I’ve always avoided the Gundam series because of one reason: the rabid fanbase just turned me off. That, and no mecha can be cooler than a transforming jetfighter! Also, Macross was one of the first anime I remember seeing as a kid, so it holds a special place for me.
Back on topic, after a lot of deliberation, and mainly due to the pathetic Fall 2009/ Winter 2010 season with nothing good to watch, I decided to plunge into the Gundam universe. After taking into consideration the recommendations of many people, along with the fact that I didn’t want to start off with something really old, I decided to go with Gundam SEED, followed by Destiny.
Now Gunda SEED is one of the more interesting series in the franchise history, with nothing but praise for it, and almost universal hatred for Gundam SEED Destiny. Beginning with SEED, I can see why people love it so much. In fact, up until the end of the first season, SEED was shaping up to be my favourite anime EVER! And yes, I say this despite having watched Macross, Full Metal Panic, Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, Gunbuster, etc.
So why isn’t it at the top of my list? Well, the ending felt like a mindless action movie, devoid of emotions and full of unnecessary explosions. I felt that the very end was sort of incomplete, with a bloody robot-bird flying into the sunset space, leaving me with a sense of emptiness as I didn’t know what happened after the war. It would have been great if Sunrise decided to end the SEED storyline with an OVA, showing the surviving members of that bloody war trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, spending the rest of their days in peace. You know, like how Gurren Lagann did, with Simon growing old and living out the rest of his days in relative calm. Instead, we get SEED Destiny.
What made the first series so great was this small group of people, surviving against all odds to reach home. Only to find out that they have been betrayed by the very people they tried to protect; finally deciding to go on their own path, separate from either factions in the war, and trying to bring the bloodshed to an end. While this base premise is pretty cool in its own right, it was the complicated relationships of the crew members onboard the Archangel and their ZAFT counterparts that made Gundam SEED such a touching story. The clashes between Kira and Athrun were legendary, not only because of how cool the mecha fights looked, but their friendship with each other. Finding out that your best friend is on the enemy side and fighting against him is not exactly a novel idea, but the level of respect they showed each other and the lives of other people close to them getting entangled in this web of hatred was absolutely epic!
There wasn’t a single character in SEED that I disliked, even Flay had her reason for being the bitch that she was, and got a well deserved end. If you really think about it, there wasn’t even a specific “bad guy” since everybody had their own reason to fight. Fleshing out the past history of the cast and how it affected their present decisions was a brilliant way to unfold the events of the story. The animation was pretty damn good, considering SEED came out in 2002/03. As far as the music is concerned, the core theme with different variations was nice, but all of Lacus Clyne’s song didn’t have shit on Macross! Sorry, but at least SEED and Destiny songs were average at best, and downright crappy compared to any Macross song. Perhaps the other Gundam series have something better to offer?
Speaking of crappy, I just want to mention Gunda SEED Destiny very briefly, the sequel to one of the best animes in history that never should’ve existed. Gundam SEED suffered because of its own success in the form of Destiny. The image of the whole series was tarnished because of this god awful sequel. I guess the fans wanted something more, and Sunrise went the route of Gears of War, with “bigger, better and more badass”. Or at least that’s what the studio thought. What we got instead was an overwrought story with way too many characters, too much emo, too many battles and too much of trying hard to be better than the first season. All of this resulted in something that was a mere shadow of its former self, nowhere near as evocative as the first season. Mind you, I watched the movies of Gundam SEED Destiny; from what I was told and read online, this was the least painful and sensible way to watch the sequel. I can’t imagine how much I would’ve hated myself for going through 50 episodes of that mess.
The funny thing about this whole situation is that my friend who actually sparked my interest in Gundam has only seen one series in the whole franchise. Sadly it’s Gundam SEED Destiny. He swears by how awesome it is! It sucks that his DVD case made no mention that Destiny was a sequel, and not being an anime buff, he didn’t know any better! Good for him I’ve got the original Gundam SEED. Can’t wait to see his reaction!
In any case, Gundam SEED was as good a point as any to start off in the Mobile Suit Gundam universe, and I absolutely love it! In my mind I’ve made up this story that they all lived happily ever after, once the war at Jachin Du got over. There was no Destiny. So now I’m going to watch 08th MS Team, a classic from 1996. And I’ll finish things off with Gundam 00, which I’ve heard is the new darling of the Gundam fans.