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"Gundam SEED Destiny": Shining Beacon Through Crap

As Gundam SEED Destiny draws ever closer to its conclusion (well, it’s first attempt at a conclusion anyway), you would imagine the best is yet to come, especially after the excellence that was Volume 8 and all the changes that finished up in Volume 9. So, does Volume 10 continue the trend?

ImagePreviously, after defeating the Archangel, the crew of the Minerva returned to Gibraltar to await further orders, but Athrun started to wonder what exactly he’s fighting for. Durandal hoped to quench the boy’s fears by showing him the Destiny and the Legend, two new Gundams given to Shinn and Athrun. However, after discovering that Durandal had sent a spy to watch his conversation with earlier conversation Kira and Cagalli, he decided to defect back to the Archangel. Athrun attempted to bring Meer along, but the girl had convinced herself that she is, in fact, Lacus Clyne and urged Athrun to be a good soldier for Durandal. Zala did bring a girl with him, though, as Meyrin aided Athrun in his escape and fled with him. Shinn and Rey pursued and eventually Shinn took down Athrun in his new Destiny Gundam. With the traitors “killed,” the Minerva headed to Heaven’s Base to ferret out the remaining members of Logos, specifically Djibril. Even with a mighty energy cannon and several Destroy units, Heaven’s Base was no match for Shinn’s newfound power and quickly fell. However, Djibril escaped and headed to Orb, where the Archangel was undergoing repairs.

We pick things up in “Kira of the Skies.” As Kira begins to doubt his ability to fight without the Freedom, DaCosta returns to the disguised Eternal with a notebook outlining Durandal’s “Destiny Plan,” which strikes fear into Lacus. Unfortunately, DaCosta was followed and the Eternal comes under attack. Kira takes the Strike Rouge (re-programmed to Phase Shift to its classic blue and white color scheme) out into space to save Lacus. In case you haven’t figured it out already, this entire episode is basically a build-up to the debut of Kira’s new Gundam: the Strike Freedom. Yep, the most unnecessary Gundam in any Gundam series finally shows its ugly head. It also begins to show how much trouble is happening behind the scenes when the freaking Strike, which only has about three minutes of screen time, gets more new animation than Strike Freedom does. The plot is a bit illogical (how the hell did Kira launch a Mobile Suit into outer space by itself, without anyone noticing, and arrive outside of Earth’s gravity well all in a matter of minutes?) and it’s made worse by Strike Freedom being nothing more than an invincible plot device with ten times more lasers than the original Freedom. I thought Destiny was overpowered the way it took down the Destroy units, but Strike Freedom brings everything to a whole new level of ridiculousness.

ImageThankfully, things get a bit better with “Legacy of Gold.” ZAFT knows that Djibril’s in Orb and orders an invasion. Yuna continues to prove what an idiot he is and almost dooms the Orb fleet until Cagalli returns to the battlefield in her father’s legacy: the shiny gold Akatsuki Gundam. While the Akatsuki still has a bit of ridiculousness in its beam-reflecting armor, its kick-ass design and awesome debut make up for all that, making it one of my favorite Gundams in the series. The Akatsuki also heralds the return of SEED‘s Cagalli, which is a welcome sight as many were tired of her crying all throughout Destiny. Not only does the kickass Cagalli come roaring back, but she finally puts Yuna in her place in one of the most joyful scenes in the whole series. The structure of the episode is set up much like the previous episode (i.e. it’s only purpose is to show off the featured Gundam), but this episode works so much better, as it not only empowers a character that actually needed to be empowered, but it’s not quite as overblown as the Destiny and Freedom Gundams were. Plus, with the way the episode ends, it makes you feel as though the best is yet to come.

So, of course, the creators decided that was the perfect time for a clip show! “Refrain” has Kira and Athrun wondering what they should be fighting for and who they should be fighting. You know, the stuff they babble on about during the previous forty episodes of the show. There’s no new footage, no new events, nothing of the sort. It’s just a gigantic and annoying momentum-killer that should have never existed in the first place. Just skip ahead to Episode 42 when watching the DVD.

ImageAnyway, with the momentum gone, “Freedom and Justice” has a lot of ground to make up. Cagalli battles Shinn in the Destiny as Kira descends in the Strike Freedom and Lacus gives Athrun essentially the same speech she gave him around this time in the original SEED before giving him the Infinite Justice Gundam. After building up so much hype in Episode 40, this episode just doesn’t stand up, even without the clip show. The fight between Cagalli and Shinn is over far too quickly, so that Kira in his overblown Strike Freedom hogs all the screen time as he battles both Shinn and Rey. At least we get some new animations for Strike Freedom, as this is one of the few times it uses its combined beam rifle as well as its chest beam cannon outside of its standard barrage attack. The sole bright spot is easily the Minerva vs. Archangel battle, as we very rarely get to see a true warship vs. warship battle in a Gundam series. Sure, there have been tons of Mobile Suit vs. Mobile Suit battles, but seeing warships go at it with stuff other than their primary weapons is a refreshing change of pace and makes me wish it happened more often. It’s certainly better than seeing the ship sit there as it shoots vainly at enemy Mobile Suits.

At this point, the production staff was starting to split apart, as everybody had their own ideas on how to end the series, which affected the animation horribly. During most of Strike Freedom‘s introduction, many of its animations were either taken from the intros or simply updated stock footage of the original Freedom! Sadly, the Akatsuki is treated even worse, as the vast majority of its animations are taken from all the other Gundams in the series, most notably Freedom and Justice. Seriously, it only has about three or four scenes of new animation in the entire disc, which is a huge disservice considering how awesome the Gundam is. We also get a re-painted Gaia in Episode 39 with very little new animations to go with it. Considering it disappears for the rest of the series, one wonders why the hell it was brought back in the first place (aside from the obvious answer of selling more model kits). As for the actual new animation, it’s pretty decent for the most part, though Meyrin looks off-model a lot during some scenes and the Gundams still can’t keep their designs together when in any kind of brand new motion. So sad.

ImageThe dub is pretty odd this time around. The voice cast is pretty much the same as it has been in past volumes, so if you’ve read any of my reviews of the series before, you know my opinion of the dub. I did get a bit annoyed with how “Akatsuki” was pronounced, though, as the various English VAs actually pronounced the “su-” part of the name instead of either pronouncing it softly or leaving it silent (the most famous example of this being right is “Sasuke” in Naruto). While it’s not quite as annoying as the Jubei-chan and Law of Ueki dubs, it does irk me. What irks me even more, though, is the background music. Starting in Episode 39, every time time T.M. Revolution’s new song “Vestige” is played in the actual episode, the lyrics are missing. Basically, the dub just gets the instrumental instead of the whole song. However, the Japanese version does include the vocals (no subtitles though) and the previews in both languages (which uses the song as a backdrop) use the vocals as well. I highly doubt this was a technical issue (this series was made two years ago, not twenty) and if it was a rights issue, one would think it would extend to the previews as well, so what’s going on? Without the vocals, the normally kickass song lacks some impact. At least “Door of Flame” (a.k.a. Cagalli’s version of “Vestige”) is intact, though without subtitles as well. And then we get the return of dubbed Lacus singing, but this time with subtitles. I give up.

Extras are par for the course. A textless version of the fourth ending, bios on the latest Orb/Clyne Faction Mobile Suits, and trailers for .hack//ROOTS and Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society. This volume also has a special edition with a t-shirt much as Volume 7 did, although this one’s slightly more complicated than Volume 7′s shirt. Unfortunately, the shirt still comes only in a Large size, meaning I still can’t wear the damn thing. Come on, Bandai, be like ADV was when they released Angelic Layer and let consumers pick the size of their shirts!

ImageOverall, Volume 10 of Gundam SEED Destiny is mostly disappointing. If it weren’t for the appearance the awesome Akatsuki, this volume would be total crap.

Episodes on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny Volume 10:
Episode #39: “Kira of the Skies”
Episode #40: “Legacy of Gold”
Episode #41: “Refrain”
Episode #42: “Freedom and Justice”

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