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Gundam SEED Special Edition I: The Empty Battlefield

 

Review by Chris Guanche

1st Half Review: April 26, 2004
2nd Half Review: September 3, 2004

 

Note: The Empty Battlefield was originally reviewed in two parts corresponding to the Japanese TV broadcast, but it's really meant to be one whole part as seen on the DVD release.

 

Summary

 

Athrun Zala asks his friend Kira Yamato to come join him on the PLANTs because he thinks there won't be a war with Earth. In C.E. 70, the Earth Alliance destroys a ZAFT colony in an incident later known as the Bloody Valentine. In C.E. 71, an Earth Alliance transport ship docks at Orb's neutral space colony Heliopolis. Nearby, a ZAFT Nazca class cruiser, the Vesalius, hides behind an asteroid. Captain Ades argues with his commander Rau Le Creuset about sending forces to Heliopolis, but Rau tells him they may be running out of time. Below decks, Athrun prepares his assault gear and is joined in a troop transport by Rusty Mackenzie, Yzak Joule and Dearka Elsman. Rusty wonders if it's right to attack a neutral colony, and Yzak asks him if he likes the idea of the Alliance using a neutral colony to develop weapons. On Heliopolis, Kira and his friends Sai Argyle, Kuzzey Buskirk, Tolle Koenig and Miriallia Haw play with a robotic exoskeleton in Dr. Kato's lab. As Athrun's forces penetrate Heliopolis, Kira and friends watch a news report about an attack on the Taiwanese city Kaioshiung. A young woman named Cagalli Yula Athha enters the lab, and Athrun's squad plants explosives throughout Heliopolis spaceport. Rau's ships then proceed to launch their GINN mobile suits. On the Alliance ship, ace mobile armor pilot Mu La Flaga is alerted and orders two of his men to prepare to launch in their Moebius mobile armors. Heliopolis sends out Mistral mobile pods to fight, but they are no match for the GINNs. The explosives detonate around the prototype ship Archangel, and GINNs enter the colony and attack the trailers carrying the prototype Gundam mobile suits. Kira and his friends enter the emergency stairwell, and he chases after Cagalli. An explosion knocks her hat off, and he is surprised to see that she is a girl. He keeps following her and reaches an open area where a firefight is underway. Yzak steals the Duel Gundam, followed by Dearka in the Buster Gundam and Nicol Amalfi in the Blitz Gundam. Kira shoves Cagalli into an emergency shelter and tells her he will find another one. He then spots a ZAFT soldier targeting an Alliance officer named Murrue Ramius and manages to warn her in time. Rusty is killed, and Athrun shoots Murrue in the arm. He moves in to make the kill with his knife, and Kira jumps in and blocks him. Both are surprised to see each other, and Athrun escapes when Murrue shoots at him. Athrun steals the Aegis Gundam, and Murrue shoves Kira into the cockpit of the Strike Gundam and activates the suit's power systems.

 

Athrun informs GINN pilot Miguel Aiman that Rusty failed and that an Alliance officer is piloting the Strike Gundam. As Murrue struggles to control the Strike Gundam, Miguel attacks and is repulsed by the Strike Gundam's Phase Shift (PS) armor. He attacks again, and Kira takes over the controls when he sees his friends are in danger. He then reprograms the OS at lighting fast speed and dodges Miguel's attacks. He pulls out two "Armor Schneider" combat knives and stabs the GINN with both of them. Miguel sets the GINN to self detonate and escapes before it explodes. In the spaceport, Natarle Badgiruel awakens and finds that most of the Archangel's crew is dead. In space, the Alliance battleship loses control and crashes into Heliopolis. Mu is left alone with his Moebius Zero to fight the GINNs. After receiving Miguel's emergency signal, Rau launches in his CGUE to pursue the last Gundam. Mu has a Newtype reaction when he senses Rau's approach. Rau attacks Mu and comments on their unfortunate relationship. On the Archangel, Natarle and the surviving crew power up the ship. Rau flies into Heliopolis and is followed by Mu. Kira's friends help Murrue by driving in the trailer containing the Strike Gundam's Launcher mission pack. Rau and Mu fly out of the central axial shaft and appear in the sky above Kira and the others. The Archangel then bursts through the central axial shaft, and Rau wonders if it's a new type they haven't destroyed yet. He tries to destroy the bridge, but Natarle performs evasive maneuvers and dodges his attack. Kira powers up the Strike Gundam and fires the "Agni" railgun at Rau. Though he damages Rau's CGUE, he also accidentally blows an enormous hole in the colony's wall. Rau retreats to the Vesalius and orders the second wave of GINNs to be equipped with heavy artillery. Mu lands his damaged Moebius Zero on the Archangel's deck and asks Kira if he's a Coordinator. Miguel launches in a new GINN and is joined by several others as they blow more holes into the colony's walls to enter it. Mu calls Murrue and tells her he can't launch in his Moebius Zero, and Kira yells at her saying that he doesn't want to be involved in a war. As Kira launches with the Sword pack, Miguel attacks with a particle cannon and manages to hit the colony wall and central axial shaft. Mu fires the ship's guns and also accidentally hits the central axial shaft. Kira tosses his "Midas Messer" beam boomerang at Miguel and cuts the GINN's legs off. He then moves in with his "Schwert Gewehr" sword and cuts the GINN in half. More weapons fire hits the central axial shaft and completely destroys it. Athrun and Kira face off as the colony collapses around them. Athrun calls Kira, but the Strike Gundam is sucked out into the vacuum of space.

