# Blackest Day (Gundam Seed 06) A necessary change of pace, but one that puts this episode in an awkward position. Another dilemma of a 52-episode series presents itself: a quality show wants to be consistent, but the same structure will necessarily become boring over so great a span. I keep returning to the example of *Heartcatch Pretty Cure*, because it's one of the few longer shows that I've enjoyed (even *Mushishi*, which my group recently watched, was dragging by 26 - perhaps the reason there was such a large gap between the first and second series), and it has an elegant answer: alternate between standalone, monster-of-the-week episodes that follow conventional structure (and can focus on the characters), and episodes that advance the main plot, which can be a bit more experimental. *Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex* did this even more explicitly, with episodes openly described as "stand alone" or "complex". In *Gundam Seed* this fails, for an interesting reason: the more direct "robot fight" episodes should structurally be the standalone episodes, but the series treats them as the A plot. This early on, this episode is a window into what an alternative universe Gundam Seed could have been. The allusions to Mu's history with the base commander, and to the broader political circumstances, could be the germ of something fascinating: a fictional world with nations and history that feel real, as done in e.g. *Mai Otomoe*, or more famously *Legend of the Galactic Heroes*. A braver show might have set itself in an entirely fictional universe (*Seed* is already a new continuity, disconnected from previous *Gundam*s). Gundam does like to play "it could happen here", but the world of *Gundam* already has so many technological differences from reality that it feels quite alien. The talk of "Eurasia" feels jarring here, and will only become more so later when the (fictional) nation ORB becomes central to the plot. For now, the familiar countries have familiar names and seem to be acting in familiar ways, which sadly gives the viewer very little reason to take interest. Especially a viewer who knows that this is not even an ongoing B plot, but just an episode of marking time. Those tantalising fragments of Mu's history will never come together to form anything. We will never see any more of the inner dynamics of the Earth Federation military. I've liked this show more than I'd feared, but it's hard to see the first half of this episode as anything other than a waste of time. The second half is more interesting - and not just because there are fights and explosions. As a viewer, it's hard to reconcile what we see of Nikolai - volunteering to undertake a dangerous mission on his own, in an untested, looted prototype unit, driven by the very real desire to kill Kira - with Deakka calling him a coward. There's a real playground dynamic to the ZAFT pilots - Yzak yelling about what they'll do if the adults come back and find they haven't done anything - and maybe part of that is that reputations stick, long after they've ceased to make any sense. Again it seems to point towards a history these characters have, and while I'm glad that the show is willing to drop hints rather than spelling everything out, again I know that history is never going to factor into anything more. But even so, it's a welcome piece of depth, and gives the lie to the popular view of a certain event. More on that when it happens. The other interesting point is Kira gradually overcoming his aversion to fighting,partly through the slippery slope of doing it week after week. In the forthcoming episodes he'll be less the angsty teenager and more the soldier. In some respects it's a flattening of his character, but it's one that's absolutely necessary; you simply *can't* keep a character in a holding pattern of "but I'm not sure if I want to fight" for 50 episodes without becoming ridiculous (as, if I remember rightly, the sequel did). The final scene seems like a deliberate call back to episode 2, with the *Archangel* once again departing from a flaming docking bay on a collapsing space colony. More than the similarities, this highlights the differences: Heliopolis was a tragedy, but few tears will be shed for Artemis (and we certainly won't be flashbacking back to this). There are justifications, both objective - the commander was at pains to emphasise that Artemis is a military base, not a civilian colony - and emotional - Heliopolis was the characters' home, while this is a place of strangers, and in any case the second such incident will never affect you as much as the first. But I can't help feeling that the biggest difference is how the inhabitants were portrayed to the audience: Heliopolis was full of friendly folks, and Artemis was full of assholes. That we care more about the former and the latter is not often touched on by philosophers, but might be one of the more important truths of war. Six episodes down - I lost a draft of this piece, which put me in a bit of a slump, but hopefully now I should get back to one a week. My goal is still to finish the series - or discover it to be unwatchable - by the end of 2015. [Home](/) <div id="disqus_thread"></div> comments powered by Disqus