Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Vol. #07 (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Kim Wolstenholme
Review Date: Thursday, January 19, 2006
Release Date: Monday, December 05, 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 Archangel continues to recover from their battle with the stolen Gundams. They spend their time treating their wounded and assessing the damages, with Kira and Tolle still missing. It’s the neutral nation of Orb that will come to their aid this time and search for survivors of the battle, Naturals and Coordinators alike. Before long as well the crew of the Archangel finally reach their destination on Earth, JOSH-A in Alaska.

The Review!
The Archangel finally reaches Alaska, but it doesn’t receive the welcome the crew were expecting. Meanwhile, ZAFT forces start Operation Spit Break, but once again nothing is exactly what it seems.

Audio:

Once again, the Japanese track was my preferred option, and yet again I noticed no dropouts or distortions with the audio. I spot-checked the English track and this also displayed no obvious problems. Both of the front speakers are utilised nicely with all dialogue and sound effects coming across well. Throughout all the disks so far there has been a good audio balance in the action sequences, with the dialogue still coming across clearly instead of it being overwhelmed by explosions etc...

Video:

BEEZ have given this volume of SEED another good visual presentation, and this time round I didn’t notice any problems that distracted me at all from the episodes contained on this disk. Even the integrated CG effects didn’t seem to be as jarringly obvious as they were in previous volumes.

Subtitles are white with a faint black outline and are easy to read, apart from on a couple of occasions when the background is also quite light.

Packaging:

Yet again we get another nicely designed cover, although it’s not quite as colourful as some of the previous covers. Towards the top of the cover we get a headshot of Kira looking rather pensive, and just below him there is a picture of a new Gundam – Freedom - in front of the Archangel. The back cover follows the same design as previous volumes, with three screen shots and the usual blurb.

Once again this volume comes with an insert with some more information pertaining to the series.

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 Freedom 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 on all the Gundam releases are now getting a bit samey, with the usual Character / Mecha files and Production designs. A trailer for PlanetES rounds out the extras on offer on disk 7.

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

Since starting to watch Gundam SEED one thing has been fairly obvious – ZAFT will stop at almost nothing to ensure that they win the war over the Naturals. Naturals, obviously, also share this desire to categorically win the war, but what hasn’t been made clear so far is just how far both sides are willing to go in order to meet this goal. This volume goes some way to demonstrating the determination each side has to make sure they win the war.

Volume 6 finished on a bit of a cliff hanger as Athrun and Kira faced each other one on one after the deaths of Nicole and Tolle. In a final fit of rage, Athrun set the Aegis to self-destruct when grappling with Kira, both Gundams appear to be totally destroyed in the aftermath of the explosion, but while Athrun managed to eject to safety there is no sign of Kira. Realising that they cannot survive the ZAFT onslaught the Archangel retreats after taking some serious damage and they send a rescue signal to Orb after losing contact with both Tolle and Kira. Orb respond, and send out search parties to look for survivors, but they only find Athrun on the beach of the deserted island, who they take into temporary custody until they can return him to his teammates.

Cagalli is obviously upset at the thought that Athrun may have killed Kira and confronts him about his actions. What does become apparent during this discussion is that Athrun also starts to regret his actions as he comes to terms with the fact that he has potentially killed his old friend. During this exchange Cagalli shows maturity beyond her years when she tries to explain the futility of war to Athrun. It’s a nice exchange between the two and shows that Gundam is just as powerful during the quieter moments as well as during the frantic battle sequences.

Of course it goes without saying that Athrun’s attack against Kira did not work as somehow he survived and wakes to find himself recuperating in the Clyne residence being looked after by Lacus. This is probably the only weak point in this disk as there is really no sufficient explanation as to how Kira ended up on a PLANT and at the Clyne residence, it all just seems a little too contrived for my liking and doesn’t really make much sense given the situation. It’s clear that the writers wanted Kira to meet up with Lacus again after their brief encounter on the Archangel, and while this particular meeting seems kind of shoe horned into the overall plot it does serve a purpose. When Lacus was on the Archangel, Kira found he could talk to her easily about his feeling, and by recuperating at the Clyne residence he gets the opportunity to talk things through with Lacus and manages to start coming to terms with what’s happening and whether he alone really can make a difference. During his time with Lacus, Kira is also told that he posses the seed, although what this means is never really discussed. It’s been clear from the beginning that there is something about Kira that sets him apart from other coordinators, and this seed angle has been hinted at very briefly in previous volumes. This volume also hints at the possibility that Athrun also posses the seed, but has, until recently, been unaware of this.

Meanwhile, while Kira is talking things through with Lacus, and Athrun is being challenged by Cagalli, the Archangel has finally reached its destination – Alaska and the JOSH-A headquarters of the Alliance. However, their reception when they arrive is not what any of the crew anticipated. It seems that the commanders in Alaska are more concerned with the potential ZAFT attack against Panama than they are about the Archangel and her crew. Most of the military personnel and ships have already been sent to Panama to defend the Alliance territory and the Archangel and her crew are left in limbo, not knowing what they are meant to do. The situation on board is also rather fraught as during the last battle with ZAFT the Archangel managed to capture Dearka and his Gundam and have been given no instructions as to what to do with their captive. This serves to make the environment on the Archangel very tense, as everyone is aware that an enemy soldier is onboard. This situation is especially hard for Miri after the loss of Tolle and overcome with her feelings she confronts Dearka in his berth.

However, shortly after their arrival at JOSH-A, the crew of the Archangel are asked to attend an investigation into the situations they have encountered since leaving Heliopolis. It seems as if they are somehow being used as scapegoats, and when the commander at JOSH-A redeploys Flay, Mu La Flaga and Natarle Badgiruel it looks as if the crew are to be totally disbanded. The Archangel is also assigned to the Alaska Defence Force, a strange move seeing as the Archangel is a ship primarily designed for space battles.

It must be said that as with previous disks, this volume is very heavy on exposition, but if you’re a fan of the battles that Gundam includes on a regular basis you won’t be disappointed, as this volume ends with the start of Operation Spit Break – ZAFTs all out gambit to end the war. This results in one of the largest battle scenes so far in the series, with both sides going all out. During this battle the lengths people will go to to supposedly win the war are brought clearly into focus. After usurping Sigel Clyne as the ZAFT council leader, Patrick Zala got the go-ahead for Operation Spit Break, but what the other council members didn’t know was that Zala never intended Panama to be the focus of the attack. In reality ZAFT are planning to attack and destroy JOSH-A, the headquarters of the Alliance forces. The council members find out about this deception just before the attack is launched and far too late to stop the planned attack.

While the members of the ZAFT council have been kept in the dark about the true target of Operation Spit Break it appears that the commanders at JOSH-A have suspected that they will be the target of the attack all along. But instead of taking steps to protect JOSH-A from ZAFT they have decided on a totally different approach altogether. The Alliance have built a Cyclops system underneath the headquarters, this system has the destructive capabilities of a nuclear explosion and they plan to lure as many ZAFT troops into the expected blast zone as possible before detonating the system.

What is particularly disturbing about this is that the commanders at JOSH-A have kept the fact that they have created a highly destructive bomb from their own troops who they seem to be quite willing to sacrifice! So while the Earth Forces are fighting the ZAFT troops they are in fact just being used as a lure to give ZAFT the impression that they are winning, which in fact they are as most of the Alliance firepower and personnel have been sent to Panama out of harms way. This really is a truly despicable act and really left a nasty taste in my mouth.

If nothing else this volume of Gundam SEED illustrates nicely just how narrow-minded both sides are, as they are more concerned with potential victory no matter what the cost. In fact the ZAFT side come out slightly better this time round, with the PLANT council members truly disgusted with Patrick Zala’s deception. What remains to be seen is the effect that the last ditch attempt by the Alliance has on everyone involved, and I really don’t think it’s going to be pretty.

In Summary:

This volume of Gundam ends with an all out battle between ZAFT and Alliance forces, which pulls out all the stops and is incredibly impressive. Despite the lack of troops on the Alliance side they really do make their presence felt and both sides are suffering from heavy losses during the battle. However, will the detonation of the Cyclops device bring this war to a conclusive end? Somehow I doubt it as the Alliance commanders have probably seriously underestimated the effect this will have not only on their own troops but also on ZAFT.

Gundam really does seem to be getting better with each disk, with more twists and turns being introduced with each episode. With only 15 episodes left I’m sure there are going to be even more revelations to come and I can’t wait to see how this is all going to end.

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,Character and Mecha files,Production Designs,Planetes trailer

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: A
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: C
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