SEED had the makings to be a gundam classic, instead it became the epitome of why people dislike the gundam series.
From a personal viewpoint, I am a huge gundam fan, I've seen every series, and usually enjoy them. This was not the case with SEED.
To fans of SEED, I apologise for writing a mostly negative review. To people who may be thinking about converting to the Mecha genre, or to people who have grown up watching gundam, take SEED with a grain of salt, you may want to shop around before setting your sights on this series.
The story of SEED is almost identical to that of original gundam, with many recurring themes, mecha and unfortunately plot holes. The first gundam series was released in 1979, making it one of the oldest mecha shows to exits. As such, it had a rather lacklustre plot, however, it could be excused because it invented the term "real robot". SEED has no such excuse. After nearly 25 years, the plot features little improvement. The recurring theme of "Coordinators vs Naturals" is about the only plot device the series entails, and proceeds to extrapolate every aspect of this concept far beyond what would be logical or reasonable. The idea is a good premise, that I want to make clear. But the execution is what drags the series down. The series is plagued with flashbacks, and re-telling of events so many times that it looses any significant value it may have started with. Surely if the war was so important, there would be more than 1 event to flashback? Apparently not. The series uses plot devices that border on the ridiculous. Due to giving away spoilers, and there being too many to list, I'll refrain from the details (some may mark my review down because of this, I'm wiling to live with that...)
The main drive behind SEED is the artwork. Googling gundad seed will result in many high-definition shiny CGI models of the main mecha in the show. Unfortunately, this is about all the series amounts to. Most of the mecha are rendered in such a way, that still images are used to perform almost any action sequence. Most of the main mecha have around 3 different animation patters, and the 50 episodes are made up of these attacks played back on different backgrounds. Additionally, there is a substantial drop in quality between still, and live footage. When a mecha shows up for the first time, it will be rendered with a nice and brilliant shine. However, when the mecha moves, the view will be disappointed to see the shine is now gone, replaced with blobs of blue white and red. Other aspects of the artwork include many battle inconsistencies, such as firing dozens of missiles, and only showing three hitting their mark/being shot down. Other aspects of the fight include lasers coming out at 30, 40 degrees from the gun nozzle. This is a prime example of the animators using recycled frames to try and fill a battle, the gundam may be facing straight-on, but it will be firing at enemies above and to the left, without turning the gun.
The sound, and background music in particular, is very good. I can find little fault with them in this regard. The sound effects also suit the mecha. The voice acting is a little dry, but compared to the other shortcomings of the series, I'm willing to let these aspects go, and say the sound track is very good.
This was an extremely disappointing aspect of the show. Some characters were much too unbelievable to be considered "real robot" pilots. The battles were not won through skill from the main cast, more it was won through complete lack of skill by the minor cast. Almost every mecha pilot, who is not in a gundam, has trouble keeping the robot upright. This makes some of the fights seem like dancing around totem poles, waiting for the poles to randomly fall over trying to watch you dance. Good mehca battles should be fair battles, not overly trivialised cumbersome ones. Piloting skills aside, the rest of the cast borders on annoying. If the viewer can get past the "why are 15 year-olds piloting the best mecha/battleship we own" factor, they are met with conflicting emotions, that run so deep characters can be hugging one minute, stabbing each other the next, and be hugging again in five minutes time. Most of the cast seem to poddle along like a learner driver, trying to figure which gear they need to be in, stalling when the get it wrong, restarting, then doing it all over again. It tried to make characters "real" but served to make them anything but "real".
I'm normally someone to say "enjoy it for what it is", and I can get through watching the worst of the worst that way. But SEED just featured too many flashbacks, too many recycled frames, and enough plot holes to make swiss cheese jealous. Watching this on DVD, it is clear to see what the company tried to do, they provide 4 episodes per DVD, 3 of these serve as filler, and the 4th serves to have a cliff-hanger to rope people into buying the next DVD... only to have them faced with another 3 episodes of filler. The series also managed to fail at meeting most gundam standards, with the mecha dropping many real robot traits.
SEED serves as good homage material, showing the infamous "Zaku" to many gundam fans for the first time. But with enormous amounts of filler, the plot, battles and animation quickly become repetitive and dry. Perhaps SEED would have made a good OVA, or 8 episode series. But it was much too long, and suffered from very unbelievable situations to rope together the little plot that didn't have holes in it.