Much like the Mobile Suit Gundam theatrical movies, the Gundam SEED Special Edition movies are intended to be a summary of the story from the TV series with new animations and new voices.
These episodes are in fact a complete recap of all 50 episodes of the TV series and were first shown on television in Japan. The Special Edition episodes feature some new scenes and tweaks to previously animated scenes. The first special, 'The Empty Battlefield', which was episodes 1 to 21 of the series, was aired in two parts on Japanese TV in March 2004, followed by the next special, 'The Distant Dawn', which was episodes 22 to 40, in July. The final special, 'The Rumbling Universe', which was episodes 41 to 50. While the story is overall unchanged, there are a few minor changes. In addition, several scenes are re-animated and re-dubbed.
It is believed that these movies were cut to better transition the story between Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. Others believe also that the special editions were made to correct or add things that weren't in the TV series from time or budget reasons. It's been mistakenly referred to that this is in fact recapped episodes. While that might be the case, they're still movies in their own right.
All three movies were released on Universal Media Disc in mid-2005. Gundam Seed: Special Edition has been licensed for America by Bandai Entertainment and was released in English in the 2nd half of 2005.
Some of the new scenes from the movies were used for the HD Remastered broadcast of the TV series. In 2019, the first compilation film "The Empty Battlefield" is remastered and released for the GUNDAM “BEYOND the Cinema EXPERIENCE” TOUR, making the first of the Gundam SEED Special Edition movies to receive an HD Remaster treatment for the first time.
- Special Edition I - The Empty Battlefield
- Special Edition II - The Far-Away Dawn
- Special Edition III - The Rumbling Sky
The transition from TV to movies allowed changes to the storyline of the show to be made for the movie versions.
Special Edition I - The Empty Battlefield
- A brand new 55 second scene showing preparation for the assault on Heliopolis (shows more shots of Miguel and new shots of Rusty)
- Scenes of Kira and his friends before the bombs going off were redone
- Newtype flash added when Mu senses Creuset for the first time
- Debut of Cagalli is retold and a new scene of her conversation with Kira with new footage
- Athrun and Kira's first meeting during the firefight in episode 1 intercuts with scenes when they were kids instead of being shown slowly with negative colors.
- Scene of Flay emerging from the lifepod (ep 4) and hugging Kira is redone and retold. Also a new 30 second scene of Sai and Flay conversing has been added
- The scene with Creuset and Athrun discussing the Strike's pilot is reduced to a 10 second flashback and is inserted into the scene where Athrun is lying and thinking about the loss of Rusty and Miguel
- The Archangel's heading to Artemis and the Battle of Artemis footage had been removed.
- Athrun's shower scene (ep 8) is lengthened and intercut with scenes of his parents; and the scene following this (his discovery of Lacus' disappearance) is completely redone and moved to be ahead of hatch opening sequence of Lacus's life pod
- Backstory from the first clip show is never told.
- New 25 second clip of Lacus trip to the cafeteria on board the Archangel
- The scene of Rau and Mu taking the opportunity to attack during the time that Kira is transferring Lacus to Athrun only for Lacus to order Rau to stand down and withdraw is removed.
- Scene of Kira having sex with Flay is shown cut between Strike's first battle in the desert.
- The scenes of Dearka and Yzak assisting Andrew Waltfeld during his final attack on the Archangel have been removed.
Special Edition II - The Far-Away Dawn
- Kira's battles with Marco Morassim are reduced to a few frames
- The scene where Cagalli and Athrun formally introduce themselves to each other has been moved into a flashback scene during the Zala Team's attack on the Archangel.
- There is only a few seconds separating Nicol's death from the next brutal battle between Kira and Athrun.
- Tolle's death scene is redone and is more gruesome than the TV Series version.
- A new scene is added where Kisaka comes to get Cagalli after the Archangel sends a distress signal to Orb after the battle between Kira and Athrun.
- When Athrun meets with Lacus in the theatre, the gunmen attempting to assassinate her is removed.
- The scene where Erica Simmons shows that she has rebuilt the Strike and equipped it with Orb's OS system and Mu's decision to pilot it has been removed, instead it shows Mu piloting the rebuilt Strike during the Orb arc without any explanation of how he received it.
- Most of the Orb arc is shown with battle scenes being spliced together to create enlarged confrontations.
- The footage of the Le Creuset team observing the Battle of Orb has been removed.
Special Edition III - The Rumbling Sky
- Background is shown of Azrael as a little boy where his hatred for Coordinators began.
- Rau's face is shown in the laboratory sequence.
- Kira has a talk with Lacus about how he isn't sure if he wasn't meant to be born in the world after he found out the truth from Rau. Lacus responds by telling Kira he belongs to the world as long as he is born and exist in the world and his birth has made her a much happier woman, she then tells him she wants him to stay with her.
- In the final battle at GENESIS, Athrun shoots down a GuAIZ Experimental Firearms Type from SEED-MSV.
- Clotho is killed by Dearka instead of Yzak.
- Mu La Flaga's battered helmet is removed from the debris.
- 1: "Annani Issho Datta no ni (Even Though We Were Together So Much)" by See-Saw
- 2: "Akatsuki no Kuruma (Wheels of Dawn)" by FictionJunction Yuuka
- 3: "Find The Way" by Mika Nakashima
- Several Ending Credits animation from the 2nd OVA was used for the 2nd half of the HD Remastered Ending credits.
- The Far-away Dawn:
- In 1:21:49, the Justice's Fatum-00 is still firing after it flew through the Calamity.
- Due to scratch track cuts, the English dub clip in 1:21:56 still retains the "Me!" quote from Clotho's "You Bug me!" line.
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