Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, which aired from 2002 to 2003, is the ninth television installment of the long-running Gundam franchise and the first to be set in the Cosmic Era Alternate Universe. Occasionally considered a Remake of the original Mobile Suit Gundam adapted for modern audiences due to the similarities of the first half of the plot, it none the less manages to stand on its own due to the vastly different nature of the setting and its primary conflict, as well as the completely original second half of the storyline.The story premise matches the standard Gundam fare by featuring a conflict between Earth and Space, but introduces an original twist in the form of widespread use of Genetic Engineering. Genetic modification of humans is illegal on Earth, but the space colonies are populated almost exclusively by an artificially enhanced breed of humanity known as Coordinators. Most of Earth falls under the authority of the Earth Alliance, which funded the construction of the PLANTs (huge, hourglass-shaped space colonies meant for use as orbital manufacturing and R&D centers); however, the Coordinators now living on the PLANTs seek independence from the Earth Alliance via the formation of a milita group called ZAFT. This basic conflict of interest, combined with the Fantastic Racism between the genetically engineered Coordinators and the unenhanced Naturals, eventually sparks a war between the Earth Alliance and ZAFT, that opens with a nuclear assault on ZAFT and only gets worse from thereon out. Meanwhile, the nations on Earth not falling under the umbrella of the Earth Alliance are forced to take sides or else risk the ire of both opposing factions.Enter The Hero; Kira Yamato, a young Coordinator attending a technical college on Heliopolis, a space colony of the neutral nation Orb. Inevitably drawn into the conflict against his will, he Falls Into The Cockpit during an attempted Gundamjacking and ends up being the only thing standing between his friends and a messy death at the hands of ZAFT. Complicating things is Kira's Forgotten Childhood Friend Athrun Zala, a fellow Coordinator who joined ZAFT and now finds himself on the opposite side of the battlefield as his old friend. While the story may appear a bit monotonous at the beginning (due largely to Recap Episodes and Stock Footage), after the Wham Episode halfway through the series, the show turns into a kaleidoscope of battles, revelations, and deaths, skyrocketing the intensity all the way into the stratosphere. A full recap is under construction here.Thanks to its powerful directing, an all-star voice cast, and the never-dwindling emotional tension, SEED easily became a smash hit in Japan, getting the second highest ratings in Gundam history only behind Zeta Gundam and spawning a televised sequel, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, and a manga spinoff, Gundam SEED Astray. An as of yet untitled movie, confirmed to be in production in 2007, is expected to be a Grand Finale of the saga... if it can leave Development Hell. SEED's success and the announcement of Destiny, the first-ever full-length television sequel to a Gundam show outside of the original Universal Century timeline, spawned speculation that CE would become the new UC. However, Destiny failing to be as successful as SEED, the movie's production stalling, and the subsequent release and success of non-CE series Gundam 00 have since dashed those hopes. The 48-episode run of the HD Remaster of the series aired in 2012. * If you're wondering what happened to the 49th & 50th episodes, the Remaster cut out two recap episodes, which were the original 14th & 26th episodes.Gundam SEED and the CE timeline have become mainstays in Super Robot Wars after Alpha 3, and are the main Gundam representative on handhelds when all Universal Century Gundams where excluded from the handheld games after Judgment. Gundam SEED also appears in the Gundam Vs Series, beginning with its own dedicated game Alliance vs. ZAFT and continuing on into the Crossover games.
Ace Pilot: Lots of 'em, as is normal for a Gundam series.
Aerith and Bob: Peculiar names like Rau, Mu, Flay, Cagalli and Murrue exist alongside more conventional ones such as Patrick, Miguel and Andrew.
A Lighter Shade of Black: Aside of the protagonists on the Archangel, the Earth Alliance is almost always portrayed less favorably than ZAFT. After both organizations are completely taken over by the villains and the defection of the Archangel, this trope is in effect.
Animal Mecha: A rarity for the Gundam franchise, ZAFT has two: the BuCue and LaGowe models.
Animation Bump: The series was known for this at times, especially with the Special Editions. The HD Remaster goes even further with several reanimated scenes from not only the Special Editions, but also entirely new ones. Compare Episode 3 of the standard edition to the remaster on youtube and you'll notice them immediately, most notably the part where Kira slices Miguel's GINN in half at the end.
