In Cosmic Era (C.E.) 70, tensions ran high between the Earth Alliance and ZAFT (Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty). After the “Bloody Valentine” incident in which nuclear weapons were used to destroy the PLANT space colony Junius Seven, all-out war began. However, despite the fact that the Earth Alliance outnumbered ZAFT, the war dragged on for 11 months. In C.E. 71, 16-year-old engineering student Kira Yamato works on his laptop in the neutral Orb colony of Heliopolis. He is visited by his friends Tolle Koening and Miriallia Haw, and they watch video of a ZAFT attack on the Taiwanese city Kaoshiung. Miriallia wonders if they’ll be all right since Kaoshiung is near the Orb homeland, but Tolle thinks that they’ll fine because Orb is neutral. As Kira’s robotic pet Birdy flies around, he thinks of the time when his friend Athrun Zala gave it to him. Nearby, an Alliance Marseille III class ship docks in Heliopolis, carrying ace mobile armor pilot Mu La Flaga and the five test pilots for the new secret Gundam mobile suits. The captain doesn’t think that ZAFT will attack a neutral Orb colony, but Mu is sick of hearing that. In space, the Nazca class ship Vesalius and the Laurasia class ship Gamow hide behind an asteroid. On the Vesalius, a masked man named Rau Le Creuset discusses intelligence on the Gundams with Captain Fredrik Ades. Smaller vessels launch from both ships and head for Heliopolis. Kira, Miriallia and Tolle leave to visit Dr. Kato and run into a girl named Flay Allster, who is talking to two other girls about receiving a letter from Kira’s friend Sai Argyle. A military officer named Natarle Badgiruel passes them and gets into an automatic car. Flay and her friends get into an automatic car, and Kira and his friends get into one and head for the research center at Morgenroete. In space, ZAFT soldiers infiltrate the colony and head for the spaceport where the Alliance battleship Archangel is docked. At school, Kira meets with Sai, who is working on a robotic exoskeleton. Also in the room is Kuzzey Buskirk and a girl named Cagalli Yula Athha, a guest of Dr. Kato. The ZAFT soldiers plant bombs all around the area near the Archangel and retreat. Cagalli tries to leave the room, and in space Rau gives the signal for the Vesalius to launch.
The Vesalius launches several GINN mobile suits as it heads toward Heliopolis. The Heliopolis government tells the ZAFT ships to not approach, but the ships are broadcasting interference waves. As the GINNs approach, Heliopolis dispatches several Mistral worker pods to defend the colony. The bombs planted by the ZAFT soldiers explode, killing most of the Archangel‘s crew, including the captain. At the same time, Mu launches in his mobile armor Moebius Zero and is joined by two standard Moebius units. The Mistrals and Moebiuses are all destroyed, but Mu manages to damage a GINN. Several of the GINNs enter Heliopolis and begin attacking the city. The GINNs attack the area where Lt. Murrue Ramius is supervising the transport of the five prototype Gundams. Kira’s friends evacuate the college, and he chases Cagalli when she runs away from the exit. The GINNs destroy all the Alliance ground forces near the Gundams. The ZAFT soldiers then fly down to the ground and attack Alliance soldiers with machine guns and grenades. Kira catches up to Cagalli, and he is surprised to see she is a girl. He asks her what she’s doing, and she tells him she has to confirm something. The way back is now blocked, so Kira decides they should go to the factory district and find a shelter. Kira’s friends exit the college and find two GINNs fighting with ground artillery units. Kira and Cagalli emerge next to where the Gundams are. Cagalli spots the mobile suits and shouts out that her father is a traitor. Nearby, Dearka Elsman, Yzak Joule and Nicol Amalfi steal the Buster Gundam, Duel Gundam and Blitz Gundam. Kira convinces the people in a nearby shelter to take Cagalli in. While trying to find the other shelter, Kira warns Murrue that a ZAFT soldier is trying to shoot her. He tells Murrue he will go to the other shelter, but she tells him it has been destroyed. The area nearby explodes, so Kira jumps down onto the Strike Gundam with Murrue. ZAFT pilot Rusty is killed, and Athrun rushes in and shoots Murrue in the arm. He flies over to kill her with a knife, but he stops when he sees Kira. He then escapes when Murrue starts shooting at him. Murrue shoves Kira into the Strike Gundam’s cockpit and gets in. She breaks the Strike Gundam free of its restraints and gets it to stand up.
So ends the first episode of the newest Gundam series. There’s a few good things here, as well as a few bad. On the good side, we have bright and detailed animation, similar to other recent Sunrise shows, including Tomino’s Overman King Gainer. However, I’m not sure if I like seeing so much CGI in a Gundam series, even if it is done pretty well. The biggest problem here is that I’ve seen this all before. For the most part, this episode plays out exactly like the first episodes of the original series and Zeta Gundam. I don’t even have to mention all the visual similarities to the original series, such as the Archangel, the GINNs and masked man Rau Le Creuset. It seems as if Sunrise is just doing a thinly-disguised retelling of the original series with new animation. However, what this episode does do well is the fierce ground combat between the ZAFT and Alliance soldiers inside Heliopolis. It’s not too often in Gundam that we see people fighting on a large scale without mobile suits. As for the protagonist, Kira seems typical amongst the rest so far, reminding me a bit of Victory Gundam‘s Uso Evin. He made a mistake by following the mysterious Cagalli, and now he’s become yet another accidental Gundam pilot. Since the episode ends with him and Murrue getting into the Strike Gundam, we’ll have to wait until the next episode to see how he fights. Hopefully future episodes will show some more originality and not be so derivative of the original series.