Wow, so what to talk about that I haven’t already in my individual episode articles. I know I said I would do one, but it almost feels like I’ve said everything I need to say on this series. I don’t think I’m going to do a monster like some people do, but I’ll see what I can come up with to cap things off.
Animation 9.5/10: Honestly the best thing I saw all Fall Season sans the one episode of Macross Frontier that aired while both it and Clannad seemed to be convieniently taking the week off (hmmmmmm). The choreagraphy on some of the fights was just outstanding and but for one brief moment in episode 8 everything was consistant throughout. That episode some might remember featured a crowd of people that looked more like representations of human beings than actual human beings, and although it was viewed from high up it still just didn’t look right. Comparing this series with the last one in Seed Destiny, the animators had a lot to make up for overall in the department of original footage.
Many I’m sure remember the constant reuse of combat and other footage in flashbacks of Shinn’s sister dying and the infamous duck, dodge, roll and fire animation that somebody actually managed to catch the animators on for reusing for no more than 6 different suits. (there’s actually an animated gif of them doing the exact same maneuver, which leads one to believe they just traced over a wire frame in the computer program and stuck it in there) Somebody obviously saw the need to try and push that from our memory as even in flashbacks their was nary a moment of reused footage and the only moments of reused footage were those that were necessary for directing the narrative (Episode 16’s “Clip Show”) and Setsuna’s scene of looking up at the Gundam that saved him (each time their was something new in the scene though). The series also featured an awesome colour pallete too that put a lot of recent series with their washed out look to shame. That’s not to say it was uber bright like Kyoto Animations series are famous for, but that it was detailed and touched up where necessary.
I’m not sure where I can really say the animation could have been improved, although if I had to pick a low point and a high point it would be Episode 8 (which was also the weakest episode overall in the series for me, more on that later) and Episode 25 respectively (for the combat sequences between Exia and the Albatori/GN-Flag and Kyrios and Soma and Sergei’s GN-X where they just splurged for almost the entire episode).
So in that regard I have little to complain about other than the one instance which nets this category a cool 9.5/10 from me.
Voice Actors 9.5/10: Everybody did what they had to do and filled their roles perfectly other than Michael’s. Let’s just stop there to talk about Michael’s voice acting for a moment. Daisuke Namikawa is normally known for playing the roles of young boy characters (he’s dubbed Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars, Eliott from E.T and Frodo Baggins in Lord of The Rings among other roles) so I don’t know if he’s just not used to this kind of role (not that it was a particulary good one) or what exactly went wrong, but holy crap does he sound unbelievably annoying. The rolling R’s and just plain general gruntiness of the role did not sit well with me at all and I thank god Michael wasn’t a critical important character in the series or I would be penalizing more than a .5 for this. The only other role I can’t say had an impact on me was Arise Satou as Christina Sierra. Then again her only other credits are Student A in Kanon 2 (episode 21) and somebody named Sakura in Getsumen To Heiki Mina (episodes 4 and 10) so I can’t say I’m surprised. And it wasn’t really that she was exactly bad, just overly squeaky voiced to the point where her character stood out even more than she should have among the mostly quiet and taciturn Celestial Being crew. Nothing I would invoke a penalty for, just something I thought I’d mention
There of course was Mamoru Miyano and Hiroshi Kamiya who somehow won an award for their roles (FIXED!) and that’s not to say I found them particularly bad, just not stand out. Mamoru carried Setsuna excellently in all his early quietness and later fanaticism and was definitely in control of his character at all times. Hiroshi Kamiya was also in control of Tieria and conveyed a lot of his early menace and contempt for his teamates quite well. When it came time for Tieria to become a more active character he also managed to capture a serious determination and urgency in his characters voice as well. I think his best work came in the last two episodes when he was determined to avenge Lockon and do all he could for Celestial Being. Hiroyuki Yoshino was also excellent to and always creeped me out with his role as Allelujah and Hallelujah. Even when he wasn’t going crazy with the sadistic Hallelujah his quite brooding Allelujah just gave me the creeps too. It’s like heres this guy who has killed over 1,000 people and he’s just sitting their talking calmy with a madman personality just below the surface. Silence of The Lambs vibes there a bit.
Shinichiro Miki, a member of the renowned Weiss troop also delivered well as Lockon. Miki is no stranger to playing cool and collected older brother type characters so he was in his element as Lockon Stratos and obviously his highlight was in episode 23 during his characters final moments. And there were other roles such as Chiwa Saito as the insufferable yet loveable Louise Halevy who showed a wide range of emotions in her character be it chirpy happiness, schoolgirl tantrum or even quiet reflection.
A special shout out though goes to Keiji Fujiwara as Ali-Al Sarshes for helping make an already menacing villain even moreso with his portrayal of a man with no morals who lives life on the edge. I loved this guy as Holland in Eureka Seven and he’s even better here. This guy is just great at playing gruff pre-middle aged villains and I love the little chuckle he sometimes adds to Ali’s lines as he’s doing them that just makes your skin crawl appropriately. This guy should have been up their receiving an award at the second Annual Kadokawa Shoten Seiyuu Awards.
So that’s a 9.5/10 for me again.
Characters 8/10: Most characters I felt satisfied with at the end, but others not so much. Setsuna and Lockon had some good growth and if people tell me that Setsuna is the same “Ore No Gundam” character in the end as he was at the beginning then I will just have to laugh and tell them to go watch episode 24 again. Lockon’s inner conflict was excellent to and it’s a shame he lost out to it in the end. Allelujah’s split personality was intriguing but a little bit goofy at the same time. The last episode where he was talking with Hallelujah as if he was actually their requires one to be familiar with the theatrical concept of the soliloquy (and luckily since I am so this doesn’t strike me as at all strange), but for some people it may be very confusing and as such I’m not sure they made the right choice there for mass appeal. While I’m on Al/Hal I should mention that I also saw Hallelujah as a sort of counter for Ali’s lack of morals by showing the limits of too much empathy (Al) versus doing what had to be done (Hal). Now that he’s merged back into a single being we’ll have to see where he’s taken from their if he survived the final conflict. And as for Tieria, Tieria had the most growth of any of the meisters I think. He went from an obnoxious jerk who didn’t care anything about his team mates, to a crybaby who couldn’t do much of anything, to a rather gar team player who values his teammates as equals and a capable leader in his own right after Lockon was KIA. If there’s anyone channeling Lockon’s spirit it’s Tieria Erde.
There was of course Saji x Louise which started as a device to bridge the gap between our understanding of the A.D world and what was going on in it during the first half of the season when the focus was on building up the setting and less so on developing the characters. A lot of people were turned off by their appearance early on, but I felt it proved very important in a) Giving us a break from the ultra-serious and often dark moments that surrounded the couples frequent light hearted appearances and b) Showing at least a little bit what civilian life and it’s perspective is in the time period 00 takes place in. Later they would obviously split up with Louise providing the catalyst for the pathos the audience was meant to feel for the civilian’s suffering at the hands of the Trinity’s casual brutality in how they carried out their missions. Saji would later almost succumb to his hatred of the Gundam’s and war but this would have repeated the cycle of hatred of the kind of that led the Meister’s to their eventual destruction. In actuality it seems like it was Louise that was the one that gave in somewhat as we see her associating with “Tieria” in the seasons epilogue, looking as if she’s joined the Earth Federation peacekeeping force. Will we see a change in her? Who knows, but I always liked this pair of characters and would honestly like to see them get married or at least formally engaged by the end of the second season. We could use a little bit of happiness for the characters in this bleak almost Tomino-esque production that seems to want them to suffer immensely.