Badass: Where to begin? Half the cast qualifies at one point or another.
Badass Normal: Mu La Flaga, undoubtedly the best Natural pilot in the series, has a considerable reputation already established at the beginning of the series and repeatedly holds his own against cutting-edge mobile suits while himself piloting a mobile armor or fighter jet. Cagalli is a borderline example; she's a Natural, and puts up a good fight both as La Résistance (attacking mobile suits with jeeps and RPGs!) and with the Strike Rouge, but never reaches the same level as other characters. Rau Le Creuset is a strange case; his backstory means it wouldn't make any sense for him to be a Coordinator, but he acts like one and it's never questioned, so he may or may not be an example.
Bash Brothers: Kira and Athrun in the second half of the series using the Freedom and Justice.
Birds of a Feather: Kira and Athrun's friendship could qualify as this with their views on war and want of peace. Kira and Lacus' relationship as well for the same reason.
Bitter Sweet Ending: Though they did manage to avert complete disaster, the body count was high on all sides, and there was no decisive end to the conflict — despite all its death and destruction, the war ultimately changed little.
Blond Guys Are Evil: Rau Le Creuset and Muruta Azrael; averted by Mu La Flaga and subverted Dearka Elsman.
Bloodier and Gorier: Said to be even more so than V Gundam, and with the WMDs lurking around each corner, it's easy to believe. Averted in the Toonami edit, however, as Bandai wanted to sell SEED toys to a wider audience.
Born Winner: Coordinators, which must be created in vitro, though the offspring of a pair of Coordinators is also a Coordinator.
The Brigadier: Admiral Lewis Halberton, Siegel Clyne, and Andrew Waltfeld.
Broken Ace: Kira. He almost single handily carries the Archangel through all it's battles and the crew praise him endlessly for it, but he's still a teen handling the trauma and responsibility that comes with war.
Canon Foreigner: In the HD Remaster, when Mu gets the Strike, it's upgraded into the Perfect Strike (basically the Strike with all three Striker Packs attached at once), which was never seen in the original run.
Catch Phrase: Mu La Flaga: "I am a man who can make the impossible possible."
Mu and Rau seem to share the catch phrase "If that man can do it, then so can I."
Clotho: "GAME OVER!" and other variants of that.
There is also the Blue Cosmos': "For our blue and pure world."
Chance Meeting Between Antagonists: Kira and Cagalli accidentally meet the enemy commander Andrew Waltfeld and his lover/partner while scouting an enemy town for supplies. That meeting ends rather amicably: even though Waltfeld immediately realizes he is dealing with enemy aces, he likes them well enough to let them go on that occasion.
Char Clone: A different approach in this series then the rest. There are three main Char clones, each one representing a different incarnation of the original Char Aznable: Athrun as The Rival, Mu La Flaga as the Big Brother Mentor, and Rau Le Crueset as the Dark Messiah
Darker and Edgier: Very dark for an Alternate Universe series and you get to watch the atrocities done close up. There is also notably little to no comic relief within the entire series even when compared to Zeta Gundam and Victory Gundam which had a couple of lighthearted moments and humorous expressions to somewhat offset the dark tone of the series. It is a large contender for the title of darkest AU Gundam series.
Dead Star Walking: T.M. Revolution, who performs the first two OPs, also voices Miguel Aiman who is killed early in the story. Averted with Shiho Hahnenfuss. She was set to be voiced by Nami Tamaki, but she turned down the role... to the great relief of Yzak/Shiho shippers everywhere.
Designer Babies: Coordinators are genetically enhanced early in their development; Kira Yamato is a true designer baby in the "grown in a test tube" sense.
Diving Save: Subverted twice, both scenes involving Kira. The second time is particularly harsh, providing a Hope Spot where he actually successfully blocks the shot, only for the villain to simply blow up the target with one of his Attack Drones instead.
The Dog Shot First: In the HD Remaster, Nicol's death was reanimated to make it appear largely accidental. In the original, he attacks, his target counters, and he's killed. In the remake, he attacks, his target dodges, and his attack carries him into his target's sword, which kills him. Here's a comparison video.
Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us: The warring sides use this trope as justification for their deeds; both leaders aim for nothing less than the complete annihilation of the other side down to the last man, woman and child. Therefore, backing down and depending on Mutually Assured Destruction is equivalent to surrender.
Drop Pod: At the start of the ZAFT invasion. Also the delivery method for the GUGNIR electromagnetic flare weapons.
Dual Wield: Several of the suits come equipped with two swords.
During the War: Referred to as the Bloody Valentine War, since it begins with the death of roughly 250,000 PLANT civilians when their colony was destroyed on February 14th, Valentine's Day, CE 70.
In Phase 39 of the HD Remaster, Lunamaria and Meyrin Hawke, and Rey Za Burrel also make appearances.
Energy Weapons: Similarly to Mobile Suit Gundam, they've been in use on ships for some time, but versions usable by mobile suits are a new development as of the beginning of the series.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Lacus, whose position as the chairman's daughter, a popular songstress, and leading peace advocate gives her great influence among her own kind. Cagalli, the princess of Orb, is also a literal example.
Evil Redheads: Flay, though not so purely evil as much as horribly screwed up.
Evilutionary Biologist: Dr. Ulen Hibiki, who dreams of creating the perfect human. Even if it means stealing his own son from his mother's womb.
Evil Versus Evil: By the end of the series, neither the Earth Alliance nor ZAFT are particularly sympathetic. Probably why the protagonists decide to Take a Third Option and form the Three Ships Alliance.
Expy: Lots of them, thanks to SEED's similarity to Mobile Suit Gundam — about half the main characters qualify, in addition to numerous minor ones. Details Kira is an expy of Amuro, Athrun and Rau are expies of Char, Murrue is a female version of Bright, Cagalli has shades of Sayla, and Andrew Waltfeld is an expy of Ramba Ral. For minor characters, Tolle and Kuzzey's relationships to Kira are extremely similar to Kai and Hayato's (respectively) to Amuro, and Aisha (Andrew Waltfeld's girlfriend) is a clear expy of Crowley (Ramba Ral's girlfriend). Lacus Clyne is also an expy of Relena Peacecraft of Gundam Wing. In terms of character design, there are obvious influences from Infinite Ryvius, which isn't surprising since they're from Hisashi Hirai, the character designer for both shows. Azrael in particular looks similar to Pat.
Final Solution: Advocated by both Patrick Zala (who believes Coordinators are a Superior Species and that the Naturals all need to die) and Muruta Azrael (who believes Coordinators are an abomination and thusly, all of them need to die). Rau Le Creuset agrees with both of them.
Fun with Acronyms: It's a series trend; Gundams are called such because their OS spells out the acronym G.U.N.D.A.M. in varying ways, all of them full of Gratuitous English and typically entirely nonsensical. SEED itself is an acronym, as is ZAFT, and numerous ZAFT mobile suits have names consisting of a series of capitalized and lower cased letters that make it seem like they're acronyms, but no explanation is ever given.
Geo Effects: Played a large role in battle during Kira's time in the Strike, as he would fight numerous enemies in mobile suits designed for specific environments, and Kira would have to adjust the Strike's operating systems to compete. The two biggest examples are the fights against the BuCUEs in the desert and the GOOhNs underwater.
The Gloves Come Off: Kira and Athrun do it to each other simultaneously in the Wham Episode. The result is one of the most brutal fight scenes in the series.
Something of a Freak Out moment as well, as all the emotions they had been holding back sense the start of the series came spilling out in a very ugly mess. Neither of them were quite the same after that fight. Particularly Athrun, who was the "winner" but was so shaken up by the event that he began doing some serious soul searching, leading to his Heel-Face Turn.
Good Versus Good: The initial conflict between Kira, who just wants to help protect his friends, and Athrun, who wants to destroy the Archangel (a warship belonging to the country that nuked his mother) without hurting Kira.
Go Out with a Smile: Several, ranging from Tear Jerker to Crowning Moment of Awesome; Izumi, Cagalli's adoptive father, Mu la Flaga, who laughs as he spouts his Catch Phrase and explodes, Natarle, who ensures the death of Azrael with her own, Flay, who died thinking Kira had just saved her, and Le Creuset who dies smiling because he believes the entire world will soon be following him...
