Welcome to Casualties of War, a small tribute to one of Sunrise, Inc.'s popular anime, Kidou Senshi Gundam SEED. This one page tribute is not meant as an all around source of information. Rather, I am trying to provide a review of the series, in both subjective and objective ways. As an anime series, Gundam SEED has a special place in my heart, since it was watching this anime that got me back into watching anime in general.
I've always known Gundam SEED was one of the most bashed Gundam AU series, but when I was recently at Anime EXPO 2009 in Los Angeles, the Gundam fan panel reminded me of this hate, and I was determined to show something for it. While I am not claiming Gundam SEED is the best Gundam series, I do have to argue it has its own good points (as well as bad), and both should be recognized, not just the bad.
I hope it's not too surprising if this page contains spoilers, but it's mostly contained in the Cast and Crew section. I hope to attract more people into watching SEED, so a lot of plot details are left out. Sections below are divided up based on areas I want to cover in order to give Gundam SEED a good presentation. For credits and site information, they are located at the bottom.
a beginning; the gundam franchise
As my favorite metaseries (lol as defined by wiki), I feel the need to bore you all with some history. Kidou Senshi Gundam aired in 1979 and was the brainchild of Tomino Yoshiyuki and Yatate Hajime (whom I later realized was not a person at all, but rather a collection of Sunrise staff). They basically defined the "real robot" genre, and primarily pioneered the concept. Real robot is the genre of anime which attempts to place the robot or mecha unit in a realistic settling. It's usually with psuedo-science, and for the most part explains what is or how the technology works. This is a large departure from the "super robot" genre, which like the name, puts the robot or mecha unit in a cloak of mystery. Super robot series, such as Voltron, present an almost magical force behind the innovation, and does not attempt to explain away the technology behind the system.
With the original Gundam, real robot genre portrayed realistic conflicts and villains. And as a general Gundam standard, the series that have been based on the original concept have mostly dealt with war between humans. The central focus of the series are on the Gundam themselves. The original Gundam series only had one Gundam mobile suit, while Gundam SEED has several. Regardless, these special mobile suits play an important part in the story. Most of the time Gundams come in as an innovation in mobile suit technology; in essence redefining the battle field.
Typically, it is the protagonist who has the Gundam, and he (because sadly Gundam pilots have always been male) uses it to win for his side, becoming the MVP everyone wants to challenge. In Gundam SEED, this is different, because not just the protagonist controls a Gundam. Read more below.
cosmic era; mobile suit gundam seed
Kira Yamato lives a peaceful life on Heliopolis, a space colony of Orb, one of the few neutral countries in the on-going war. About one year prior to the start of the story, Junius Seven, a colony of PLANT (the main space colony side of the war), was attacked by nuclear weapons. The destruction of Junius Seven triggered the "Bloody Valentine" War, when ZAFT (the military branch of PLANT) launched Anti-Nuclear Jammers deep in the Earth's soil, effectively unbalancing Earth, due to its reliance on nuclear energy.
While the war drags on for nearly a year, Kira's life is virtually untouched. He and his friends only witness the war from news broadcasts, even though at the front lines, soldiers as young as them are fighting. Orb remains neutral largely because it accepts both Naturals and Coordinators (explained further below). But unbeknownst to its citizens, secret mobile suits were being build in a deal with the Earth Alliance. It is for this reason ZAFT lauched a covert attack to steal those mobile suits, and at the same time shatter the peaceful existence Kira led.
When soldiers from ZAFT attack, Kira comes face to face with none other than Athrun Zala, his childhood best friend, when they used to live on the moon. Athrun and his comrades steal four of the five mobile suits being developed, and by chance, Kira ends up in the fifth. Once each mobile suit is activated, the Coordinator pilots find the system they run on to be slow and weak. Each of them rewrite the program before launching, and the Gundam aspect of the story is introduced. In SEED, Gundam was an acronym: General Unilateral Neuro-link Dispersive Autonomic Maneuver, and Kira says the name in the series for the first time when he strings the acronym together.
After witnessing such state secrets, Kira gets himself forcibly enlisted in the Earth Alliance, which Kira justifies because he only wants to protect his friends (all aboard the new battleship Archangel). But this also places him as the main opponent Athrun will have to face. Only Kira can now pilot the GAT-X105 Strike, the last remaining Gundam the Earth Alliance still holds, and Athrun, along with his ZAFT comrades hold the other four. Throughout the series, the two sides end up fighting numerous times, and Athrun tries desperately to convince Kira to join him, because that's where Kira belongs. Kira Yamato is a Coordinator, unlike all the people he works with after joining the Earth Alliance. And this is a problem because the Earth Alliance is fighting PLANT, which is made up of Coordinators. And Athrun doesn't understand why Kira is fighting his own kind.
What I really liked about SEED is how it portrays the two sides of war and friends being on opposing sides. Kira and Athrun exemplifies this, both caring for the other, but at the same time, the war takes them on different paths, and those paths lead them to actions that serve to break their bond. That is what I mean by "casualties of war."
factions; earth versus colonies
Having used so many terms, it's time to explain what they really are. Gundam SEED is about conflicts between the Naturals and Coordinators. Naturals are "normal" people, born using the natural way, with no genetic enhancement before birth. Coordinators on the other hand, are people who were genetically enhanced before birth. George Glenn was the first Coordinator, but while some people look forward to making smarter children, others looked at it as an abomination. Terrorist attacks targeted Coordinators, and even George Glenn himself was killed. There is a long hate between the two groups. I think in its own way, Gundam SEED addresses the issue of racial hate and prejudice. What makes us different, and why is it that we have to hate others who are different?
Orb is the neutral country in this war, they have space colonies, but no where near the number of colonies PLANT has. PLANT, which stands for Productive Location Ally on Nexus Technology, is the space colony collective nation of the Coordinators. When violance toward them from Naturals was too much, they moved off the planet in order to form their own safe world. Their military force is ZAFT (Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty), and the war is taken so seriously, children of the PLANT Council are fighting in the front lines. Going against ZAFT is the Earth Alliance's OMNI-enforcers, but unlike ZAFT, they are generally referred to as Earth Alliance forces. The Earth Alliance is not a unitary force, but a collection of factions on Earth, and sometimes these factions don't agree with each other.
If there's anyone I can blame for my uniform fetish, it's Gundam SEED. I mean damn, look at this!! I always favor the ZAFT uniforms though, I think the boots did it for me, or did ZAFT get me into boots...?
cast and crew; the characters
Kira Yamato is the sixteen-year-old main protagonist and pilot of the GAT-X105 Strike. He is a Coordinator fighting on the side of Naturals, under the Earth Alliance. In one typical sense, he hates the war he is forced to fight in and how he is the Earth Alliance's mistreated Ace, but on the other hand he isn't just a puppet for the Earth Alliance. When he and the crew of the Archangel realize what the Earth Alliance was planning was wrong, they abandon their post. He has his share of blood on his hands, having killed so many of Athrun's comrades. After killing Nicol Amarfi, Athrun's closest friend in ZAFT, he and Athrun battle on full SEED (Coordinator-exclusive superior fighting mode!) mode, though not before killing a close friend of Kira's first, and for a period of time, Kira was fear dead after his Strike Gundam was destroyed. When he recuperates from the battle with the help of Lacus Clyne, she hands over one of ZAFT's secret weapons, the ZGMF-X10A Freedom Gundam, which had working nuclear weapons. From this point on Kira no longer fights for any one side, but rather for the end of the war, and to stop the killings.
Athrun Zala is opposite Kira as the other sixteen-year-old protagonist and pilot of the GAT-X303 Aegis. As a Coordinator fighting for his home, PLANT, Athrun feels very strongly about the war, as his mother was killed on Junius Seven when the Naturals attacked. His father, Patrick, is on PLANT's Supreme Council, and Athrun is always searching for his father's approval, while missing his mother's warmth. When he entered ZAFT, his scores out-ranked Yzak Jule's, who was one year older and the former best. Athrun and Yzak would go on to have a very rocky relationship, full of rivalry (mostly from Yzak), for most of the series. From the beginning, Athrun has always begged Kira to come to ZAFT's side, so they wouldn't have to fight, and didn't fight his best against Kira. It was only after Kira killed Nicol that Athrun changed, fighting Kira with full force and nearly killing them both. After discovering Lacus's hand in stealing the ZGMF-X10A Freedom, and ordered to kill his former fiancee, Athrun's loyalty to ZAFT and his father wavers. He is sent to retrieve the stolen Gundam armed with the remaining ZGMF-X09A Justice, but with both Lacus and Cagalli's words weighing on his mind, Athrun finally decides to follow his own path.
Yzak Jule is one of the Red Coats (like Athrun), a sign of the best of the graduation class for ZAFT, and seventeen-year-old pilot of the GAT-X102 Duel, like the other GAT series, it was stolen from Orb. His mother is also on the PLANT Supreme Council, and Yzak tends to be quite proud and unfriendly toward Athrun. He is close buddies with Dearka, and the two of them like making snide remarks about Athrun's qualifications. Because Nicol is close to Athrun, he also gets some of their spite. Yzak is pretty much a straight arrow for ZAFT, fighting for them even when ZAFT was doing wrong things. His loyalty is tested when he finds out Dearka is fighting along side Kira and Athrun. Famous for sporting a removable scar across his face as a sign of revenge after Kira wounds him in battle.
Dearka Elthman is another Red Coat of ZAFT and pilots the GAT-X103 Buster. Being the same age as Yzak, they were close friends, though he tends to be more reasonable than Yazk when it came to rivalry. First glace at him might give one the impression he is not significant, but after being captured by the Archangel, this all changes. When he sees one of Kira's friends crying, he makes an off-hand remark about how she's probably crying for her Natural boyfriend, not knowing this was actually true, her boyfriend having been killed by Athrun for revenging Kira killing Nicol. With Kira believed to be dead, and her boyfriend confirmed dead, Miriallia tries to kill Dearka, and this wakens him up about how serious the whole matter is. He loses his joking tone, and after witnessing both sides committing atrocious acts, he joins the Archangel with his captured Gundam Buster, and fights the Earth Alliance, and eventually ZAFT, bringing him face to face with Yzak.
Nicol Amarfi is the youngest Red Coat fighting with Athrun's team, being only fifteen, and pilots the GAT-X207 Blitz. I got fooled into thinking he was a girl for a few episodes, and his name did not help... Yzak and Dearka do not take Nicol seriously, and put him down because his Gundam's specialty is stealth, making him a "coward." Like the others, he also has a parent on the PLANT Supreme Council; his father. Nicol has a great love for playing Piano, and enlisted in ZAFT because he wanted to put an end to the war. Being gentle like Athrun, they bonded and stuck together when Yzak and Dearka picked at them. He is killed in action when he rushes to Athrun's aid after Athrun's Gundam loses power in a fight with Kira.
Lacus Clyne is a songstress of PLANT and the fiancee of Athrun, due more to politics than feelings. Her father is Chairman of the PLANT Supreme Council. Her path is altered when she winds up being captured by the Archangel, and meets Kira. Her kindness touches Kira when he felt alone, and he frees her without command approval to Athrun. When an injured Kira is brought to her, she takes care of him and even commits treason to give him the power he needed to do what he must; the ZGMF-X10A Freedom. When Athrun is sent to kill her for treason, under orders from his father, who also had Lacus's father killed, she questions his reason for fighting. "Is it for that medal you received? Or your father's orders?" Lacus then makes her stand by siding with Kira and against both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT.
Cagalli Yula Athha is the tomboy princess of Orb. She meets Kira before the Gundams were stolen by ZAFT, lamenting on her father's betrayal (by not staying neutral). Later on she joins the Archangel, and fights with Kira for her friends. When she is shot down trying to destroy a ZAFT ship, Cagalli ends up stranded on an island waiting for rescue with Athrun, and they form a bond. When she finds out he killed Kira (as everyone believed Kira to be dead), she asks why, adding to Athrun's uncertainty. Later on, when Kira's true origins was revealed, Cagalli was discovered to be Kira's Natural twin.
Raww Le Klueze a clone Coordinator and the commander of Athrun, Yzak, Dearka, and Nicol in their fight against the Archangel. Always wears a trademark white mask, hiding his true face, Raww is later revealed to have a secret plan. He in fact hates all humans, not just the Naturals, and tries to destroy everyone.
Muruta Azrael is the leader of Blue Cosmos, a anti-Coordinator group. Blue Cosmos is very racist and Azrael's hate of Coordinators can be traced back to his youth, where he was always out matched by Coordinator children, and friendless.
