Good: For the most part, this show comes together remarkably well. Considering the number of timeskips, it's remarkably well-paced except for a short slow bit at the beginning. The characters are engaging; they're often fairly stock tropes, but treated in a more nuanced way than usual. The characters, plot, and themes all manage to coexist in harmony without any one aspect consuming the others. The themes of family and growing up get across despite a relative lack of philosophical speeches, there's a satisfying subtlety to the character development (for me, unraveling Keith's motivations and thought processes was most of the fun; whether I'll move on to doing that with unrelated characters remains to be seen), and the plot moves at a decent pace. On top of all that, it's very pretty and the cast is full of good voice actors.
Bad: From an objective standpoint, the series' biggest flaw is probably the overuse of reused footage for flashbacks. But that's a common problem in anime and doesn't detract too much from the meat of the show. More concerning is the lack of female characters, but this is something that comes directly from the original manga, and it's pretty obvious that the anime has done just about everything it can do to temper it, from providing more female background characters to giving agency to characters who were insignificant in the manga.
My Favorite Part: Keith as the anti-villain and the way his story arc played out. Keith/Matsuka, both as a pairing and as a component of the story. Aside from that, I loved the moral ambiguity; I'm always happy with series that do a good job of giving both sides of a conflict believable and sympathetic motivations.
Comments: Yeah, my bias is obvious, but I'd have to say this is the first genuinely really good series I've been this into since the Wire (although I was a lot more into that, but give it time...sigh). It was a good choice after Gundam 0080 to ease me back into more typical anime--it's high-quality, but also high-drama and full of sparkly space stuff. If I can get a handle on playing him and find the right place to do it, Keith might be my next character fixation, and while I still plan on playing Lockon somewhere, it'll be nice to have someone new to get energized about. The trick is figuring out where to play him...and rewatching. A lot. Fortunately, I expect it stands up to rewatch well.
You should watch it if you...
♦ Have any fondness at all for space opera
♦ Enjoy series where both the protagonists and antagonists get even treatment
♦ Want to see what anime would do with the X-Men...in space
♦ Are interested in themes of family and growing up
♦ Want a series that conveys itself through character and action rather than philosophical speeches
♦ Like moral ambiguity in your fiction
♦ Can put up with getting emotionally gutpunched repeatedly by anime