Gundam SEED Freedom Review
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Gundam SEED Freedom Review

Gundam SEED Freedom Review

Posted on 26 Mar 2024

I make no secret of being a Gundam SEED fan, though the series is often regarded as a lesser Gundam entry (Anime Ltd certainly treat it like the bastard stepchild of the franchise). Truthfully though, much of this can be attributed to the disaster that was SEED Destiny, a series blighted by internal creative conflicts, shifting storylines and sidelined characters. While the original series started with a chase-through-space with two former friends on opposites sides of a human conflict, the sequel was a complete mess, to the point that the new lead, Shinn Asuka, basically became shoved out of his own series once the original cast returned. No great loss though as he was a whiny moron constantly making short-sighted choices based on the trauma of losing his family and, later, love interest. All that aside, the ending has a few grand moments, not least of which being ace flyboy Mu La Flaga making a return, a highlight of the show for me.

Mu and Murrue
Arguably the real stars of the show, Mu La Flaga and his captain, Murrue Ramius.

So we return to the world of SEED one year after the end of Destiny. Conflict still exists between human superiority group Blue Cosmos and coordinators, but now a new entity called COMPASS, backed by Orb and ZAFT with Lacus Clyne directing, is keeping the peace and attempting to defuse the incursions.This unit is enforced by Kira Yamato (space Jesus), Shinn Asuka, Lunamaria Hawke and a new character called Agnes Giebenrath. Kira is fighting in a new suit called the Rising Freedom, while Shinn has taken on the Immortal Justice Gundam. Neither are as powerful as their forebears, since nuclear-powered suits are banned, but they're very sharp and make for fantastic toys (see my review over on The UK Anime Network).

There's some conflict within the team - Shinn feels out of his depth, not helped by Agnes constantly belittling him (and Lunamaria in turn for debasing herself by dating him) and she also has a flirty eye on Kira. If you can't see where this is going a mile off, you've not watched SEED before.

External conflict abounds too - a new independent state called Foundation has managed to rebuild after the war using the Destiny Plan that was the main plot of the Destiny series. This was a plan to usher in an enforced societal structure where everyone is required to play the role they were born for. As such, your use is determined even before you're born, and free will is basically eradicated. Having defeated the architect of the plan, Chairman Durandal, in the Destiny series, it's interesting to see the idea back once more and a new, more aggressive state making its bid for control of humanity.

Immortal Justice
The Immortal Justice. With a name like that you're just asking for trouble really. Still my favourite Gundam though.

Foundation has managed to declare independence but has not received international recognition. Ruled by a queen (Aura Maha Khyber), the appearance of a Blue Cosmos guerrilla unit on its border motivates the Foundation Prime Minister (Orphee Lam Tao) to request the aid of COMPASS in a  joint mission to eliminate the threat in the area. But is all as it seems?

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

During the mission, COMPASS is specifically directed that any incursion into neighbouring territory would be an act of war - Foundation then enact their plan to mind control Kira, forcing him into enemy territory and then using that manoeuvre as an excuse to turn their guns on the COMPASS forces and wipe them out. This sets accusations flying, destroys the delicate peace and soon every faction is at war with devastating consequences.

There are some very interesting ideas in Freedom, but all of them revolve around free will. Kira measures his value to Lacus purely on the basis of his utility, with his weariness of the constant conflict forcing him to doubt not just his own abilities, but his place with Lacus and the wider world, not helped when the charming Prime Minister of Foundation starts moving in on Lacus. Value and love are the key themes here and affect all the main players to varying degrees.

Lacus and Orphee
Prime Minister Orphee and Lacus - he's up to no good I tells ya! Boo!

All this philosophical musing is wrapped in some very pretty animation. Battle scenes are beautifully shot, especially in the early and middle sections where the camera is often at ground level providing intimidating angles for encroaching mobile suits and the death they bring with them. Only later, in the final third, do the mobile suits stray a little too far from technology into (basically) magic, which is a real shame. SEED just has to SEED I guess. That said, it does drop a few amusing surprises into the final battle which make it sorta worthwhile.

We get our "Enterprise goes down" moment when the Archangel is taken out (Murrue still looking damn fine managing the crisis), though our heroes being defeated wholesale in the middle of the film is explained quite satisfactorily. The return of Kira's freind/rival Athrun as the grown up in the room (signified by his tie!) is very welcome, and I have to confess to being pleasantly surprised to see older suits make an appearance with only mild modifications.

Gundam SEED Freedom
The battles are absolutely stunning throughout

Surprisingly, the film handles humour very well - there were several instances at my theatre when the whole audience were chuckling away, usually related to Shinn's dialogue. The script seems to understand how he's perceived very well, and has a lot of fun with it. While it would have been easy to make him the butt of the joke, only once does the film almost break the fourth wall, wherein Kira and Athrun are fighting, Shinn tries to get involved and they both basically backhand him like he's nothing, not even taking their eyes off each other while doing it. The visual gags are also impressive, one cowardly character desperately hiding behind a chair as inevitable death comes at them seemed almost Looney Tunes-esque. This is in stark contrast to the incredibly sad sight of a young girl catching snow in Moscow, seeing it spark and then exploding in fire as nuclear death wipes out the city. Freedom really knows how to punch you in the gut.

There are lots of cameos, though some are meatier than others. Andrew Waltfeld could be missed with a blink, but we do see the original Archangel crew, Yzak and Dearka get to suit up, but really it's Murrue and Mu La Flaga that steal every scene they're in. Deservedly so as they remain the favourite characters of many SEED fans. You even get flashes of Flay and Stella which is a nice nod if you know who they are.

Pacing is bang on - nothing felt bloated or dull, every scene advancing the plot while keeping things tight. The music is absolutely on point, with reprisals of classic themes mixed into some new music featuring both TM Revolution and See Saw who add their distinctive sound to the mix.

I think all my nitpicks are really reserved for the final battle. It's hard to follow at times, the special abilities on display making absolutely no real sense, Lacus suiting up like she's cosplaying for Darling in the Franxx and some moments where I was genuinely thrown, in particular Kira asking for command to allow him to override his limitations, and Lacus sitting on his lap just authorising it anyway. It just felt odd.

Overall, it followed the usual SEED pattern of political machinations, mecha battles, obscene levels of wholesale death and destruction before rallying in some hugely overpowered hardware and winning the day. That Freedom manages to achieve this feeling both fresh and nostalgic is really quite the triumph, with moments of pathos, humour and at least one genuine surprise ending, it was SEED as God intended. Certainly not a film for the uninitiated, but a bombastic ride for all of us who stuck with it through highs and lows. Highly recommended if you get the chance to see it.

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