 

Kira returns to the Archangel with an emergency life boat from Heliopolis. A girl named Flay Allster emerges from the boat and hugs Kira and Sai. On the Vesalius, Athrun tells Rau that the pilot of the Strike Gundam is his friend Kira, who is a Coordinator. The ship returns to the Aprilius One PLANT so that Rau and Athrun can present their report to the PLANT Supreme Council. Athrun's father Patrick argues that their dream of peace was shattered when the Alliance destroyed Junius Seven. Kira, Natarle, Miriallia and Tolle leave the ship to gather resources in a belt of space debris and are horrified to discover that they're at the ruins of Junius Seven. The refugee children make origami flowers that Miriallia spreads in space to mourn the people of Junius Seven. While on leave, Athrun watches a TV report stating that his fiance Lacus Clyne has gone missing near Junius Seven. At the same time, the Archangel picks up an escape pod containing Lacus and her toy robot Haro. Patrick tells Athrun that his leave has been canceled and orders him and Rau to find Lacus and bring her back. Lacus decides to go for a walk and goes into the mess hall where Miriallia and Flay are arguing. Everyone is shocked that Lacus isn't confined to her quarters, and she explains that she asked for permission to leave. Flay begins to insult her, and Lacus tries to explain that she's not part of ZAFT. She introduces herself to Flay, and Flay says she doesn't want to shake hands with a filthy Coordinator. Kira takes Lacus back to her room, and Sai asks Flay if she's a member of the anti-Coordinator group Blue Cosmos. She says she isn't but believes that all Coordinators are disgusting. Lacus tells Kira that she's bored from being alone in her room, and he says that since she's on an Alliance ship there are people who won't like her because she's a Coordinator. Lacus says to Kira that he's been nice to her, and he explains that he's a Coordinator too.

 

As the Vesalius flies through space, it picks up the Archangel on radar. Sai tells Flay that she'll meet with her father George when the ship rendezvous with an Alliance fleet. Rau informs Athrun that they will be attacking the Alliance fleet. A squadron of GINNs launches, followed by Athrun's Aegis Gundam. The Alliance fleet sends out its Moebius forces, but they are outmatched by the GINNs. A battle alert is sounded on the Archangel, and Flay stops Kira in the hallway to ask about her father's ship. He tells her everything will be all right because he's going to fight too. Mu launches in his Moebius Zero, followed by Kira in the Aile Strike Gundam. Upon reaching the battlefield, Kira is attacked by Athrun. Flay wanders onto the bridge and asks about her father. Murrue tells her that civilians aren't allowed on the bridge, and Sai takes Flay aside. Kira and Athrun fight with beam sabers, and Alliance ships come under fire from the GINNs. Flay drags Lacus up to the bridge and says she'll kill her if ZAFT shoots at her father's ship. At that instant, the Vesalius fires its cannons at her father's ship and destroys it. Flay screams out, and Sai takes her outside. Natarle grabs Lacus and calls the Vesalius, saying that any attack on the Archangel will forfeit Lacus' life. Athrun vows to rescue Lacus and retreats. Kira returns to the ship to find Flay crying in Sai's arms. Flay yells at him and calls him a liar. She accuses him of going easy on ZAFT because he's a Coordinator. Kira runs away and cries alone at a rear observation window. Lacus finds him and asks what's wrong. He tells her that he doesn't want to fight because of the fact that he's a Coordinator and his best friend Athrun is the pilot of the Aegis Gundam. Kuzzey overhears this from nearby and runs off. Lacus tells Kira that Athrun is a nice person that she's going to marry in the future. Later, Kira takes Lacus with him and steals the Strike Gundam. The Vesalius prepares for battle, and Kira calls Rau and says he will hand over Lacus if Athrun comes alone. Athrun launches in the Aegis Gundam and meets Kira in space. Kira hands Lacus over, and she tells Athrun that Kira was nice to her. Athrun asks Kira to come with him and join ZAFT, but Kira says he has to protect his friends on the Archangel. Athrun tells Kira he will kill him next time, and Kira promises he will do the same to him.