Gorn: The Cyclops system and GENESIS essentially flash-boil people, causing them to pop. The scenes involving them do not make use of the Gory Discretion Shot.
Grand Theft Prototype: Happens twice; in the first episode, when Athrun & co steal the Earth Alliance prototypes from Heliopolis, and later when Kira, with Lacus's help returns the favor by stealing the Freedom from a ZAFT base.
Guns Akimbo: Actually, Freedom can shoot all five of its guns at once... and hit five targets, too. Then hit five more targets about every tenth of a second. The Freedom Gundam is a master of Beam Spam.
Heroic Sacrifice: Multiple, occasionally happening in chains: Tolle's and Nichol's, for example, as well as Mu's and Natarle's.
I'll Kill You!: Yzak to Kira, though he refers to him as "the pilot of the Strike" since he didn't know who Kira was specifically.
It Gets Easier: Andy Waltfield, an experienced soldier and commander, tells the young and still-somewhat-naive Kira this point blank.
It Meant Something to Me: Double Subverted with Kira and Flay. At first she's just using him and his feelings are sincere; when he gets over her she realizes that she actually does have feelings for him, but before she can act on it, she's killed off, specifically to mess with Kira.
It's Personal Kira and Athrun get this about each other after Kira kills Nicol and Athrun kills Tolle in the same incident.
Kick the Dog: The way that Flay reveals to Sai that she's been cheating on him with Kira. That was just cold...
Kill 'em All: Holds the record for most character deaths in all of Gundam.
Killed Off for Real: Tolle Koenig, Nicol Amarfi, Flay Allster, Natarle Badriguel, Aisha, Muruta Azrael, Patrick Zala, Rau Le Creuset, George Allster, Uzumi Nara Athha, Siegel Clyne, Lewis Halberton... the list can be continued.
The Kingdom: Orb... sort of. Their government is complicated. It involves actual royalty sharing power with both noble houses and elected officials. Thankfully, for the most part, it's relegated to All There in the Manual.
Large Ham: Rau, by the end of the series. Not so much at first.
Ludicrous Gibs: Those caught in the effective radius of the Cyclops system or GENESIS are shown exploding into clouds of red mist. Actually Justified, given that said unlucky people are basically being microwaved to deathnote This literally boils their blood (along with all their other bodily fluids); the resulting steam pressure causes all the soft tissues in their body to burst.
Mildly Military: Justified, since some of the Archangel crew are civilians, but Murrue and Mu are not big believers in clinging to regulations to begin with. Murrue owns up to it when she lays out the crew's options just prior to Archangel joining in the defense of ORB.
Mid-Season Upgrade: Freedom and Justice. Strike also gets to stick around as a hand-me-down version, and Duel gets upgrade add-ons, though well before mid-season.
The Perfect Strike in the remastered edition combines all three previously used Strike packs.
N.G.O. Superpower: Blue Cosmos, a radical anti-Coordinator terrorist group. It has enough influence to control the policies of the Earth Alliance. Lacus leads the Three Ships Alliance/Clyne Faction which serves this role... and winds up winning the war
Non-Indicative Name: Given the title of the series, you might expect it to feature a mobile suit named the Seed Gundam. There is no such mobile suit, and strictly speaking this installment of the series features no mobile suits called Gundam period. GUNDAM is actually the name of the operating system that runs some mobile suits. See also, the name of the second episode ("Its Name Is Gundam").
No One Could Survive That: Andrew Waltfeld survives his mobile suit blowing up around him, though his co-pilot doesn't, and he earns some permanent injuries in the process. Kira Yamato survives Aegis' Self-Destruct Mechanism to the face without so much as a scar, though he's out of commission for some time afterward.
Not Using the Zed Word: The word "Gundam" is coined by Kira as an acronym for the operating system of certain Bigger Stick mobile suits, and is only used a handful of times. None of the Humongous Mecha officially have Gundam in their names. However, the term Gundam starts it's spreading through the universe in the second half of the show, and is used much much more in the Cosmic Era's expanded universe installments.
