published in Empire No.72, Sydney
Undisputedly, the Gundam franchised series of giant robot ‘mobile suit’ space sagas has constituted the definitive Japanese take on robotic design and sci-fi warfare since the series’ instigation in 1979. Over two decades later, it would seem probable that such a series bound by the conventions of its own making would now appear incapable of contributing anything new to the form. Gundam Seed proves how wrong that assumption can be.
Don’t expect any simple plot summary: the series requires over 20 hours of viewing. Suffice to say that there are warring nations engaged in a complex strategic battle which unfolds with dizzying force across those 20 hours. Three military forces orchestrate the raging war: Heliopolis, a seemingly neutral space colony in Earth’s orbit; the Earth Alliance, a grouping of nations representing Earth’s high ideals; and the apparent enemy, the ZAFT forces living in another space colony, whose population of Coordinators (genetically modified humans) holds heavy grudges against the Earth Alliance.
While a large and impressive cast of characters enacts the emotional drama, two core Coordinators – Kira and Athrun – construct the map across which we chart their collective development. Psychologically, Kira is the prism through whom we perceive the refracted ways in which war destroys individual composure, heartfelt friendships and familial ties. He is accidentally thrown into battle by operating one of the newly developed Gundams after the ZAFT forces attack Heliopolis. Leading the ZAFT renegades is none other than Athrun: both he and Kira are now teenagers who haven’t set eyes on the other for many years. Their sudden confrontation is one of numerous shocks which wrack them, setting up repercussions which fatalistically engineer the road to war. Fuelled by the Japanese cultural legacy of having survived atomic bomb blasts and ever since being dispossessed of a military force, Gundam Seed is no mere space opera.