 

While walking down a hallway, Flay overhears Sai telling Kira that he knows the pilot of the Aegis Gundam was his friend. Sai says he was worried, but he was glad Kira came back like he promised. Kira goes into the mess hall, and Flay comes in to apologize for what she said to him after her father died. Suddenly, a battle alert is sounded when the Blitz Gundam, Duel Gundam and Buster Gundam approach. Kira bumps into a girl named Elle on his way out of the mess hall, and Flay reassures Elle that Kira is fighting for them. Flay squeezes Elle's hands and mumbles to herself that Kira must kill all the enemies. Mu launches in his Moebius Zero and attacks the Gamow, while Kira launches in the Aile Strike Gundam and fends off Yzak's attacks. Nicol uses his Mirage Colloid, but the Archangel is still able to attack him. He gets close enough to be able to attack the bridge. Miriallia calls out to Kira for help, but he's still engaged with Yzak. Kira then goes into SEED mode and slashes into the Duel Gundam's torso. He flies back to the Archangel and knocks Nicol away from the bridge. Yzak swoops in to attack with his beam saber, but Kira pulls out one of his knives and slices into the Duel Gundam's cockpit. An explosion is set off in the Duel Gundam's cockpit, injuring Yzak's face. Dearka grabs him and escapes when the Alliance's 8th Fleet approaches. On the Vesalius, Lacus says goodbye to Athrun and asks him what he's fighting for. Rau reminds Athrun of what happened to Yzak and tells him he may be the Strike Gundam's next victim. On the flagship Menelaos, Murrue, Mu and Natarle meet with Rear Admiral Lewis Halberton. He tells them he has no crew to spare for the Archangel, and he says the ship must get down to Earth to allow Gundam development to continue. Elsewhere, Natarle and Captain Hoffman give Kira's friends their discharge papers. At this time, Flay asks if she can join the military. In the mobile suit hangar, Kira looks at the Strike Gundam. Halberton thanks Kira for protecting the Archangel and the Strike Gundam and wishes him well. The new Sky Grasper fighter is loaded onto the ship, and Kira stands in line to board a civilian shuttle. Elle gives him an origami flower as thanks for protecting her. Sai, Tolle, Miriallia and Kuzzey come to tell Kira they're staying and give him his discharge paper. When a battle alert is sounded, Kira crumbles his discharge papers and heads for the Strike Gundam.

 

As the ZAFT forces approach the 8th Fleet, Rau tells his men to focus only on the Archangel. Kira enters the pilot's locker room and finds Flay there with his normal suit. He asks her what she's doing, and she tells him she wanted to do something because everyone else is fighting and she isn't. Kira sees what she was about to do and tells her she can't pilot a mobile suit. He tells her that he's not going to run away and will fight to help end the war. Flay tells Kira that her feelings will protect him and gives him a kiss. Elsewhere, the Gundams easily destroy the Alliance ships. Yzak searches for Kira in his upgraded Duel Gundam Assault Shroud. Murrue calls Halberton and asks for permission to break away from the fleet and begin atmospheric re-entry. An officer accuses her of trying to save herself, but she says that because the Archangel is ZAFT's target, they should leave to prevent the fleet from being destroyed. Halberton agrees and gives Murrue permission to descend to Earth. In the mobile suit hangar, Mu argues with Murdoch about atmospheric entry. They are both surprised when they see Kira in a normal suit heading for the Strike Gundam. As the other Gundams approach, Mu asks Murrue for permission to launch. She is surprised to see Kira in the Strike Gundam's cockpit, and Natarle overrides her and gives them permission to launch. Kira launches in the Aile Strike Gundam and immediately comes under attack from Yzak. At the same time, the damaged Gamow begins a suicide attack on the Menelaos. Halberton orders the civilian shuttle to launch and escape. Mu returns to the Archangel, but Kira continues to fight with Yzak in the atmosphere. Kira knocks Yzak away, and the civilian shuttle blocks Yzak's shots. Thinking it is filled with escaping soldiers, Yzak fires at the shuttle and destroys it. Kira is knocked away by the explosion and thrown off target. At his rate of descent, he will land on Earth in a different location. Murrue has the Archangel change trajectory to rescue Kira. Kira manages to land on the ship's surface.

