Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Vol. #02 (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Kim Wolstenholme
Review Date: Thursday, September 15, 2005
Release Date: Wednesday, July 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.

Although Kira is reluctant to fight, onboard the Strike Gundam, he continues to defend the Archangel against ZAFT forces led by the Machiavellian Rau Le Creuset. His friends help them in this task, and they each hold a post onboard the Earth Alliance ship. In space, once again he has to confront his childhood friend, Athrun Zala who pilots one of the stolen Gundams, the Aegis. They engage in a ruthless fight.

The Review!
The second disk of Gundam Seed continues in a similar vein to the first, with lots more battles for all concerned. However, we also get some character development that starts to give the show some much-needed depth.

Audio:

This time round I decided to listen to the English dub, and managed to watch 3 full episodes before it began to get a bit too much. I never used to be much of a dub fan, but have come to appreciate them more since I started reviewing, but the dub for SEED was fairly mediocre. Saying that though everything sounded fine, music and dialogue are well represented, as are the numerous sound effects. I finished off the disk with the Japanese track, which also displayed no problems.

Video:

The picture quality on the second volume is unfortunately not as impressive as on the first disk. Once again the explosions seem to be a dark pink instead of red, although all other reds look fine. I’m still not sure whether this is intentional or not. However, the one thing I did notice on this disk but not its predecessor is ghosting which started to get a bit distracting. There were also some instances of edge enhancement on a few occasions. Generally though the picture quality is relatively good, blacks come across well, and although a couple of scenes looked a bit ‘washed out’ overall the colours look reasonably vibrant. As with the first disk the CG scenes still tend to stick out like a sore thumb, but this is really a general issue with the series and while a bit grating is not really bad enough to spoil the viewing experience.

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.

Packaging:

The cover for the second volume of Gundam Seed is much more colourful than it’s predecessor. This time Athrun takes centre stage on the front cover in his Red piloting suit, and in the background is Athrun’s Gundam, the Aegis. Set against the reds of the cover the shows logo contrasts nicely and the volume number is clearly indicated. The back cover has a picture of Strike Gundam in a battle pose and a few screen shots from the show, as well as the usual series blurb. A technical grid at the bottom of the back cover gives all the disk information.

The second disk also comes with an insert, the front of which replicates the front cover, and this time contains information regarding PLANT’s.

Menu:

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 Aegis 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, with the exception of 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.

Extras:

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 contain brief information about Athrun, Lacus Clyne, Rau Le Crueset as well as a couple of the mecha in the show, including the Aegis Gundam.

Finally there are trailers for other BEEZ titles, .hack//sign, s-CRY-ed, Stratos 4 and Witch Hunter Robin. As a brief aside if you select a different language (for example, French) from the initial language selection screen you will get a slightly larger selection of trailers, including one for Wolfs Rain.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

At the end of the first disk the Archangel and its crew had managed to reach Artemis, another neutral colony where they could restock the ship before leaving for their final destination of Luna HQ. The Archangel had successfully managed to get to Artemis despite being followed by ZAFT craft intent on destroying them, and had been allowed to dock at the space port inside the protective Artemis ‘umbrella’. This umbrella protects Artemis from enemy attacks and coupled with its advance warning system means that the colony is an exceedingly safe haven.

However, the crew and passengers of the Archangel are not as safe as they might have thought. As the Archangel is a new ship it obviously has not been registered and the Alliance forces on Artemis don’t actually recognise the ship. As such the commanding officer on Artemis takes a rather hostile approach to the crew and civilians on the Archangel and manages to separate the senior commanding officers La Fllaga, Murrue Ramius and Natarle Badgiruel from the rest of the crew. With no high level presence on the ship the remaining crew are unsure how to deal with the Alliance forces who seem to view them as an enemy, and the situation only gets worse when the new Mobile Suit is found on the ship.

The Alliance forces on Artemis decide to take control of the new Mobile Suit, but are unable to do so due to a lock that Kira has put in place to prevent anyone else from piloting the Suit. Determined to take control of this new Gundam the Alliance put pressure on the crew and civilians until Flay finally reveals that Kira is the pilot of the Gundam. Not only does she unmask Kira’s position she also reveals that he’s also a coordinator, not the best news to impart to a group of people who have been thrust into the middle of a war between coordinators and naturals.