There's so many other characters I did not list here, though they all have their importance. Rather than tell you all about each and every one of them (the list would get huge), I really hope you'll watch Gundam SEED instead.
overview; start of a new generation
Gundam SEED brought to the Gundam franchise what other series had failed; wide spread popularity. Not only did the Gundam fans enjoy the series, but a lot of people new to Gundam watched the show. Gundam SEED, with its cute designs, also brought in rather huge numbers of girls. Perhaps this was one reason some of the hardcore Gundam fans hate SEED. I'll admit SEED was taylored for more of a larger audience, and it followed some mainstream gimmicks. While I consider myself a big Gundam geek, I am not UC (Universal Century, AKA original Gundam universe) hardcore. I like a lot of the AU series, as well as the original UC series. I think while all these series are called Gundam, they are very different, especially the AU series. If you compare any of the AU series strictly to the UC series, you'll find flaws somewhere. Rather than attack SEED for what it lacks, I think a lot of what it covers goes unnoticed by the UC enthusiasts.
What I believe SEED was good at was portraying the human side of war. While a lot of Gundam series cover this one way or another, I don't think any of them went as deep or put it as front center as SEED did. While the idea of friends or lovers on separate sides of war is not new (08th MS Team anyone?), SEED emphasized the pain everytime we see Athrun struggling with having to fight Kira. And while lesser characters dying was nothing new, I felt SEED gave them more air time for us to feel the loss. When I rewatched some of the older Gundam series, when anyone small died due to the main characters fighting, it made me think of ants being squashed, the figures distorted from feeling human. Even though the SEED cast itself was lacking in diversity, I believe Gundam SEED addressed the issue of racism and hate. It's clear from the point of view we're given through the narration that Naturals' hate toward Coordinators was unfounded. Coordinators were killed and massacred just for being different; the "them" versus "us" mentality prejudice often takes. In the end, however, SEED shows us both sides' hate of the other was unfounded, and it lead to no where. Whether by intention or not, SEED showed us a peaceful future can be attained with youth, and understanding of each other.
Finally, I'd like to say, when I was at the Gundam 30th anniversary panel, nearly everyone marveled the Gundams and mecha (and don't get me wrong, I love them, too. My mom gets angry with how many Gundam models I own), but I really didn't hear discussion over the characters. There was so much talk over the technicalities of the mecha, but other than what the presentation video said about Gundam history, no one really talked about how epic Char Aznable is to the franchise or how the repeating character archetypes changed throughout different series. The same people repeatedly said how SEED was basically a disgrace to Gundam, but I think they forget Gundam is not only for hardcore UC fanboys or those who obsess over the mecha over human characters. Gundam is just entertainment, meant for everyone (as long as it brings revenue to Sunrise and Bandai). Yes, Gundam SEED is cute. Yes, there is fun music in it. Yes, it targeted fangirls. Gundam SEED is not UC, it's AU. If all the AU series were "great" like the UC series, then I'd have to say Gundam would get really boring. I like the variety that comes out of Gundam.
sitely; credits and linkage
I've had some idea of making a tribute to the Gundam SEED series for some time, but never got around to it. Like I said in the introduction, it was only when I was at the Gundam 30th anniversary fan panel at Anime EXPO 2009 that I really was determined to make this. Nearly all the fans running the panel did not like SEED, and a lot of people at the panel joined in negative shouts. At other Sunrise related official panels, people made it a point to tell Mizushima Seiji, the director of Gundam 00, that he saved Gundam for them, because after SEED they had lost their belief in Gundam. It was just a bit too much hate going on.
Anyway, I just want to publicly say I love Gundam SEED, even with all its flaws, because it's still a good anime. I don't think it really deserves all the crap it gets, and I think some people attack it because it's an easy target (for how cute it is, it must not be serious business). It's an AU series, and I don't believe AU series should be compared, because they're AU, and therefore separate series.
This layout was made in Photoshop CS2 using a scan from Minitokyo and resources from Papercuts and Dearest. The fonts use are Labtop, Arial Narrow, Courier New, and Arial. I originally wanted to use a more full cast inclusive image, but it was hard to work with while trying to keep it all simple (and not dead dark), so I ended up just focusing on the two main characters, for which SEED largely revolves. Everything was hand coded in valid xhtml using my favorite html editor, CuteHTML.
On the very unlikely chance someone wants to link back, or even to exchange links, please feel free to use the below buttons (besides I just like wasting time making them). Just please do not direct link these buttons, upload to your own site! Thanks.
And if you would like to affiliate Casualties of War with your Gundam SEED site, as long as it's something content driven, feel free to contact me.