Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Volume 5
A modern retelling of a classic tale, Gundam SEED brings the complex space opera of Mobile Suit Gundam to a whole new generation of robot hungry anime fans. So far the series has found favour with fans by subtly riffing on the established themes and features of the Gundam universe without losing sight of what made the series a hit to begin with, it’s also been crucial in securing a whole new fan base of casual anime fans keen to gorge themselves on SEED’s sumptuous eye candy. It’s an alluring mix, and so far the series has managed to strike the balance of old and new with an uncanny precision, nailing the epic sweep that has made Gundam such an enduring phenomenon, but wrapping it up in a shiny new visual package that makes it accessible to first timers.
Gundam SEED has made quite a splash with this reviewer, the series’ colourful blend of nail biting action and vivid drama continues unabated into volume 5, and I have to say, I’m enjoying every blisteringly paced minute. The Desert Tigers finally corner the crew of the Archangel as they attempt to flee the desert, and reach the Earth Alliance’s base on Gibraltar. Whilst Kira struggles to gain a foothold on the battle the Tiger’s squadron of BuCUES are crushing the resistance underfoot, with charismatic java junkie, Andy Waltfeld doggedly pursuing Kira at every turn. Of course Andy’s more than an enemy to Kira, over the course of the last few episodes he’s become something of a mentor and their final duel delivers a resounding emotional punch. As the series trundles on it’s picking up more than a few sprightly plot twists with the focus moving away from conflict and onto the protagonists. It may sound like a compromise, but it’s actually a welcome change of speed, proceedings are finally beginning to move forward instilling the series with a fresh sense of urgency going in to its second half.
Elsewhere the show still manages to impress, the plot is developing nicely, striking a nice balance between drama and action that keeps the pace zipping along. The internal struggles at the centre of SEED are another major draw; Kira’s personality continues to buckle under the pressure of his assumed role as the Archangel’s protector, revealing one or two kinks in his personality that hint at darker things to come. Some of the more minor characters are also beginning to come into their own, erstwhile princess Cagalli in particular is fast becoming a favourite, there’s a venerable heart beating underneath her cold exterior and she’s slowly blossoming into a genuinely likeable personality. ZAFT wunderkind Athrun Zala also takes a welcome detour into the spotlight for the fantastic episode “War for Two’. He’s one of the most empathetic characters in SEED’s sizeable roster, providing a stark contrast to the pantomime villainy of Rau Le Creuset, and his winning combination of charm, resolve and honour during this episode mark him out as one of the series true heroes.
By transplanting the action onto the high seas the series finds yet another unique battle ground with which to show off its visual prowess. The occasional lapse into stodgy CGI territory is noticeable, especially in the opening battle, but it’s been integrated relatively smoothly. As usual the sterling character designs receive the most attention, and with due cause, Hirai’s character work is as ogle worthy as ever, emboldened by some great line work and fantastic digital painting. Not forgetting the Gundams themselves, which are nothing short of stunning, combining the old school charm of Gundams past, with modern lines and tweaks to give them a sleeker more accessible look.
No less than three composers helped put together SEED’s score, imbuing the series with a wonderfully eclectic mix of musical arrangements that run a gamut of genres, including rock, pop and classical. Hard-edged guitar cuts the action, whilst sweeping orchestral passages underscore the more dramatic moments; there are even one or two twinkling piano-led tracks used to poignant effect. Overall it’s a nice, involving score, not the kind of thing that jumps out and grabs you immediately, but it works hard to set the tone, and succeeds in establishing a distinct mood for each scene.
SEED should be at the top of any mecha enthusiast’s shopping list. The series isn’t without its problems, namely the rickety characterisation that plagued earlier instalments, vol. 5 however, is perhaps the strongest showing to date, addressing and effectively laying such gripes to rest. What we’re left with is five whole episodes of blistering action, intrigue and naked emotion that will excite, entertain and most importantly, leave you desperate for more.