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Category Archives: Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – Initial Impressions and Reflection

“Many of the dangers we face indeed arise from science and technology – but, more fundamentally, because we have become powerful without becoming commensurately wise. The world-altering powers that technology has delivered into our hands now require a degree of consideration and foresight that has never before been asked of us.” –Carl Sagan

To advance humanity’s ability to colonise space and travel beyond the solar system, the Vanadis Institute built the GUND system, which allows the mind to communicate with machinery. After Vanadis Institute was acquired by Ochs Earth, GUND was utilised to build highly advanced mobile suits known as Gundams. However, the platform places extrem strain on the pilots and in some cases, have even resulted in fatalities. Elnora Samaya is a test pilot for the Lfrith, but has been unable to get the Lfrith operational. When the Mobile Suit Development Council (MSDC) decides to suspend the Gundam programme at leader Delling Rembran’s behest, they deploy special forces to Fólkvangr and kill off the entire staff. Elnora manages to escape with her daughter, and in the process, her daughter activates the Lfrith’s weapons systems and destroys the attacking mobile suits, although her husband, Nadim, dies in the conflict while attempting to buy Elnora andn their daughter time to escape. Twelve years later, Elnora’s daughter, now going by the name Suletta Mercury, enrolls at the Asticassia School of Technology, an institute funded by the Beneritt Group. After encountering Miorine Rembran, Suletta arrives at the academy and learns that here, all matters are settled via duels. When Guel Jeturk, son of Vim, challenges Miorine to a duel, she promptly steals Suletta’s mobile suit, the Aerial. Suletta manages to regain possession of the Aerial and destroys Guel’s mobile suit, although the Aerial’s performance leads the MSDC to suspect that it may be built using GUND technology. Suletta is promptly arrested, and Delling takes an interest in the case. He orders Shin Sei Development Company, who had built the Aerial, to a hearing. Their representative, Lady Prospero, appears and insists the Aerial’s performance stems from utilising drone technology. When Miorine barges in on the proceedings and demands to duel Delling, Vim, who’d also been sitting in on the hearing, comments that the Aerial’s capabilities might be what the Beneritt Group needs. Delling agrees to Miorine’s terms, and Miorine sets off to implore that Suletta must board the Aerial and fight again to save both her enrollment at Asticassia, and the Aerial: Miorine had set the terms of the duel to be such that, if she lost, Delling would be able to do as he wished. With this, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury (The Witch From Mercury from here on out for brevity’s sake) has started. Marking the first time in fifteen years since a Gundam series had caught my eye, The Witch From Mercury represents a unique and new approach to a franchise that’s been around for a shade over four decades.

Gundam series have all dealt with unique topics. Gundam 00 considered the implications of activism and how superior technology can be applied to shake people out of their apathy: the appearance of Celestial Being and their overwhelmingly powerful Gundams would force the world to unite under one banner, and when this unification resulted in the formation of a secret police, the A-Laws, Celestial Being returned to the front lines to correct an unforeseen consequence of their actions to prepare humanity for a hiterto unknown contact with extraterrestrial life. Gundam SEED spoke to the socio-political dangers of genetic engineering, and how warfare is born of resentment for fellow human beings based on their status and abilities. Following the events of Char’s Counterattack, Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative both dealt with forbidden technology, and whether or not possibility outweighs the curse of tapping into a power that is barely understood. Here in The Witch From Mercury, the GUND system and Gundams appear to be in keeping with the recent topics of new technologies, as well as the hazards they present. However, much as how Gundam Unicorn indicated that every negative had a positive (the psychoframe could be used to manifest resilience and resolve as well as fear and anger), The Witch From Mercury aims to argue that all new technologies come with this danger, and that it is the responsibility of those who would develop and use this technology to wield it in a beneficial manner. On top of this, the presence of numerous large corporations in The Witch From Mercury speaks to the problems associated with unregulated capitalism: here, corporations appear to have displaced the government as the main entity with judicial, legislative and executive power. The interplay between corporations and the GUND System in The Witch From Mercury would suggest that the dangers this technology posed is only one of the factors behind why Delling created the Cathedra Agreement: one cannot rule out the possibility that the GUND system was deemed illegal on account of revolutionising humanity’s capabilities for long-term space travel and putting current companies loyal to Delling at risk of being unable to compete, in term harming Delling’s position. From the start of The Witch From Mercury, it becomes clear that, while the setup is quite novel, there remains a very strong story that could be told during The Witch From Mercury‘s run, one that speaks to contemporary issues (such as the ubiquitous nature of smartphones and how they’ve made communications easier, while at the same time, creating a world where discourse is increasingly polarised) in the same way Gundam 00 had been a commentary of the social-political landscape of the War on Terror era and its implications on humanity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I still vividly remember watching the second season of Gundam 00 at this time of year, near Thanksgiving, so being able to watch Witch From Mercury marks the first time I’ve watched a full Gundam series since 2007’s Gundam 00. This year’s Thanksgiving saw yesterday spent on grocery shopping and housework, before a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and stuffing, ham and pineapple, garlic prawns and an asparagus-carrot medley, capped off with a Crème Brûlée, enjoyed under a vivid sunset and golden foliage. What appealed most to me about Gundam 00 had been the implications of introducing a radical new technology to disrupt the status quo, and the consequences that followed. I Here in Witch From Mercury, the GUND System is this technology. From what the prologue provides to viewers, it’s a system for controlling prosthetics produced from Permet, an exotic metal.

  • The Vanadis Institute is researching applications of the GUND System and produces mobile suits known as GUND-Arm. These mobile suits are extraordinarily powerful by forming a neural link with the pilot, but the connection also places considerable strain on the pilot.  While the Mercury family celebrates Suletta’s birthday, a special forces team (analogous to ECOAS) infiltrates the Vanadis Institue at Fólkvangr after the Mobile Suit Development Council deemed the GUND System unethical for resulting in deaths of those who would operate it. The technology appears to have taken some inspiration from the psycho-frame in the Universal Century, which similarly converted thoughts into physical energy but, being a highly experimental technology, was also exceptionally dangerous and difficult to control.

  • Gundam series are fond of drawing on their predecessors for inspiration, and long-time Gundam fans will spot callbacks to earlier series. The Witch From Mercury continues on with the Universal Century’s themes of utilising novel technologies and their inherent dangers. These themes are nothing new in science fiction, and Gundam series tend to be ambivalent about said technology; while they are not without benefits, depending on how they are applied, they can be quite deleterious. The Witch From Mercury shows the consequences of pushing forward with the GUND System: pilots are pushed to their limits.

  • While Gundam 00 made it clear that it was Celestial Being versus the Union, AEU and HRL at the onset, it seems that The Witch From Mercury is going to be a little more complex; this universe is still divided into Earthnoids (“Earthians” from here on out) and Spacenoids (“Spacians” from here on out), but there doesn’t appear to be a massive war between the two sides. Instead, the universe is set up so that there’s multiple large corporations that are self-regulated by the Mobile Suit Development Council (MSDC). This universe’s emphasis on corporations suggests that capitalism, and the folly in the blind pursuit of profits, will be a central part of The Witch From Mercury. Here, Delling Rembran gives a speech about the importance of how weapons should not take their operator’s lives, and it is on these grounds that Vanadis Institute’s GUND System research is to be halted.

  • To this end, the MSDC have deployed a strike team to neutralise Vanadis Institute and its assets. Suletta’s father sorties in a prototype mobile suit, the XGF-01 Lfrith, to fend off the Grassley Company’s Heingras. While successful, the Lfrith has more trouble against the CEK-040 Beguir-Beu, a custom machine with a GUND System Jammer. Suletta’s father is taken out of the fight by a Beguir-Beu, while MSDC forces spread out in the facility and take out Vanadis Institute’s staff. So far, as we’re still early in The Witch From Mercury, specific performance and handling traits surrounding the series’ mobile suits are not known. In previous Gundam series, I would use mechanic information to see how mass production suits would fare against Gundams, but even without this information, it should be clear that Gundam-types always tend to have the upper hand early on in a series.

  • The lead researcher at Vanadis Institute, Cardo Nabo, had been a major supporter of the GUND System research, and here, she’s surrounded by hostile special forces unit. She refuses to back down and is ultimately executed. The manner in which the MSDC conduct things in The Witch From Mercury is deliberately meant to signify how corporations in this universe have become powerful enough to control aspects of society as tightly as a government might, and one might reason that allowing corporations to have this level of influence is plainly detrimental and it would be interesting to see if down the road, The Witch From Mercury will touch on topics like the tyranny of corporate governance and how when misused, it can be used to favour companies with certain agendas over ethical and sustainable practises. By arbitrary shutting down Vanadis Institute, Delling demonstrates the sorts of abuses that may occur if corporate governance is self-regulated.

  • Suletta’s mother had been working on the systems to the XGF-02 Lfrith, which possesses a GUND-Bit system. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen a starting Gundam to come with remote weapons: in the Universal Century, Amuro Ray’s RX-78 II was only equipped with a beam rifle and beam sabres (it wasn’t until the RX-93 ν Gundam came that Amuro gained access to Fin Funnels), while in Cosmic Era, the GAT-X105 Strike Gundam similarly lacked remote weapons, and Kira only piloted a mobile suit with the DRAGOONs by the events of Gundam SEED Destiny, and likewise, Setsuna F. Seiei’s Exia and 00 Raiser was not equipped with Fangs (Setsuna gains access to the 00 Qan[T] and its Sword Bits by the events of Awakening of the Trailblazer)

  • Previously, funnels appeared much later in Gundam series as the technology improved. That the Lfrith features an advanced bit control system is therefore meant to show the sophistication in the technology that Vanadis Institute had developed in conjunction with the Ochs Earth Corporation, which was responsible for constructing the Gundams. At a young age, Suletta had synchronised with one of the Lfriths, and although she doesn’t know it yet, she’s able to act as a conduit for the Lfrith’s remote weapons. When her father comes under fire, she unconsciously uses the bits to disable the mobile suits attacking her father’s Lfrith prototype, but he perishes anyways.

  • Twelve years later, Suletta has become a student who’s been admitted to the Asticassia School of Technology. On her first day, she spots someone floating in space and decides to rescue them. The moment brings her into a meeting with Miorine Rembran, daughter of Delling Rembran, and the manner in which Suletta uses her current Gundam, the Aerial, was quite reminiscent of how Banagher Links retrieved Mineva during the events of Gundam Unicorn‘s fifth episode. Curiously enough, I’ve not heard any viewers mention this, or any of the elements from earlier Gundam works that have made their way into The Witch From Mercury.

  • Anime fans have universally indicated that The Witch From Mercury is technically a successor to Revolutionary Girl Utena, a series that began life as a manga in 1996 and received an anime adaptation a year later, on the grounds that Ichirō Ōkouchi wrote the story to The Witch From Mercury. Back in 1998, Ōkouchi had written two novels for Revolutionary Girl Utena, but in addition to this, Ōkouchi has also written the story for Code Geass. Consequently, I am wondering where the Utena pieces comes in: Ōkouchi might have a few callbacks to Utena here and there, but at its heart, The Witch of Mercury is a Gundam series.

  • As such, I will be drawing upon related Gundam moments to discuss my impressions of things here in The Witch From Mercury and remark that, even if I have no background in Utena, I still expect to be able to keep up with The Witch of Mercury without any difficulty. Here, the various corporations’ higher ups discuss their earnings, and one of the companies, Parneo has reported losses for three straight quarters. As a result of this, Delling moves to ejected Parneo from the Benerit Group. In recent years, corporate greed has become an increasingly noticeable problems: for instance, players of games have found that of late, games are shipping as shoddy products with an excessive microtransaction emphasis.

  • Compared to previous Gundam pilots, Suletta has no equivalent: she’s shy and has weaker social skills, but possesses a modicum of skill with her Gundam. After it turned out that Miorine didn’t want saving and had been trying to escape, things between Suletta and Miorine become quite awkward. Gundam is no stranger to pushing adolescents into the cockpit of an extraordinary machine, but in previous series, wars have been so disruptive that youth are forced to fight. The fact that Suletta is able to attend a school where mobile suit piloting is part of the curriculum therefore speaks to the differences in this universe.

  • Admittedly, it is pleasant to see a Gundam universe where the conflict isn’t brewing because of grudges born of past atrocities. The Universal Century and Cosmic Era had already covered those topics (and done so well), so it makes for a novel experience to see how mobile suits, and Gundams, can be used in different contexts. The idea of mobile suits being used to settle personal disputes is far removed from what I’d previously seen, and it emphasises that this universe has a unique set of rules and customs. Of course, the last time I saw an anime where military hardware was utilised so casually, it would’ve been Infinite Stratos.

  • Infinite Stratos‘ failure was that it overemphasised Ichika’s relationships, so here in The Witch From Mercury, using a similar setup and dispensing with the poorly-written romance could provide a chance to show how such worlds operate: as conflicts and strife escalate, I imagine that the characters will no longer be able to maintain their everyday lives as students and step up to face whatever challenges face them. Here, Guel Jeturk prepares to square off against Miorine after the latter refuses to marry him: he’s a skilled pilot, but has the arrogance and temper to match. As it is early in the game, I’m tempted to say that Guel will probably fulfil a role similar to Top Gun: Maverick‘s Jake “Hangman” Seresin.

  • While Suletta is normally hesitant, she becomes much more assertive and pushes Miorine away from the cockpit: as a child, Suletta was told that the Gundam was like another part of the family, and Suletta’s taken this to heart, even twelve years later. Although perhaps in a different way, Setsuna F. Seiei regards his Gundams the same way, becoming visibly enraged when enemy pilots suggest taking back a piece of his machine or replacing him as a pilot. This aspect of being a Gundam pilot is quite understandable: Setsuna felt he was entrusted to act as the Exia’s operator and comes to view his machine as a part of himself. Gundam SEED Destiny similarly had Kira feeling down after the Freedom was destroyed.

  • The reason why Suletta and her peers are more likely to be in a sympathetic position is because Gundam‘s choice of featuring younger pilots in lead roles is meant to parallel the fact that youth represent the future, whereas older characters would be more conservative and therefore, more resilient to change. Without any major conflicts at this point in time, I am especially curious as to how things will unfold in The Witch From Mercury, and for the present, one of the challenges I face will be learning all of the characters’ names.

  • When Suletta takes over from Miorine, she’s able to utilise the Aerial’s capabilities completely: the Aerial is able to cast off armour parts and utilise them as funnels, bringing to mind a more refined version of 00 Qan[T]’s Quantum Burst mode. Unlike 00 Qan[T], which simply discarded its outer armour, the armour on the Aerial has thrusters and beam rifles built in. As this occurs, the Aerial’s exposed frame glows red, similarly to the Unicorn when its NT-D was activated. The similarities between the GUND System and the psychoframe becomes more pronounced here, and despite Guel’s prowess as a duelist, the Aerial’s funnels promptly waste him.

  • Having seen the Aerial in a combat situation now, I’m curious to see how this Gundam stacks up against lead machines from other series. The GUND System gives it an edge over other mobile suits here in The Witch From Mercury, but because previous starting lead machines all have their constraints (the RX-78 II’s beam rifle had a limited capacity, the Strike has an operational time capped by its battery, and the Exia’s poorly equipped for longer-range operations) to parallel the pilots’ need to grow into their role as Gundam pilot, I am curious to see how Suletta’s abilities will grow over time, and in turn, whether this shows its limitations as a Gundam or unlocks more of the Aerial’s potential (as Banagher had with the Unicorn).

  • In duel’s aftermath, Miorine states that by law, Suletta must become her partner, to the latter’s shock. I will note here that traditionally, I do not place much emphasis on romance in Gundam series: between the mobile suit mechanics and social-political aspects, Gundam series offer a lot to talk about. With this being said, in the past, I have been branded a heretic because yuri and yaoi topics are things I don’t spend a great deal of time on in my discussions; my counterargument is that I see no reason to focus extensively on romantic relationships in an anime unless romance is a key part of the theme.

  • The Aerial’s performance is immediately suspected to be the result of using prohibited technology, and Suletta is detained, pending expulsion, while the Aerial is immediately slated to be dismantled. In the twelve years since the prolog’s events, GUND System technology was banned, and while Delling had done so under the pretense of ethics, one immediately gets the feeling that the GUND System threatened the status quo he and other business leaders were accustomed to. This stands sharply in contrast with concerns raised over the Psycoframe technology in the Universal Century: research and development on Psychoframes had been stopped because the technology resulted in uncontrollable phenomenon manifesting.

  • One aspect of The Witch From Mercury that was especially impressive is the soundtrack: Gundam music has always been excellent, and I’ve immensely enjoyed the incidental music for Gundam 00Gundam SEED and Gundam Unicorn. Here in The Witch From Mercury, the music has cues from Gravity. The choral elements has a very powerful and visceral tenour about it, and this stylistic approach is one I associate with life. Through the music, it does appear as though The Witch From Mercury is speaking to the significance of life and what it means to be alive. Miorine’s love of botany might be seen as another hint to these ideas: she’s especially proud of the tomatoes that she grows, and that she gives one to Suletta may foreshadow the deeper connection that the pair will share later down the line.

  • Here, Nika shares lunch with Chuatury and another Earthian. Discrimination and mutual dislike between the Earthians and Spacians is present in The Witch From Mercury, manifesting in what psychiatrist Chester Pierce characterises as micro-aggressions, which refers to actions that casually degrade certain social groups. Spacians see themselves as superior, and Earthians resent them for their attitudes as a result: Chuatury is especially vocal about this, but Nika is more composed and willing to overlook the Spacian’s actions. I have read that the term micro-aggression has been misappropriated and creates a culture of victimhood, in which every perceived slight is misinterpreted as a personal attack, and some experts are critical of the concept, suggesting that is is insufficient to merely recognising when something’s happened, but rather, one must identify how to address such behaviours.

  • The sharp contrast between the lives of students and the larger corporate quagmire surrounding this series is a point of interest in The Witch From Mercury: elements aren’t just introduced into stories for the sake of being introduced, and where The Witch From Mercury is concerned, excitement stems from seeing how all of the pieces come together. The politics and mechanics are what I enjoy Gundam most for, and there isn’t a right or wrong way of watching a given franchise. People can focus on any aspect they wish to and will likely still derive meaning from what happens.

  • After reprimanding Guel for losing a duel despite possessing a top-of-the-line mobile suit, Vim turns his attention to the matter at hand: Shin Sei Development Company’s representative. I have noticed that parental figures in Gundam aren’t exactly the most warm or inspiring, further accentuating the themes of how the future tends to be driven  by youth, and how the experience youth possess will impact how they come to handle problems in ways the adults do not think of. Gundam portrays this in a positive manner, and I’ve found that, so long as youth are pursuing something of their own accord, without interference, they will tend to find their footing, whereas those whose causes are corrupted by shadowy influences will lose their way.

  • Twelve years after Delling shut down the Gundam programme and implemented the Cathedra Agreement to prohibit the use of GUND System technology, Shin Sei Development Company appears to provide a suit with Gundam-like traits. One of their representatives, Lady Prospera, appears to a hearing, and Prospera acts as The Witch From Mercury‘s masked character. Her explanation is that work conditions cost her her face. Masked characters are a staple in Gundam, originating from Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Char Aznable, and traditionally, all masked characters have been ferocious pilots.

  • Elan Ceres ends up visiting Suletta while she’s confined and delivers her a meal. Elan is also a skilled pilot with Peil Technologies, and while he’s emotionally distant and reserved, he takes an interest to Suletta and her Gundam. Because we’re still early in the game, I am having a shade of difficulty keeping track of characters beyond Suletta, Miorine, Guel, and Delling, but typically, as I continue to watch a series, I will become more familiar with the characters. The Witch From Mercury establishes Nika, Chuatury and Elan as potential allies to keep an eye on, and because Suletta seems to be a novice with some things, she could do with a few friends in her corner as she learns the ropes and comes to understand what she’s fighting for.

  • The definition of what makes a Gundam is unique to a timeline, and here in The Witch From Mercury, a Gundam appears to be any mobile suit equipped with the GUND System. Curiously enough, the back and forth between Prospero and the MSDC reminded me of a similar scene in The Dropout, when John Carreyou faced down David Boies about Theranos’ non-existent technology and ended up gleaning the fact that Theranos operated their tests on concealed Siemens machines. Here, Prospero manages to smoothly handle the MSDC’s questions and eventually creates doubt amongst some of the corporation’s members. Watching Prospero denying that the Aerial is a Gundam was quite amusing: she argues that the Aerial uses drone technology that is being developed to improve mining processes, and since the Beneritt Group is in need of something to change their fortunes, Vim takes an interest in what Prospero has to say.

  • The second episode proper, third overall, concludes with Miorine barging into the council chambers and demanding to duel Delling (if she wins, Delling must stand down and accept Suletta, but if she loses, then she will agree to whatever terms he has), before retrieving Suletta and giving her an update. Since the Aerial appears to hold the key to driving things forward, the next battle’s outcome is preordained. However, as with any anime, what I’m most excited to see is where The Witch From Mercury ends up. Over the past three episodes, I’ve only covered a small amount of the thoughts I’ve had about things so far, and here, I will remark that with Gundam series, it’s actually quite difficult to be a fair judge of events and characters based on what’s seen so far. I therefore will be writing about this series again once it has hit its halfway point, and then again when it has concluded: having more episodes will afford me with a better perspective on what The Witch of Mercury does well, and what messages it has that allows it to stand out from its predecessors.

Aside from the story, the other aspect in The Witch From Mercury I am looking forwards to seeing is the mobile suit combat. Having entered the Gundam universe through Gundam 00, which marked the first time Gundam was broadcast in HD, my standards for mobile suit combat has been set by the fluid and dynamic clashes between mobile suits and fleets. Battles in Gundam 00 were tense, high-paced and detailed, making use of unique footage to ensure that every battle was visually distinct. In this way, Gundam 00 would come to set the bar for what I’ve come to expect when mobile suits challenge one another in combat. Gundam Unicorn would raise the bar further: Universal Century mobile suits are significantly heavier than their Anno Domini counterparts, and this additional mass is shown in battles, as suits must constantly make course adjustments, and deliver heavy strikes in order to deal damage. The mobile suits of The Witch From Mercury appear more sophisticated than their counterparts in Anno Domini and the Universal Century, being as commonplace as those of the Cosmic Era, and the battles seen so far indicate that mobile suits are not a new technology. They fly smoothly, fight fluidly and resemble a mature technology rather than a concept in development, so to this end, it is clear that, with more mobile suits present in The Witch From Mercury, to the point where they are used among youth and adults alike to settle disputes, there will be plenty of opportunity to see how The Witch From Mercury presents its incarnation of the Gundam universe’s most iconic weapons of war. Animation technology and techniques have doubtlessly advanced in the fifteen years since I first watched Gundam 00, so beyond telling me a compelling narrative with a meaningful theme, the scale and scope of mobile suit combat in The Witch From Mercury is also going to be something I’m keeping an eye on. Beyond these two elements, I am very open-minded to the directions this latest iteration of Gundam is taking: so long as Suletta’s journey is tied to speaking about how technology and people can be reconciled, alongside how a healthy dose of youthful idealism might set in motion improvements in an aging system is presented, and well-animated mobile suit combat, I anticipate finding enjoyment in The Witch From Mercury to the same extent that I had fifteen years earlier, when I was marvelling at Celestial Being’s brutal intervention at Ceylon and the change their actions would subsequently bring to the Anno Domini world.


Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island, A Review and Reflection and Remarks on Human Faces Amidst Warfare

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” –G.K. Chesterton

Following the battle at Jaburo, the Federation prepare to capture Odessa, a Zeon stronghold. After arriving in Belfast, Amuro and White Base resupply before receiving unexpected orders to eliminate Zeon forces stationed at Alegranza, a remote island, after Federation forces sent there were wiped out. When Amuro arrives with Kai Shinden and Hayato Kobayashi, they are shocked to learn that there are children on the island, and moreover, rather than Zeon forces, Amuro encounters a lone Zaku that overcomes him in combat. After coming to, Amuro meets the Zaku’s pilot, a man named Cucuruz Doan, and sets off in search of the Gundam, which he’d lost during the encounter. Although he is unable to find the Gundam, Amuro finds that the islanders, many of them children, live a life of moral simplicity, working with one another to maintain the island’s infrastructure and their very means of survival. Meanwhile, after an overwhelming performance at Casablanca, Zeon’s Southern Cross team is assigned to assist with an operation – Zeon General M’Quve begins negotiations with the Federation’s General Gopp as a ruse for his plan to decimate critical Federation cities using a hidden MIRV. As it turns out, Zeon had placed a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile there as an ace-in-the-hole, but find themselves unable to utilise it because of communications jamming. Thus, the Southern Cross are assigned to investigate Alegranza and determine if there’s a saboteur there. As Amuro’s gone missing, Bright Noa quietly orders a search team sent out to search for Amuro even as the Federation begin preparing for their attack on Gibraltar, delaying their launch to give his team a chance to find Amuro. Amuro himself comes to understand Cucuruz and impresses him when he is able to help fix a broken water main. While searching for his Gundam, Amuro learns that Marco, one of the oldest boys on the island, also wants to help Cucuruz fight. Surprised that Amuro made it to Cucuruz’s workspace, Marco and Amuro briefly engage in fisticuffs. Cucuruz sends both back, forbidding them from going further. It turns out that Cucuruz had once been a formidable pilot, but deserted Zeon after being ordered to fire upon children during a battle. When another storm hits Alegranza, Amuro repairs power to the generator, giving the children light for the first time in a while. He also reactivates the lighthouse, impressing Marco. The power confirms to White Base’s search party that the island is inhabited, but it also eliminates any doubt in the Southern Cross’ mind that Cucuruz is on the island. They begin their operation to launch the ballistic missile; Danan, Selma and Egba engage Cucuruz with their custom Zakus, while Wald and Sanho infiltrate Cucuruz’s silo and manually prepare the missile for launch. While they are successful, Amuro manages to retrieve his Gundam with help from Marco. He eliminates both Wald and Sanho before stepping in to fight Egba, who’d disarmed Cucuruz. Recalling how Cucuruz had defeated him, Amuro uses island’s geography to surprise Egba before finishing him off. In the aftermath, the missile launches, but its payload detonates harmlessly in the atmosphere – Cucuruz had been successful in sabotaging the missiles. M’Quve laughs off their failure to destroy key Federation cities, and Amuro reunites with Fraw Bow, as well as the others on White Base. He realises that so long as Cucuruz keeps the Zaku, trouble will continue to find him, and offers to discard the Zaku. Cucuruz consents, and the two group part ways on amicable terms, with the islanders hope that they can preserve peace in their home the same way Amuro and Cucuruz do.

