Despite having finally reached Earth at the expense of hundreds of lives, anyone who thought times would be easier for the crew of the Archangel is sorely mistaken. They have landed smack-bang in the middle of Andy Waltfeld’s (also known as the Desert Tiger) renowned ZAFT territory and he is hardly the kind of man to refuse a special welcome for unexpected guests!
Amidst the carnage, the talented but young Gundam Strike pilot Kira Yamoto is beginning to crumble under the weight of expectation that burdens him every time he jumps into his titular mecha. He sees himself as the first and last line of defence between his friends and oblivion, and between these harsh times and his confused personal life, exacerbated by the attentions of obsessive “girlfriend” Flay (don’t confuse the term girlfriend with a sense of organisation, their relationship is anything but clear cut), its no surprise that Kira is losing sight of his old self.
Earth-bound skirmishes aside, the political wheels are turning back in PLANT (ZAFT) territory and nothing but ultimate victory will satisfy the Coordinator peoples’ unquenchable thirst for revenge. “Operation Spit Break”, the latest and greatest military retaliation against the Earth forces is being passed through the government for approval and with both Rau Le Creuset and Patrick Zala spearheading the proposals, its almost a given that the plans will be rubberstamped.
In the rare downtime, Kira’s old friend-turned-enemy Athrun Zala has time to visit his fiancé but ends up reflecting on, perhaps even regretting, his position as a ZAFT Gundam pilot. His hatred of the Earth alliance has been somewhat confused since meeting Kira on the battle field and while Kira’s perspective of war hardens in the face of near constant battle, Athrun is still struggling to come to terms with fighting his best friend to the death.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED #4 keeps the series moving at a respectable and exciting pace, leaving me little time to delve too deeply into the shallow teenage characterization that dogged my review of the previous volume. The anticipated desert skirmishes between Kira and Andy Waltfeld’s expert Desert Tiger army are full of tension and make an interesting and unique setting for the expected mecha-combat.
Of the new characters, Andy Waltfeld makes a strong impression as an honourable and likable man who just happens to be on the wrong side of the battle. His tactical nous, laid back attitude and strange affinity for coffee build him into an imposing and pleasant figure. Between the other, frankly lifeless adult characters to have popped up in SEED so far, he is a rare chance for the series to gain a proper sense of maturity and sacrifice (I sense tragedy in the future for him).
Despite my dislike of the other teenage characters on the Archangel, Kira continues to lead the show well. His knee-jerk reactions, confusion and decisions all fall in line with those you would expect of an inexperienced kid pushed into a position of ultimate power.
Artistically, SEED #4 is full of futuristic eye candy. It’s easy to compare the Gundam universe to that of Star Wars, but the obvious similarities lie in the respective creators’ love of outrageous technology. Every robot and mecha, whether it’s a heroic Gundam model or a dog-like Desert mecha, has a unique appeal and has obviously been lovingly designed by people with a passion for futuristic warfare. These kinds of touches really add to the mythology of Gundam series (including SEED) and give the viewer a rare sense of wide reaching, historical circumstance. When a universe has been designed this intricately, you can’t help but drown in the adventure.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED #4 is a worthy slice of fast moving mecha action-adventure. It certainly isn’t as complex or thought provoking as I had hoped, but the longer the series wears on, the more I’m enjoying the fast paced Gundam battles. If anything, with characters like Andy Waltfeld and his Desert Tigers, Gundam SEED has nailed that feeling of sweeping epic; a series where everything has been planned and designed to look unique and essentially, full of life.