Lampshaded by Lacus when she's giving Kira the Freedom. He calls it a Gundam and she's got no idea what he's talking about, explains the name of the mobile suit, but says she thinks the term "Gundam" sounds better.
In a similar way, it's "enhanced spatial awareness". Never "Newtype powers".
Nuke 'em: Both the Earth Forces and ZAFT race against each other to end the war this way.
Oddly Small Organization: The rebels in the desert. Despite their much smaller size, and weaker equipment, they get by.... quite well.
Omake: Gundam Seed Supernova. Featuring chibi-Kira and monster Tori.
One-Product Planet: ZAFT's space colonies were arranged in this manner, with one group focusing on Farming, another on Information Science, another on Chemistry, and so on.
One World Order: Averted. Unlike the Universal Century's Earth Federation, the Earth Alliance is a coalition of powerful blocs that's a cross of sorts between NATO and the UN. Countries outside of the Alliance either side with ZAFT or attempt to go neutral in an attempt to escape the ire of both factions.
Power Trio: Murrue, Mu, and Natarle, as id, ego, and superego respectively. Murrue and Mu also function as The McCoy and The Kirk respectively, although Natarle doesn't quite qualify as The Spock to round out the trifecta.
Reliably Unreliable Guns: Type 1 is played straight: Cagalli* Whose experience with firearms may amount to a crash-course in the desert about a month before throws a pistol in frustration, causing it to discharge. Athrun* Who has received military training with pistols from ZAFT, who very nearly gets hit by the stray round, immediately chastises her for being stupid enough to throw a loaded and cocked pistol.
The Rival: Mu vs. Rau, Kira vs. Athrun, later Kira vs. Rau
Robot Buddy: Athrun loves making them; he gave Kira a robot bird named Torii (Birdy in the dub), and Lacus has a couple dozen Haros rolling around her estate. In the Game Boy Advance game Tomo to Kimi to Senjou de, he decides to make one for Cagalli and ends up settling on a hamster design; unfortunately, when she first sees it she mistakes it for a rat and smashes it, but after Kira explains things she's quite touched by the gesture.
Running Gag: Kira, despite being a coordinator who can pilot a humongous mechawho also happens to be the ultimate coordinator, does not know how guns work. The first time he uses a gun, he throws it at a person and kicks him, in order to knock him out. The second time he gets a gun in his hands, he's chasing an armed person. Mu La Flaga quickly notes that Kira's gun still has the safety on.
Sacrificial Lamb: Rusty Mackenzie, Miguel Aiman and George Allster all die shortly after being introduced. Their deaths are mainly events for characterization other characters.
Sacrificial Lion: The series isn't sunshine and rainbows to start with, but it's after the deaths of Tolle and Nicol that the series gets progressively darker.
Self-Destruct Mechanism: Everything seems to have it. But Athrun in particular seems fond of blowing up his own mobile suits. First with the Aegis to kill Kira, then with Justice to destroy GENESIS.
The Earth Alliance uses the CYCLOPS system to destroy JOSHA in a trap to wipe out a huge chunk of ZAFT forces. In the expanded materials, it's revealed that the EA had done this before at the Battle of Endymion during the battle where Mu got his nickname. But the plan also destroyed the Alliance elite Mobeius Zero corps, Mu being the only one left.
At the end of the series, Patrick sets Jachin Due to self destruct.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Somewhere in the middle of the scale initially. By the end, it's murky. The main crew champion their ideals and "win" militarily, but at the same time, both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance go off the deep end in their philosophy, show that they are more than willing to use weapons of mass destruction on both their enemies and their allies alike, and the whole background of Coordinators and Naturals is revealed to be tainted with depraved science experiments. Seeing how the end of the series didn't actually change these facts, there's still a good amount of cynicism left in the Cosmic Era.
Soundtrack Dissonance: In Phase 41 (39 in the HD Remaster), while Lacus and Patrick were engaged in a propaganda war on the PLANTs, Siegel, Lacus's father, was assassinated by Patrick's soldiers, with Lacus's image song, "Mizu no Akashi", playing in the background.