 

In the Libyan desert, Andy Waltfeld drinks coffee on the land battleship
Lesseps. His aide Martin DaCosta brings him photos of the Archangel, which has landed nearby. Andy is excited since even an ace like Rau couldn't capture the ship. The Lesseps begins firing on the Archangel's position and launches its dog-like BuCUE mobile suits and Agile combat helicopters. Kira gets out of bed while Flay sleeps and takes off in the Launcher Strike. At first, Kira struggles to move in the desert sands, but he is able to reprogram the OS to compensate for the shifting sands. The highly mobile BuCUEs surround Kira and attack. As he fights, he thinks about crying in Flay's arms and having sex with her. Kira destroys one of the BuCUEs and fights off another, but he finds he has used the Agni cannon too much and is low on power. Suddenly, several Desert Dawn rebel jeeps appear and fire missiles at the BuCUEs. Cagalli establishes a wireline connection with Kira and tells him to lead the BuCUEs to a nearby location. Kira jumps away, and the BuCUEs follow him. When they reach the intended location, Kira jumps into the air as Cagalli sets off explosives buried in the ground. The BuCUEs are destroyed, and Andy orders a retreat. Later, Murrue meets with Desert Dawn leader Sahib Ashman, who asks her what she plans to do.

 

Later, Kira and Cagalli head into the city of Banadiya for supplies. Kira is amazed that the city is so peaceful, but Cagalli tells him that's not the case. She shows him a damaged area of the city, along with the Lesseps. She tells him that anyone who opposes "Desert Tiger" Andy is killed. After shopping, Kira and Cagalli sit down to eat kebobs for lunch. Cagalli tells Kira to use chili sauce, but Andy interrupts and says the yogurt sauce is much better. Just then, Blue Cosmos terrorists attack with machine guns. Andy kicks up the table, and Kira jumps out of his seat and knocks Cagalli to the ground. Andy shoots at the terrorists, and Kira throws a gun at one of them and kicks them. After the terrorists escape, Andy thanks Kira for saving his life. Andy takes them to his palace headquarters, and Cagalli takes a shower to wash off all the sauce spilled on her. Andy's lover Aisha puts her in a nice dress that she wears uncomfortably. Cagalli accuses Andy of playing games, and he asks Kira his opinion as a mobile suit pilot how to end the war. He says there are no rules about how a winner is determined, and he pulls a gun on them. Later, the Archangel prepares to take off with help from Desert Dawn. As they fly into the desert, the ZAFT land battleship Petrie approaches and launches its BuCUE and ZuOOT mobile suits. Kira remembers what Andy told him, including calling him a berserker. He asks Mu what a berserker is, and Mu answers that it's some kind of warrior who is usually calm but becomes very strong during battle. Mu then launches in the Launcher Grasper, followed by Kira in the Aile Strike. Kira fights off several helicopters, along with BuCUEs. On the Lesseps, Andy and Aisha launch in their LaGOWE mobile suit. The Henry Carter attacks, and the Archangel is trapped in some ruins. Cagalli launches in the Sword Grasper to help Mu fight. Andy and Aisha attack Kira, and he realizes who he's fighting. The Archangel damages the Lesseps, and Andy orders DaCosta to retreat. Kira asks Andy to stop, but Andy says he will fight until one of them is dead. Kira Phase Shifts down and ejects the Aile pack. He stabs the LaGOWE with his knife and is knocked away when it explodes. He cries because he didn't want to kill Andy. On the Archangel, Flay says to herself that Kira has to fight and die before she'll forgive him.

 

Commentary

 

The first part of the Special Edition presents an interesting idea, but it's not without its fair share of problems. While quite a bit of extraneous material is cut, the editing seems rather rough, especially in the beginning during the attack on Heliopolis. The rough editing reminds me of the first Turn A Gundam movie and the second original series movie. The beginning of the special offers a new scene featuring Rusty Mackenzie, the doomed would-be ZAFT pilot of the Strike Gundam. Also, it seems that the staff wisely toned down or removed a large portion of the fan service involving Murrue's bouncing breasts. Not that there's anything wrong with fan service, so long as it's not always the exact same stock footage. There are some other tweaks as well, such as Athrun in Kira's first meeting during the firefight. In the TV series, Athrun's slow approach is shown in negative colors, but here it's intercut with scenes of them as kids. The other Gundam pilots get virtually no screen time at all due to the events of episodes 5-6 being cut out completely. The background information about George Glenn and Coordinators is gone, as is most of the desert arc. Andy's role is very marginalized to the point of being barely more than a disposable enemy pilot. Speaking of Andy, I was expecting some new footage that would show him surviving the explosion of the LaGOWE, but there's nothing of the sort here. If you're looking for an alternative to the TV series, this isn't it. Like the Turn A movies, these compilations only work if you've already seen the TV series beforehand.

 

Overall Rating

Full StarFull StarFull StarHalf StarNo Star

3 out of 5 stars
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