Meanwhile ZAFT forces haven’t given up their plans to capture the remaining Gundam, and they hatch a plan to breach the defences on Artemis. After destroying the Artemis umbrella (using one of the captured Gundams which has an invisibility shield), ZAFT manage to find the docked Archangel and once again Kira has to fight in the Gundam in order to protect his friends and help them escape from Artemis which is rapidly being destroyed.

After their close escape from Artemis, the Archangel is running short of supplies as there obviously wasn’t enough time to restock before the ZAFT attack, of most importance is water, supplies of which are running seriously low. In desperation La Flaga suggests that they venture into the debris belt around Earth to restock. Unfortunately there are not only junked space ships in the debris belt, the remains of the PLANT settlement destroyed in the Bloody Valentine tragedy has also gravitated there. As a result of this discovery we find out a bit more about the tragedy and how it led to the current war between the Alliance and ZAFT.

Meanwhile, Athrun and Rau le Creuset have been asked to attend a meeting of the PLANT supreme council to report on the destruction of Heliopolis, and the partial failure of their attempt to capture the Alliance Gundams. After this meeting has convened, Athrun is informed that Lacus Clyne, his fiancée, has gone missing after visiting the remains of the PLANT destroyed during the Bloody Valentine tragedy.

Whilst helping the crew of the Archangel retrieve supplies from the debris belt, Kira notices a single life pod amongst all the debris. He retrieves the pod and takes it back to the ship just in case there is anyone in there, and as it happens there is an occupant of the pod - Lacus Clyne – daughter of the chairman of the PLANT Supreme Council.

With another coordinator on board, and a very important one at that, no one is sure how to treat her, so she’s asked to stay in a room on her own. However, Lacus is not exactly on her own, she has a pet robot called Haro who can open locked doors so Lacus can still roam around the ship if she so desires. During her time on the Archangel Kira befriends Lacus, much to the disgust of Flay who has voiced her dislike of all coordinators (with the possible exception of Kira). Kira soon finds out that they have one person in common – Athrun, and this results in Kira making a decision in the last episode on this disk that is probably going to have some serious repercussions.

With the Archangel now restocked the ship continues on its journey to Lunar HQ, and actually meets up with an advance fleet out to find them. Unfortunately the ZAFT fleet sent to find Lacus also arrive at the same time and a ferocious battle between ZAFT and Alliance forces ensues, with the Alliance forces being out gunned by their enemies. Will the Archangel ever be able to get back to Earth, or even find a safe harbour?

After the first disk I was a little wary of how the vast number of characters were going to fit into the series overall, and this volume has helped to lay these fears to rest. This volume gives much more time over to character development and although this mainly focuses on Kira, Athrun and Lacus a couple of other characters are expanded on to make them more rounded. Flay, who seemed to be a total airhead in the first disk, is witness to an event that is only going to nurture her dislike of coordinators even more, but her actions whilst rash, show a strength of character that I wasn’t really expecting. The second volume of Seed even manages to introduce yet more characters (and I’m sure these won’t be the last), all of whom are probably going to play an important role in future episodes. Athrun’s father Patrick Zala is a member of the ZAFT council as is Lacus’s father Sigel Clyne. In fact it initially seems as though Lacus and Athrun’s engagement has more to do with political manoeuvring than actual attraction.

From the second disk it’s becoming clearer that the main relationship in this series is going to be the tortured friendship between Athrun and Kira, which is really to be expected. Lacus Clyne adds an unexpected side to this relationship, as her encounter with Kira and the Alliance has given her another viewpoint on the conflict. I also felt the stirrings of an emotional attachment between Kira and Lacus, which is only going to add further tension to the situation that Kira and Athrun find themselves in.

This disk has also introduced the more political slant of the series, as the motives behind the war currently being waged start to be revealed. I’m hoping that this is going to get delved into in much greater detail, as it’s a good element to add to the overall story and something that really shouldn’t be neglected.

In summary-

The second disk of Gundam SEED contains just as many battles as the first, but the pace seems slightly more relaxed now that the initial exposition is out of the way. Characters are given some time to develop and new elements to the story are being introduced at a good pace to keep the viewers interest. So far Gundam SEED has surprised me, while I always view a new series with an open mind I just wasn’t sure whether this was the franchise for me. Now, two disks in, I’m starting to really enjoy the characters and the setting. While SEED is not really unique, it’s held my interest more than I anticipated and I’m looking forward to seeing how the situation plays out in future episodes. Recommended.

Features
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

Review Equipment
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: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED