On the moon, Athrun Zala asks his friend Kira Yamato to come to the PLANT because he doesn’t think Earth and the PLANTs will go to war. However, friction on both sides leads to the Bloody Valentine incident in C.E. 70 when the Earth Alliance destroys a PLANT. Although the Alliance has greater resources, ZAFT has created the first mobile suit, the GINN. The war drags on for 11 months in stalemate. In C.E. 71, Kira works on his laptop in Orb’s neutral space colony Heliopolis. His friends Tolle Koening and Miriallia Haw meet with him and watch a report of a ZAFT attack on Earth. In space, an Alliance ship carrying ace pilot Mu La Flaga docks inside Heliopolis to deliver five test pilots. Nearby, the ZAFT ship Vesalius prepares for battle. Dearka Elsman asks Athrun if he’s a coward, and commander Rau Le Creuset comes down to remind them how important their mission is in stealing the Alliance mobile suits. In the colony, Kira, Tolle and Miriallia run into Flay Allster, a girl that Kira is attracted to. She’s angry about her friends telling everyone about a letter she received from Kira’s friend Sai Argyle. An Alliance officer named Natarle Badgiruel pushes past them to ride in an automatic car. Outside, Athrun and the other soldiers infiltrate the colony and plant explosives everywhere. At the Morgenroete research facility, Kira and his friends meet up with Sai and Kuzzey Buskirk. A girl named Cagalli Yula Athha comes in, and Sai tells Kira she’s a guest of Professor Kato. In space, the Vesalius and the Gamow approach Heliopolis. Alliance officer Murrue Ramius begins securing the Gundam mobile suits, and Mu launches in his Moebius Zero mobile armor. The explosives detonate inside the spaceport, killing most of the crew of the new battleship Archangel. In space, Mu fights off several GINNs after a few others penetrate the colony. A GINN piloted by Miguel Aiman enters, and he sends a signal to Athrun. ZAFT pilots Yzak Jule, Dearka and Nicol Amalfi steal the Duel Gundam, Buster Gundam and Blitz Gundam. Kira chases Cagalli out onto the battlefield and shoves her in a shelter. He warns Murrue about a ZAFT soldier and saves her life. Athrun’s friend Rusty Mackenzie is killed, and he shoots Murrue and rushes in to kill her. He stops suddenly when he sees Kira standing with her.
Athrun escapes when Murrue shoots at him, and she tells Kira to get inside the Strike Gundam‘s cockpit. Nearby, Athrun steals the Aegis Gundam. He meets up with Miguel and tells him that Rusty was killed before he could steal the Strike Gundam. Murrue fires vulcans at Rusty, but he easily dodges her attack. She then activates the Phase Shift armor and blocks his sword. Kira sees how inadequate the Strike Gundam’s operating system is, so he begins re-programming it. He sees his friends in danger and takes control of the Strike Gundam. In space, Mu’s ship explodes and Rau appears in his CGUE mobile suit. Athrun reports to Rau that Miguel is fighting the Strike Gundam, and Rau orders him to return to the ship. Kira pulls out the Strike Gundam’s combat knives and destroys Miguel’s GINN by slicing into it. In space, Mu dodges Rau’s attacks as they both enter the colony. As the Strike Gundam Phase Shifts down, Rau appears and attacks. Suddenly, Rau is hit when the Archangel fires its cannons. One of the CGUE’s arms is blasted off, and Rau retreats. The Archangel lands inside Heliopolis, and the Strike Gundam is brought aboard the ship. Mu introduces himself and congratulates Kira on his fighting skill. He then shocks everyone by asking Kira if he’s a Coordinator.
Soldiers then aim their guns at Kira, but Tolle and everyone else jump in front of Kira and say he’s not with ZAFT. Mu isn’t surprised that some Coordinators would come to Heliopolis to avoid the war. Kira explains that his parents are Naturals and that he is a first generation Coordinator. Tolle wants to know when he can leave the ship, but Murrue says none of them can leave because they’ve been exposed to military secrets. As the ship’s new captain, Murrue meets with Mu and Natarle to discuss their next move. Mu says that his Moebius Zero is damaged, but he can’t pilot the Strike Gundam because Kira modified the OS so much. He suggests asking Kira to pilot it, but Natarle objects to having civilians pilot military mobile suits. On the Vesalius, Rau discusses the situation with his pilots. He tells them that they have to either capture or destroy the Strike Gundam. Olor and Matthew prepare to launch in GINNs outfitted with heavy combat equipment. Athrun asks for permission to go, but Rau doesn’t want to risk using one of the newly captured mobile suits. After Olor and Matthew launch, Athrun goes out against orders in the Aegis Gundam. On the Archangel, Murrue asks Kira to pilot the Strike Gundam, but he says he refuses to be involved in the war. As the GINNs attack, Mu asks Murrue for permission to pilot the Strike Gundam himself. At this point, Kira reluctantly agrees to pilot the Strike Gundam. In the hangar, engineer Kojiro Murdoch has the Aile Strike Gundam outfitted for launch. Murdoch speaks to Kira briefly, and Kira goes out into battle. He kills Matthew with his beam rifle and sends Olor into a mad rage. Olor then begins to fire wildly and causes severe damage to the colony’s central shaft. Kira then stabs Olor, and at the same time the Archangel fires and hits Olor’s GINN. Unfortunately, their attack also hits the central shaft and destroys it. Athrun appears and asks Kira if he’s inside the Strike Gundam and why he’s with the Alliance. As they speak, the colony begins to break apart around them.
After the destruction of Heliopolis, Kira returns to the ship with a life boat from the colony. Natarle tells him he can’t bring that to a battleship, and he asks her if he should leave it in space. Murrue approves it, and Flay comes out of the pod and recognizes Kira. She then runs off when she spots Sai nearby. Planning their next move, Natarle suggests they stop for refueling at the Alliance’s space fortress Artemis. Mu speaks with Kira and asks him to stay on as the Strike Gundam’s pilot. He tells Kira that they are the only ones who can defend the ship, and he also tells Kira not to regret his actions. Before heading for Artemis, Murrue launches a decoy probe in the direction of the moon. However, Rau sees through the ploy and takes the Vesalius out of the Archangel‘s sensor range. Murrue wonders how long it will be before Rau discovers the decoy probe. Suddenly, the Vesalius appears in front of the Archangel with the Gamow closing in from behind. Kira’s friends decide to help out and volunteer to fill in positions on the bridge. Mu then launches in his Moebius Zero, followed by Kira in the Strike Gundam. Athrun launches from the Vesalius, and the other three Gundams launch from the Gamow. As the Archangel begins to fire, Nicol tries to use the Blitz Gundam’s Mirage Colloid to make it invisible. Athrun asks Kira why he’s on an Alliance ship, and Kira answers that he has to protect his friends. Mu damages the Vesalius, and Rau orders his forces to retreat. Yzak ignores orders and continues to attack Kira. Kira is surrounded by the Gundams and is nearly out of power. Murrue orders Murdoch to send the Sword Striker pack out to Kira. Kira comes under attack and Phase Shifts down. Mu arrives to rescue Kira, allowing him to escape and dock with the Sword pack to recharge his batteries. He then uses his sword to cut off the Duel Gundam’s right arm. The ZAFT forces finally retreat, and the Archangel begins to drift into the debris belt after its engines die.
Unlike many of the previous TV adaptations, this one is handled by Masatsugu Iwase instead of Koichi Tokita. As such, the pace is much slower and doesn’t cram as much story in as Tokita tries to. This is an adaptation you can actually understand without having seen the TV series. Like any manga adaptation, there are a few changes here. The first noticeable change is Miguel’s death. Instead of escaping from his GINN and returning again to die later, Miguel dies in his first encounter with Kira. When Kira goes into battle the second time, he uses the Aile pack instead of the Launcher. When he faces off against all the Gundams, he is sent out the Sword pack instead of the Launcher. Also, episode 4 is removed completely, and in the events of episode 5, Athrun doesn’t capture Kira. Another difference with this adaptation is the art style. While Tokita tends to stick the the TV designs, Iwase makes everyone look like a girl and he has also de-aged the older cast members. Surprisingly, Murrue’s breasts seem to be drawn much smaller and don’t provide the fanservice the TV series does. This manga is part of Del Rey’s entry into the manga market, and it’s a solid first effort. After the story, there’s several pages of character and mecha lineart with comments by Iwase. There’s also a brief Gundam history and a preview of the next volume. If you want some SEED reading on the run, this adaptation should fill that need well enough.