Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Vol. #01 (of 10) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, August 18, 2005
Release Date: Monday, June 13, 2005
What They Say
The war between Earth and its space colonies has turned childhood friends Kira and Athrun into enemies. In their Mobile Suits (giant manned robots), they undergo a life-changing epic. Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, one of the latest series situated in the world of Gundam, has been a huge success in Japan and the US.
The war between the ZAFT Coordinators and the Naturals of the Earth Alliance has been going on for 11 months. Kira Yamato is a young coordinator who went to Heliopolis, a neutral colony, to escape the war. His life is turned upside down the day ZAFT forces attack the colony to seize five Mobile Suit prototypes that the colonel was secretly having built for the Alliance. During the attack, Kira comes across his childhood friend, Athrun Zala who has now joined ZAFT.
The newest Gundam franchise hits the UK - will it be as popular over here as it was in the States?
I stuck with the Japanese language track for my review and spot-checked the English track as a quick comparison. Both tracks are what you’d expect for Stereo i.e. they’re perfectly functional with most dialogue and music centrally placed with some sporadic use of the left and right speakers.
The picture quality on this disk is also pretty much spot on. Colours are well represented, although I noticed that in a number of explosions the red seemed to be more like a deep pink. I’m unsure whether this is intentional or not as all other reds come across fine. I also occasionally noticed a bit of line noise but nothing really distracting.
Subtitles are white with a faint black outline; unfortunately this isn’t the best colour combination as against some of the backgrounds the subtitles can be slightly hard to read.
The first cover for Gundam Seed isn’t overly colourful, but it is a good-looking cover. On the front cover we have a picture of Gundam Strike and Kira in his piloting suit. Blues and blacks dominate the cover that gives it a kind of mournful look, this also results in the shows logo looking rather lacklustre unlike the logo on the insert. The shows logo and the volume number are towards the bottom of the cover and are repeated on the spine. The back cover has a shot of the large ensemble cast for the Alliance with the usual blurb and a number of screen shots. A technical grid at the bottom of the back cover gives all the disk information.
The insert included with the first volume has a much more colourful picture on the front, with a picture of Strike Gundam as well as Athrun’s Gundam. The shows logo looks more defined against this colourful background than on the DVD cover. The insert contains additional information about the shows setting.
The menu has been designed to look like what I would term as a console session or a computer screen. Before loading the main menu screen you are prompted to select your language preference, once your preferred language has been selected a brief montage sequence is played before the main menu is displayed. The main menu has a picture of the Strike Gundam taking up the centre of the screen along with the SEED logo and scenes from the series play in the background. The menu options are displayed at the bottom of the screen, and music from the series overlays the main menu. When you select one of the main options, another screen opens up and the original screen moves to the bottom left hand corner of the screen, although the options on the main menu screen remain selectable. All the submenus are silent (except for the episode selection menu), and access times are nice and quick. The only slight misgiving I had about the menus reside firmly with the language selection screen, which gives no indication of which options have been selected – an oversight on behalf of BEEZ, especially with the number of audio / subtitle options that are included on this release.
The extras start with the clean opening and closing animation for the series. Both of the songs here are quite catchy and as usual it’s nice to be able to see the animation without the credits getting in the way. The closing credits start with a blank screen initially as they overlap the last few seconds of each episode. Next we have some character and mecha files, these briefly introduce 2 of the main characters (Kira and La Fllaga) and some of the mecha in the show including the Strike Gundam.
Finally there are trailers for other BEEZ titles, .hack//sign, s-CRY-ed, Stratos 4 and Witch Hunter Robin.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Since it started in Japan in the late 70s Gundam has been one of anime’s biggest franchises, spawning countless spin off series in much the same was as Star Trek and more recently Stargate. Gundam is also a toy manufacturers dream with countless toys and other merchandise being released with each new incarnation of the series. In fact Gundam is so big in Japan that there is a huge anime store in Akihabara with not 1 but 2 floors dedicated to the Gundam phenomenon. No self respecting anime fan can say that they’ve never heard of Gundam, but with it’s vast number of spin-off’s and sequels it’s a daunting series to start and one that also unfortunately demands a large financial commitment if you’re a completist collector.
It was this wealth of spin-off’s and sequels that really made me decide to leave Gundam well alone. Yes, it might be a fantastic series, but where to start and in what order to watch was something that seemed too complex to really give much thought to. Therefore this reviewer has been blissfully Gundam free until I received the first disk of the latest Gundam series - Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - to review and thus began my initiation into the Gundam world.
Of all the countless Gundam series, it seems the SEED is probably the way to start for the uninitiated as it basically retells the story from the first series, but has been updated to give it a more modern outlook.
It’s Cosmic Era 71, and the Earth Alliance have been at war with the ZAFT organisation for 11 months. Initially everyone thought that the Alliance would have an easy victory over ZAFT, but this was not to be the case due to the Mobile Suit mechanised armour that ZAFT use. As is usually the case in these types of series, this war is between two differing factions – Naturals (Alliance) who are normal people, and Coordinators (ZAFT), who are genetically modified people with superior battle skills. In order to gain some advantage over ZAFT the Alliance have been developing their own Mobile Suits and associated space ships, and they’ve been using the cover of a neutral colony, Heliopolis, in order to do this.