Cucuruz Doan’s Island is the latest Gundam instalment, returning to the Universal Century’s One Year War and Amuro’s journey in fighting for what he believes is right. However, at this point in his career, Amuro is still very much a novice pilot unfamiliar with the horrors and demands of warfare; he only pilots the Gundam reluctantly, and Bright Noa expresses as much, stating that he’s only as strict as he is with Amuro in order to remind him of the importance of doing his duty to protect those around him. When Amuro is defeated and meets Cucuruz, Cucuruz’s words to Amuro are simple: he fights to protect those on his island as a means of atoning for the sins he committed on the battlefield. By having Amuro meet someone whose actions are motivated by nothing more than a desire to defend life, Amuro comes to realise that Cucuruz wasn’t so much fighting to kill those who were on the other side, as much as he was trying to keep the islanders safe from whatever conflicts the outside world might bring with them. The reason why Cucuruz spared Amuro was because he recognised the machine that, even at this point in the war, developed a fearsome reputation for mangling Zeon forces despite its pilot’s inexperience. Meeting Amuro and hearing him out allows Cucuruz to similarly realise that warfare only results in bloodshed. While Gundam series are best known for their mobile suit combat scenes, exploring the human stories for both Federation and Zeon characters alike is meaningful because it shows how wasteful warfare is, and how where given the choice, rational individuals would very much prefer to live their lives peacefully, free of armed conflict. In every Gundam series, conflicts are motivated by a combination of ideology, greed and a lust for destruction perpetrated by those who are in power and have every reason to cling onto this power. Through their perverse desire, corrupt politicians and military leaders manipulate soldiers into dying, often needlessly; when soldiers are freed from their obligations and given a chance to see their opponents’ faces, to talk things out, they often find that they are more alike than different. This is precisely what happens in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, and although it represents only one detour in Amuro’s journey, understanding Cururuz helps Amuro to become a more resolute pilot. While he still values human life and only reluctantly pulls the trigger, Amuro understands that there are circumstances that demand he act decisively. These learnings allow Amuro to help stop the Southern Cross from escaping and potentially giving his allies further trouble, and ultimately would impact how he fights his counterpart and arch-rival, Char Aznable, as the One Year War rages on.

Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a fantastic addition to the Universal Century for showing one step in Amuro’s growth. In addition to this, it also brings to light a side of Gundam that is rarely seen – even somewhere as grim as the Universal Century, there can be humour, as well. Bright Noa arranges for a series of phoney delays to give White Base the justification they need to stick around and look for Amuro while Mirai suppresses her laughter. When Sleggar Law attempts to convince Sayla to operate the Core Booster, he words things in such a way as to earn himself a slap to the face. Upon arriving on Alegranza, Kai and Hayato manage to escape their damaged Guncannons, and for their troubles, are rammed by a rampaging goat. The presence of children do much to to lighten the mood in Cucuruz Doan’s Island: a war might be raging, but the combatants and civilians alike are still human, able to experience both sorrow and joy. Seeing the characters smile and laugh gives additional weight to Amuro’s fight. Amuro is defending the children’s smiles the same way Cucuruz was defending Alegranza’s residents. Humour is a fantastic element to employ because it humanises the characters and gives weight to their goals. Jun Maeda is no stranger to this approach, and although people attribute his stories’ emotional impact to over-written scenarios, the reality is that Maeda gives characters a chance to see what individuals are like before tragedy strikes. Here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, the approach taken is unlikely to satisfy individuals who believe that grim, dark tones equate to realism, and that tragedy corresponds to maturity. However, to suppose that only suffering can create meaningful context for growth would be to eliminate an entire aspect of one’s being. Here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, Amuro’s growth is precisely driven by the fact that viewers have a chance to see what peace brings to people, and why it’s worth defending. By giving viewers a chance to laugh at Kai’s antics, or the daily lives of the children on Alegranza, a juxtaposition is created between the atrocities both the Earth Federation and Zeon governments are willing to commit in order to achieve their supremacy, and the everyday lives of both Earth Federation and Zeon citizens would rather live.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open this post with the combat between Cucuruz and an unnamed Federation pilot running a GM. The RGM-79 GM is the earliest mass production Federation model, being a cut-down RX-78 II with superior acceleration and the ability to equip various weapons – its design and role would later inspire Gundam SEED‘s GAT-01 Strike Dagger, which was similarly a cut-down Strike Gundam designed for mass production. Although the GM is made cannon fodder in Gundam and slaughtered en mass by named pilots, the design paradigms follow closely how real-life prototypes enter mass production. In Cucuruz Doan’s Island, the film opens with a group of GMs attempting to fend off Cucuruz’s Zaku. Before delving further into this discussion, I note that Cucuruz Doan’s Island premièred on June 2 in Japanese theatres, but the BDs became available shortly after for overseas viewers to check out. Unlike other publishers, Sunrise understands that a short release delay is the best way to maintain interest in a series and drive sales. Other studios (especially CoMix Wave and Showgate) could take a leaf from Sunrise’s book – rather than waiting eleven months to release BDs, strive to release them within a few weeks of the theatrical opening date.

  • Although the original Zaku is technically inferior to a GM in terms of durability and firepower (a single shot from the beam spray gun would be enough to neutralise the Zaku), Cururuz is an uncommonly talented pilot, and despite lacking any ranged weapons, makes use of his heat hawk to completely destroy the GM team, as well as their landing craft. The loss of forces that stumble upon Alegranza is what prompts the events of Cucuruz Doan’s Island: Federation forces become convinced that Zeon remnant forces occupy the otherwise uninhabited island and therefore, may pose a threat to their operation.

  • At this point in his career, Bright Noa is a junior lieutenant, although after an attack on White Base kills much of the original crew, Bright becomes the de facto captain of the ship. Bright would subsequently go on to bring the White Base to Luna II while evading Zeon forces, before crash-landing on Earth and attempting to reach allied territory. The elements of the original Mobile Suit Gundam eventually make their way over to Gundam SEED, with the Archangel, Murrue Ramius and Kira Yamato replacing White Base, Bright Noa and Amuro Ray, respectively.

  • Bright presents himself as a strict leader who does his utmost to rally those around him, and believes in discipline. This is how he’s able to maintain order and a command hierarchy amongst the civilians that have boarded White Base; besides Amuro, Fraw Bow, Kai Shinden and Hayato Kobayashi also join White Base’s crew. In The Origin, Kai Shinden and his friends are portrayed as minor delinquents who get into hot water with authority figures owing to their curiosity and disregard for rules, but when the events at Side Seven force them into combat, Amuro and his friends, however reluctantly, do become an integral part of the Federation effort to repel the Zeon forces.

  • Mirai Yashima was previously seen as a helmsman of sorts in Gundam Origin and becomes White Base’s helmsman, as well – she offers advice to Bright where appropriate and is seen guiding him whenever he doubts his own leadership; being astute and driven to improve, Bright often reflects on the way he does things. Here, he wonders if he’s being too strict on Amuro and the others. From an external point of view, Bright is doing precisely the right thing. I recall a similar conversation in Tom Clancy’s Locked On, where John Clark reminds Jack Ryan Jr. that chains of command exist so soldiers act cohesively under stress, but he understands how can be difficult for civilians to get used to this fact.

  • Bright’s orders are simple enough: his higher-ups order him to send out a reconnaissance team to investigate Alegranza, and to this end, the Gundam, plus two Guncannons, are sent out. The island appears uninhabited, until children suddenly appear and begin throwing rocks at Kai’s Guncannon. The presence of children on Alegranza foreshadow what Cucuruz Doan’s Island deals with, and meanwhile, Amuro himself wonders at what awaits them on an island that’s a little too quiet. The designs of the cockpits in Cucuruz Doan’s Island and The Origin speak volumes to how quickly mobile suits advance. Here in UC 0079, cockpits use flat-panel monitors and analogue controls, but by the events of UC 0093, cockpits are immensely sophisticated and provide a full 360° panorama.

  • When The Origin concluded back in July 2018, I was a little disappointed that the series hadn’t given viewers a cameo appearance of the RX-78 II, which had been shown to be in development as being the answer for Zeon’s Zaku mobile suits. The Origin did give viewers a glimpse of Bright Noa and White Base as they set off on their first assignment to retrieve the RX-78 II, and overall, when I finished The Origin, I was immensely satisfied. The Origin began back when I was in graduate school, and originally, I’d figured that it would finish similarly by the time I was graduating; the third episode aired a month before my defense, and the fourth episode was scheduled close to my convocation.

  • However, the producers determined that more episodes were needed to adequately present the story. Two new episodes were added to the line-up, greatly expanding things and also giving The Origin a chance to showcase the large-scale battles between Zeon and the Federation. Here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, viewers get their first look at the completed RX-78 II, a revolutionary mobile suit that uses mega-particles to drive its weapons system, giving it exceptional firepower. Amuro is prevented from using his beam rifle at close quarters, which is capable of destroying any mobile suit of its time with a single shot, and when facing off against Cururuz’s Zaku, he is forced to switch over to his beam sabres.

  • Pushed against the cliff, Amuro attempts to attack, only for the ground to give way. He tumbles into the ocean and is knocked unconscious, but later reawakens in a small hut and is surprised to learn that the door isn’t locked. The islanders look at him with hostility – it turns out that the children on the island were orphaned by the One Year War and dislike soldiers for failing to protect the people. Cururuz does nothing to stop Amuro from leaving, knowing the island’s harsh conditions will soon result in Amuro returning to them.

  • Since he’d had a rough idea of where the Gundam had fallen, Amuro attempts to trek across the five kilometre wide island on his own. He ends up at a massive crater in the island and is forced to turn back as both night and exhaustion sets in. Early on, it was clear that Amuro would not find the Gundam this quickly: had he simply located it, he likely would’ve left and rejoined White Base as they prepared for the operation at Odessa. This wouldn’t allow Amuro to see the One Year War from a different perspective, which is the crux of Cucuruz Doan’s Island‘s story.

  • Knowing that Amuro would be struggling in the island’s desolate landscape, Cururuz sends Cara out to look for him, and she is shocked to learn that Amuro had made it all the way to the crater. He gratefully accepts the water she’s brought, along with her invitation to dinner. In his position, Amuro quickly realises that he must make his way back to White Base, without the Gundam, things will become trickier. His heart never strays from locating his machine, but for now, Amuro also spots that he’s probably going to be here for a while.

  • The children on the island initially do not take kindly to Amuro’s presence. As an outsider and a soldier, Amuro is seen as being a threat and unaccustomed to the way Cururuz does things. However, Amuro appears to show no objection to Cururuz’s suggestion that he’ll need to earn his keep on the island, much as the others do. While the island life would deviate from what Amuro is used to, spending time in the armed forces, under Bright’s eye slowly begins imparting a shift in him, too; Amuro becomes acclimatised to doing what he’s told and living a spartan life.

  • I would imagine that landing on the island and doing what he can to survive reinforces what Bright had been trying to show Amuro; although Bright had been vehemently opposed to Amuro piloting the Gundam early on, he quickly spots that Amuro has a natural affinity for the machine and is the only one capable of using it to keep the Zeon forces off their back. Thus, when Amuro refuses to pilot the Gundam and evade his responsibility in Mobile Suit Gundam, Bright motivates him in one of Gundam‘s most iconic moments with the now-legendary Bright Slap.

  • That Cururuz Doan’s Island brings this moment back (in flashback) with modernised visuals would represent a welcoming call-back to the original series. The moment is referenced in numerous other series – Amuro’s “not even my own father hit me” is as well recognised as the Bright Slap itself, and as a curious bit of trivia, Amuro’s voice actor, Tōru Furuya, similarly was struck by author Yoshiyuki Tomino after Tomino became displeased with the recording sessions’ progress. Tomino then told Furuya that all of the shock and indignation he’d felt there was how Amuro would be feeling, which in turn became Furuya’s now-famous delivery of those lines in Mobile Suit Gundam.

  • Upon learning that Amuro might’ve been shot down, Bright struggles to do what he believes is right (delaying departure and rescuing Amuro), and following orders from the top. Bright is in an unenviable position; although there is a war to fight, the Gundam has become a significant asset in their arsenal and, together with White Base’s cutting edge equipment, has been the reason why a novice crew has been able to give Zeon forces so much trouble. As Bright contemplates following orders, Fraw Bow loses composure and breaks out in tears at the though of losing Amuro.

  • Meanwhile, M’Quve and Gopp enter negotiations about Gibraltar: M’Quve wishes for the Federation to hold off on their operation and indicates they have an ace-in-the-hole in event of the Federation’s refusal to comply. Gopp appears unconcerned with M’Quve’s threats, but M’Quve is confident in his ability to make good on his promises should the invasion proceed. At this point in time, the Antarctic Treaty prevents both Zeon and Federation forces from resorting to weapons of mass destruction, but M’Quve indicates that Zeon isn’t particularly respectful of their terms. Although prima facie giving Zeon a massive advantage, Zeon actually had limited resources to wage war long-term, and this would buy enough time for the Federation to rebuild their forces, including the development of their own mobile suits.

  • M’Quve’s plan is contingent on something stored on Alegranza, and whatever this is is important enough to warrant withdrawing the elite Southern Cross team. With their high mobility Zakus (which would inspire the high mobility Tieren in Gundam 00), the Southern Cross are able to turn the entire tide of a battle on their own. At Casablanca, they rescue a detachment of Zeon forces that were slowly being overrun by Federation forces: high mobility Zakus are equipped with thrusters on their legs that allow them to hover and move with a far greater speed than standard Zakus.

  • Each of the Southern Cross’ Zakus utilise a loadout suited to the pilot’s preferences, and here, one of the members fires an anti-materiel rifle against a Federation GM, blowing its head unit apart with a single well-placed shot. The team’s members only nominally get along with one another, but in the battlefield, their coordination and teamwork are sufficient to overwhelm the comparatively disorganised Federation GMs. GMs have the unfortunate distinction of being easily destroyed, and in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, their simplistic design belie the fact that they’re still sophisticated machines meant to act as the Federation’s answer for the Zaku.

