Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny

Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 50
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2004-2005
Date of Review: September 15, 2014

Two years after the Bloody Valentine War between Naturals and Coordinators, a terrorist incident reignites the flames of hatred. Former friends and enemies from the previous conflict are dragged back in against their will, and some of them may end up at odds. Enter Shinn Asuka, a mobile suit pilot who lost his family when the nation of Orb was attacked during the war. Can he overcome his rage and desire for revenge as the world is engulfed in conspiracies and brutality once more?

For the first time, an alternate-universe Gundam series got another full series as a sequel. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED was wildly popular, but instead of giving the followup the OVA treatment like the other non-Universal Century tales, we got the series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. That’s a pretty big deal. So how did things turn out?

Immediately noticeable is the shift in tone from Kira Yamato to our new protagonist, Shinn. While Kira, Athrun Zala, and other SEED characters do return and are often central to the plot, Shinn’s personality is a polar opposite to that of Kira. Shinn is constantly angry, raging on and off the battlefield. However, his discontent is given proper context, as he’s haunted by his family’s brutal death during the war. That makes him more than just a generic angsty character who looks like he hasn’t taken a good dump in weeks, and Shinn does have his calm and even depressing moments. As such, I found him to be a much more interesting character than Kira, and thus it’s more exciting to follow his journey.

The quality of the new characters is mixed, but that’s not necessarily a strike against Destiny. You can’t win ’em all. I liked the hotshot pilot Lunamaria Hawke, but most of the other mobile suit pilots and officers aboard the new warship Minerva don’t stand out at all. That includes Captain Gladys, who simply can’t compare to SEED‘s Murrue Ramius. Meanwhile, the Lacus Clyne replacement was irritating at first, but she gets much better towards the end. (Somewhat like Lacus herself in SEED, though she’s still a better character.) The new characters do well to serve the story, but none of the new heroes are fleshed out as well as Shinn. In the case of the villains, they fare worse, as many of their true natures are transparent right off the bat. Even the central antagonist of the series just isn’t that interesting.

Another problem is that some important characters aren’t developed nearly as well as they should be, if at all. For example, someone thought to have been killed in SEED comes back at the beginning of Destiny; they have a new identity, but it’s very clear to the audience who they really are. So, part of the fun was waiting to find out just what happened to them. Too bad Destiny offers no explanation whatsoever beyond a single still frame, and even that didn’t tell us squat. (Which stinks, because they were probably my favorite character from SEED.) Another annoyance is that the final act of the show introduces a trio of Dom Troopers whose pilots are total badasses. Yet they only make a few scant appearances, and we barely get to know them!

As for our returning characters, Kira became even more of a pacifist, but he’s also arrogant about it, not to mention hypocritical. When fighting enemy mobile suits, he’ll only target limbs or heads as to disable them and not kill the pilots…but at one point, he purposefully destroys a massive battleship cannon right as it’s about to fire, and the resulting explosion kills quite a few crewmen. And then Kira has to audacity to defend this action! He claims he won’t kill, and won’t allow others to kill…but his actions belie his words. What a jerk. Kira became very unlikeable in Destiny, and that’s a shame. He had such potential.

Athrun, on the other hand, has an excellent turn as the show’s secondary protagonist. He once again goes through physical as well as mental conflicts, but his problems are very different than that of Shinn, with whom he fights alongside and against at times. And once Kira reappears, Athrun’s pulled in even more opposing directions. Seeing him work through these hardships really made him shine, and Destiny has cemented Athrun as one of my favorite Gundam characters.

Plenty of other folks from SEED return in major and minor roles, and thankfully they didn’t feel forced into the plot. It was great to see many of these characters again, and to discover what different paths some of their lives had taken. Of course, they all end up doing much of the same thing as the series drags on, but I suppose that was to be expected.

As SEED was a tribute to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, it makes sense that Destiny would take a few cues from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. There’s a previously heroic government that becomes extremely corrupt, a dangerous special forces group, bad guys that become good guys, and even a massive Gundam built for large-scale destruction! I really liked these parallels, as they offered some familiarity while offering up a unique story at the same time.

The animation and sound are just as good as they were in SEED, if not better. Destiny uses the same art style, as would be expected, but notably absent are the overdone digital effects. The only thing left is the 3D rendering of some ship shots, and those actually look even better! The music and voice acting is very good, fitting scenes and characters well, respectively.

Continuing that high quality, the mecha in Destiny are nothing to scoff at, with the new mobile suits throughout the series looking great. The new Zakus, Goufs, and Doms are particularly cool, and I like that despite this story taking place in the Cosmic Era, they retain the name and basic look of their Universal Century counterparts. There’s some slick new Gundams, too, and of course one them is the Destiny Gundam. You’ll just have to wait until the last third of the series to see it, so be patient! When it comes to spacecraft, the Minerva looks quite different than the Archangel or other ships, despite it being a member of the ZAFT forces. This was obviously done to help it stand out in battle, but I like that it was a brand-new design rather than just another white battleship.

Destiny was good to a point, but in the last arc of the series, the storytelling quality drops. The aforementioned character problems continue, and some people are shown surviving impossible situations — yes, even by anime standards — like being caught in massive explosions. It’s the main plot that suffers the most. The “Destiny Plan” from which the series takes its name is revealed as the ultimate goal of our primary antagonist, but it would be nearly impossible for its creator to pull off such an ambitious plot. Worse, most of the other characters even admit that the plan might be a good thing, but they fight to stop it anyway. Eventually, everything just devolved into another massive space battle which didn’t address any of the underlying problems at all! Various characters sacrificed themselves for no real reason, and even the obvious callbacks to other Gundam series (and an obvious homage to Return of the Jedi) seemed overdone rather than tributes. Thus, the ending of Destiny was a letdown.

Even the series’ creators apparently thought the finale needed more work, as they later released an extended cut of the last episode called Final Plus. This adds more nuance to the final battle, and includes an expanded ending with much-needed closure between certain characters. The final meeting between Kira and Shinn was particularly good. Final Plus didn’t fix all of Destiny‘s problems, but it was certainly a step up from the original finale.

Like SEED before it, Destiny was later compiled into a series of movies. There’s some new scenes added, and Destiny got four movies over SEED‘s three. The series was also reissued in high-definition, aptly subtitled HD Remaster. Again, like the SEED remaster project, this one has the usual high-definition transfer and widescreen reframing, plus lots of extra animation and even a few new mobile suits. It makes a great option for a second run through.

In the end, Destiny is a decent followup to SEED, but it struggled under its own weight and the high quality of its predecessor. I didn’t hate Destiny as many other fans seem to; it was more of a disappointment in my book, as I grew to like some of the new characters and subplots only to see things creak along towards the end. Still, it’s worth checking out if you loved SEED and have a hankering for more Cosmic Era tales. Just make sure you don’t forget Final Plus.

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