Movie: One of my favorite "Universes" in anime is that revolving around the Mobile Suit Gundam Saga. From the earliest series to the latest alternative telling of the tale, the show has managed to prove time and again that mature themes can be handled better in anime than in most other genres. The basic concept is about war and all the horrors it entails with the setting being a futuristic society where large mechanized robots, manned by human pilots, fight a variety of battles in order to further geopolitical advances. The series has been hailed for treating war more realistically in terms of losing friends and loved ones as well as showing two (or more) sides to all conflicts. The latest version of this story is told in Bandai's Mobile Suit Gundam: Seed series with this review looking at Volume 6: Momentary Silence.
As a reviewer, it's sometimes difficult to review a title that is midway through a series, as was the case here. Thankfully, this volume is the midway point of the series and started off with a lengthy recap of events that pretty much reinforced my belief that the series held true to the original show while updating it as needed. The overview of what had taken place so far was this: There are two sides to the conflict taking place and a neutral party, Orb, (or is it?) that assists in taking care of wounded while remaining officially out of the battle. Technology has advanced to the point where humans are colonizing space and altering genetic codes to make superior humans (Coordinators) while regularly bred humans (Naturals) are struggling with the realities imposed upon them by the luck of the draw.
The reluctant hero of the series is Kira Yamato, a young man who despises war for all its stupidity, and his small circle of friends, including Athrun; Kira's childhood pal that is now on the opposing side of the war. Each side has committed atrocities of some sort and Kira becomes a focal point because he is supernaturally talented, a coordinator, and piloting an advanced Gundam unit that makes him nearly invincible. Athrun is not without a few tricks up his own sleeve and when the two clash, the wake of destruction is something no one had bargained for. The main political factions use this event to attempt to restore themselves in a better position and each of the young pilots is thought lost by the other side.
Okay, to give you much more than that would be to either MSU (make stuff up) or provide too many spoilers (other websites do this if that's what you want). The episodes here were 26. Moment, 27. Endless Rondo, 28. Kira, 29. The Turning Point and 30. Flashing Blades, with each providing enough information to make me want to rush out and buy the earlier volumes (I'm a fan but a fan on a tight budget). Due to the replay value these episodes had and the sheer quality of the show from what I saw here, I'm going to rate it as Highly Recommended but do yourselves a favor and watch the show from the beginning. The characters were often complex, the situations unfolded themselves slowly, and the quality of anime enough to really impress me that this updated version of Gundam is true enough to the spirit of the original show but more involving based on the increasingly complex way war has been presented to us thanks in no small part to the various televised military actions of the last twenty years.
Picture: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: 6 was presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as made in Japan. The colors, image, and clarity of the show were all top notch with no compression artifacts or noticeable video noise. Most of the show looked like it was traditionally made with some help from computers but every once in awhile, some CGI was employed that stood out like a sore thumb. For the most part, the show was handled nicely in this area and I only wish other series had so much attention to detail.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual two choices, a 2.0 Dolby Digital track in the original Japanese with English subtitles or the newly made English dub. I thought the voice acting on each had some merit, with slight nods to the original cast, but even the dub managed to give me a decent feel for the material. If you're a purist, you might want to at least listen to the dub, especially since the sound effects appeared to be remixed a bit in order to use the stereo aspects of the audio track more thoroughly.
Extras: My favorite extra was the music video of Nami Tamaki singing "Believe". It wasn't just that she was so fetching but the way the song resonated with me on some level (not knowing what the words are, I had to "believe" they made sense). Otherwise, there was a short Gundam Encyclopedia that gave some information on the series, a textless ending, a GITS video game trailer, a set of other series trailers, and a paper insert that gave some more definitions.
Final Thoughts: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: 6 frustrated me a bit since I hadn't seen the previous volumes but it also gave me pause for thought about the advances in anime technology (especially comparing it to the 25+ year old original series). In short, I liked it and hope to see the rest of the series given the strength of what took place in this set of episodes with the adventures of Kira, Athrun, and all the others that seemed important yet I haven't seen enough to determine who's who at this writing. For an intelligent look at war (stripping away the science fiction aspects of the series, it's all about war, not the technology), you could do a whole lot worse than this one but keep in mind that it doesn't glamorize war and fighting as so many other shows have done.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article!