  • The disparity in machines appears to be the fact that, while Zakus are technically inferior to GMs, Zeon possesses better pilots – The Origin shows that Zeon’s mobile suit program has existed for longer than the Federations, giving them additional time to train pilots. While the Federation’s Gundam and the GM derivatives are excellent machines, their pilots are significantly less familiar with them, nullifying any technical advantage the GMs possess. Mobile suit combat in Cucuruz Doan’s Island might not be as frequent as one might expect, but this is in keeping with the film’s themes, and moreover, what combat sequences that are shown are wonderfully animated, really showing the weight and scale of each engagement between individual pilots.

  • The lack of mobile suit combat in Cucuruz Doan’s Island was a point of contention for Anime News Network, who suggested that the Southern Cross are “shallow filler” and the film as a whole was “[lacking] of variety in the action”. As previously noted, the emphasis on the human side of things in Cucuruz Doan’s Island means that more time is spent on Amuro interacting with Cucuruz and the islanders. The Southern Cross are therefore less of a foe than Amuro’s own doubts; while he was knocked out, Amuro dreams uneasily of his own mother rejecting his decision to take up arms, and Amuro himself is torn between using force to defend those important to him.

  • As such, it is plain that Anime News Network’s expectations of Gundam clearly differ than my own, and I’ll remark that folks looking for intense mobile suit combat set in the Universal Century won’t be disappointed by works like Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt. Back in Cururuz Doan’s Island, Cururuz is seen working on the schematics to what appears to be an MIRV, but there is never any doubt in the viewers’ minds that he’s no sleeper operative; in a flashback, Cururuz refuses to fire on civilians, and this is what led him to desert. When Amuro sets off to try and find his Gundam, Cururuz lends him his hat and canteen – he knows that Amuro can’t stay on the island forever.

  • Back on White Base, the children have barricaded themselves in the bathroom and refuse to come out until the crew promise to rescue Amuro. Although there is little Bright can openly do about things, he clandestinely authorises a search and rescue mission. Sleggar Law, an ace pilot, decides to help out, and after managing to convince the children to come back out, organises the search team. Sleggar forms the basis for Gundam SEED‘s Mu La Flaga: both are amicable and exceptionally skilled pilots, but also have a tendency to flirt with the ladies. When Sleggar explains his plan to Sayla here, he earns himself admonishment to the face.

  • In the end, Sleggar is able to convince Sayla to operate the Core Booster, although Kai and Hayato are exasperated that Sleggar used such a means to accomplish his goal. Moments like these quickly indicated to me that Cucuruz Doan’s Island was going to incorporate humour together with the more serious moments, and while this seems out of place in Gundam, it is effective because it reminds viewers that behind every machine is a human being. Later Gundam series are all-business; there are some moments that may elicit a chuckle here and there, but on the whole, comedy is not something Gundam is known for. Thus, in an episode about the human aspects of warfare, it is appropriate to give the viewers a few more laughs.

  • Amuro reaches the end of the island, and upon finding the spot where there are mobile suit footprints, he realises that his Gundam must’ve fallen into the ocean. He turns back, defeated, and soon, finds that the islanders have encountered a new problem: despite a massive rainfall, they’re out of fresh water. Cucuruz and Marco are heading off to fix things, and without anything else to do, Amuro decides to accompany them. This decision turns out to be a good one; Cucuruz quickly identifies that while their water supply is fine, the line itself has broken.

  • Cucuruz is too broad to fit through the opening in the cave, and Marco hesitates upon seeing how tricky the walls are. Conversely, Amuro volunteers to go and does his task admirably; after reaching the break, he seals it and repairs the line, allowing water to return to the islanders. Marco ends up growing resentful of Amuro, feeling that his thunder was stolen, while Amuro’s stock among the islanders improve. Between his prior experiences on White Base, and his own skill with mechanical systems, Amuro is well-equipped to deal with some of the islanders’ problems.

  • It turns out that Cucuruz’s main work on the island is devoted towards altering a launch system belonging to Zeon. Through his work, Cucuruz is able to jam any external communications to the weapons, preventing Zeon forces from remotely firing the ballistic missile. This control room notably has what appears to be a .30 calibre machine gun port, allowing the launch controls to be defended in case of an attack, but the flipside is that such a system could also be used by unauthorised forces to fend off anyone trying to stop a launch; it shows Zeon’s faith in their own soldiers’ loyalty.

  • The Southern Cross’ Egba Atler is their current leader. A hot-blooded and brash pilot dead-set on proving that he’s a superior leader to Cucuruz, he becomes violent when Danan Rashica expresses interest in their latest assignment. Danan seems to be star-struck at the prospect of meeting Cucuruz, a consequence of hearing about the latter’s legendary exploits when he’d been a pilot, but all Egba sees is a traitor who discarded his duty. For Egba, nothing would give him greater satisfaction than squaring off against their former leader to settle who’s the more suitable pilot once and for all. To save their teammate from a physical beating, Danan’s teammates restrain Egba and buy him enough time to escape.

  • Pilot Selma Livens, on the other hand, had similarly respected Cucuruz, but is more reserved about things. In combat, she’s confident and capable, but she feels that Egba is not as effective as Cucuruz had been. Egba resembles both Dozle Zabi and the Black Tri-Stars in temperament. While Anime News Network’s reviewer found the Zeon pilots to be “filler”, I disagree with this sentiment on the grounds that the Southern Cross are simply a team of pilots who were sent in to advance M’Quve’s plans as a part of a larger political game. The choice to pick the Southern Cross rather than a generic outfit is deliberate; a special forces team would create additional tension in a way that unnamed soldiers would not.

  • Generally speaking, I don’t place much stock in Anime News Network and their movie reviews. Given what I’ve seen there for film reviews, it appears that criticisms are doled out for criticisms’ sake, rather than as a result of any legitimate shortcomings in a given movie. In a review, the negatives end up being only touched upon, as though all reviews are subject to a quota of criticism in order for Anime News Network to appear informed and relevant. This was most apparent with their reviews for Non Non Biyori Vacation and Violet Evergarden: The Movie: both film’s successes are callously brushed off in a few sentences, and no additional justification (or evidence) for the remarks were given.

  • I’ve long found that criticisms in a vacuum are meaningless; if one is to criticise, then one must also either offer suggestions for improvement, or acknowledge the reasons behind why a given work may have turned out the way it did. For me, I only will make remarks on improvements if a limitation particularly noticeable, and the Southern Cross don’t come across as such. Back in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, Sayla and Sleggar prepare to launch. The search and rescue mission is something Bright has approved of – he was originally shocked to learn that the operation at Alegranza was called off after Gibraltar became a larger priority and struggled to make the call. In the end, Bright places his faith in Amuro and the Gundam.

  • To this end, Bright stages a scenario where White Base is still attempting to prepare for take-off: with just about every part of the ship seemingly seeing delays or problems, Bright gives the impression to Federation command that they’ll need a little more time before they can go anywhere. This charade buys White Base enough time to recover Amuro from Alegranza: Salya, Sleggar, Hayato and Kai have all taken off for the island with the goal of bringing Amuro back, and this time, Fraw Bow and the children accompany them, as well.

  • Mirai’s suppressed laughter speaks volumes to the light-hearted nature of their ruse, and reinforces the fact that outside of Zeon and Federation atrocities, the soldiers are ultimately human. Bright’s decision here also speaks more loudly about what’s in his heart: while he voices doubt about pushing Amuro too hard or even treating him harshly, choosing to delay departure, against orders, shows that Bright places great stock in Amuro and the Gundam. This is something that will later impact how Bright operates; in Gundam Unicorn, Bright’s been around the block long enough to know that any worthy Gundam pilot can achieve whatever they set their mind to and as such, places his faith in their ability and resolve. This is what motivates his speech to Banagher shortly before the Garuda transfer, and there, Banagher would prove that Bright’s intuition is on the money, a result of years of working with Gundam pilots.

  • When a massive storm slams into Alegranza, Amuro decides to look around and see if he can get the power up and running: while life on Alegranza is relatively cozy, the residents don’t have access to power. Some of the children are deathly afraid of the dark, and when the storm appears, they become inconsolable. With a deft hand for repairs, Amuro ends up not only restoring power to the cottage, but also fixes the lighthouse. Marco and the others are overjoyed with this; the residents have long discussed fixing the lighthouse but lacked the knowhow to do so.

  • With the lights back on, the children are much happier, and Marco admits he’s happy to have Amuro around. The two reconcile here, but when Cururuz arrives, he states that Amuro’s actions were a mistake – he deliberately kept the lighthouse and electrical power offline to avoid drawing any attention to the island. The addition of power would broadcast to the world that the island was inhabited and worth looking at. Shortly after, both Amuro’s allies and the Southern Cross spot the lighthouse, removing any doubt in their mind that Cucuruz must be there.

  • Kai and the others’ original plan had been to land on the island and quickly retrieve Amuro, along with his Gundam. However, the mission suddenly becomes considerably more dangerous when they spot the Zeon forces approaching the island. In previous Gundam, mass production units have been presented as a bit of a joke: unnamed pilots are typically slaughtered whole-sale, and often presented as standing still when under fire. I appreciate that this is done to illustrate a disparity in power, similarly to how in Hollywood films, exotic machines and monsters can make short work of F-22s and M1A2s, which are, in reality, impressive machines.

  • However, seeing Zakus in The Origin was a reminder that even the mass production machines can be formidable. I would’ve liked to have seen more battles between basic Zakus and GMs, but here in Cururuz Doan’s Island, the final battle feels tense even with only a squad of machines; having spent the whole film seeing the children in Cara and Cucuruz’s care, it always felt that Cururuz would have his hands full in trying to keep the battle away from the other islanders. I imagine that for the Southern Cross, they’ve got no information about the islanders and are here purely to neutralise Cururuz and get the launch mechanism working again.

  • When Sayla and Sleggar arrive, an iconic Mobile Suit Gundam theme begins playing. It’s titled “Fear of Battle”, and here in Cucuruz Doan’s Island, the song has been modernised while at the same time, retaining the aesthetic of the original, which had been composed with a disco-opera tone, blending the grandeur of space opera music similar to John William’s Star Wars with 1970s disco elements. The modernised version has a slightly heavier tenour and a richer sound, but beyond this, is immediately recognisable. Overall, the music in Cucuruz Doan’s Island is of an excellent quality – Takayuki Hattori repraises his role from The Origin as composer.

  • Unfortunately for Kai and Hayato, Sayla and Sleggar’s arrival do little for them: the Core Booster’s taken damage and Sayla is forced to make a crash landing, dislodging Sleggar’s GM and causing its head to pop off. Sleggar is thus unable to contribute in a meaningful way to the combat after shooting down the aircraft carrying the Zakus, and while this puts the Guncannons in a difficult position, this moment also creates comedy reminiscent of what is seen in a 1970s anime. Both Hayato and Kai manage to escape their machines’ destruction, and before the Southern Cross finish them off, Cururuz finally arrives.

  • One of the joys about writing Gundam posts is that there’s almost never a shortage of screenshots to draw from, and correspondingly, no shortage of things to talk about. For this post, I started with a screenshot collection totalling 258 images, and had to cut it down to a more manageable sixty. While I could, in theory, find enough content to discuss regarding the mobile suits themselves, this would result in exceedingly long posts that I’m certain readers would have no interest in reading (and writing extremely long posts takes an inordinate amount of time, as well).

  • Wald disembarks his Zaku and enters the control room, where he finds Cucuruz’s handiwork. He quickly overrides the changes Curucuz had made and re-arms the ballistic missile, which begins counting down for a launch. Confident he’s done his duty, he prepares to his Zaku. Meanwhile, Marco and Amuro have managed to sneak into the hangar; Amuro is unaccustomed to swimming the underwater passage and ends up swallowing water. Marco revives him, and the pair manage to reach the Gundam. They are noticed by Yun, who sets off to investigate.

  • Yun ends up following Amuro and Marco into the hangar, where he finds a curtain covering a mobile suit cage. Upon pulling the curtain back, Yun is horrified to find himself face-to-face with the White Devil. Amuro swiftly activates the Gundam’s beam sabre and burns a hole in Yun’s Zaku, killing him instantly. At this point in time, the Gundam’s already developed a fearsome reputation amongst Zeon’s pilots. It is here that Marco realises that Amuro is similar to Cucuruz – he’d developed a respect for Amuro after the latter had repaired the island’s power supply, but to see Amuro willfully use a mobile suit and deal lethal damage shows Marco the sort of resolve Amuro must have.

  • For Amuro, operating a mobile suit is a morally tricky duty because it entails taking lives during the line of duty. During a flashback, Amuro recalls his mother’s shock that he would pick up a weapon and pull the trigger. However, the flipside of this is, if Amuro lets an opponent live, they might return and kill others important to oneself. Thus, when Amuro spots Wald trying to reach his Zaku, he decides to trample him with the Gundam. This kill mirrors how in war, difficult decisions must be made, and also shows how Amuro is prepared to take a life if it means saving other lives, although he retains enough of his humanity to feel remorse for what he must do.

  • Back on the surface, Cucuruz decimates the Southern Cross. Danan is positively honoured to die at the legendary Cucuruz Doan’s hands, while Selma wonders why things had to turn out this way when Cucuruz smashes her Zaku. While Federation GMs use beam sabres as their melee weapon, early Zakus are armed with heat hawks: these hand-axes have a super-heated blade that utilises thermal energy transferred from the Zaku’s main reactor, and generate enough energy to both cut through armour and resist a beam sabre, although its small size means it’s a weapon that takes skill to wield effectively.

  • Soon, only Egba remains: he’s a cut above even the other Southern Cross pilots, and is intent on taking Cucuruz down himself. His Zaku is equipped with a heat sabre, a blade composed of a shape memory polymer that allows the sabre’s blade to be stored while not in use. Heat sabres work on the same principle as a heat hawk, with the polymer conducting heat from the Zaku’s reactor to augment its cutting ability. For their efficacy, superheating the polymer would cause it to degrade rapidly, meaning that heat sabres ultimately have a limited lifespan and are thus discarded after use.

  • While Egba is focused on fighting Cucuruz, Kai and his team encounter Cara and the children, who are chasing after the island’s one goat. Cucuruz Doan’s Island had hints of humour interspersed throughout its run, but it is here that Kai and Hayato’s misfortunes are made light of – the goat lifts them into the air and the moment is frozen in stills for posterity. Gundam employing humour to this extent is uncommon (Gundam SEED and Gundam 00 were, for the most part, deadly serious), but the presence of children creates the opportunity for creating lighthearted moments that act as a break in tensions.

  • However, even with the bit of comedy offered by a goat and White Base’s more hapless crew, Egba’s determination to finish off Cucuruz is real; he hammers into Cucuruz’s Zaku, and while Cucuruz is able to hold his own, Egba ends up disarming Cucuruz. Cucuruz refuses to give up, but a hail of 60 mm rounds suddenly distract Egba. With Cucuruz disarmed and nearly beaten, Egba turns his attention towards the Gundam, confident that he can beat it.

  • The moment had felt grim when Cucuruz had fallen, but with the Gundam’s arrival, the mood tangibly shifts. Fraw Bow is overjoyed to see the Gundam arrive, and the heroic incidental music speaks to the fact that this is Amuro’s time to shine. Use of music is a classic storytelling element, and longtime viewers can often guess at what will happen next based purely on what themes play. Of course, in shows where the hero’s theme plays, the outcome of a battle will almost feel preordained; in Gundam Unicorn, for instance, whenever the Unicorn motif is heard, Banagher is certain to do some damage.

  • For this fight, Amuro has access to only the Gundam’s beam sabres, having discarded his beam rifle earlier whilst fighting Cucuruz. The Gundam’s beam rifle was a first for mobile suits. Up until this point, mobile suits had carried kinetic weapons. Zeon’s Zakus carried machine guns that were powerful enough to puncture the hulls of Federation ships and shred their fighters, but against the Gundam’s armour, these weapons proved ineffectual. Conversely, the Gundam’s beam rifle fired rounds as powerful as those of a battleship’s main gun, allowing it to destroy mobile suits trivially.

  • Without the beam rifle, Amuro is pressed into close quarters combat, and while Egba is a powerful foe, Amuro holds his own, counting on the Gundam’s superior technology. However, after landing on a ledge, Amuro quickly spots that he’s in the same scenario he was in when he first fought Cucuruz – the perilous cliff edge overlooking the ocean had been his downfall earlier, and now, Amuro realises he can use the terrain to his advantage. This is significant because it would show Amuro learning to think tactically and utilise every element available in a fight, rather than purely depending on the Gundam’s power.

  • To this end, Amuro utilises the Gundam’s vulcans to force Egba off-balance, creating an opening in which to strike him down with. Vulcans in Gundam are typically 60 mm, and fire at very high rates. However, in Gundam, rounds appear to deal much less damage than their calibres suggest: 60 mm rounds are considered to be only really useful for soft targets and point defense against missiles. Similarly, Zakus fire 100 mm rounds that do negligible damage to the Gundam’s armour. However, in reality, even 30 mm rounds have anti-armour capabilites, and 100 mm rounds are approaching the size of the shells used in tank guns. This likely speaks to the necessity of using beam rifles and beam sabres, given the defensive capabilities that mobile suits possess with respect to their armour.

  • The advent of beam weapons lead to a paradigm shift in mobile suit design: less emphasis is placed on armour, and newer designs will favour speed. Although cutting-edge mobile suits like the RX-93 ν Gundam and RX-0 Unicorn possess an I-field, capable of deflecting beams, even these have limitations. As such, for newer mobile suits, firepower is life, and speed is life insurance. Of course, in 0079, mobile suits are still a nascent technology, and so, Amuro has the advantage where weapons are concerned. While successful in defeating Egba, Amuro is unable to prevent the ballistic missile from launching. In the heat of battle to protect the islanders, the ballistic missile and its MIRV payload is forgotten.

  • For M’Quve, the Southern Cross appear to have succeeded in their efforts to reactivate the ballistic missile on Alegranza. In this moment of triumph, he watches the missile launch, while the horrified Federation Navy hastily launch cruise missiles in a bid to intercept the ballistic missile. Ballistic missile interception during the boost phase is desperately tricky – while the missile is vulnerable during this time owing to its fuel stores, it is rapidly accelerating, limiting the intercept window. Unsurprisingly, the missiles the Federation send out cannot reach their mark, and the ICBM manages to disperse its nuclear warheads.

  • To everyone’s surprise, the warheads suddenly detonate shortly after they enter the mid-course phase. Gopp is relieved; although M’Quve called his bluff, Cucuruz’s intervention single-handedly saves tens of millions of lives, and with Zeon’s bargaining chip gone, the Federation is able to push forwards with their assault on Gibraltar ahead of their plans to capture Odessa. In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro’s visiting of Alegranza was plagued with production issues, and while it aired in Japan, never was shown in English releases. The story, while seemingly a detour, contributes greatly to Amuro’s growth and also shows some of the behind-the-scenes of how the Federation’s counteroffensive against Zeon begins.

  • For Cucuruz, although he was beaten in mobile suit combat, he was successful in preventing unimaginable casualties. The fact that Zeon was willing to resort to such means speaks both to their disregard for life and perception of the Federation’s people as being little more than obstacles; The Origin had shown the Zabi family as being quite divided on how they wanted to handle the war. Degwin had been hoping for a quick war and negotiations until the “Zeon is Exhausted” speech spurs him to keep fighting, while both Gihren and Kycilia had more militaristic ambitions. On the other hand, Dozle is a loyal soldier who genuinely fights for his people’s survival. Cucuruz is relieved to have survived, and that his actions have prevented the war from escalating.

  • The dynamic between Fraw Bow and Amuro is probably one of the more subtle but relatable aspects of Mobile Suit Gundam: early in their journey, she sticks with him, but as Amuro begins developing feelings for the other women that come into his life, and Fraw Bow begins seeing Amuro’s best friend, Hayato, instead. This is a natural progression in life, and both friendships and crushes do not endure forever. For now, however, the two are still relatively close – Fraw Bow tearfully embraces Amuro after he defeats Egba, relieved he’s alright. In the aftermath, the White Base crew part ways with Cucuruz and the islanders after Amuro chucks Cucuruz’s Zaku into the ocean, feeling that the only way to really be free of the fight is to live a peaceful life on the island without any weapons.

  • With this excursion over, the children on board White Base bid farewell to the islanders on Alegranza, and White Base itself prepares to head on over to Gibraltar for the next step of its operation. Cucuruz Doan’s Island ends up being a meaningful, self-contained story that helps viewers to see one set of events that would come to shape how he fights as a pilot, and for this reason, Curucuz Doan’s Island can be seen as a necessary stop rather than a detour. Seeing the growth and evolution of Gundam pilots is something that always captivated me: from watching Setsuna F. Seiei become more mindful and attuned to those around him, Kira Yamato become increasingly willing to fight once he realises he can do so without unnecessarily taking life, or Banagher realising that he has a responsibility to see something through, Gundam series have typically done a fine job of showing how people can rise to the occassion.

  • As such, when it comes to the autumn’s Witch of Mercury, my expectations remain consistent with what they’ve been for every other Gundam work I’ve seen previously. To be an enjoyable series, Witch of Mercury must deliver on three fronts. Firstly, the protagonists must mature in a meaningful way to mirror the interplay between responsibility and capability (as a pilot experiences things, they become more suited for using their power to defend what is dear to them). Second, I do not wish for unnecessary drama at the interpersonal level, since Gundam has always been about individual response (and eventually, rising up) to challenges at scale. Finally, combat choreography must be of a high calibre, at least as smooth and visually fluid as Gundam 00Gundam 00 is now more than a decade old, but it set the bar for what’s possible with Gundam, and therefore, is the yardstick I gauge other Gundam fights against. In the Universal Century, mobile suits are heavier, but the fights are still well-choreographed.

  • Cucuruz looks on as White Base departs from Alegranza; his encounter with Amuro leaves him a changed man, as well, and without the burden of a Zaku to maintain, as well as a Zeon silo to sabotage, a great weight is lifted from his chest, allowing him to fully devote himself to a peaceful life on Alegranza without worrying that Zeon or the Federation will show up again. It is here that I will note that Cucuruz’s name sounds quite similar to that of Kukuru Misakino from The Aquatope on White Sand – the two are prima facie about as different as night and day, but on closer inspection, both Cucuruz and Kukuru care very much about the things around them.

  • A look at the blog’s archive finds that mid-June does seem to be the month when I write about Gundam films: in 2019, it was Gundam Narrative, and then last year, I had the chance to watch Hathaway’s Flash. This year, the streak continues with Cucuruz Doan’s Island, and I finish this discussion just in time to celebrate Father’s Day with the family; my parents were treated to a Korean fried chicken dinner from a nearby joint. We ended up going for chicken three ways (crispy, garlic-soy and Gang-Jeong style) with a side of fries; Korean fried chicken is a bit pricier than our go-to Southern fried chicken, but the cost is reflected in the fact that the chicken is fried to crispy perfection while remaining tender and juicy.

  • Cucuruz Doan’s Island concludes with Cucuruz fulfilling a promise of properly celebrating a young boy’s birthday, complete with a cake. It’s a fitting close to the film and shows that Cucuruz is determined to preserving the peace on his island. Even without a Zaku, Cucuruz can still do this by looking after the island’s children with Cara. Altogether, Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a superb and insightful addition to the Universal Century timeline, and I would count this film an A (4.0 of 4.0, or for folks more familiar with the ten point scale, 9.0 of ten): this movie is a chance to see the RX-78 II remastered, something I’d wanted to see since The Origin ended, and on top of this, tells a meaningful story. While yes, it would’ve been nice to see more mobile suit combat, I appreciate that this isn’t the story’s primary objective, and what combat we did get was still of a superb quality.

Altogether, Alegranza Cucuruz Doan’s Island represents a remarkable show of how the original Mobile Suit Gundam was set in a universe that could tell a compelling story, and how with a fresh coat of paint, the classic story of the One Year War and the first Gundam could reach new audiences: Mobile Suit Gundam introduced elements that are now iconic in the Gundam franchise, but it has not aged particularly well. Inconsistencies in animation resulted in some segments of the story being removed, and Cucuruz Doan’s Island is one of them. However, seeing Cucuruz Doan’s Island brought into the present, while at the same time, remaining respectful of Mobile Suit Gundam‘s original aesthetic, sets one exciting precedence for what could be possible. A fully remastered portrayal of White Base and Amuro’s exploits during the One Year War would not only introduce new fans to where the story began, but for existing fans, it would be a phenomenal experience that breathes new life into memorable scenes. Such a project would be fraught with challenges: for one, some die-hard fans would be unwilling to accept any remaster that isn’t completely faithful to the original. Similarly to how Halo: Anniversary was criticised for altering the aesthetic in some missions, reducing the suspense the level designs conveyed, there is always a possibility that a remaster may make changes that could disappoint some. On the other hand, when a remaster is respectful of the original while modernising the visuals, it can be successful. Halo 2 Anniversary is one such experience, being a direct upgrade to its predecessor without dramatically changing the aesthetic that was present in the original. A Mobile Suit Gundam remaster that is done similarly to how Halo 2 Anniversary was done would be a welcome experience, and I’d certianly watch it in a heartbeat. In the meantime, Cucuruz Doan’s Island has been a superb experience, one that places a greater emphasis on the human sides of warfare and at the same time, portraying mobile suit battles as being a very intense and personal experience in ways that are possible now thanks to significant advances in animation methods and technology. Cucuruz Doan’s Island becomes an essential experience for Universal Century fans, updating all of the visuals in the Universal Century to modern standards and presenting excellent insight into Amuro’s character through a detour that would ultimately contribute to how he fights his battles, giving him the resolve and strength needed to stand toe-to-toe with Zeon’s legendary Red Comet.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Whole-Series Review and Reflection At The End of a Fourteen-Year Journey

“No matter how many times people blow away the flowers, we’ll always plant them back. I’m sure of it.” –Kira Yamato

Shinn brings Stella on board the Minerva for medical treatment, and the Minerva heads towards a ZAFT medical installation at Crete, while Lacus and Andrew Waldfelt head back to space by commandeering a transport meant for Meer. Meanwhile, Miriallia reunites with the Archangel and takes up her old post. En route to Crete, the Minervan comes under fire from the amassed Earth Alliance and Orb forces. The Archangel intervenes, and Kira manages to destroy Athrun’s Saviour, while Shinn eliminates one of the stolen Gundams. When Shin learns that Stella is dying, he decides to return her to the Alliance against orders. Rey ends up helping Shinn, who implores her handler, Neo Roanoke, not to send her into combat. For their actions, both Shinn and Rey are detained, but Chairman Durandal orders the charges dropped after the Alliance deploys their new mobile armour, the Destroy, and annihilates three European cities for harbouring people supporting ZAFT, including Berlin. To stop the Destroy, Kira sorties, while Shinn does the same. However, Shinn is shocked to learn Stella is piloting the Destroy, and although he tries to talk her down, Stella ends up panicking when she spots the Freedom, forcing Kira to annihilate the Destroy. Stella succumbs to her wounds, and Durandal comes forward, identifying LOGOS as the culprits behind the latest atrocities and declaring war on them. In the aftermath of Berlin, the Archangel also capture Neo Roanoke and are shocked to learn he’s actually Mu La Flaga, although Mu has no recollections of anyone. The Minerva sets off in pursuit of the Archangel after Durandal determines that their inability to control them renders them a dangerous foe, and during their engagement, the Archangel is seemingly destroyed, while Shinn bests Kira in combat. When Durandal assigns Athrun and Shinn to the latest ZAFT mobile suits, Shinn takes his offer with enthusiasm, while Athrun begins to doubt his role in ZAFT and ends up being branded a traitor. During his escape, he ends up taking Meyrin with him, and although Shinn shoots down Athrun, both Athrun and Meyrin survive. Durandal subsequently orders an attack on LOGOS’ main headquarters, Heaven’s Base. Despite taking the upper hand early on, LOGOs falls after Shinn and Rey sortie. LOGOS’ leader, Lord Djibril, manages to escape and takes refuge in Orb, leading ZAFT to mount an assault on Orb. Having received the Strike Freedom from Lacus, Kira arrives in Orb and saves Cagalli from the attacking forces. During the battle, Lacus also gives Athrun the choice to fight for what he believes in, or turn his back on those who need him. While Djibril escapes yet again, Kira and Athrun are able to force ZAFT to retreat. Durandal retreats his private base, the Messiah, to makes a press conference on the events with Meer, Lacus overrides the broadcast and questions Durandal’s intentions. Lord Djibril arrives at the Daedalus Lunar Base and fires the Requiem laser at the PLANTS’ capital, Aprilius. The shot misses, but several PLANTS are destroyed in the process, prompting ZAFT to mount a massive counteroffensive. The Minerva sorties, and Lunamaria manages to disable Requiem’s main emitter, while Rey kills the fleeing Djibril, who sought to escape when the battle turned against him. To find out more about Meer, Lacus, Kira, Athrun and Meyrin visit Copernicus City and decide to spring a trap set for them. During the meeting with Meer, she ends up taking a bullet meant for Lacus. Durandal unveils his Destiny Plan, which is intended to assign people to their roles based on genetics, and awaits the world’s decision. Orb and the Atlantic Federation reject this plan, leading Durandal to order Requiem to be used against Arzachel, killing the Altantic Federation president. The Archangel reunites with the Eternal and begin an assault on the Messiah. The Minverva is sunk during the combat, Kira defeats Rey, and Athrun shoots down Shinn. Kira enters the Messiah and confronts Durandal, but is shocked when Rey shoots Durandal after taking Kira’s words to him, to live on his own terms, to heart. Durandal’s death brings the Second Bloody Valentine War to an end, and in the aftermath, Shinn, Kira and Athrun make amends, while Cagalli and Lacus work towards a new peace. So ends Gundam SEED Destiny, the sequel to 2004’s Gundam SEED that remains mired in controversy even a full sixteen years after it finished airing.

Par the course for a Gundam series, Gundam SEED Destiny deals in several themes during its run. Despite suffering from production challenges, as well as a desire to show warfare from three different perspectives (Shinn’s, Athrun’s and Kira’s), which resulted in the conclusion rushing towards a dénouement, Gundam SEED Destiny nonetheless has several key points to make. The first of this is that situations are never as black and white as they initially appear. Gundam SEED Destiny portrays Gilbert Durandal as a reasonable and accommodating leader, willing to hear other sides out and weigh all possibilities before acting. Through his words, viewers are given a sense of reassurance, that under his command, ZAFT will not repeat the mistakes its predecessor had. Indeed, it is easy to see Durandal as a natural leader – he identifies rational causes of warfare and then focuses his efforts on stamping that out. Unlike his counterpart, Lord Djibril, Durandal’s weapon of choice are words, rather than bullets, and his proposals initially seem attractive. Whereas Lord Djibril is busy using mobile armours to flatten cities and has no qualms in firing a superlaser against the PLANTs, Durandal, seems to believe in using the appropriate amount of force to achieve his aims. All of this is, ultimately, a sham – Durandal ends up playing most of the world, save a few (such as Archangel’s crew and the Clyne faction), for fools. Kira’s misgivings end up being correct, and Gundam SEED Destiny hints at this during its run. Durandal is seen with a chessboard in hand, and the world is his game, to manipulate and set up according to his design. All of the atrocities that Lord Djibril are responsible for ends up provides the justification for Durandal to implement his Destiny Plan, and this plan ultimately ends up being a world where genetic determinism will be imposed on all humans. The Destiny Plan similarly sounds attractive, promising society prosperity and a harmonious existence at the expense of stripping away free will. In this second half of Gundam SEED Destiny, determinism and free will are pitted against one another. Durandal champions determinism, arguing that as a species, people would be okay with giving up freedom in their lives for stability, whereas Kira and the others believe humanity should have the power to make their own choices, so long as they accept responsibility for the consequences. This topic is of no small significance in reality, and the debate between free will versus destiny is vociferous and unending amongst philosophers. Similarly, the question of where control and power should rest is a major point of contention in politics: proponents of liberal democracies view socialism as evil for diminishing an individual’s rights to choose their future and limiting power to a small group of elites, while socialists perceive democracies as inefficient, being constrained by the will of individuals who may not fully understand the scope of their decisions. Gundam SEED Destiny, on the other hand, has a much more concrete conclusion – through Athrun and Kira, the series posits that it is preferable to be given an uncertain future that one has a hand in shaping; acquiescing to a pre-determined fate would be equivalent to giving up everything that makes living worthwhile, and that any happiness found as a result of someone else’s design isn’t genuine. At the very least, Gundam SEED Destiny shows that the will to pursue one’s own future freely will prevail over any desire to precisely control humanity’s future, because where power is allowed to be concentrated in any one individual’s hands, tragedy may potentially follow. My stance on the matter is a little more unremarkable; I’ve seen enough of the world to conclude that life is a combination of destiny and free will, in the sense that the set of possible outcomes for an individual is finite, but every individual has the capability to choose which outcome they wish for, in turn affecting their path in life.

While broad themes are present to a satisfactory extent in Gundam SEED Destiny, where this series shines lies with its mobile suits, and in particular, how the Cosmic Era presents the progression of mobile suit technology. Gundam SEED established the idea that mobile suits are a powerful weapons platform, versatile in functionality, but limited by the fact that their operational time is determined by its battery. Mobile suits thus were strategic weapons, to be deployed for special assignments or when defending high value assets. By the time ZAFT acquires the first-generation Gundams, they begin working on the neutron-jammer canceller, allowing their newest mobile suits to equip a fission reactor and attain limitless operational time. This technology remains costly to implement, and so, in Gundam SEED Destiny two years later, most mobile suits continue to retain a battery. However, by this point in time, mobile suit design has improved such that battery life becomes less of an issue. The Second Stage mobile suits use variable phase shift armour and improved beam weapons to lessen power consumption. Common mobile suits, like the ZAKU, GOUF and Windam, are now comparable to the Strike owing to how much technology has improved. In addition, the technology for recharging a mobile suit on the fly is also developed. Orb, meanwhile, has optimised their Astrays and created the venerable Murasames, a transformable mobile suit capable of equipping a diverse loadout. Rather than investing in powerful but highly expensive individual suits, Orb has focused on developing a reliable, all-around suit in the Murasame. Indeed, the Murasame is a force to contend with: during the battle of Berlin, a squadron of Murasames destroys the Chaos Gundam, marking one of the rare instances where a mass production model defeats a Gundam in direct combat. However, despite the thought and consideration that went into the technical aspects of Gundam SEED Destiny, the series has been maligned for the Strike Freedom’s so-called seemingly unfair performance, which might be seen as contradicting the principles the Murasames and ZAKUs embody. with a chest-mounted plasma cannon, a pair of hip mounted railguns and dual-wielded beam rifles, plus eight DRAGOONs, the Strike Freedom is a mobile suit capable of independently engaging entire fleets on its own. Viewers continuously assert Kira depends on his mobile suit’s power to win battles over any merits of his own skill. This is untrue: Kira’s progression as a pilot was clearly shown in Gundam SEED, and the Strike Freedom is essentially Freedom with remote weapons. The Strike Freedom is, in short, a logical progression of the Freedom design; in reality, we are closer to mounting a large number of independent lock-on weapons to a given platform than we are of semi-perpetual motion machines or harnessing thoughts and converting that into physical energy. This stands in contrast to Setsuna F. Seiei’s 00 Raiser and 00 Qan[T], which are capable of teleporting, or between the ν Gundam and the RX-0 Unicorn, whose psychoframe can shift an asteroid’s trajectory and even turn back time itself. By this standard, the Strike Freedom is certainly not overpowered; while it can eliminate weaker mobile suits in the blink of an eye, the Strike Freedom it doesn’t incorporate any technologies capable of supernatural feats. Instead, simply is as effective as it is simply because it’d been tailored to Kira’s combat style and building on the Freedom’s known strengths and capabilities. Altogether, the portrayal of mobile suit development in the Cosmic Era is remarkably similar to real-world trends, strengthened by using Gundam SEED‘s mobile suits as precedence, to show a very clear progression of both technological capabilities in a manner that is plausible and consequently, offering open-minded viewers with much to discuss even in the present day.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn had taken Stella back to the Minerva and was met with reprimand; he tends to act on his feelings rather than through thought, and while this makes him a fearsome pilot against lesser machines, it also means against a competent pilot, he will struggle. This is something that doesn’t affect Kira by Gundam SEED Destiny‘s events; he has no qualms intervening where appropriate. This post will cover the remainder of Gundam SEED Destiny, and because the second half does offer a bit to consider, this post will be correspondingly longer.

  • I was all smiles to see Miriallia return to the Archangel; she’d been one of my favourite characters of Gundam SEED despite her reduced presence compared to Flay, Cagalli and Lacus because of everyone, she tries her best to keep a cool head about her, and in fact, the only time Miriallia loses it is when Dearka badmouths Tolle. According to dialogue, Miriallia actually did end up dating Dearka briefly, but they end up going their separate ways, and both appear to be doing well. Back on board the Archangel, Miriallia resumes her old duties as the communications officer.

  • One of the lingering debates resulting from Gundam SEED Destiny that endures to this day is which pilots and mobile suits are superior in combat: at first glance, Gundam SEED Destiny is very inconsistent in its portrayal of a machine and pilot’s capabilities. However, beneath this apparent inconsistency is a simple pattern. Pilots are at their best when they have resolve, and this resolve trumps which machine is superior from a technical standpoint. When two pilots of equal resolve and similar skill battle, then the superior will to win dominates. This is why when Kira confronts Athrun and his Saviour, he is able to rend the Saviour outright: while the Saviour should technically put up a good fight, Athrun’s resolve is wavering at this point, so he’s in no condition to fight at his best.

  • The battle at Orb between the joint Orb and Earth Alliance forces ends up very poorly for Orb; Yuna’s incompetence means countless Orb service members give their lives needlessly in a battle for nothing. The Archangel ends up picking up survivors, and they wind up joining with Cagalli. The additional manpower and resources mark a turning point for Cagalli; while she’d previously felt powerless to prevent Orb from succumbing to war, realising that Orb’s soldiers are largely with her, as opposed to Yuna, does much to help Cagalli regain her determination to do right by Orb’s citizens.

  • For no reason other than to show the visual updates Gundam SEED Destiny‘s HD remaster makes over the original, I’ll feature a screenshot of Talia Gladys here: without additional screenshots, I’d say she’s even more stacked than Murrue is, although she’s never seen oscillating as much whenever the Minerva gets hit by enemy fire.  Talia is a cross between Murrue and Natarle in personality, torn between doing what she feels is right for those around her and following orders to fulfil her duties as the captain. A capable tactician in her own right, Talia was in love with Durandal but the pair’s genomes were incompatible, so she ended up leaving him, even though her feelings never faded.

  • In the end, Shinn decides to return Stella to the Earth Alliance and Neo Roanoke; on the condition that Stella never be made to fight again, Shinn reluctantly hands her over. The alternative would’ve been for Stella to be sent to a ZAFT facility and dissected for more information about the Extended. While Neo gives his word, the nature of warfare is such that one can hardly take their foe’s word at face value. For his troubles, Shinn and Rey, who helped abet Shinn in returning Stella, are placed under arrest, only to be released after ZAFT learns that Lord Djibril and the Earth Alliance have launched a massive invasion of Western Eurasian in retaliation for aligning themselves with ZAFT.

  • Under the frigid German winter, ZAFT deploys its Compton-class land battleships along with BuCUEs and other mobile suits to meet the Earth Alliance threat. However, the Earth Alliance has an ace-in-the-hole: the massive GFAS-X1 Destroy Gundam, which can transform between a mobile armour and mobile suit mode. Built purely for destruction, the Destroy is aptly-named and is three times larger than the average mobile suit; it can crush mobile suits simply by stepping on them and possesses a formidable array of beam weaponry, as well as two remote controlled detachable arm cannons. The ZAFT forces sent to stop it are completely wiped out.

  • The Destroy is piloted by none other than Stella; Neo persuades her that this machine is the only way to eliminate the scary things of the world, and so, Stella ends up laying waste to three cities. The fact that the Earth Alliance, and Lord Djibril, were willing to resort to atrocity after atrocity in Gundam SEED Destiny made it clear to viewers that there was no sympathy to be had for them; when the Archangel and Minerva sortie to stop the Destroy, viewers end up simultaneously rooting for both. It was among the snow-covered ruins of Berlin that I got my first exposure to Gundam SEED.