There was also the Ptolemaios crew who other than Sumeragi, Felt and Christina I felt were a little undercharacterized. Sumeragi seemed like a rather conflicted character who almost seemed to realize they were on the wrong path earlier than anyone and wanted to protect Christina and Felt from the mission of Celestial Being. Whenever things got to heavy we would often see her giving them shore leave and she almost felt like a mother to them rather than a superior officer. I could also argue that she didn’t really do her job all that well as she basically let Tiera run the show a lot of the time, but she did at least seem to have some training in strategic maneuvering. It’s just to bad that she seemed to always be up against somebody who was better than her at her job and thus her formations would often fall apart. (actually this was due more to the trouble Tieria often caused early on in refusing to work together with the Meister’s) As with a lot of characters there are still a lot of questions about her past. What was her relationship with Billy and what caused her so much trauma and regret that she took to a life of drinking.
Felt I liked a lot in her relationship with Lockon, even if she wasn’t the most enthralling personality aboard the ship. She knows her stuff and she was also one of the first characters to break the no personal background directive and share her reason for joining Celestial Being. She’s also one of the characters to suffer the most in losing both her parents and now lockon at critical moments in her life. They seem to be building her up a to be a much more important character in the second season and we’ll have to see where they go with her there. Christina was eehhhhhhhhh for me. I liked her relationship with Felt, but we honestly could have done without her since much of what she did could have gone to Sumeragi and Lockon. Felt already had two pillars of support so one more in Christina just seems sort of unnecessary. Chris also didn’t even really seem as talented an operator as Felt, but since the bridge needs at least 2 bunnies I guess there she is. Not a bad character, just a bit of a throwaway one. I felt sorry for her at the end of episode 24, but like some people I have to agree that the writers were sort of cleaning house of characters whose growth had gone as far in the story as there presence would require. Same with Lichtendal and Dr. Moreno. I mean Lasse had the role of piloting the GN-Arms and he was always the cooler of the duo in my opinion who earned his bones in his last moment by helping Setsuna to beat his enemy. Of the bridge crew that wasn’t Sumeragi or Felt I think it’s safe to say he was the best used.
Ian of course is still alive and hanging with Wang, so we may see more of our ships mechanic yet. Speaking of Wang, I’m a bit surprised that she seems to be stepping into the limelight as the epilogue to season 1 seems to indicate. Surprised, but pleased in that I was really worried they had dropped her from any prominence and we weren’t ever going to find out why she hates the world so much to want to see it’s destruction (which she got). Now my interest is piqued as it seems she hasn’t gotten her wish and has assumed the mantle of power in at least one faction of the new Celestial Being. (if they are even going to be called that) What makes this girl tick? I have a feeling that by the time the second season is underway we will start to understand that.
There was also Marina who is mostly there to act as a pillar of support for Setsuna. Her destiny seems intertwined with his somewhat as if they share a common understanding and Setsuna seems to have realized she is something of a soulmate to him as he seems to have taken her advice to heart somewhat in her whole “Find the answer you seek” speech. There is of course her role as a monarch and that arc I believe was noted to have been left unfinished at the end of the episode. We will be seeing more of her and probably by that time we will find out what happened to Setsuna. I for one am glad they kept her role minimalized and her relationship tied only to Setsuna as I see know way a serious relationship between her and the rest of the characters would be seen as anything other than hacknyed. Her role is in the Middle East and with Setsuna and should stay that way.
Speaking of small roles, there were the Trinities who were more of a means to an end than critical characters. That is except Neena whose new purpose hasn’t been made entirely clear yet. The Trinities came in to push the plan into it’s second stage, which was to make the world hate Celestial Being enough to unify against them and they played out their sacrficial role well. (although the true end they were supposed to meet was derailed by the wild card that is Ali-Al Sarshes) Setsuna was probably not supposed to have been there to save Neena, but whatever derailment of the plan that caused hasn’t become apparent or was exacerbated by Alejandro’s play anyway.
