Gundam SEED Destiny – Retro Review, Thru 9

A couple years ago I got into Gundam. That all the giant mecha battles and man-crying can get a little ridiculous are points that can be argued, but on the whole its always a pragmatic and mature look at why we fight wars and how a human race that ideally should be united as one is always thinking up ways of splitting itself up into factions intent on eradicating one another. A young group of Gundam pilots are always in the middle.

The first series I saw was actually brand new at the time; Gundam 00. It went on for two seasons and 50+ episodes, which was a lot of episodes to get to know the enormous cast and all their pasts, relationships, and loyalties; the latter two often in flux. The battles always contained a lot of strategy, and more often than not ended in stalemates rather than outright victory or defeat, with both parties falling back to fight another day, which struck me as a realistic strategy.

Not satisfied with waiting for the next Gundam to come around (Gundam Unicorn, a OVA series that aired one episode a few months back), I delved into an older series, Gundam SEED. While it isn’t widescreen, HD, and nearly as slick-looking as 00, SEED struck me immediately as even better-written, acted, and immersive than the newer series. There are a lot more instances of enemies becoming friends, lovers becoming enemies, then friends again, and alliances being built and crumbling.

SEED also lasted 50 episodes, but was followed by a sequel taking place two years later, which brings us to SEED Destiny, which runs yet another 50 episodes. Unlike long-running shonen series like Naruto and Bleach, there are few if any filler episodes in Gundam SEED: something important happens in every episode that drives the story forward, and there’s very little stalling or pointless exhibition or recaps that make those shonen series unwatchable on a weekly basis.

It’s been a while since I wrapped up SEED, but after nine episodes SEED Destiny feels tighter and better put-together. There are lots of new characters to keep track of, along with the surviving cast from the first season, who all have new roles two years later. I believe because roughly half the cast is already well-established and I am invested in them from all their battles and experiences, Destiny can spend less time on introductions and more time further developing those characters. Another area where Gundam SEED excels is how it treats romantic relationships and sex in a very down-to-earth ,realistic way.

Destiny begins with an uneasy peace, but naturally history repeats itself, and full-scale war is always one incident away from breaking out between the Earth-and-Moon-based Naturals and the Space-based, genetically-enhanced Coordinators. Both sides have racked up their fair share of sins against the other, and a common theme of Gundam is that even if there’s a reasonable explanation for something, and a person (singular) can understand it, reason and logic are not enough to stop the fear and hatred of people (plural) from dominating an issue and shaping history. A stampede, literal or figurative, cannot be stopped with reason or logic. It takes on the properties of a force of nature like a tidal wave, impervious to human control.

And in most cases, the leaders of those people (themselves driven by grudges and perceived injustices) are more than willing to exploit that collective (if misguided) hate for their own ambitions. Yet Gundam doesn’t forget that both sides are still human at the end of the day, and there are minorities on both sides who won’t follow their leaders so blindly over a cliff.

Some from these minorities also happen to pilot Gundams, the most powerful mechas around, affording them at least a little leverage against those tidal waves. If your willing to sit through a million episodes, with occasional bursts into song and/or tears, Gundam SEED/Destiny is, for the most part, fun and entertaining space opera. Rating: 3.5