  • This would’ve been back during my secondary school days: Gundam SEED Destiny was a curiosity, and came to become a part of my time as a student in interesting ways. I ended up using footage from the episodes of Junius Seven impacting Earth, and where Lacus and her allies manage to steal a shuttle from Meer, for an English project, discussed whether or not the Destroy Gundam could overwhelm elements from the Warhammer 40k universe in maths with the friend who had been curious to have me try out Half-Life 2, listened to VESTIGE and METEOR with another friend during free-study periods, and during a particularly memorable moment during German class, I’d been about to wrap up my work for the day when “Kira, Sono kokoro no mama ni” began playing on my iPod.

  • I subsequently said, more to myself than anything, “this song sets me on fire”, prompting the entire class, even the instructor, to break out laughing. That Gundam SEED Destiny still evokes such memories speaks to my curiosity in the series. For my best friend, who was watching Gundam SEED Destiny at about this time, he found that the series greatest strengths lay in its portrayal of mobile suits. Secondary school was the time when I gifted him an HGCE 1/144 Murasame kit, and the Murasame had been something he’d taken an interest in. During the Battle of Berlin, three Murasames shoot down the Chaos, marking the first time he saw a common mobile suit take down a Gundam.

  • In the end, Kira ends up being forced to impale the Destroy’s chest cannons, causing it to explore. Stella dies from her wounds, and Shinn, who had been close to talking Stella down from firing, vows revenge on Kira. It is not lost on me that Stella continues on in the trend of female pilots being exploited to pilot mobile armours; off the top of my head, Char’s Counterattack had Quess Paraya, Gundam 00 had Louise Halevy, and Gundam Unicorn had Loni Garvey. Back during secondary school, I wouldn’t have known this: Gundam 00 was still airing, Gundam Unicorn wouldn’t air for another two years, and I hadn’t watched Char’s Counterattack.

  • However, I do remember watching the Minerva and Archangel square off against one another back in secondary school; the Archangel’s goal was to evacuate Western Eurasia after taking out the Destroy, while the Minerva’s received orders to destroy the Archangel. Despite the Minerva being better armed, the Archangel’s better experienced and is able to escape in the end. Meanwhile, Kira has his hands full fighting Shinn and his Impulse. While the Impulse is an inferior suit compared to the Freedom, Kira’s similarly preoccupied during the entire fight with the Archangel and is holding back his punches, while Shinn himself is fighting to kill.

  • As such, it isn’t correct to say that Shinn is the better pilot, or the Impulse is the better Gundam. Kira ends up surviving, since the Freedom’s cockpit is actually located in the upper chest, and Kira powers down the Freedom’s reactor, preventing it from going critical. The massive explosion seen at the end of this episode is actually the result of the Minerva’s positron cannon striking the ocean. Altogether, this single moment speaks little about actual combat capability and was more meant as a bit of an excuse to give Kira a new mobile suit, as well as take the Archangel out of the picture for a while.

  • Back in the Minerva, Shinn is given a hero’s welcome for having shot down the Freedom in combat. Athrun is completely dissatisfied with this outcome, and the attitudes of those around him lead him to increasingly doubt his place in ZAFT. With the Archangel and Freedom seemingly out of the picture, Durandal capitalises on the moment to reveal LOGOS as being the root of the world’s evils, rallying those in the PLANTS and on Earth to denounce LOGOS. When citizens take it upon themselves to punish known LOGOS members, Lord Djibril flees his mansion for a facility called Heaven’s Base, along with several other LOGOS higher-ups.

  • During the Battle of Berlin, the Archangel also manage to capture Neo Roanoke, and to Murrue’s surprise, it turns out Neo is none other than Mu La Flaga. While his memories have been tampered with, Mu retains his old spirits and enjoyment of making witty remarks even during serious moments. He vaguely feels things are familiar, but otherwise cannot put his hands on why. The Archangel’s crew regard him cautiously, but over time, Mu does show that despite the conditioning the Earth Alliance put him through, he still remembers Kira and Murrue. For the time being, the Archangel decides to return to Orb for repairs and resupply.

  • Meanwhile, Durandal grant Athrun and Shinn new mobile suits, the Legend and Destiny, to replace their older units. Both mobile suits are equipped with a neutron jammer canceller and a nuclear reactor, giving them the same limitless combat potential as the Freedom and Justice. However, Athrun is far from thrilled and wonders why there is a need for such weapons, as well as why ZAFT is embarking on what appears to be yet another show of force. These thoughts lead Athrun to be branded as a traitor. On the other hand, Shinn eagerly accepts his new Gundam, which is equipped with the Voiture Lumiere system, providing unparalleled mobility and speed in combat.

  • Lord Djibril arrives at Heaven’s Base in Iceland, prompting ZAFT to demand the installation to immediately surrender Djibril and other members of LOGOS. The Earth Alliance’s incompetence and propensity for committing atrocities is augmented by the fact that Gundam SEED Destiny makes extensive use of flashbacks to remind viewers of what they’ve done, and for me, it was clear that, so long as Djibril lived, whatever Durandal had planned would be far from the viewer’s minds. In this way, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s writing did come across as being inconsistent, but the finished product is surprisingly effective at conveying the sort of smoke and mirrors that exist in politics – at this point, it can be said that ZAFT and Durandal have succeeded in distracting even the viewers from his plans.

  • Meyrin had played a limited role in Gundam SEED Destiny during the first half, being the young communications officer who maintained a cheerful demenour, as well as possessing a bit of a crush on Athrun but, unlike her sister, never had the courage to admit it. Moreover, Meyrin’s figure is a little less slender than that of Lunamaria’s; she’s unable to wear a skirt that Lunamaria has no trouble wearing. When Athrun comes under suspicion and is ordered to be detained for questioning, Meyrin suddenly finds herself thrown onto centre stage; she creates a diversion to buy Athrun some time to escape, and ends up escaping with him on a stolen GOUF.

  • My fondness for Meyrin grew once she was given a chance to show more of her character beyond being a capable, if shy, communications officer – she is seen wearing her hair in twintails throughout Gundam SEED Destiny, but after escaping with Athrun, she lets her hair down and looks more mature as a result. In fact, her appearance is similar to that of Flay’s, although minute differences in their facial expressions mean that Meyrin’s allegiance and intentions are never questioned; like Athrun, she ends up choosing to do what she feels is right.

  • The Destiny’s first kill is against Athrun’s GOUF; this machine was custom-built to match Shinn’s fighting style, but unlike the Impulse, equips all of Shinn’s preferred weapons without needing additional parts to be launched. The transition from the Impulse to the Destiny would imply that Durandal counts Shinn as being capable enough to make his own decisions, much as how Kira graduates to the Freedom from the more limited Strike. However, the analogy doesn’t hold in Gundam SEED Destiny, which is meant to show what happens when Shinn finally attains the power he thought he would need to make a difference. Whereas Kira uses the Freedom’s power to stop a fight at JOSH-A in Alaska, Shinn’s first act is to “kill” someone who his higher ups have deemed a traitor.

  • I will concede that in Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half, the characterisation goes out the window – Lunamaria’s relationship with Shinn seems to have been conjured out of nowhere, and Shinn’s characterisation was particularly weak. While he is ostensibly a Gundam pilot and therefore, a protagonist, Shinn exhibits the traits of an anti-hero: he is impulsive and brash, shows little respect for authority and fights for revenge. Unlike Athrun, who begins hesitating, Shinn convinces himself that Durandal’s way is the only way to achieve a peaceful world, where tragedies like the one he suffered will not occur again. While seeing the consequences of Durandal’s actions do change his mind, this occurs very suddenly, giving viewers little time to empathise with or understand his character.

  • However, not all of the criticisms surrounding Gundam SEED Destiny are valid. One complaint is that the mobile suit performance is completely inconsistent: for instance, the battle among the snowy wastes of Heaven’s Base sees Shinn, Rey and Lunamaria effortlessly wipe the floor with Destroy Gundams, whereas Kira struggled to fight Stella despite the Freedom’s power. However, it is established that Destroy Gundams are vulnerable to melee weapons. Knowing this, the Minerva and ZAFT forces are able to turn the battle here around quickly, prompting Lord Djibril to flee once more. The snow-covered locales in Gundam SEED Destiny stand out vividly to me mainly because they were the episodes I saw on TV back when I was in secondary school. Having now seen Gundam SEED Destiny in full, all of the contexts become clearer to me, and I no longer feel that the series is an impenetrable fog to understand. In particular, the technical aspects of Gundam SEED Destiny are strong, although these strengths are all-too-quickly forgotten.

  • For me, the most memorable moment in the whole of Gundam SEED Destiny occurs when ZAFT orders an assault on the Eternal; while the Archangel is undergoing repairs at Orb, Kira sorties in the Strike Rouge and, in the HD Remaster, deals some damage to the attacking ZAFT forces before boarding the Eternal to reunite with Lacus. It turns out the Clyne Faction has managed to complete two state-of-the-art mobile suits, and with this, Kira finally feels whole again; he reassures Lacus that he’ll rejoin her after disabling the ZAFT forces and boards the new Gundam. After Kira finishes configuring the Strike Freedom, he boots up the OS and activates the Gundam.

  • Originally, Kira’s first sortie in the Strike Freedom was set to T.M. Revolution’s VESTIGE, a beautiful song that captures Kira’s determination and resolve to do right by those around him, with the power he is granted, in the manner of his choosing. The Strike Freedom is probably the most advanced mobile suit in the Cosmic Era: it is built off the Freedom’s design and tailor-made for Kira’s combat style, but similarly features a newer reactor and the Voiture Lumiere system. In addition, the inclusion of eight DRAGOONs (remote weapons, similar to the funnels of the Universal Century) allows Kira to engage multiple targets simultaneously or concentrate firepower onto a single target.

  • During my time as a secondary school student, I found myself rewatching Kira’s actions in defending the Eternal repeatedly: for me, this was the magic moment in Gundam SEED Destiny, and while the HD Remaster chooses to utilise “Kira, Sono kokoro no mama ni”, the combat itself is no less intense (although overall, I still vastly prefer VESTIGE to instrumental music here). Subsequent combat sequences are diminished by the fact that key frames are recycled en masse in Gundam SEED Destiny, and a part of me feels that the series was perhaps a little more ambitious than the animation of the day allowed. Once the animation techniques caught up, fight scenes in Gundam become better presented, and as Gundam 00 demonstrates, the resulting scenes hold up even today.

  • It was quite amusing to see a ZAFT captain recoil in shock with the fact that Kira’s basically taken out the entire complement of GOUFs and ZAKUs pursing the Eternal, and on top of this, has disabled his Nazca-class’ engines, as well. The Strike Freedom’s capabilities have been vocally criticised by detractors of Gundam SEED Destiny – in their eyes, Kira was already plenty powerful with the Freedom, so giving him an upgrade that seemingly came out of nowhere was to unfairly tip the scales even further. Gundam SEED Destiny does not directly mention that the Clyne Faction and Terminal, a Celestial Being like organisation, had managed to infiltrate a large number of organisations and thus, were able to access the cutting-edge technology needed to construct something on par with the Legend and Destiny.

  • Back on the surface, the Minerva has arrived at Orb in preparations for an assault. All pretence of diplomacy is abandoned; Durandal demands Orb to hand over Djibril and, when Yuna refuses, the ZAFT forces launch a major offensive. During this fighting, Orb’s forces are slowly overwhelmed, and Cagalli is given the Akatsuki, a gold-framed Gundam built from the Strike’s data and utilising new technologies from Orb. Its greatest attribute is the fact that its armour can repel and reflect all beam attacks, even from positron cannons. However, despite its invulnerability to beam weapons, the Akatsuki is susceptible to damage from melee weapons. Although Shinn is caught off-guard by the Akatsuki’s capabilities, he begins to intervene, only for Kira and the Strike Freedom to arrive.

  • In the end, Cagalli’s return allows her to take control of the struggling Orb forces. She relieves Yuna of his duty and orders him arrested. While Gundam SEED Destiny is almost universally reviled, fans do share the commonality of despising Yuna even more and note that his arrest, and subsequent death, stand among one of the more satisfying moments in Gundam SEED Destiny. While satisfying the role of a comic relief character, Yuna does show how individuals who care more about their political career and living a comfortable life can lead nations to ruin; this sort of thing is happening en mass in liberal democracies, where elected leaders are more concerned with elections than they are about their nation’s well-being. While Orb had gone down a slippery slope by joining the Atlantic Federation, Cagalli’s return puts new hope into the other soldiers.

  • On the whole, I found that most of the criticisms surrounding Gundam SEED Destiny are overblown at best, and invalid at worst; the more gratuitous complaints are nitpicks that fail to take into account the complexities of interpersonal dynamics and the interplay of warfare on the human psyche. For instance, while Athrun rejoins ZAFT to prevent Patrick Zala loyalists from perpetrating another atrocity, he begins to find that Durandal’s leadership ultimately will lead to a world that is no better than the one Athrun thought had died with Patrick. Consequently, Athrun is reluctant to accept the Infinite Justice from Lacus she brings the unit onboard the Archangel.

  • While the critics are often in the wrong, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s proponents were not always in the right, either – people who flocked to Kira as the “perfect” Gundam pilot who can do no wrong failed to account for the fact that Kira’s beliefs and abilities stem having cultivated them during the events of Gundam SEED. He gains no character development in Gundam SEED Destiny because he has already made peace with himself and understands why he fights: his aim is simply to protect those around him and act in a way so that battles are minimised. To this end, Kira never uses more force than is necessary to end a battle and prefers to disable rather than kill.

