Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny

GundamOMGPHALLUS

WARNING: Spoilers for Gundam SEED within this post. Read with caution.

In many ways, Gundam SEED Destiny is like the mirror image of its predecessor. Nowhere is this more apparent than in how the plot progresses throughout the series — more specifically, how the quality of the plot progresses.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny kicks off roughly two years after the conclusion of Gundam SEED. While the Earth Federation and ZAFT have signed a treaty meant to curb military developments on both sides, thus cooling down hostilities, both organizations are shoring up their defenses, which prompts Orb leader Cagalli Yula Athha and her bodyguard, Athrun Zala, to pay a diplomatic visit to ZAFT’s chairman, Gilbert Durandal. While they are there, a terrorist group attacks ZAFT and hijacks three mobile suits ZAFT had been developing in secret. This act leads to increased tensions between the Earth Federation and ZAFT, eventually reigniting the hatred of the people and sparking the Second Bloody Valentine War.

One way in which SEED Destiny presents a mirror to the original series is in its choice of main characters. SEED followed Kira Yamato, who rode aboard an Earth Federation ship, the Archangel. Thus, much of the point of view is from the Earth Federation’s direction, although there is a fair amount involving ZAFT as well. However, in this series, the ball is squarely in ZAFT’s court. ZAFT’s leader, Durandal, is initially quite sympathetic and preaches a message of peace and diplomacy. The main fighting force in the beginning of the series is a group of ZAFT pilots whose home ship is the Minerva: Shinn Asuka, an angry, arrogant young pilot who despises Orb after his family becomes collateral damage in the Battle of Orb in the first series; Rey Za Burrel, a mysterious, soft-spoken pilot who often acts as a pillar of support for Shinn; Lunamaria and Meyrin Hawke, sisters, the former a pilot and the latter the communications controller for the ship; and Talia Gladys, the captain of the Minerva. It is a good move to focus more on the ZAFT side this time around, since the portrayal of ZAFT in the first series generally tends to be a bit more on the “evil” end of the scale.

There must have been a lot of pressure to make SEED Destiny really good, because it is not a particularly necessary series. The premise — that the Earth Federation and ZAFT would relapse into war — is not far-fetched, by any means, but SEED‘s ending is just about definite. Luckily for SEED Destiny, it avoids SEED‘s biggest weakness: Where the first series started off unbearably slow and had a terrible first half, SEED Destiny begins with a bang and keeps the excitement and tension going strong for a good portion of the show. It really does help a lot, I think, that SEED Destiny is working with an already established universe and a conflict built strongly through a 50-episode series. There’s a real sense of urgency when the terrorists nab the mobile suit, and Shinn and crew fight to get them back. In another mirror to SEED, much of the early part of this series is dedicated to Shinn and co. vs. the thief pilots — much like ZAFT vs. the Archangel in the earlier series — but it just works here, because of the conflict between trying to hold together the quickly crumbling aura of peace and securing vengeance against the attackers.

ReyShouting

The series keeps burning along from here, with plenty of good action and some decent intrigue about where the series will go. Is Durandal really as good as he seems? What is the Earth Federation planning? Just what the hell is up with that masked guy who looks and sounds exactly like Mu La Flaga? (OK, maybe that last question is not so intriguing.) Some of the episodes are clunkers — the wedding hijack episode is completely silly and ruins any villainous credibility Yuna, the son of Orb’s prime minister, earns to that point — but for the most part, the series is at least consistently good and intense through much of the first half. That is, until SEED Destiny starts reflecting its predecessor a bit too much.

Before I started the series, the biggest complaint I heard about the show is how it is suddenly hijacked by the SEED characters, who basically dominate the series from that point on. When I began the series, I did not understand this complaint. “Why did people bitch so much?” I thought. “The SEED characters have been here the entire time! And this show takes place not too long after the first Bloody Valentine war, so it stands to reason that they would at least a decent amount of involvement in the plot.” But the takeover is not something that happens from the very beginning; rather, it is something that slowly infiltrates SEED Destiny until, before you know it, Kira and Co. are the headliners and Shinn’s crew is just the annoying sideshow.

