change of pace, there's a great moment where he takes over the piloting chair and just pulls down a keyboard and races to reprogram the operating system so it'll do what he wants.
No, that wasn't in the original Gundam or anything like it since I'd hazard. It's an interesting change in how the Gundam's have evolved over the decades. When the show first hit the air back in 1979 it was heralding more realistic mecha storylines. It seems quaint now with the simple way that they handled technology and it's elements like this that helps to bring the Gundams into real high-technology status. But I expect twenty years from now to see the latest Gundam series and to find SEED quaint as well.
There is a huge amount of things going on in these first five episodes. The storyline with Kira taking on the role of a Gundam pilot is a major part but only just that, a part. The cast starts off pretty sizeable, enough so that it's hard to keep track of all the names at first though at least their designs are unique. In fact, the character designs are something that I've really enjoyed a lot of so far. Hisashi Hirai's style is one that doesn't really change much overall is solid here and the kids look like kids but not in a bad way. His experiences in coming up with as many character designs as he did for Infinite Ryvius pays off well here, even with some similarities between the two casts, and we get a great and varied looking crowd. His work on the adults proves much more interesting though, particularly ones such as Ramius and La Flaga. The way he uses such smooth lines combined with the color palette used here produces some excellent work.
A real treat for me was the musical groups chosen to work on the show. While TM Revolution wasn't too much of a shock to be done as the opening sequence since he's got a role in the show as well, I was pleasantly surprised to see the ending song done by See Saw. Both of them go for the punched up style that's been common for Gundam shows for awhile now and they both pull off great numbers that are catchy and don't get annoying even after hearing them five times. The incidental music score is also rather well done with a number of violin heavy pieces that weren't expected. Music has always been a key piece to complement the show both inside the episode and with the bookends of the opening and closing and so far we're off to a great start on that count.
SEED is definitely a show in the tradition of past Gundam series. It's heavy on the entire war storyline and dealing with characters who don't want to be involved and those who have a sense of duty about being involved. It's going for the epic feel while keeping us rooted in characters you can sympathize with on both sides. There is a lot of material here that will appeal to the older Gundam fans if they can let go of the remake feel and simply enjoy it as a re-imagination of the original with a "If we knew then what we knew now" aspect to it. The original continuity is one of my favorite anime series out there, but with just the first five episodes of SEED I'm more excited about Gundam than I have been in some time.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Mechanical Files, Textless Opening 1
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED