"Gundam SEED Destiny": When Realism Is Screwed Over
As super robot shows become more and more commonplace, you should remember that one of the flagship giant robot shows, Mobile Suit Gundam, was once somewhat realistic. But those days are long, long gone.
Previously, Shinn had taken Stella back to the Earth Alliance so she could get the treatment she needed and survive—and had done so under the condition that she never fight again. Well, Shinn doesn’t get to decide that, as Stella was placed as the pilot of the Earth Alliance’s newest weapon: The Destroy Gundam. This hulking brute totally destroyed three cities and was in the process of destroying Berlin when Freedom and the Archangel arrived to stop it. However, not even Freedom‘s awesome power was any match against Destroy‘s amazing armor, but Shinn was able to get through to Stella and temporarily calm her. However, she soon snapped again, forcing Kira to land the finishing blow, killing her once and for all. Shinn, blaming the Freedom for Stella’s death, researched Kira’s fighting style as the Impulse and the Freedom had one last rumble in a snowy wasteland. He got his chance when the Archangel was targeted during Gilbert’s announced war on Logos, the group behind the terrorist group Blue Cosmos. In the end, Shinn was able to overpower Kira and destroy the Freedom, seemingly killing Kira once and for all.
Of course, Kira’s a main character, so he’s not going to bite the dust in the mid-30’s! He gets rescued in “Eve of Chaos,” as Athrun yells at Shinn for seemingly killing the young Commander’s best friend. As Athrun begins to wonder just what the hell the PLANTs are thinking, the Archangel crew regroups and slumps into Orb. This is one of those usual “aftermath” episodes where the viewers catches their breath and not much happens. Thankfully, the episode itself is an actual “aftermath” episode instead of a clip show like Episode 29. As you can expect, not much relating to the plot really happens here other than Athrun yelling at Shinn for “killing” Kira and Gilbert wondering if he’s really won. This begins the final change where all the characters begin to solidify their final alliances, and as a transition episode, it’s not really all that interesting. Well, there is Talia beginning to question Gilbert a bit more, but that’s still not really worth it since she hasn’t really done anything about it yet.
In the next episode, “Athrun on the Run,” the kid’s had enough with Gilbert, especially after his bullcrap speech about how it was necessary to take out Kira and after Meer reveals that Athrun’s conversation with Kira and Cagalli ten episodes before was being spied upon. So, he runs away. As I said earlier, Gilbert’s speech about how unlucky Kira was is probably the most eye-rolling monologue in the show so far (which is amazing since Kira himself has had about a dozen so far), and to make it even worse, it was so filled with unnecessary flashbacks it makes you want to skip to the next scene. Also, Meer becomes more annoying (surprise, surprise) and the story takes a strange turn when Meyrin becomes the focused Hawke sister. You would think Lunamaria would be the one to defect since she knows about Meer and was the one who heard Athrun’s conversation with Kira & Cagalli, but I guess Meyrin needed a boost in the fan polls or something so they made her defect as well.
Athrun’s still on the run in “Thunder in the Dark,” as Shinn and Rey chase after them in their new Destiny and Legend Gundams. Most of the first half of the episode is a shouting contest between Athrun and Rey to see who can work Shinn to their side, and the result isn’t unexpected, but you can start to see more clearly how Shinn is becoming a mere storyline puppet. However, the actual battle between the Gundams and Athrun’s stolen Gouf is pretty cool to watch. It doesn’t top Impulse vs. Freedom or the mêlée in Episode 28, but it’s still damn awesome and has some very cool shots. The aftermath of the battle is decent, except for Lunamaria once again not utilizing her knowledge of Meer & the Lacus assassination attempt. I mean, she’s hysterical wondering why Athrun would defect when she knows damn well Gilbert’s been lying to everybody. I know Talia told Lunamaria to forget the knowledge after handing the data disk over, but I don’t think the Captain meant that literally.
Finally, we have “A New Flag,” where the series continues to get worse and worse. ZAFT launches an attack on Heaven’s Base, where Djibril and the rest of Logos are hiding out, and leading the charge are Shinn in the Destiny, Rey in the Legend, and Lunamaria in the Impulse. Now, Destiny may not have been as realistic as, say, Votoms, but it did at least have limits on most of the Mobile Suits (except maybe Freedom, but still). However, Legend, and in particular Destiny, are simply too overpowered. The biggest example of this is when Logos deploys 5 Destroy units at once. The Destroy we last saw rampaged all over Germany and killed thousands of people very easily. Even the Freedom, which was invincible at that point, had trouble taking it down. However, Destiny manages to take out four of the Destroy units remarkably easy, three of them in one strike. Even the Impulse was able to down one of the Destroy units without much effort at all. I was able to take Freedom dominating the battles, but this is just getting ridiculous. I get that the Destiny‘s Wings of Light are pretty and all, but this is just too much.
Animation in Gundam SEED Destiny has always been up and down, but here we have examples of both the good and the bad in the same scene. The best animated sequence is easily the “Athrun vs. Rey & Shinn” battle in the first half of Episode 37. The staging is great, the animation is fluid, and the battle is tense. Unfortunately, it’s ruined a bit by Shinn’s new grand Gundam, the Destiny, having many of the same animations as the original Strike Gundam. Are you telling me the animation budget is so cheap that they couldn’t afford a different animation for Destiny to bring out its sword? It gets even worse during the Heavens Base battle, as Destiny‘s only been around for one episode and it already has half of its animation cycles repeated! The Wings of Light deployment is already rather old, and all the pretty beam colors don’t hide the lackluster animation being used. Even the new opening has reused animation, as the Akatsuki is shown using Freedom‘s movements from the third and fourth openings from the original SEED! It is nice that Kira, Cagalli, and Lacus are now in the “pilot and their MS showcase” section of the intro, but at least give them something new!
Speaking of the new opening, it begins on Episode 38, and most people agree that “Wings of Words” is a really, really crappy opening that automatically kills any tension whatsoever. I mean, this is a series about war with huge mêlées full of explosions and death and all that happening in almost every episode. This is the section of the show where the action goes into overdrive and the opening is a slow romance song!? The ending, “You Are Similar to Me,” by See-Saw (the singers of “Anna ni”), is better, but it still lacks any real impact. It’s a good listen, but it’s forgettable. In the voice department, the biggest standout is, surprisingly, Chantal Strand. Not as Lacus, mind you, but as Meer. I’m not sure why, by Strand has been much better as Meer than as Lacus, especially on this volume. Sam Vincent puts in a really great effort as Athrun, and everybody else is pretty much the same as they always have been, which goes for the Japanese version as well.
On the extras front, we get little. Bios for all the Earth Alliance Mobile Suits, a textless version of the crappy fourth opening, and trailers for The Great Horror Show and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. At least Bandai’s finally making new trailers again, I was getting sick of Scrapped Princess and Ghost in the Shell every time. Unfortunately, the US release uses the cover of Neo and his Windam for the coverart, which is a bad move. The Japanese version of the cover was bad enough, but the US release is even more boring, which is strange since the US covers have usually been better than the Japanese covers. But since Neo is being used, the excellent Kira and Lacus cover for Japanese Volume 13 is being dumped. Boo, Bandai Entertainment!
After some of the best Gundam episodes in a while, this volume takes things to a whole new level of ridiculousness.
Episodes included on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny Volume 9:
Episode #35: “Eve of Chaos”
Episode #36: “Athrun on the Run”
Episode #37: “Thunder in the Dark”
Episode #38: “A New Flag”