Let me preface this review by stating how much I love Gundam SEED. It was the first Gundam series that really captured my imagination (Wing always seeming too dull for my tastes despite the amazing intro), but the chase-through-space and edge-of-your-seat action set forth by SEED was something else. The story is tight, even over 50 episodes, and the characters all had personality and something unique about them. So much so that even losing some of the enemy combatants can be a punch to the gut.
Many people aren't fans of Kira Yamato, the pacifist-turned-warrior fighting only to protect his friends. Dubbed "Space Jesus" by some, it's true that he's gifted, kind and something of a Mary Sue. However, there are elements of him I really like. Unlike your usual anime heroes, he doesn't suffer a nosebleed at the hint of a panty-flash, instead bedding the hottest redhead on the ship in the opening episodes! That was such a shock at the time that I just couldn't help but like the guy - it's always the quiet ones you have to watch out for! Coupled with the ship's "big brother" figure, Mu La Flaga, the pair make a formidable team who are great fun to watch, especially as Mu pursues the flustered and completely inexperienced Captain, Murrue Ramius. All the supporting characters play a role, with triumph and tragedy along for the ride as they try to outrun the coordinator forces of ZAFT.
So suffice to say, this is a series worth watching in my opinion. 10/10.
The box set, I'm sorry to say, doesn't do the series justice. In fact, it's borderline offensive for what they're asking.
Presented in a collector's box, the set comprises the series in both original 50-episode SD format, and the HD "Directors Cut" that runs for 48. It's the HD version that is now considered "canon", containing remixes of the original music, new footage and a 16:9 cinematic ratio. It also features new cameos from the sequel series to tie things together more smoothly, though some fans aren't overly happy with these changes, so it's not for everyone.
Furthermore, the HD dub is completely reworked with none of the original cast. Sadly the new team aren't anywhere close to as good as the original, with a lot of the nuance lost - Mu La Flaga has less flair, the baddies have lost their calm demeanour, and in all this is definitely a step backwards. Worse, much of the subtlety of the original script has been discarded, going so far as to place actual errors with what's being said in relation to the plot ("Load the ammunition" when they are actually collecting ice for example). Thankfully the subtitles are still available, and that's how I recommend you watch if you go the HD route.
My original experience was with the dub, so the SD version is my preference, the HD only holding interest for the additional material and cleaner animation.
The film adaptations are also included, the story split between 3 features with some new material, reworked scenes and further background added. This isn't a bad way to rewatch the series, it's certainly punchier, though honestly I still prefer the original 50 episode run - the first few bars of the closing music cutting in to each episode ending still gives me chills - it's the same reason I still love the Macross Plus OAV's more than the arguably superior movie.
Still, this is a £200 set, so there must be some goodies in the shiny boxes to delight us? Oh dear me, no.
A box and a lot of pretty pictures do not make this set worth £200.
The box comes with 13 art cards, a hardcover 116 page artbook and a poster. The artwork on the cards is repeteated not only in the book, but also on the Blu Ray covers - much like the series within, everything included gets reworked multiple times over.
The book contains 45 pages of dull character models - not even so much as an age for each character, no specs for the mecha and no story description, overview, introduction or after-word. Nothing for a series on the verge of it's 20th anniversary, amassing 98 episodes, 3 feature adaptations and shortly a whole roster of new shows, manga and content. What a massive, massive disappointment.
45 pages of uninspired layouts with not one scrap of interesting information - the patterned lines that look like writing add insult to injury, amost certainly the original annotation that the team couldn't be bothered to translate.
Contrast this with the booklets found in the Makato Shinkai special editions - Anime Ltd can create interesting box sets, but you get the feeling that nobody cared about this release. Hell, I'd have taken a few factual pages highlighting the differences between the versions on offer as a really obvious (and useful) guide to the contents. But no, too much effort. As I was once told by Gemma Cox at NEO Magazine, using pictures is cheaper than paying for content, and that's a method Anime Ltd have gleefully adopted here. It's a crushing shame. Especially as so much content is repeated or just lacklustre.
If the licenses ate all of the production cost, it wasn't worth it - no matter how big a fan you are of SEED, nobody needs to watch 3 slightly different variations of the same thing. Pick one and do the release some justice.
So here's the dilemma - one of my all time favourite anime series (possibly tainted by nostalgia I'll grant you) in one of the laziest, most epensive box-sets I've seeen in ages. The series can be watched free of charge on Gundam.info, or via Crunchyroll. So that takes care of enjoying the show. The trinkets included in this set are definetely not worth £200, so unless you're a huge SEED fan that needs every version of the story sat on your shelf then don't waste your money on this tawdry cash grab.
Thank God I didn't pay anywhere near retail for this.