Lastly there were the AEU, HRL and Union characters. Consider that the first character we meet is not a Celestial Being, not even the second or third, but that one of the first characters we meet is Patrick, who proceeds to have his butt handed to him by the Exia, setting the tone for much of what he would do for the rest of the series. Every series no matter how dramatic arguably needs it’s comic relief character and that responsibility fell on Patrick. Luckily there was more to him than just that and we got to see him start a romance, clash personalities with some of his teamates in all his arrogance and hot-headedness and prove an unexpectedly dangerous rival to Tieria (after getting shot down by him once in what must be his most humiliating defeat so far). Patrick amused me in all honesty and his little trip while walking up to Darryl (complete with a goofy Hanna Barbera sound effect) was probably my favourite moment with him. Then there was Katie who came in a bit later in the series and proved that you can still have a strict straight laced borderline manly female character in anime. Moe has nothing at all to do with Katie and she basically commands the front lines as one of the strongest by the book female captains in Gundam ever (if not the strongest). Sumeragi may be my favourite Gundam carrier captain, but Katie wins the title of favourite captain overall by seeming like she probably belongs in Legend of The Galactic Heroes more than Gundam. Ali I sort of count along with the AEU as well as he tags along with their operations quite often in his Gaily Biage persona and was employed by PMC Trust which uses all AEU MS. What more is their to say about him that hasn’t already been said. Of the pilots that the Meister’s frequently square off against he is easily the most dangerous and cunning and is just plain cool. He’s absolutely not a clone of Gauron either like some people claim. Gauron was a fairly generic villain whose only speed was pure sadist and lacked any forseeable motive other than killing as many people as possible. Ali on the other hand is as I said cunning (I doubt Gauron could have lured Kinue into the car with false pretenses of a quiet conversation and a valuable scoop) and actually gave us his motive for killing in that he is trying to preserve the life of a free mercenary that is the only one he’s ever known against the likes of Celestial Being who would rob him of it. Ali has also been far more successful overall than Gauron ever has in that he actually managed to finish off 3 Gundam pilots and make it out of his final confronation alive without the Deus Ex Machina of a plot device known as the Lamba Driver. I’ve seen many odd comparisons to characters from other series with regard to Gundam 00 but Ali to Gauron has been one of the strangest. If anything Yazan Gable from Zeta Gundam is a far more apt comparison right down to him being clearly shown to survive into the next season despite the best efforts of his adversary.
With regard to the Union, Graham Acre could have been used a bit better arguably. He came and went more than any other pilot in the series and I’m not even sure if he had more or less screen time than Darryl or not to be honest. Graham is definitely an interesting character in his determination to defeat the Gundams and level up as a pilot while upholding his personal code as a flag fighter. For this reason we see him making the bold move of remaining in a Flag Fighter throughout the series despite it’s inferiority compared to the GN-X. In the end though it seems like even the best of men fall from grace and it looks like Graham gave into his rage at the death of his comrades and abandoned any notion of what it once meant to him to be flag fighter. One line that made me feel he still has some serious depth and story left to tell in the second season (yes I feel they are saving him up moreso as a second season character much like Wang) is his final line when facing the Exia, “Darryl, Howard, I Have Avenged You”. We’ll have to wait and see what’s left in store for this man now that his mission is apparently complete at the apparent cost of much of his face. Darryl and Howard I also liked a fair bit believe it or not (moreso Darryl since he lasted longer obviously) just in how they actually got some lines compared to wingmen in most Gundam series and their respect for their captain was well conveyed in their character. It’s a shame Howard had to meet such an untimely end at the hands of a clearly inferior pilot in Michael due to his overflag being a poor match for the Zwei. Darryl arguably managed to pick up an assist in his revenge when he took on Lockon and despite dying it was enough to shift momentum back to his “teammate” in Ali and end the Dynames for good. In the long line of Wingmen such as Slender, Denim and Jean, Dunkel and Ramsus, and Mueller and Alex I think Darryl and Howard are probably the most fleshed out to date, even in the shadow of their much more popular and talented superior officer.
