Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Volume 6
Returning to the mecha fold with yet another five episodes of raucous mecha mayhem, Gundam SEED’s mix of glossy action and teenage drama chugs ever onward – we may have already reached the twenty fifth episode, but as this volume goes to show, the war has only just begun!
After narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of Athrun Zala’s newly formed Mobile Suit squadron, the Archangel finds herself under the protection of the Orb Union – an independently controlled state, and one of a handful of territories that have remained neutral throughout the conflict between ZAFT and the Earth Alliance. By harbouring the Archangel’s crew the Orb Union are jeopardising their neutrality, but they require the technologies contained within the Strike, not to mention Kira’s technical savvy, to perfect their own line of Mobile Suits. Named the Astray, these suits are usable by ordinary Naturals – a breakthrough that could turn the tide against the superiorly gifted Zaft forces – but not before Kira has tinkered with their operating systems to make them easier to handle. The Orb Union’s leader, Uzumi Nara Athha knows that by commissioning the development of these weapons there’s a chance his nation could be drawn into the war, but as he points out, protecting his people is impossible without power, yet pursuit of that power is the very thing that leads to conflict.
Elsewhere, Athrun sorties his team of crack pilots and goes after the Archangel for what seems like the umpteenth time, unfortunately his best laid plans result in tragedy and the kind spirited, Nicol Armarfi falls to Kira’s sword whilst trying to save his commander’s life. Athrun is understandably shaken, believing he is at fault for the loss of his comrade’s life Athrun makes a vow to kill Kira for what he’s done the next time they meet. But Kira himself is not above repentance and is horrified at how the battle unravelled, whilst his crewmates celebrate his ill gotten victory he sinks further into despair, his is now the life of a soldier and no matter how hard he tries to deny it, killing people is all part of the day job.
Another fine entry in the SEED canon, this instalment sees the series upping the dramatic stakes significantly, revealing a darker side that marks a compelling shift in the series’ direction. The creators also drop one or two tantalising revelations into episodes 25-26 for the viewer to unravel, and I sense twists aplenty in ensuing volumes – the allusions to Kira’s heritage certainly suggest there are more surprises around the corner. We also finally get our first enticing glimpses of the Orb Union’s secretive military might – including a sneak peek of the uber cool Astray, perhaps the most arresting Gundam design yet, also referred to as the “Berserk’ Gundam, which I am in no doubt is a good thing. This volume’s only real dampener is the inclusion of not one, but two recap episodes, thankfully the remaining three episodes on the disc cover a lot of ground, squeezing more action, intrigue and excitement onto one disc than your average volume of SEED. You’re getting just as much bang for your buck, albeit spread over three episodes instead of five, bad news for wallets, but good news for short attention spans.
Visually SEED has always been a fine looking series, but as it wears on more and more little faults are becoming apparent. The main culprit is the blatant recycling of old animation; with smaller productions this isn’t much of an issue, but for an ultra-budgeted series such as SEED it’s unforgivable. It is most telling in the action sequences, which – believe it or not – reuse most of animation from the very first episode. It may sound like nitpicking, but it really affects the dynamic of some sequences and I can only hope this cost cutting doesn’t become the series’ cross to bear.
There’s a dark edge to these episodes that’s absolutely gripping, but the recaps and rehashing of old animation continue to drag the series down. Despite this Gundam SEED still remains an essential experience for fans of mecha shows, and if the last three episodes on this disc are anything to go by the best is yet to come.