Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: October 21st, 2019
Episodes: 50 | Type: TV Series | Languages: Japanese & English
Gundam Seed Destiny… a contentious series to the fanbase in that it was obviously popular and loved but has a unusually high amount of detractors and negative criticism as well. My review will try to avoid forcing an opinion or telling people what to think; I review to help others find out if a series is right for them, if they should give it a try. With that said I should still come clean before starting in stating that I actually really enjoyed this season. Last clarification: Much like my review of the first season, this is a review of the original series as it aired and was released on home video, not a review of the HD Remaster. Review might also contain mild spoilers to Gundam Seed, the previous season.
Set a year and half after the first series, we are taken on a familiar journey, this time centering around Athrun rather than Kira, that starts in times of peace only for conflict to soon arise. It’s made quite clear in the series that even though there was a peace treaty between Earth and the PLANTS, it was more of a cease fire as both factions rebuilt and regrouped. The story, as whole, follows the same basic structure as Gundam Seed (A deliberate artistic choice to parallel the first series) but features very different events and, since this series is essentially a continuation of the previous one, starts out significantly more intense and grand in scale than the its predecessor; notably because the build up and setup was already done in season 1. You won’t wait half the series to really get down to business this time around, if that’s what was worrying you. Important notice on the series’ overall structure: The first series focused on seeing the war from the Alliance’s perspective (Initially) but this season focuses on the war from ZAFT’s perspective. It’s also worth mentioning that much like Seed was a remake of sorts of the original Gundam, so in turn is Seed Destiny a remake of Zeta Gundam in many ways. Don’t get me wrong, they are considerably different series, but from the new main Gundam pilot, to some of its characters, to the unfolding of events… Fan of Zeta will certainly not miss the similarities. On a finishing note, there are 4 more recap episodes this season and much like last time, some add to the series and are worth watching while others are just glorified clip shows that can be skipped.
On a side note, it’s also worth mentioning that the director of this series is a fan of Star Wars. This was made apparent in the first series with a Luke, Han & Leia dynamic between Kira, Athrun and Cagali. Not to mention Cagali being Kira’s sister, Kira being sort of the “chosen one”, La Creuset being Mu’s father and the super planet killer at the end… The influence is undeniable and the artist himself has mentioned it. Seed Destiny also has its share of such influences: Shinn has a very similar role and demeanor to Anakin Skywalker (Even more arrogant and annoying though, I’d say), Durandall manipulated the war much like Palpatine did and was ultimately seen sitting in his emperor’s chair (Which was a clear shout out to Star Wars) and the relationship between Athrun and Shinn is similar to the Obi-Wan/Anakin chemistry. Don’t get me wrong, they’re completely different series on the whole, but the similarities and homages were nice.
The characters feature many of the previous series’ cast returning but also new additions. I feel that this is where some people got confused though. A lot of complaints directed towards the series were in regards to it not focusing enough on its main character (Shinn) and relying too much on old characters. One thing should be understood before you start watching this series, Shinn is not the main character. In the first series Kira was the main character and Athrun the second lead but now the roles are reversed and it is Athrun who is the main character and Kira is acting as the second lead. Shinn is a very important secondary character and in fact the entire Minerva crew is a batch of important new characters, but all of them revolving around Athrun. Also, Kira is essentially the series’ (Both Seed and Destiny) de facto main character. I know it can be a bit confusing because Shinn receives the new series’ Gundam and is its pilot (Which has often meant main character status in the past) but that doesn’t make him the lead though. If you remember that than this will probably make for a more enjoyable watch.
Anyway, as for the characters, I won’t bother going over the ones we already know from the previous series; needless to say, most of them are back and some have changed, others stayed the same. My one complaint is that Cagali feels underused and doesn’t have the abilities you would think would be appropriate for her at this stage. The new characters though have a few standout to look out for: Shinn is the new hotshot pilot of the Coordinators and has a very abrasive and arrogant personality (Which was necessary for his role in the series). Lunamaria is a more sympathetic and fun character that doesn’t receive the focus she deserves, unfortunately (She’s the new Cagali in this regard). Rey, Shinn’s friend and companion mobile suit pilot, is a more mysterious and intriguing character with both a surprising and predictable backstory. Meer turns out to be more interesting than you’d imagine for a character who is literally meant to be a copy of another character (Lacus). Durandall is the new chairman of the Coordinators and he is a charismatic, intelligent and competent leader whose actions and role are very well portrayed and it’s usually rare for Gundam to focus that much on political figures so I would enjoy it while it lasts. The new Earth Forces extended pilots are also very interesting, far more than the three nutjobs that were present at the end of the last series; they actually developed them as characters this time.
