"Gundam SEED Destiny" Vol. 8: Freedom Destroys Destroy
Gundam SEED Destiny got off to a great start, then stuttered a bit before getting back into the swing of things. Now, the series is starting to reach its peak.
Previously, Athrun Zala had rejoined ZAFT when the war started up and was assigned to the Minerva, ZAFT’s most powerful ship, to fight alongside Shinn Asuka, Lunamaria Hawke, and Rey Za Burrel. His former allies, Kira Yamato and Cagalli Yula Athha, have defected from the formerly-neutral Orb and are fighting in their own faction, separate from the Earth Alliance and ZAFT. This came to a head when the EA and Orb cornered the Minerva near Crete, severely damaging the ship and crippling the crew. Kira intervened, but his actions just increased the chaos, resulting in the destruction of three of the Minerva‘s four ships while Shinn went on a rampage through the Orb fleet, massacring everything in sight. Shinn became further angered when Stella, a young EA “Extended” (a.k.a. a druggie), is to be used as a lab subject instead of being treated as a human being. With Rey’s help, Shinn was able to take Stella away and bring her to Neo, Stella’s EA Captain, where the young teen forces the older soldier to promise not to put Stella back into the war ever again.
Of course, the EA won’t let that happen, and Stella goes right back to work in “The Endless Night.” Neo brings Stella to Russia so she can pilot Djibril’s newest project, the Destroy, the EA’s ultimate Coordinator-Destroying Mobile Armor. Meanwhile, Shinn is jailed for his actions and gets into another fight with Athrun while Kira contemplates whether what he’s doing is right. This episode is similar to Episode 27, which opened up Volume 7, in that it wraps up the plot of the previous episode, stalls for time, then starts a big battle that will have grand consequences. As a result, the episode itself doesn’t really stand out in any way, though there are two really nice scenes in this episode. The first is yet another Shinn/Athrun fight, as they both bring up some good points about whether giving Stella back to the EA was the right move. It’s certainly a more enjoyable scene than some of their other arguments. The other good scene is between Kira and Murrue. I really enjoy it when the two talk, which happened once in a while in SEED but happens much less frequently in Destiny. It’s really a shame, as the pair have good chemistry and play well off each other.
Anyway, the first highlight of the disc is the big Destroy battle in “Stella.” With Stella at the helm, Djibril’s newest weapon is destroying cities left and right. The Freedom and the Archangel arrive to stop the new threat, but Kira’s unable to get past the Destroy‘s force shields, and eventually Shinn arrives too. While it may have the stupidest name in the history of Gundam, the Destroy is actually pretty impressive, moreso than its inspiration, the Psycho Gundam of Zeta Gundam (though this is partly because of animation limitations during the 80’s) and is pretty cool to watch. It had better be damn cool to watch, since it’s been in the intro since Episode 1. The battles here are exciting to watch and really show how good the series can be when everything goes right. The only real complaints I have are that Stella seems off-model at points and that Sting gets shafted during the whole episode. Sure, it’s not that much different than the other 30 episodes, but it’s still annoying to see. However, that’s made up by the Freedom actually being challenged, though I do wish Shinn didn’t immediately cause major damage as soon as he arrived, as it kind of diminishes all of Kira’s efforts. Still, this is a kick-ass episode and the reason why people like the Cosmic Era.
After that, it’s “The World Revealed.” Shinn buries Stella’s lifeless corpse (you really thought she would survive?) and turns his attention on the Freedom, which he blames for killing the young girl. While one may question why he isn’t angry at the EA for putting Stella in such a monster in the first place, I get the feeling the writers wanted to spice things up by not having the EA be the blame for everything like what’s been happening since the beginning of SEED. The most important part of the episode, though, is near the end, when Gilbert reveals the existence of Logos to the entire world, stunning everybody in the process, especially Djibril. That plot point is interesting enough in itself, as it shifts the target enemy from the EA to the ones pulling the strings, but the deletion of any scenes of Freedom from the Destroy highlights makes the plot a bit more interesting, as Durandal’s motives become a bit more clear.
In fact, it becomes crystal clear in “Nightmare,” as the Minerva is tasked with taking down the Freedom and Archangel once and for all. Kira and Murrue refuse to allow Cagalli or the others to launch, meaning Kira has to hold off the ZAFT fleet and Shinn all by himself. That’s not a big problem since the Archangel is helmed by Neumann, who shows his mad piloting skills in this episode, avoiding missiles left and right and even displaying the ability to bend the laws of physics! (If only he did a barrel roll …) Obviously, the main focus is Freedom vs. Impulse, and what a battle it is! Both pilots are desperate, but Shinn puts it over the top by displaying some of the most creative Mobile Suit piloting ever seen in a Gundam series and putting his Impulse‘s horrible multi-part component system to excellent use. This is a particularly happy episode for Kira-haters, but even if you’re a Kira-supporter you’ll get swept up in this episode, as everything just works. I’m trying to think, and I can’t really find a major fault with the episode. Well, I guess you could question why the Minerva didn’t at least pick up a few normal ZAKUs for Athrun, Luna, and Rey to use, but it’s nothing major.
Unlike Episode 28 on the last disc, the animation team really comes through for this one. The lighting during the two big battles on the disc is simply perfect, adding a lot of atmosphere and depth to the animation, while the actual frame rates are fast and fluid with very few off-model Gundams. Thank the stars we don’t have a repeat of the horribly off-model Strike Rouge from the last episode. Even the stock footage is put to good use and doesn’t look quite as tacky and cheap as it did in previous episodes. The shading and coloring also works well in the downtime scenes, but I have to wonder why everybody has the freaking lights off everywhere. The brigs have low lighting with most of the space in darkness (shouldn’t prisons have lots of lighting to prevent prisoners from hiding anything?) and when Shinn is training for his upcoming battle with the Freedom, his entire room is dark while he runs simulations on his laptops. One would expect Shinn’s eyes to be ruined from that, but this is anime. And glasses aren’t cool unless they’re on a hot woman, apparently.
<img border="0" src="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2007-06/GSD/t-gsd8-1.jpg" alt="Oh my God! Freedom killed Stella! You bastard!” align=”left” hspace=”5″ vspace=”3″>Thankfully, the dub cast comes up with some of their best performances yet. Matthew Erickson in particular does his best job yet as Shinn, perfectly capturing the character’s anger and frustration with everything and his sorrow at the teen’s helplessness. Even Shinn’s scream at the end of Episode 32 was great, much better than his scream at the beginning of Episode 1. The rest of the cast also comes through, so if you enjoyed each voice cast in previous volumes, this disc won’t disappoint. Music continues to be a real highlight, enhancing the drama exceptionally while being awesome enough to listen to by itself. If not for the Japanese music in Pokémon, the music in Gundam SEED Destiny might very well be my favorite soundtrack in any anime series yet, and that includes series composed by Yoko Kanno.
Extras are more of the same. We get the final Mechanical File Encyclopedia, featuring the various Mobile Suits from ZAFT, including the as-yet-introduced Destiny and Legend Gundams. For those who haven’t seen the rest of the series, the Destiny is the colorful Gundam with the energy wings that flies in front of the Destroy in the intro, while Legend is the big grey Gundam in the ZAFT pilot group shot in the ending. The only other extras are two trailers, and it seems as though Bandai’s finally starting to advertise their Complete Collections, as [i]Galaxy Angel[i] joins the Eureka Seven video game in the trailer collection. I am so glad the days of Bandai only using three or four trailers for all their releases are gone, even if their early trailers really aren’t all that good.
If you’ve enjoyed Gundam SEED Destiny so far, this is the series’ best set of episodes, so you definitely don’t want to miss it.
Episodes in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny Volume 8:
Episode #31: “The Endless Night”
Episode #32: “Stella”
Episode #33: “The World Revealed”
Episode #34: “Nightmare”