On the HRL side finally we have Sergei and Soma. Sergei provided the gruff old soldier type of character who has seen to much war and cares deeply for the lives of his countrymen to the point of borderline self-sacrifice. I don’t think it’s hard to say that Sergei is the closest thing to the ideal soldier we have seen so far in the series along with Katie. He also plays an excellent moral compass to not only Soma, but the viewer as well in his commentary that never seems too naive or too withdrawn from what is going on, but just plain accurate. Soma provides the flat chest for those who need it to live as well as a worth adversary for Allelujah. Allelujah never did manage to beat this super soldier and we get to see her characters battle lust increase more and more until the point when it comes time to make the critical decision between ending her rivalry with Allelujah by taking him down or saving Sergei who is slowly dying. It’s a critical decision for this proud young girl who views herself as the ultimate evolution of humanity, but ultimately she chooses Sergei and redeems herself by finally accepting the strong morale ideas (the value of life and knowing when to end a battle) that Sergei had tried to teach her and with a great show of strength (forcing those doors to his cockpit open with her rather scrawny frame) she helped save her father figures life. Up until that point Soma had just been the pseudo-loli eye candy as far as I was concerned, but it was at that point where she made her characters case and won the battle that Allelujah seemed to lose against his own blood lust. I think for this reason alone (the whole laying off Allelujah at the critical moment) that Allelujah’s survival and return to combat with her has been assured, and hopefully we can soon learn the mystery of “Marie”. I’ve been betting that she’s his sister.
So there you have it on the character front of things. The show did leave a lot up to the viewer to read into some of the characters more than others in that instead of having some speak blatantly the meaning of their actions and how they feel about things they let their actions speak for themselves. Their of course were some inner monologues, but just the same their were also a lot of subtle queues that probably require multiple views to pick up on. That’s just a little hint of realism though in my opinion. So I think an 8/10 in this category is fair because I felt Michael Trinity, Wang Liu Min (This season at least), Christina Sierra and Lichtendal were somewhat mishandled and thus I docked .5 points each. On the other hand other characters are still being built up quite and quite satisfactorily for the most part so a solid 8 seems fair to me at this point in time.
Plotting 7/10: Could have been better, could have been a whole lot worse. The early half was obviously episodic and sought to build up the world that the characters live in, and I appreciate that a lot because now we have one of the most convincing post U.C settings in recent memory if not the most. In doing this though a lot of character development was put off to the second half and left unresolved and some plotlines are still up in the air as a result of the second season being months away. It’s really hard to give it an overall rating other than satisfaction, but not in a complete form since anything can happen. Luckily I have faith in Sunrise to take what we have now and make a good tale out of it for the next season and blame most of my misgivings on the fact that we are essentially cut off from learning the rest for now. Consider all that happened in the first 25 episodes which was arguably more eventful than the entirety of Gundam Seed Destiny, and don’t forget their is also a full 25-27 episodes left in the series now. If we could get this much story out of the first half, just imagine what the second half could be like now that we have gotten the whole establishing the setting and characters thing out of the way.
Music 9.5/10: Best music I’ve heard in a series so far this year (2008). Kenji Kawai’s BGM’s are well used and feature a variety of real instruments (see my review of the first OST for more detail) and the second opening and ending really fit the series overall tone I find. I didn’t mind the first opening either (especially it’s well placed use in the final moments of episode 25 where it helped to give a sense of at least preliminary closure) nor the second ending (mostly thanks to the stylish pictures that went along with it) and everything just seemd to fit overall music wise. I could complain that the Celestial Being theme was overused a little, but that I feel would just be nitpicky as each remix brought something new to the mood that conveyed the characters and organizations standing at any given point in the flow of events.
People can rag on Sunrise all they want for being superficial in some regards (model kits, not that I’m bothered much by that tie-in), but I find it hard to deny that their series give us some of the best OST’s to add to our collections.
Overall: I gave the first season an 8.7/10 or 87% or whatever you want to call it. If there’s anything people want me to talk about a bit more just drop a line and I will oblige, but right now I’m kind of tired and feel like I need to go lie down for a while. I hope this was up to par for what people wanted in a Final Analysis. Was I too easy on some parts, to hard on others? Let me know, but this is pretty much where I think I stand at the end of the series.
Final First Season Rating: Eight And Seven Tenths Out Of Ten