. . . Except, for me, Kira and friends are an annoying sideshow as well. Kira never really sat well with me in SEED, but he is a thousand times more annoying in SEED Destiny. Kira is basically *this* short of an all-powerful god in SEED Destiny. It is pretty bad. There is a grand total of one battle Kira participates in where the outcome is in some doubt, but unfortunately it is not the finale. Rats. Now, Kira operating in God Mode the whole series would not bother me so much if his personality were in any way interesting. But nope. Poor lil’ Kira Yamato is as dull as dishwater. Lacus never really grew on me either. She is horribly annoying when introduced in SEED and although I did not particularly hate her after that (was too busy hating on Flay the whole time), it was mainly because I was apathetic toward her. That apathy does not disappear in SEED Destiny. She is just . . . not interesting at all. Kind of cute. Good seiyuu voicing her. But not interesting in any way whatsoever.

AthrunSHINNNNNNNNN

Even the SEED characters I like are affected by this. Every piece of character development Athrun makes during the first series is practically wiped away so that he can start over again with the same old arguments against Kira this go around. It is kind of ridiculous. And Cagalli, ugh . . . all of her strength is sapped away, and she turns into a whiner for nearly the entire series. Now, giving into pressure — especially the kind of pressure Cagalli faces — is completely understandable, particularly because she is so young. But she barely has any opportunity at all to really help everyone out and actually contribute something to the peace bringing effort. The one time she actually does make a contribution, it is pretty cool, but then Kira takes over from there. Super lame.

While the oldies take over and SEED Destiny morphs into SEED 2.0 — there is even a BIG OL’ SUPERWEAPON ZOMG storyline ala the first series — the newbies sit around and kind of suck for a good while. Shinn is one of the more schizophrenic leads I have seen in a good while. Some episodes he will be caring, other episodes he will be a bloodthirsty asshole, other episodes he will feel the guilt of war on him and so on. It does not come off like good character development; instead, it feels like the writers shift Shinn’s personality to whatever the hell they did for the particular episode. Rey Za Burrel is, uh, well . . . he starts out interesting: a cool, calm soldier who has interesting motivations, and by the end . . . yeah. The sooner we forget about all that, the better. Lunamaria Hawke is the textbook Faux Action Girl. She seems cool in the beginning and then never really does much of anything. Wonderful!

Also, those three pilots who hijacked the mobile suits at the beginning of the series? Completely inconsequential by the end. What a horribly disappointing plot thread. And that is just the beginning of SEED Destiny crapping away all the momentum it builds in the beginning of the series. (This is another wonderful mirroring of the original series. Where SEED starts off like garbage and becomes good at the end, SEED Destiny starts off on fire and is complete ass by the time it is over.) For instance, SEED fans know what a problem recapping is in the first series. Well, it is worse in this series. There are two — two! — recaps within the final nine episodes. That is just ridiculous. How is anyone supposed to really catch the momentum if the show suddenly grinds to a halt like that? And I had each episode ready to go one after another. Cannot imagine how frustrating this must have been for people watching the series week by week.

ReyShot

And the ending . . . my god, the ending. While not perfect, Gundam SEED‘s ending is at least fairly exciting and a good, intense battle. SEED Destiny is just pure nonsense. It is as if the writers are trying to be as clever and meta as possible and make a ton of parallels between the final battles of the two series, but the end result is just so, so stupid and silly. The battles are not at all thrilling, because, again, Kira is God, and Athrun has borrowed his godhood for the time being. Shinn is a worthless dork in the end. Rey’s character completely derails. Durandal is semi-interesting but mostly a generic villain. The final episode is a complete trainwreck. In a way, that is almost worse than SEED starting out as such steaming crap. This ending is not even the fun kind of trainwreck like Code Geass R2. It is just painful to watch.

Before I wrap this up, I just want to briefly mention the last thing that really pisses me off about Gundam SEED Destiny: The resurrection of Mu La Flaga. What the hell is the point of this? Yeah, I like Mu and Murrue as a couple, but Mu’s survival is utterly ridiculous and completely devalues his Heroic Sacrifice at the end of the first series. And then he is brainwashed and serves as a crappy antagonist for most of the season. What. The. Hell. Pfft. Pfft, I say!

I wanted to enjoy Gundam SEED Destiny. Hell, I gave it as much of a chance as I could. Through the first half or so, I was sure it is not as bad as people say it is. But the ending really is that bad. I’ve read a bit about the constant behind the scenes issues with the anime — particularly how the original scenario was completely scrapped partway through — and it is a shame, because, unnecessary as it is, SEED Destiny could have delivered as a worthy successor. Instead, it crumbles under the weight of expectation and blatant appeals to fan love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: