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Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
AKA: Kidou Senshi Gundam SEED, Gundam SEED
TV, 50 episodes
By Sunrise, 2002-2003
Genre: Mecha, Action, Sci-fi, Drama.
It is year 70 CE (cosmic era), and there are large scale conflicts occuring between the Earth Forces/Naturals (normal humans) and ZAFT/Coordinators (genetically enhanced humans). Despite the fact the Naturals far outnumber the Coordinators, a quick victory was impossible, and the war progressed for 11 months with no sign of any victor. In the neutral space colony known as Heliopolis, resides a normal young man named Kira Yamato, a student at a technical college. However, his life drastically changes one day when Heliopolis is attacked and invaded by ZAFT. A series of events leads him to discover that Heliopolis is housing 5 Earth Alliance prototype mobile suits. For the sake of protecting his friends, he pilots one of these Gundams, but not before learning that one of his oldest friends, Athrun Zala, is a ZAFT soldier. The pressures of the war, and various other circumstances force the two close friends to unwillingly fight one another in the hopeless war.
The story of Gundam SEED is a truly epic, tragic, and even foreboding tale. There is quite a bit of racism in the story on both sides of the conflict. It is really not very farfetched when you think about it, as even today conflicts and senseless violence occur simply because of the way people are born just as in this anime. Even though the story is centered around a war and on the people caught in the middle, it is very clearly anti-war. The only thing that keeps it from getting a perfect score is that the ending is kind of weak. However, the story is continued in Gundam SEED Destiny, so I can forgive it more easily.
This is the main reason that I love this series (moreso than the Gundam battles). The amount of character development in this series is staggering. Every character is believeable and more human than I've ever seen in an anime. Kira and Athrun are the two most realistic protagonists I have ever seen. They are not just characters in an anime, they are people that we meet in life, they are people that we know as friends. The rest of the supporting cast is well produced also. So much to the point that even the supposed villains clearly aren't true villains, and supposed heroes aren't true heroes.
An impressive feat, no doubt about it. The characters are well designed and easily distinguishable. But where it truly shines is the large-scale battles, in particular, the Gundam battles, which are so well animated and choreographed it takes my breath away. The colors are very vibrant also. There are a few things that bug me a bit though. First of all, there are instances where certain shots are used too often (such as certain pilots yelling in their cockpits). And the Archangel (a very prominent battleship) is cel-shaded, which is only annoying because is stands out so blatantly from everything else as too CG. Otherwise, a very commendable effort.
A very fitting soundtrack. I cannot honestly think of any track that felt out of place. The openings and the endings were both appropriate and catchy. The first opening, Invoke, is quite possibly my favorite J-pop ever, and a work of absolute genius. The voice acting is very well done for all characters. The seiyuu's even gave their characters their own little quirks and differing speech patterns (Just listen to the way Yzak says "shut up". It is so distinct!)
I admit that until I had seen this series, I never really cared much about any of the Gundam series, Gundam Wing being the only one I had seen previously to any degree (the characters just didn't really appeal to me that much...). After watching Gundam SEED, I'm sold. I don't care if it does borrow some element from previous Gundam Series, this is one of the most enthralling, moving animes I've ever seen. Now for me to watch Gundam SEED Destiny....