Naturally ZAFT forces find out about the development of the Alliance’s Mobile Suits and launch an operation in order to capture the new weapons, thus keeping their advantage over the Alliance. Unfortunately their plan does not go quite as smoothly as they were expecting…
Kira Yamanato is a young coordinator who moved to the colony of Heliopolis in order to escape a war which he wants no part in, and he’s settled into his new life remarkably well with a number of friends he’s close to. Kira is a student at a local college and is quite a whiz kid when it comes to programming (an ability that we’re led to believe comes naturally to coordinators). He’s been doing some work for a professor at a factory outside the campus and it’s a direct result of his visit here that results in his involvement in the war. Whilst Kira is at the factory, ZAFT forces attack attempting to capture the five newly developed Mobile Suits and destroy the new battle ship, the Archangel. In the midst of the confusion that the ZAFT attack creates, Kira finds himself in the area where the Alliance Mobile Suits are being stored, and in the middle of a fight between Alliance and ZAFT forces. When a female member of the Alliance is hurt during the battle he runs to her aid and to fight the approaching ZAFT coordinator who much to his surprise is his old childhood friend Athrun.
To say that Kira and Athrun are surprised at this encounter is an understatement, with Athrun backing away and Kira questioning whether the attacker really was his old friend. Little do they know that their friendship is going to be severely tested. With four out of the five new Mobile Suits captured by ZAFT forces, the woman who Kira helped protect, Murrue Ramius, decides to use the remaining Gundam to fight back. With the civilian Kira now caught up in the battle she decides that the only way to protect him is to take him into the Gundams cockpit as well.
Unfortunately the interface for the new Gundam is not up to scratch and she has difficulties manoeuvring the Gundam. Kira realises the problem and takes control by quickly reprogramming the interface in order to make the Gundam more effective. It is this single act that results in Kira being dragged into the war.
The episodes on this first disk of SEED really concentrate on how Kira gets involved in the war between the Alliance and ZAFT. By reprogramming the interface for the new Mobile Suit he is the only person able to effectively pilot it, but he has to come to terms with getting involved in a war that he was trying his utmost to avoid. In the end he decides to fight in order to help protect his friends as well as the other civilians who ended up on the Archangel. The concept of unwilling individual getting involved in a war is not a new concept and is one of the main focal points of series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and RahXephon. However, unlike the main characters in both of these Kira a) knew about the war and made an initial decision to not get involved and b) isn’t a whiny brat like Shinji Ikari.
As well as introducing Kira and many of the Alliance forces, we’re also introduced to Athrun and his commanding officer Rau Le Creuset (who wears quite an unusual face mask). As Kira is a coordinator, Athrun is certain he can persuade him to join forces with ZAFT and bring along the remaining Mobile Suit that ZAFT were unable to capture. A large number of other characters are also introduced on both the Alliance and ZAFT sides. In fact one of my main misgivings about SEED from this volume was the sheer numbers of characters who get introduced in the first five episodes.
Luckily while the first five episodes are quite heavy on the exposition they are not dull and boring. From Kira reprogramming the Mobile Suit to the subsequent destruction of Heliopolis and a battle between the ZAFT ships and the Archangel the pace rarely lets up. Although this doesn’t give us much time to get to know the actual characters, but seeing as Seed is 50 episodes long, I’m hoping that this small oversight in the first few episodes will be addressed later on.
Of course this being Gundam, the granddaddy of all mecha shows, most people will be expecting lots of mecha action and they won’t be disappointed. There are several fights between the various Mobile Suits including one where the ZAFT forces pilot the stolen Mobile Suits in an attack on Kira in the remaining Suit that is in Alliance hands. These fights are well done, with each of the Alliance Mobile Suits having a slightly different look, which means it’s easy to make out who’s fighting whom. Also these Mobile Suits also seem to have slightly different functions that make them slightly more interesting in a broader sense. As well as the expected mecha battles we also have fights between several different spaceships and some explanation of different battle tactics, all this gives the show a more rounded feel.
Gundam Seed is another show that utilises CG as well as more traditional animation. I have no problem with shows doing this, but unfortunately in Seeds case it stands out like a sore thumb. Most of the CG shots are of the Archangel and other ships and it at times it does jolt you out of the viewing experience, which is a shame. Other than that though the animation is quite impressive, although as a 50 episode series you can’t really expect the same quality of animation that you get from Haibane Renmei or Witch Hunter Robin.
Gundam Seed starts out at an explosive pace with several battles and a vast number of explosions, although it does have a few ‘quieter’ moments thrown in to let the viewer get their breath back. It’s a good way to get an action viewer hooked – bait them with lots of explosions and battles and then slip in some character development. Hopefully this is the way Seed will progress, as it would be a shame if the rather large cast all remain undeveloped ciphers, there’s also only so many battles you can contain in any one series without giving the viewer some kind of emotional hook. Overall the first disk was an enjoyable start to a series that I’m hoping will get better as it progresses.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,German Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,German Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Polish Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Character and Mecha files
Panasonic 42” Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED