Ahoy and welcome back to Anime Parlay. BACK by popular demand, Ultimate World-Building is back on the scene for your consideration. Back when I put out Ultimate World-Building: Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (Season 1), I had no idea how popular it would become. It is my top post by a long shot. As I continue to find the actual voice of this blog, I can see that some good ol’ fashioned analysis is really valuable to readers. Please, allow me to take my free time and useless college degree and put it all to work for you. If anything today, we’re going to look at our reflection in Gundam Seed. Mysterious!
As a quick refresher, Ultimate World-Building is to study the reality of the title. How does the show make the most out of their plot, ideas, settings, and characters? Are they used meaningfully or just there to serve as a backdrop? These are my opinions and is just one subjective take in a universe full of infinite subjective takes. We have the “LeVar Burton Promise” here. You don’t have to take my word for it. SPOILERS AHEAD! That’s a good enough warning for that. I’ve been wrong many times before but I am aiming critical thinking so let’s jump into it.
Why Mobile Suit Gundam Seed?
Gundam Seed was the Gundam series that started my love of the franchise. I was 15 when the show originally aired on Cartoon Network back in 2004. The plot was easier to follow than Gundam Wing (which I had attempted to watch back when Pokemon was on the WB) and the protagonists, Athrun and Kira, were about the same age as me. I became obsessed. Maybe you didn’t hear up there in the mezzanine. OBSESSED. When the show was eventually taken off the air before its run had ended, I got on AOL and ordered a bootleg copy of the show. Don’t worry, I don’t bootleg anymore because I have access to EVERYTHING now via streaming subscriptions. I digress.
In my opinion, Gundam Seed was taken off the air before the real meat of the show aired. Sure, we got to meet the charismatic coffee lover known as “The Desert Tiger” and actually got into a philosophical debate about the implied rules of warfare but that was it. Before the show got a chance to shine, it was moved to a later time slot way after people had moved on. What fans might have missed was the look into loss of friends and loved ones on the battlefield, the ethics of cloning and genetic manipulation, a war based on complete discrimination, and then there are some great characters to help us wade through the themes. You literally get to see a pop-star/idol turn into a rogue freedom fighter trying to start a revolution against hatred and bias. That’s EVERYTHING that I could want from a show and I may have missed it if I wasn’t working and resourceful with some dial-up internet.
Recently, I had been re-watching this personal favorite when I started to notice things in the series I never noticed before. Specifically with politics within the show that mirror ours here in the United States. Especially with the negligence that our current president has inflicted on those seeking help from their home countries, I thought it would be important to look at some critical elements to the world of Gundam Seed. Especially since the entire conflict was stemmed from prejudice that ultimately bought its way into government hands. Sound familiar?
The World of Gundam Seed
The year is Cosmic Era 15 and the Earth has been at peace for 6 years as the new super-nations of the world begin to build into space. This is the year that an astronaut named George Glenn turned the world on its head as he begins his 10-year journey into the exploration of Jupiter. You see, George Glenn isn’t human he reveals. In his last broadcast to Earth, Mr. Glenn announces to the world that his genes were genetically modified to make him smarter, faster, and more physically fit than your average human. He is the first Coordinator. Shortly after his announcement, he uploads the “how to genetically modify babies in the fetus” to the internet and dips. What just happened?
Fast forward to Cosmic Era 29! The process of using genetic modification is outlawed and George Glenn eventually makes his way back from Jupiter with a fossil. A whale-looking fossil with wings known as Evidence 01 is returned to Earth thus making George Glenn the troll-king of Earth for the first time in over a decade. However, this extraordinary feat from Mr. Glenn causes laws to change and genetic modification becomes all the rage a year later in Cosmic Era 30. It’s here we see the Great Coordinator Boom; 20 years of genetically enhanced children. Even though these genetically superior humans are seeing a surge, regular humans, “Naturals”, are not cool with any of this. Out of jealousy and spite, you begin to see the rise of an anti-coordinator movement under the guise of environmental safety called Blue Cosmos begin to rise up.
How bad is Blue Cosmos? Imagine the hatred and bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan with the funding of billionaires around the world at the time. Blue Cosmos was not above bombing facilities where genetic manipulation and began to eradicate Coordinators to “Preserve the Blue and Pure World”. Coordinators, now being a new species of human and being treated like shit at that decided to expand into space by creating colonies to live away from Earth. Even getting off the planet, away from their oppressors, the Coordinators who immigrated to space continue to get screwed over by their Natural counterparts via unfair policies and discrimination. By Cosmic Era 50, 10 Million Coordinators exist and most have left the planet. Fearing for their safety and longing for their sovereignty, the space colonies create their own military force known as ZAFT (Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty). Again, the Naturals are MORE uncool that the problem they created is now raising a military force. Things go downhill from here.