Spoiler Opening: Nichol is notably absent in the third opening, despite appearing in the first two. This is a war story, so it's not hard to guess what that means. Sure enough, two episodes after the third opening's debut, he's killed off.
The So-Called Coward: Nicol Amarfi. Yzak even straight up calls him a coward, but in reality he is a pretty decent pilot, especially considering he made it to the Red Coats.
Mu's Moebius Zero, which is a Space Fighter equipped with wired "gunbarrels" (essentially self-contained gun pods mounted with thrusters to allow them to move independently), is the forerunner of the various Attack Drone units used in the CE timeline.
For the last half of the show, ZAFT releases its own ZGMF-X series of Gundam units using technology derived from the four captured Alliance Gundams. After the Strike and the Aegis are destroyed, Kira acquires the ZGMF-X10A Freedom Gundam and Athrun gets the ZGMF-X 09 A Justice Gundam. The ZGMF-X13A Providence Gundam is piloted by Rau Le Creuset in the final episodes. These Gundams are not only far more advanced than the originals but are nuclear powered with limitless stamina because of the N-Jammer Canceller technology.
Super Soldier: While the Coordinators' enhanced abilities are in no way limited to combat, they do make them far better fighters than Naturals, e.g. before Kira develops an MS operating system suitable for Naturals, only Coordinators can efficiently pilot mobile suits; also, "artificial Coordinators" a.k.a. "the Druggies" are literal super soldiers developed by the Atlantic Federation.
As Rau Le Creuset had received gene therapy to deal with his imperfect clone status (resulting in shortened telomeres), was taking medication on a daily basis, and performed so admirably as to kick serious ass in the Providence with no prior practice, he was probably kept at an "Artificial Coordinator" level as well.
Of Humongous Mecha, no less — OMNI's Gundams tend to reflect their combat role (eg, Duel, Strike, Blitz, Raider) while ZAFT's are named after philosophical ideals (Freedom, Justice, Providence).
The title of the series itself is an aversion, though. The lack of a "Seed Gundam" makes the show the only Gundam series to not be named after a specific mecha — instead "seed" refers to the series Super Mode.
To Be Lawful or Good: Many characters to a greater or lesser extent, but the two most prominent examples are Athrun (who chooses "good" after much soul-searching) and Natarle (who chooses "lawful", but changes her mind and betrays her superior later, at the cost of her life).
Warfare Regression: Neutron Jammers inhibit fission reactions and jam radio waves. This allows for all-out warfare without the risk of mutually-assured destruction, and prevents the use of long-range radio communication or radar, leading to the rise of close-range mobile suit combat.
Wave Motion Gun: The Lohengrin positron cannons mounted by the Archangel, which (as the name implies) are a type of Antimatter weapon; there's also GENESIS, a Kill Sat that used nuclear weapons to generate a gamma radiation laser capable of attacking Earth from high orbit.
What the Hell, Dad?: Sums up Patrick and Athrun Zala's relationship quite nicely. Patrick, a General Ripper if ever there was one, treats Athrun as though he were any other subordinate. He expects a lot from Athrun, but only because of his elite status, and has no qualms about shooting him when Athrun starts to question orders.
A World Half Full: The combination of Fantastic Racism and good old fashioned human greed makes the world of Gundam SEED a less-than-pleasant place to live, but that doesn't stop the protagonists from improving things — if only a little — through properly applied violence.
Villain with Good Publicity: Azrael is all-but-worshipped by the EA generals, has the Earth's rulers in his pocket, and Natarle has heard of him.
Visual Novel: The little-known Game Boy Advance game Tomo to Kimi to Senjou denote "On the Battlefield with You and My Friends", which did have action sequences, but those played second fiddle to letting the player wander the Archangel as Kira and interact with the rest of the cast. Special Event Flags could let the player obtain the MSV-only Gunbarrel Strike for Flaga, prevent Flaga, Natarle, and Flay from dying, and even have Kira partner up with Lowe or Gai on one stage.
Xanatos Gambit: The Big Bad, Rau La Creuset, tries to set one up as part of his Evil Plan, so that regardless of who eventually won the war, both sides would end up wiping each other out with various WMDs. When one side gained the upper hand or calmed down, he gives technology to other to keep the fighting going.