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"Gundam SEED Destiny" Best Gundam Beginning Ever

by on March 16, 2006

imageAfter Mobile Suit Gundam SEED stumbled off the starting line only to finish strong, fans expected another Alternate Universe series to take its place, as previously happened with G Gundam and Gundam Wing. Well, needless to say, the fans were shocked when the next Gundam series was something called SEED Destiny. Would it be any good? Would it fix the problems the original SEED had? Let me put it this way: SEED Destiny‘s first 5 minute blow SEED‘s first 5 episodes out of the water.

The year is Cosmic Era 73. Orb, the Earth Alliance, and ZAFT are just finishing up the majority of the rebuilding efforts after the last war, but things aren’t as they seem. In fear of another war, Cagalli Yula Athha and her bodyguard, Alex Dino (a.k.a. our good buddy Athrun Zala), travel to the PLANTs in order to convince Chairman Gilbert Durandal to stop building so many Mobile Suits. Just then, the military settlement, Armory One, erupts in gunfire as three EA agents, Sting Oakley, Auel Neider, and Stella Loussier, hijack three of ZAFTs newest Mobile Suits: the Chaos, Abyss, and Gaia Gundams. Things are looking bleak until the Impulse Gundam, piloted by Shinn Asuka, arrives to save the day. The resulting chase results in Athrun questioning his desire to stay off the battlefield, and an early verbal war between Shinn, who he feels was betrayed by Orb, and Cagalli. All the while, Captain Neo Roanoke, this series’ masked man, has a Newtype-like connection with Shinn’s fellow ZAFT pilot Rey Za Burrel, and the final ZAFT pilot, Lunamaria Hawke, starts showing off her Athrun worship.

imageMany complaints about the beginning of SEED stem from its pace, specifically its extremely slow pace. Destiny changes all that by moving rather swiftly from one episode to the next. In the previous series, the Archangel stayed in the vicinity of Heliopolis until the episode of Phase-05. In this one, our heroes stay at Amory One for only one episode, as they pursue the Girty Lue (the ship our EA hijackers run off to) through the depths of space, eventually finding themselves at a wrecked colony. This provides a very exciting early battle as all the pilots, and even the battleship crews, get some focus time showing off their various skills. No sooner do we finish one arc another one is set up at the end of Phase-04 and into Phase-05, which shows just how much the production crew learned from their mistakes in the previous series.

One of the best parts of a Gundam series is the fantastic giant robot battles, and Destiny doesn’t disappoint in that area either. There are no less than four different battles on this disc, and each of them are fast, furious, and highly entertaining. Impulse blows the Strike out of the water, while the three stolen Gundams all look rather cool this early on, even if their designs are a bit iffy. What’s even better is that the Zakus (yes, boys and girls, Zakus make their glorious return) and even the Daggers are proven effective, and aren’t painted as just random cannon fodder (yet). While a few of the Gundams still seem overpowered (thanks to their positron cannons), I don’t really mind since the battles keep that little fact from popping up too often. And unlike some other series, the battles take their surroundings into account too, so the Gundams fight among buildings and have to dodge debris. It’s a nice change from all the empty fields and clean spaces we got in SEED.

imageOne of the other major complaints about SEED was the reuse of animation. Destiny does fix that (for now anyway, can’t guarentee about the future), and does so extremely well. Impulse has some extremely fluid movements and has some excellent frames supporting it. The other Gundams are all animated well, though not to the extent Impulse is (since they’re not the signature Gundam), while the Zakus don’t get quite as much on their front. Unfortunately, they still don’t have a good grip on the CG, so the Minerva still looks out of place. It does look better than the Archangel did, but it still moves far too fast and not nearly as detailed as its 2D counterpart. Oh, and before I forget, I want to thank Bandai for finally listening and putting the English credits during the show itself, which seemed like an impossible task for any show that wasn’t named Ghost in the Shell. The credits even look nice and fit in with the show. Thanks, Bandai!

One of SEED‘s strongest points was always the music, and in that respect, Destiny is a tour-de-force. Almost all the music is brand new and it works extremely well. The various battle and action pieces, for me personally, rival only Naruto’s in awesomeness, as all that’s missing is another instrumental version of “So Much Together.” (Which is understandable, as Kira doesn’t enter the picture until next disc.) The opening and endings are also quite awesome, as T.M. Revolution returns with “ignited,” which blows “INVOKE” out of the water, and Nami Tamaki comes back with “Reason,” which is my favorite Gundam song yet. It’s just a shame that we won’t be getting the soundtracks here in the U.S. I actually can’t think of any music used on this disc that I didn’t enjoy.

On the vocal front, everybody from the previous series returns in both languages, so that’s good. The new characters sound odd in English, but that may just be that I’m so used to the Japanese voices (the same thing happened in Naruto), but I do like Matthew Erickson’s (Van in Zoids: Chaotic Century) Shinn. He’s not as angry as the Japanese VA is, but it’s still a rather fine voice for the guy. Another voice I like is Brad Swaile’s Auel. In an effort to distinguish him from Dearka, Brad gives Auel a psychotic tone, and it’s quite addictive. I’m rather saddened the dub didn’t have Mark Oliver and Michael Kospa voice Rey and Gilbert (since Toshihiko Seki and Shuichi Ikeda [Rau and Char] voiced them in Japan), but Kirby Morrow and Ted Cole do fine jobs, so it’s more of a nitpick. The voices I don’t like are Arthur’s and Vino’s, as Arthur is a Brit now (which I can tell won’t work in future volumes) and Vino just sounds too young. One final nitpick is the pronounciation of Lunamaria’s name. I’ve been saying “Loo-nah-mah-ree-ah” for so long now, since that’s how “maria” is usually said over here, but the dub calls it “Loo-nah-mahr-ee-ah” and it just irks me.

imageBecause the only extras on the disc are two trailers and the textless opening, I’ll talk about the packaging. The case itself is greatly improved over SEED. While I do usually prefer the scene-specific cover art over “pilot-with-mecha” cover arts, I must admit that the Destiny cover is quite appealing, with the faded Impulse Gundam with a glowing Shinn in front. It doesn’t look as slapped together as the covers in the previous series, and it thankfully got rid of the white strips the R2 counterparts had. The colon by the volume number still irks me though and it is a shame we won’t get an anagram with the volume titles like the last series did. The box itself is kind of a mutated digi-pak. It folds out to have three DVDs per side, with pouches to hold each volume as they come out and magnetic clamps to keep it shut (much like the box for the SEED Special Editions). I gotta say, this box is actually really cool and different, though sometimes getting the DVD case in the slot can be a bit tough. The CD Soundtrack only includes six songs this time, including the four openings (which unfortunately includes the awful “Wings of Words”) and two of the four endings. The popular fan-favorite “Life Goes On” is sadly missing, as is T.M. Revolution’s “vestige” (which was technically an opening). This makes for a rather empty CD. I still would’ve liked some actual extras, such as more Term Definition booklets, or the Astray OAVs, or even the Zero Attack pre-show promo, but the packaging makes up for it a little bit.

Overall, this is a must-buy for any Gundam fan. If you disliked SEED, give this series a try, as it fixes most of the problems from the first series and is an entertaining ride.

Episodes on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny Volume 1:
Phase-01: Angry Eyes
Phase-02: Those Who Call for War
Phase-03: Warning Shots
Phase-04: Stardust Battlefield
Phase-05: Scars That Won’t Heal

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