With the release of Gundam Seed Destiny HD Remaster on 2014-4-25, it’s time for me to talk about the Gundam Seed series. [Note: This article assumes the reader is not already a Gundam fan.]
In Gundam Seed basically we have a war between Coordinators, people who received DNA manipulation, and Naturals, people who do not. The Coordinators primarily live in space colonies, while the Naturals live on Earth. One day in a neutral zone where both Naturals and Coordinators reside, the ZAFT army of Coordinators come to steal the latest Gundam from the Earth Alliance army. By accident, the protagonist Kira, a Coordinator, gets into a Gundam and pilots it to defend his friends from ZAFT attacks. Reluctantly he keeps piloting the Gundam for Earth Alliance because he and his friends are forced to go aboard the Earth Alliance warship. His best childhood Coordinator friend, Athrun, is a solder of ZAFT. They reluctantly battle with each other, in order to protect their own friends.
On top of exciting giant robot fights and impressive large scale wars, the themes of anti-war and anti-racism are obvious in this show. Pacing is excellent – it has the perfect balance between battles and drama. As with many other Gundam series, we also see politics within the same side, and there are evil politicians and leaders in both sides as well, further increasing the misfortune faced by the teenage protagonists. The struggle of the protagonists needing to combat each other is superbly depicted. They also need to face the deaths of friends. The depth of Gundam Seed (and many other Gundam series as well) is therefore well beyond the typical shows for kids.
The first half of Gundam Seed is practically a re-imagination of the first half of Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), the single most important entry in the history of giant robot (mecha) anime and spawning many other Gundam series. With modern animation and more than 2 decades of progress I believe it is the perfect entry for people to familiarize with Gundam shows. Even though the second half of the series has a few plot issues, I think this is a really good Gundam series. It is so good that it becomes the only Gundam alternate universe (i.e. not the same universe as the 1979 show) to get a TV series sequel.
Gundam Seed Destiny
The sequel, Gundam Seed Destiny (2004) occurs 2 years after the end of the first series. It starts with the theft of Gundam – again, but the sides are switched. A new Coordinator pilot, Shinn, is introduced to become the new protagonist of this series. He wrongly blames his neutral county (instead of the Earth Alliance which invaded it) for the death of his family to become a pilot of ZAFT. Some other ZAFT soldiers who want to avenge their families and friends decided to make a dead space colony known as Junius Seven crash onto Earth, hoping to wipe out the Naturals. This event ignites a full out war between ZAFT and Earth Alliance again. Note: to understand this series one must watch the previous one first.
Although there are a few things I like about the sequel and I hate it less than most fans do, it is indeed very flawed. While various Gundam series has always chosen immature teenagers to become Gundam pilots and let them grow, Shinn is beyond immature. His actions are based on a logically wrong understanding. He never grew and actually got worse with the progress of the series. Making the protagonist a jerk is the fundamental failure of this series. The second thing is regress of two important characters from the first series. One of the most non-sensible things in this series is the regress of a previously strong female character to become weak and powerless despite becoming the leader of her country.
The first series already had too many flashbacks, but the sequel has even more and it becomes excessive and intolerable.
Gundam Seed (2002) received a HD Remaster video upgrade in 2012. The TV series originally had 50 episodes. It was edited to become 3 Special Edition movies in 2004 with minor differences. The HD Remaster integrates new scenes from the Special Edition, redrawn scenes, and widescreen conversion (cropped or added content). It dropped 2 recap episodes. In spite of being 12 years old, the animation (with so many redrawn scenes) looks very good to me, although the water CG animation looks too primitive. The video is significantly improved, but still has an upscaled look to it, instead of truly HD quality.
Similarly, Gundam Seed Destiny (2004) was edited to become 4 Special Edition movies in 2006-2007, and got a HD Remaster upgrade in 2013. It dropped 1 recap episode from the 50-episode TV series, and incorporated the extra episode Final Plus, so it also has 50 episodes.
Gundam Seed C.E. 73: Stargazer
Gundam Seed C.E. 73: Stargazer (Blu-ray release 2013-3-22) is a 50-minute side story to Gundam Seed Destiny. It begins after the dead space colony Junius Seven crashed on to Earth. It has a more serious tone than the main show, shows brutal deaths and children participating in the war. It looks at the war from both the perspectives of Naturals and Coordinators. It follows a group of Naturals who battle with Coordinators, and even massacre a refugee camp. On the other side, it depicts the reactions of a group of Coordinator researchers in a space station when attacked by Earth Alliance
The ending is the best part of this side story. Although it seems a little ambiguous, most people believe that doing a little math based on the figures provided in the show will result in a clear answer. However, this clear answer is the opposite of the ending of the manga adaptation.