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 7: Suspicious Motives.
As stated previously being a reviewer is a thankless job and it's sometimes difficult to review titles that are midway through a series, as was the case here. Thankfully, volume 6 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, (their true motives were unclear at this point) 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 ZAFT and Alliance form the two opposing sides but there was some fluidity between them (the Naturals/Coordinators and ZAFT/Alliance) and while the series still holds a lot of mysteries for me (not seeing the first five volumes does that to a guy), as it progresses, I'm getting a feel for the specifics that I didn't have when I reviewed Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: 6. Here's a general idea of what the series is about:
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 was not without a few tricks up his own sleeve and when the two clashed in the last volume of episodes, the wake of destruction was far beyond what anyone expected (since winning at all costs raised the stakes). One of the most interesting things about the battle was how the larger aspects of war were reduced to a personal level by the way the two men fought one another but you could still see aspects of the big picture too.
In volume 7, the main characters dealt with the aftermath of the battle but also the launching of a major ZAFT offensive at the heart of the Alliance. If you like the larger scale battles Gundam has been known for, you'll be ecstatic with what takes place in half the episodes as both sides do everything in their power to keep alive, regardless of the cost in human lives. This mimic's much of the philosophy the various Gundam series have pushed over the years and several seemingly main characters bite the dust here. In all, it left me wanting more as I progressed so I kept the rating at Highly Recommended, even though I felt a lot was missing since I hadn't seen the entire series up to that point.
Picture: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: 7 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 still the music video of Nami Tamaki singing "Believe" although I would've appreciated something new for this volume a lot more. It wasn't just that she was so fetching but the way the song resonated with me on some level. 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: Volume 7: Suspicious Motives was well written and showed me that in a day & age where war is looked at almost as a rite of passage by some, some semblance of sanity can be found in the Gundam series as it portrays war as something of a necessary evil. Kira's reluctance to fight and ability to grieve for his fallen comrades and enemies alike made him far more sympathetic than he would have otherwise been and the amount of personal growth his character has done in the two volumes I watched (amazingly, Bandai was sharp enough to release the series two volumes at a time after the initial volume) made me want to rush out and break my budget.
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!