This series is heavily thematic, much like its predecessor, and continues to focus on the psychology of war through its characters. Shinn represents the “perfect” soldier being molded through the series, Stella will embody the victims and unfortunates of war and how certain individuals can be twisted by events, Cagali, this time around, is the inexperienced leader who is easily manipulated… The characters evolve once again due to tragic events, their relationships and their dreams, which are also collectively molded by the war. I would say this series focuses even more on the atrocities of war and how they affect us all as well as what the causes of war are. From secret interests, to revenge, to a desire to serve and protect one’s nation; the series goes through all which is involved into building and maintaining a war. I also quite liked that even though the series will focus on how political agendas of hidden groups can shape and even create wars, the blame shouldn’t be lifted from the people who are the ones supporting and fighting these wars. This brings me to the next theme: I can’t tell you how without spoilers but the “power of the people” and their responsibility for conflicts is an extremely important theme this season, perhaps more so than any other Gundam.
Other themes include a continued exploration of anarchy and corrupt democracy with a greater emphasis on corrupt democracy this time around. It certainly goes more in depth as it shows democracy can be corrupted by both wilful means and basic incompetence and that the two usually go together. The series also focuses on two very controversial themes that perhaps are the reason this season has so many detractors and certainly something to keep in mind before watching: It focuses on secret societies and their role in war (Such as the military industrial complex) as well as on socialism and what the “ultimate form of socialism” would actually look like. Long story short, if you’re a fan of either capitalism or socialism, brace yourself because this won’t be a smooth ride. There’s also some more subdued themes such as “the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my ally”, the nature of one’s identity, life’s true purpose and the role we are meant to play, individualism vs. collective group think… And, of course, the symbolism of the mobile suits representing their pilot’s state of mind continues.
Animation & Voice Work
The animation is sharper than last season’s and the battles have more original footage. But the same artstyle is used (For those who have a problem with the artstyle this won’t change here) and they still have repeated animation from time to time; sometimes they even repeat animation from the previous series, which is just bad form if you ask me.
Both Japanese and English tracks are good. I definitely recommend the dub if you prefer your series in English. It has a few moments of facepalm inducing bad acting but they are far and few and most of the time the dub is sharp and accurate. The music is really good this season. I feel it’s more diverse and less “cheesy” than last season. Don’t get me wrong. Seed’s music was good, but some pieces were really questionable at best. The musical score here is suited just fine for the scenes as they progress, be they epic confrontations, cataclysmic events (More common than you’d think), emotional sequences or just more serene and tranquil scenes. The “Gundam theme song” is a little too superman-ish though.
An exciting and epic conclusion to the saga that has sharp action, political intrigue, complex symbolism, developed character interactions and everything that makes a Gundam series great. It has an artstyle and character dynamic that definitely appeals more to female fans but might be abrasive to certain fans (Especially as it doesn’t look as “modern” as most series of that time did). It is an heavily emotional series with a smooth and careful story progression. Sharp music and more versatile animation than the previous season also help increase the series’ quality. Shinn can be annoying and the recaps can be heavy handed but a quick start to the series’ main plot and a rich cast of characters more than make up for it. Weighing the pros and cons, this series is of relatively equal quality to the first season (Gundam Seed), for similar and different reasons; where it corrected flaws of the previous season and improved on it, Destiny also made new mistakes of its own.
In the end, you should probably watch this if you enjoyed the Star Wars prequels or Code Geass’ second season; series that seem to divide their fanbase in a very similar fashion for very similar reasons. And, as experience seemed to have showed me, you should probably avoid it if you’re more of a UC/original Gundam fan. If you’re fonder of alternate continuity Gundam series (Like Wing or original Seed) then it’s anyone’s guess if this is right for you. I guess a way to look at it is: this is an ironically war-heavy, anti-war series great for fans of epic stories and action series that is sure to deliver if you like super robots/mecha focused shows and have the stomach to deal with a really annoying new character that isn’t leaving anytime soon. If you still don’t know where you stand let me put it this way: If you watched and enjoyed Gundam Seed than give this series a shot for the first 7 – 9 episodes. If you enjoyed what you saw then stick with it, if not, so be it. It’s difficult to be objective over a series so polarizing to the fanbase but I hope this review will at least help some.
Source: Article Image: Official Gundam Seed Destiny Promotional Material / Sunrise
- Original Title: 機動戦士ガンダムSEED DESTINY (Kidō Senshi Gandamu Shīdo Desutinī)
- Additional Notes: Home video version
- Director: Mitsuo Fukuda
- Script: Natsuko Takahashi and Yuuichi Nomura
- Release Date: 2004 – 2005
- License: Bandai Entertainment