[A review/ ramble about Gundam Seed]
I watched Gundam Seed a very long time ago, dubbed in English when they played it on the local television channel. It was the first animation that I actually got addicted to, and back then, I didn’t even know about much about Japanese animations. I do love these shows – Gundam Seed and its inferior sequel, Destiny – in spite of the flaws that they have.
Firstly, I have to make it clear that Seed is better that Destiny. Seed is what I will be focussing on because it has better storyline, character development and generally makes more sense. The premise is that there is an ongoing conflict between the Coordinators (genetically enhanced human beings) and Naturals (unenhanced as the name implies). Caught in the conflict are the protagonist, Kira Yamato, and his on-and-off bestie, Athrun Zala, and the two boys swing back and forth between wanting to save each other and destroy each other (it’s all good fun though).
Gundam Seed definitely earns points for storyline. It is basically Kira’s (and Athrun’s) story about discovering who he is and finding his purpose in a troubled time. Surrounded by forces that wish to manipulate him, he has to seek the right answers and hold firm to his own beliefs. It seems like a clichéd storyline but it was well-done and at the end, we get the answers that we need. I think clichés are okay, if they are done well.
For me, the biggest problem with Seed was its pacing. The show starts out really slow and becomes quite repetitive at one point, with Kira fighting battles after battles and progressively getting stronger. On hindsight, I suppose these episodes were necessary in order to show us Kira’s strength and ingenuity in battle, as well as his steady descent into an emotional and mental breakdown. Nevertheless, the first half of the show was quite draggy, even with the love triangle and teenage drama surrounding it. It did get considerably better after that though, and the second half of the show was splendid and moved a lot faster. (Destiny, on the other hand, starts out really well with a fast and effective pacing that draws its audience in, but gets repetitive and boring in the second half of the show.)
The story had some pretty deep content. This was the first show that made me think deeply about genetic engineering and the possible societal consequences of Man’s attempts at playing God. The show raises many questions about the notion of good and evil as well. Initially, I thought that the Naturals were ‘good’ because… well, Kira fought for them and the side that the protagonist chooses must be the good side, right? It became clear to me later on that there was no such rule, and through Gundam Seed, I learned that good and bad were perspectives, and sometimes very difficult to tell apart. This show made me think about people’s agenda, what truly lies in their hearts. This may seem like obvious truths to adults, but I was quite young when I watched this and back then, it had never occurred to me that people can be cruel, even when they seem kind or just.
Gundam Seed also has wonderful character development and despite all the mecha battles, at its heart, it’s a story about the relationships between people. Through their interactions, these characters truly evolve and their development is the backbone of this story. For instance, Kira’s and Athrun’s relationship is a dynamic one, and it propels the story forward, keeping the audience interested in how things will unfold. Will they be able to forgive each other or will they eventually kill each other? What’s painful is that they are both really good people, who are just fighting to protect the ones they love. And yet, to do so, they would have to destroy each other.
Kira’s romantic relationships are also very intriguing and a key aspect of the story. His character is profoundly affected by his initial relationship with Fllay Allster (who is a real piece of work) and much later one with Lacus Clyne (a shrewd politician in her own way). Such relationships make this show all the more fun to watch.
For those who like action, Gundam Seed also has plenty of those. I took me a while to get into the mecha battles but eventually I did, especially after Kira started going berserk and owning everyone else. While I don’t think the battles were the highlight of the show, I certainly do appreciate the awesomeness of the Gundams, in particular, the Freedom and Justice, which show up much later in the show. (I actually collected them!)
The only downside to Gundam Seed is that it has zero comedy and is not the least bit light-hearted. It is not a dark story, and there are no gory scenes or gut-wrenching moments, but there is also nothing funny about it. Overall, I think Gundam Seed is a good a package for any anime fan looking for a somewhat serious show on friendship and love, with some good battle sequences thrown in. For those who would turn away from a show simply because there are mecha battles in it, I suggest that you give Gundam Seed a chance, because there is so much more to it than giant robots fighting. It’s an old show but it’s also quite wonderful.