"Gundam SEED Destiny" Final Plus is a Minus
After the complete bullcrap that was the original last episode of Gundam SEED Destiny, the writers had some explaining to do. Well, while they’re busy making the Special Edition movies, Bandai decided to tide us over with Gundam SEED Destiny Final Plus.
Previously, with Logos completely wiped out, Gilbert Durandal, leader of ZAFT and the PLANTs, has decided to launch the Destiny Plan, a special plan that will allow a person’s genes to say what job they will have in life. Seeing this as an act of destroying a person’s will and freedom of choice, Orb decides to resist Durandal and declares war. But ZAFT has not only two super lasers, GENESIS II and the Requiem, but they have the Destiny and the Legend, two Gundams that ripped apart the Destroy Gundams, capable of leveling Germany in a matter of days, to shreds. Luckily for Orb, they’ve got three very magical Gundams capable of delivering untold amounts of righteousness. There’s the Akatsuki, piloted by Mu La Flaga and complete with really shiny gold armor that can reflect anything; the Infinite Justice, pilot by Athrun Zala who is quite possibly the most gifted pilot in a Gundam series since Amuro; and then there’s God Omega, also known as Strike Freedom, piloted by Mr. Perfect Kira Yamato. As one could guess from my previous reviews, I’m not a big Strike Freedom fan.
As one can gather from the name Final Plus, this is simply an extended version of Episode 50 of the series. In some ways, this is a positive, as it allows for the Kira/Rey and Athrun/Shinn battles to be extended, giving us some thrilling laser combat and even more scenes with Yzak and Dearka, which is always, always great. There are even some minor changes present which helps the episode flow along a lot smoother, not to mention the inclusion of an epilogue. Originally, the series just ended on the Messiah exploding and Strike Freedom flying into a stock pose, but here we get an actual epilogue showcasing who’s now in charge of the PLANTs as well as a nice scene where Shinn and Kira finally meet face to face. This scene is quite cool to watch, as it allows Shinn to finally get some character development and partially rectify the complete crapjob his character was given during the final quarter of the series. Unfortunately, Cagalli is nowhere to be found during this scene, which is sure to anger Athrun/Cagalli fans, as Athrun in this scene is paired up with Meyrin.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many more positives, mainly because this episode didn’t fix the biggest problem with the final episode. Yes, it’s longer and doesn’t feel nearly as rushed as the original version, but the only thing that this release accomplishes is making a steaming pile of crap just a normal pile of crap. The Kira/Rey battle still lacks any kind of spark as it’s still the first time the two characters meet face to face (not to mention the first time Kira is aware of Rey’s existence), and despite all the lasers and the fancy animations and the thrilling DRAGOON vs. DRAGOON battle, the results stay the same. Strike Freedom still doesn’t have a scratch on it and Legend is destroyed rather handedly. Even worse is the Athrun/Shinn battle, which gets less new animations and, once again, the exact same result. Shinn continues to be nothing more than a plot device at this point, Luna still gets in the way, and the Justice so utterly ruins the Destiny it makes the flashy Gundam look like a Leo from Gundam Wing. Later on, Strike Freedom, Justice, and the Akatsuki take on the giant laser cannons and while they have some minor difficulty, all in all they still wipe out these things with little trouble at all. Oh yea, and that final scene with Kira taking on Gilbert still makes no damn sense whatsoever.
See, the writers ended up writing themselves into a corner. No amount of extended scenes or epilogues was going to truly save this episode from the trash heap. The only true solution is to rewrite the entire thing from the ground up, which obviously isn’t going to happen. The Athrun/Shinn battle needed a complete revision, allowing the two pilots to compete more evenly and for Shinn to get in a good hit or two, while Luna naturally comes into the picture instead of being forced in for story reasons. More should have been done with the two Hawke sisters being on opposite sides of the war during the last dozen episodes. Cagalli should have remained the pilot of the Akatsuki. Some other way (any way, really) for Kira and Durandal to have their final confrontation was needed. And Strike Freedom needed to have an actual challenge and actually get hit for once. God forbid it gets some dust on those shiny gold joints. Really, this final battle should have taken up at least 4-5 episodes, not the episode and a half it ended up with.
Since this is an extended version of an already-made episode, much of the animation is exactly the same as before. Thankfully, many of the stale, carbon-copy shots are excised and replaced with some new shots that offer an actual variety of poses. Imagine that. The animation is still rather clumsy and not nearly the series’ best, but for the most part it works and with fewer stock shots than normal used, things don’t feel as recycled as many of the final episodes do. The new footage, obviously, fits right in with the old footage and doesn’t look out of place at all, though I will say that the epilogue looks really nice, thanks to a great color palette, especially the scene at the gravesite. Special mention must be given to the new opening, which mixes old and new shots in a way that trumps the visuals to both the third and fourth openings easy. Not only that, they work extremely well with the opening song and as a whole it’s arguably my favorite part of the episode. Yes, my favorite part of the final episode is the intro. Plus, it supports the Athrun/Cagalli coupling, which automatically makes it a win.
Speaking of intros, we get a change, as “Wings of Words” is thankfully junked for the undeniably awesome “Vestige” by T.M. Revolution. Yea, it’s essentially Strike Freedom’s theme song (like TMR’s “Meteor” was to the original Freedom), but the song is just too cool to be hampered by that Gundam’s lameness. And hey, we get it with vocals AND subtitles, which is doubly awesome. As one would expect, the entire voice cast in both languages come back to record the final episode and neither cast differs that much from previous episodes. And unlike the clip shows in the original SEED series, the reused footage in the dub doesn’t sound at all different from the original episode, meaning there isn’t a weird, off-putting feeling from the different acting like there was in the original series. As for the actual performances, all the cast members do their job well enough, given the tripe they’re forced to speak, though somehow Matt Hill has gotten cheesier and cheesier as Kira. Oh yea, and the background music continues to kick untold amounts of ass and actually makes this junk somewhat tolerable.
The extras are thin, but slightly different this time around. We get not only textless versions of the opening and ending themes, but also the original Japanese versions (i.e., with Japanese credits). In a bit of weirdness, we get three “Program Slates,” which are simply stock art with 10 seconds of background music to them. I’m not sure what these things are used for, but I guess it works…kinda. We also get trailers for Zegapain, Stratos 4, and Code Geass. Even though it’s been going on for a while now, I’m still glad there’s no sign of trailers for the first season of Ghost in the Shell, Scrapped Princess, and Planetes in sight. Now if only we could’ve gotten some better extras, such as the hilarious SEED Club OAVs that invoke the spirit of the original SD Gundam (the one that didn’t come to America). Hell, I’d even take an interview with Chiaki Morosawa or Mitsuro Fukuda as they try to explain just how they made an ending so craptacular they had to rewrite it twice.
Overall, Gundam SEED Destiny Final Plus is an improvement over the original ending, but spraying Febreeze on a piece of crap doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a piece of crap. Rent this one and wait for the fourth Special Edition movie to come out.