In Cosmic Era 53, George Glenn, the first coordinator now well into his senior years, is gunned down by a Blue Cosmos activist. After this even, the Coordinators shut themselves off from Earth and form their own Supreme Counsel to serve as a form of government for the colonies. While turtling, ZAFT manages to create the very first mobile weapon. Not only is it highly advanced and a giant robot, it also outclasses everything the newly formed Earth Alliance has (which is basically space planes). Things escalate into a full blown war a few years later when the influential leader of Blue Cosmos talks the Earth Alliance into NUKING one of the space colonies known as Junius 7. Countless Coordinator lives are lost and ZAFT wastes no time in striking back. The colonies decide to launch a full scale attack on Earth which embedded a new type of technology deep in to the planet’s crust. N-Jammers cause a nukes and nuclear technology to be rendered useless which cripples the Earth Alliance to a standstill. The war has been going on for awhile by the time we meet the main character, Kira Yamato. Let’s see who is in play by the start of the show.
The Earth Alliance
Up to bat for the Naturals is the Earth Alliance made up of superstates on Earth. Each superstate exists as its own federation while serving under the umbrella of the Earth Alliance. The Atlantic Federation (Consisting of continental North America, Iceland, Greenland, England, and Ireland with influence spreading through Mexico all the way down to Panama) is considered the biggest superstate followed by the Eurasian Federation, Republic of East Asia, the South Africa Union, and the United States of South America. Officially, a secretary-general runs the show with a political cabinet to help guide things along. However, through influence and with rich donors, Blue Cosmos as managed to lobby itself into a position that now guides the Earth Alliance. However, there are those on Earth who do not want any part of that. Let’s take a look at..
The Orb Union
The Orb Union is a set of islands on Earth East of New Guinea that stand as a nation of truly neutral minded people. They have even passed laws protecting coordinators seeking refuge from discrimination rampant on the planet. And good on them because those refuge coordinators we’re able to use their abilities and the natural volcanoes of Orb to create a geothermal energy source that allows them to become a player of power on the world stage. Their entire nation’s philosophy is this:
“ Orb will not attack another nation, will not allow another nation to attack them, and will not intervene in the conflicts of other nations. ”
The Orb Union is a nation set on true peace and works tirelessly to promote this lifestyle in the Cosmic Era.
The Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty (ZAFT)
As mentioned before, the coordinators fleeing to space colonies to escape their Natural aggressors ended up feeling like they needed protection of their own. ZAFT was created and with it, a formidable military force that exceeded that of their human counterparts within years of development. These folks had mobile suits before the Naturals in the Earth Alliance could push out their advanced flying space-plane. That’s impressive. What started as a desperate plea for defense turned into a full-fledged force after the Earth Alliance nuked the space colony Junius 7. After that, it was game on for ZAFT and they posted up!
Now the reason I fill your screen with exposition is to illustrate that the beginning of this show IS kinda garbo. Why?
How Gundam Seed starts
Gundam Seed begins with ZAFT carrying out a secret attack on a neutral space colony owned by the neutral Orb Union on Earth. Orb wanted nothing to do with the war and decided to serve as refuge to humans and coordinators seeking shelter from the war. Yet, ZAFT carries out an attack on the colony to reveal that the Orb Union was developing 5 Gundams and a sweet battle ship to store them in to fight ZAFT. I’m sure a few treaties are nullified within the first 4 episodes of the series. Either way, ZAFT manages to jack 4 of the 5 mobile suits but fails to capture 1 Gundam and the warship Archangel in the process. What I hate is that the show, out the gate, makes ZAFT look like terrorists. Sure, it was a terrorist attack but one meant to be secretive until the entire space colony is destroyed. I’d say that’s hard news to spin but have you seen the US lately?
Seriously, the attack doesn’t truly get addressed until Episode 15 (I believe, it’s been awhile) when the commander who carried out the attack gives his briefing to counsel of coordinators. I can understand that it’s a catalyst for the show to begin. I understand that it’s paying homage to previous Gundam shows. I can’t believe there aren’t a lot of real consequences for the attack that killed thousands and displaced more but that’s war, I guess. However, the main leaders for both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance continue to hedge their bets as the series goes on by putting out the bigger/badder mega-weapon(s) until so much blood has been vaporized that EVERYONE begins to question if what’s going down is right. It always only takes a big mega weapon and then everyone declares parlay.
The start to Gundam Seed is garbage and I stand by that. It really doesn’t start to really take off again until Episode 19 or 20 when you get to meet Andrew Waltfeld (The Desert Tiger) of ZAFT when the show begins to fill in that intellectual itch. I am not here today to praise the show for the goodness that it brings to the screen. Today, I really want to praise what’s going on behind the scenes.
Extremists Groups Involved in Government
This was something that escaped me in high school. Who pays for everything in this show? Surely a show worth its weight in war has something for us politics fans? Oh boy, does it! I keep mentioning Blue Cosmos, the anti-coordinator group, because they don’t get a whole lot of airtime in the series. However, scouring the source material for information shows something that isn’t really shown via screen-time. Blue Cosmos is behind EVERYTHING bad in the show (Until Patrick Zala becomes supreme leader of ZAFT and proposed genocide but…). How, like I mentioned, they used their influence and hatred to encourage those with more capital to see their perspective and buy into it. Blue Cosmos then uses their money to lobby themselves into power to promote open war and discrimination on Coordinators. This all happens before the show even starts and they hardly get into it during the 50-Episode run. The most we really get is the gist of Blue Cosmos and a dozen-or-so-episodes with their leader, Azrael Muruta.
Azrael doesn’t just hate coordinators, he calls them the enemy of humanity. As a matter of fact, Azrael is later revealed to be the one who ordered the nuclear strike on the innocent people of Junius 7 which propelled Naturals and Coordinators into the state of war they’re in. Gundam Seed paints the perfect villain with Azrael simply because these people exist in our world and mean to do as much harm as possible for a “just” cause. Did you notice the recruitment poster I made for today’s post. Scroll to the top in case to missed the fine print. I could easily see recruitment posters for the Earth Alliance being funded by Blue Cosmos or an interest group closely affiliated. With one of the MOST IMPORTANT mid-term elections in history coming to the United States in November this year, I can assume you’ll see plenty of political ads. Don’t forget to check out that fine print. You never know who is paying to influence your opinion.
Regardless, Azrael is only ONE big bad in Gundam Seed. This isn’t even including Gundam Seed Destiny, the sequel show, that shows that even after the events of the first series that Blue Cosmos is still doing well and promoting hatred. It just goes to show that a villain doesn’t have to have a crazy power or posse of no-gooders to do harm, just financial support and the fervor of a rabid base in order to cause the most harm. I would be foolish not to reference you to the current administration here in the US but they would make Azrael look like a saint.
Draw Your Line, Choose Your Side
Gundam Seed also excels at character development in regards to forcing characters to chose a side rather than waiting it out. It seems the more characters wait to act, the more damage or ill has befallen them before hand. The ultimate political example could be made with the Orb Union. Towards the end of the second-third (I use weird fractional estimates almost exclusively) of the series, Orb is put to the test when they’re assaulted by the Earth Alliance military with Azrael commanding. Civilians commanding military, gross. The Earth Alliance demands that Orb end it’s neutrality and side with the Earth Alliance to fight “Mankind’s Enemy”. As I mentioned before, most characters in this show have to eventually decide where they stand in this conflict. The Nation of Orb doesn’t bend. They essentially declare they’re a sovereign nation and decide to honor their neutrality. Azrael orders the Earth Alliance to open fire and destroy the nation in response.
“ Oh really? Is it because they’re neutral? That’s just not right, now is it? Not when all the others are risking their lives fighting against Mankind’s enemy. ”
Azrael, being the greedy, overbearing, and perfect example of the ignorant bourgeoisie orders his troops to the island name. It’s when his troops make landfall that Orb REALLY declares neutrality by evacuating all the civilians to safety and then self-destructing destroying a significant amount of soldiers from the Earth Alliance. Essentially, the nation decided it would literally rather go out in a blaze of glory to protect the very ideas they espouse then be overrun and ultimately occupied by an antagonistic nation hellbent on discriminant policies. I think that’s pretty badass.
Hatred Begets More Hatred
Something that I find really interesting is the fact that even though the coordinator population, before moving to space colonies, only wanted basic civil rights, people representing Blue Cosmos spoke a bit louder and made it hard for these people to become, well, people. It’s hard not to watch that and think of long, sorted abuse of people of color in the US and that even though they just want a little, those in power try to strip them of more. Look at the coordinators, they literally went to space to get away from the vileness of Earth. They wanted a chance to be their own people. Even though they managed to do that, Naturals weren’t satisfied. They continue to not be satisfied to the point that they NUKE a space colony and essentially wipe a natural nation out of existence all in the sake of genocide. Holy shit.
It makes me curious about the US in that regard. We have extremists in office now. The news likes to call them white nationalists but I like to call them Nazis. Even if we vote all of the trash out of office, what’s to stop someone from voiding out the rights of those people here already disenfranchised by current policy. To put it into perspective, Blue Cosmos kept pushing their agenda long after the events of Gundam Seed which is why the show got another series. I don’t want another series of the current United States. All I can say is try and pay attention. Shows like Gundam Seed remind us to be critical of those placed in leadership roles and, if anything, don’t be afraid to side with your own moral character despite what you might be told to do. I plan to keep opposing EVERYTHING my government is doing, especially knowing what kind of interest groups are obtaining power.
Gundam Seed is not a show for everyone. However, if you want to see what a military force bent of annihilation of a group of people and how people act in that moment, look no further. I know the show gets a lot of flack in the Gundam community but EVERY show, even G-Gundam, has something to offer to the contemporary conversation. I hope this is insightful at the very least. If I can manage to get folks to question any political anything before making a call, that’s even better. I love an informed voter. Hell, I just love if you vote. That’s it for me. Sorry for the almost week long hiatus. My photo editing capabilities just got back to full strength and I did too much research on government entities that don’t actually exist but this was fun. Let me know how it went for you in the comments. Be excellent to each other and party on. Aloha!