  • During the Battle of Orb, one detail I was fond of were the inclusion of the DOM Troopers (highly customised variants of the Universal Century’s Rick Doms): piloted by Hilda Harken, Mars Simeon and Herbert Von Reinhard, these machines and their pilots are a reference to the original Black Tri-Stars, a similar group of three ace pilots whose signature move was the Jet Stream Attack. The DOM Troopers’ primary armament is the Giga-Launcher DR1 Multiplex, an upgrade over the 360 mm bazookas the Rick Doms carried: weapons of Gundam SEED Destiny are built with versatility in mind, and the DOM Troopers’ Giga-Launcher is a bazooka with an under-barrel beam rifle, allowing them to switch from attacking fixed targets to engaging other mobile suits without a lengthy weapon swap.

  • The battle at Orb begins turning against ZAFT once Cagalli takes command, and Athrun decides to board the Infinite Justice. Here, Lunamaria attempts to shoot down the shuttle carrying Lord Djibril in a last-ditch attempt to complete ZAFT’s original mission of terminating Djibril, but this is unsuccessful. The Minerva and remaining ZAFT forces retreat after their flagship is sunk. During this battle, the Infinite Justice and Strike Freedom are instrumental in turning the tide of battle, providing the physical power to back Cagalli and Lacus’ resolve. While the mobile suits themselves are an asset, they are a means to an end, and Gundam SEED Destiny does seem to suggest that long-term solutions and soft power are the foundations for peace.

  • Back on board the Archangel, Athrun continues to recover while Meyrin looks over him. By choosing to accept the Infinite Justice, Athrun demonstrates beyond any doubt that he’s found his path again. In Gundam SEED, the Justice was a mobile suit that Patrick Zala had granted to him with the goal that Athrun use it to destroy the stolen Freedom. However, Athrun ends up using it to destroy the GENESIS weapon. In Gundam SEED Destiny, the Infinite Justice is offered to Athrun under different circumstances, and in this way, the series suggests that by accepting the Infinite Justice, Athrun has come to terms with his own choices.

  • Durandal’s use of Meer Campbell as Lacus speaks very cleverly to the idea that a pretty face can indeed sway public opinion quickly; he’d long foreseen that having a powerful symbol to act as his mouthpiece would be able to work in his favour. This tactic had allowed Durandal to quell the public’s wrath after Junius Seven was dropped onto the planet, and similarly, using a fake Lacus to give concerts raised the morale for ZAFT troops. Gundam SEED Destiny correctly captures the idea that people are easily manipulated by appearances – in the present day, people gain Twitch donations and Twitter followers on virtue of their appearances alone, and this has created a world where looks, rather than skill, are sought-after attributes. Durandal is therefore shocked when the real Lacus appears on the airwaves and challenges him.

  • Meanwhile, Djibril arrives at the Daedalus Lunar Base and prepares to use a new weapon, Requiem, against the PLANTs. With the viewers’ focus entirely on Djibril, I found that Gundam SEED Destiny presented a clever way of drawing parallels between the viewer experience and real-world tricks: as viewers, we’re more worried about Djibril right now, as opposed to Durandal. Small details like these are inevitably missed in the debates surrounding Gundam SEED Destiny; while directional issues and problems in production meant Gundam SEED Destiny is a little jumbled and messy in places, emergent properties actually do arise from the story, as well.

  • The rise of Durandal’s Messiah was one such instance of this: viewers had been so focused on Lord Djibril that it is feasible to suppose Durandal had secretly completed the construction of this space fortress while keeping the world’s eyes trained on LOGOS. Messiah itself is likely a reference to A Baoa Qu, a Zeon fortress that was similarly built from a hollowed-out asteroid. Durandal had intended the Messiah to be utilised as a stronghold from which to execute his vision of the world, and to this end, Messiah is equipped with a powerful computer, positron deflector shielding and the Neo-GENESIS, a miniaturised gamma laser which, while lacking the raw power of its predecessor, could still be used to eliminate fleets. Gundam 00‘s Celestial Being fortress would draw inspiration from Genesis: although originally built as a vessel for deep-space travel, the Innovators would convert it into their own private installation.

  • Djibril fires the Requiem, whose laser is redirected using a Geschmeidig Panzer array, intending to destroy the PLANT capital of Aprilius One. Although the shot misses, it still destroys Januarius One through Four, causing them to slam into December Seven and Eight. Djibril’s latest atrocity crosses a line, and ZAFT is now committed to exterminating Djibril and his supporters. In a massive battle, Lunamaria manages to disable Requiem’s emitter, while ZAFT forces aligned with Terminal assault the relay stations. Gundam SEED Destiny and Gundam SEED are unique amongst Gundam series in that a vast majority of the weapons in the series have German names: this is unique to the Cosmic Era, and while I’ve not read any interviews or behind-the-scenes materials for why this is the case, I imagine this was simply done for cool factor.

  • In the chaos, Djibril attempts to escape again on the Girty Lue, but Rey catches him and finally finishes him off using the Legend’s DRAGOONS, which vapourise him outright. In some cases, there is nothing left to do but exact the most severe punishment on those who refuse to yield to reason: Lord Djibril is one such example, and letting him live would only be met with further atrocities by his hand. However, once Djibril is gone, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s final curtain falls – this is the aspect of Gundam SEED Destiny that, despite having an inkling about previously, still impressed me because the viewers end up being just as surprised about Durandal’s so-called Destiny Plan. On one hand, this could be seen as hasty writing, where things were not well-thought out, but at the same time, the choppy pacing in Gundam SEED Destiny also meant that the series could illustrate the idea that existing conflicts can be used as a political diversion.

  • Because the conflict returns to space, Kira, Athrun and Lacus part ways with Cagalli. The remainder of Gundam SEED Destiny is a veritable rollercoaster ride, and while it is nowhere nearly as sound as its predecessor in thematic terms, to the me of fourteen years earlier, the space battles were awe-inspiring. Back then, I didn’t have the same context for the different scenes or why the conflict was occurring; because I was watching odd episodes here and there, the recycled footage was never really a problem for me. Nowadays, having experienced the level of quality from Gundam 00, use of stock footage in Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny is much more noticeable, but unlike the haters, I feel that stock footage was a sign the series was trying to be larger than was feasible at the time.

  • Once the real Lacus reveals the Lacus in Durandal’s employ is a fake, Durandal sends Meer and her manager, Sarah, to Copernicus. Sarah ends up convincing Meer that it’s necessary to bump off the original Lacus, and although Meer is reluctant to go along with the plan, she ends up agreeing anyways. While Sarah’s narrow eyes and sharp facial features firmly indicate she isn’t to be trusted, she’s also got a nice figure. Meer’s story had always been interesting to me because she represents someone who Durandal valued owing to her resemblance to Lacus and therefore, could be used as a tool for manipulate the masses. Meer herself is desperate to become her idol, and while Durandal has found her an asset, how he treats those who stops being relevant to his aims is a sign of what could happen if Meer ever outlived her contract.

  • It should therefore be unsurprising that should this day come, Durandal would have no trouble sacrificing Meer, or disposing of her, to further his own goals. One bit of imagery that stuck with me when watching Gundam SEED Destiny years earlier was this scene of Durandal playing chess. He’s seen with a chessboard throughout Gundam SEED Destiny, and having now had the chance to look through the series, it looks like his role as the final foe was long foreshadowed: Durandal isn’t nihilisticas Rau le Creuset was, nor is he xenophobic like Patrick Zala, but his plan to control human destiny is misguided and selfish. Gundam SEED Destiny betrays none of this earlier, mirroring how Durandal is an expert at concealing his intentions, like a chess master guiding pieces to create a trap for their foe.

  • In the end, Meer attempts to lure Lacus to a trap, but the tables turn quickly; Lacus implores Meer to be herself, and after a firefight that leaves Sarah wounded, Meer ends up taking a bullet meant for Lacus. The wound is fatal, and Meer dies in Athrun’s arms. In the aftermath, Lacus and the others read through Meer’s diary and learns that she was ecstatic to take up this position, thoroughly convinced that she was doing good in the world. In actuality, Durandal had been leveraging her voice and appearance to advance his own goals, and looking back, this small sub-plot in Gundam SEED Destiny is not to be underestimated in terms of relevance. It is the case that people are used and deceived because of their appearances, only to be cast aside once they’re deemed to be no longer useful.

  • That Meer was being utilised for her looks alone meant that I came to view her story as one of tragedy, and while she’d only had a secondary role in the series, I came to greatly like her character, too. While she tries to be regal and composed when on duty, befitting of the original Lacus, outside of work, she’s bubbly and cheerful; Meer was someone who desperately wanted to do something meaningful for the world, who ended up in a position that she began doubting, and who in the end, ended up paying the ultimate price. However, Meer does die in the knowledge that she was able to save Lacus from the assassination attempts, making for a very bittersweet moment in Gundam SEED Destiny that remains impactful even to this day.

  • While Lacus reads through Meer’s diary, a new song can be heard: EMOTION. This is the second of Meer’s songs, and until now, she’d only performed her cover of Lacus’ Silent Night in Gundam SEED Destiny. I first heard EMOTION after picking up the songs a few days before a Thanksgiving trip out to watch the salmon spawn; having set my music on shuffle, I was on a tour bus hurtling along the Trans Canada highway over the Kicking Horse River just outside of Golden when this song came on. A few weeks later, I was sitting in biology class and doing the day’s assignment. EMOTION came back on my rotation, and my thoughts flitted back to the moment when I’d been looking at the foggy skies above and the turbulent river below while out in Golden. Curiosity led me to watch the episode, and since then, Meer’s story has remained with me as one of the moments of Gundam SEED Destiny I found most memorable.

  • Because I’d been missing so much context in Gundam SEED Destiny, I’d initially thought that Meer’s death was the catalyst that pushed Durandal to initiate the Destiny Plan, but this is one of my own misconceptions. Durandal had been working on the Destiny Plan early on, and the simple version of this is that right from birth, people would be assigned an occupation and station in society purely based on their genetic makeup. On the surface, such a plan is very appealing, as giving everyone a fixed purpose and eliminating ambition would be attacking the root cause of warfare. However, upon closer scrutiny, the Destiny Plan falls apart. Almost immediately, Orb and a handful of nations reject the Destiny Plan, while the Archangel, Eternal and allied Terminal forces set off to put an end to Durandal’s machinations: as a show of force to the world, Durandal plans to destroy Orb using Requiem.

  • After Meyrin left the Minerva, another communications officer replaces her and plays the role differently. Meyrin herself ends up becoming the communications officer on board the Eternal, and she finds herself fighting against ZAFT loyalists; Lunamaria has sortied in the Impulse and is shocked to learn that Meyrin is still alive. Although she’s under the impression that Meyrin had betrayed ZAFT, Lunamaria holds her fire. As the battle progresses, the Archangel comes under fire from the Minerva: for Talia, the battle’s become somewhat of a personal one now, and by this point in time, Phantom Pain is forgotten entirely, having fallen apart once Mu was recovered, and its complement of Extended pilots falling in battle.

  • In a scene designed to deliberately draw parallels between Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, Mu La Flaga pilots the Akatsuki directly into the path of an incoming positron beam to protect the Archangel, and the intensity of emotions in the moment are enough to overcome his brainwashing. After blocking the shot, Mu activates the Akatsuki’s remote weapons and uses them to form a protective barrier around the Archangel. These remote weapons are capable of offensive attacks, but the shield ability is a call-back to the ν Gundam and its fin funnels.

  • With Mu’s memories of the Archangel, and Murrue, back in full, Murrue smiles warmly. The Akatsuki’s special armour fully deflects the beam, and Neo Roanoke disappears. The moment was likely designed to bring Mu La Flaga back in style, and while perhaps a little overdone, seeing Mu back put a smile on my face: Neo’s character initially felt a little unnatural: beyond being an enigmatic masked man fulfilling a Gundam tradition, Neo never felt like a threat despite leading Phantom Pain. In fact, Phantom Pain itself never felt intimidating to begin with, and so, they were ultimately relegated to a secondary role in the series, especially after Junius Seven falls.

  • Thanks to their METEOR systems, as well as support from Terminal-aligned forces, Kira and Athrun end up dealing an appreciable amount of damage to the deflector system, enough to keep Requiem from firing on Orb. With the amount of damage they’re doing, Durandal finally sends out the Legend and Destiny to counter the Strike Freedom and Infinite Justice. In the original Gundam SEED Destiny, the final fight was far less impressive from a visual standpoint, ending much more quickly than it did in the HD Remaster, which sees Kira and Rey slug it out. As it turns out, Rey is also a clone of Al Da Flaga, whose attempts to find immortality resulted in Rau Le Crueset’s creation. Rey resents Kira for being the Ultimate Coordinator and sees him as an impediment to Durandal’s Destiny Plan, although this aspect of his character only comes late in the game.

  • Durandal’s designs for the Messiah means that his command centre resembles Palpatine’s throne room Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of The Jedi. The Destiny Plan’s implementation forms the basis for the series’ theme, which is less nuanced than that of its predecessor; Gundam SEED Destiny is suggesting that it is preferable to allow people to make their own choices and learn from their mistakes, rather than impose a universal system upon them and deprive them of choice. However, the route Gundam SEED Destiny posits as being the preferred one comes with a caveat: it assumes that people must be responsible enough to do so, as well. Those who stop at the idea that one should be able to make their own choices and omit the idea that this freedom comes with responsibility would argue that Gundam SEED Destiny is about “not allowing others to take your personal freedoms” when in fact, the theme is “a world where one can make their own decisions is preferable to one where another agent guides one’s path, but individuals must be willing to take responsibility for these decisions and accept that misunderstandings will arise”. This is the crux of all meaningful discussion in anime with a particularly large emphasis on social and political elements: themes are multi-faceted, rarely in black-and-white as some fans might suggest.

  • One of my goals as a blogger is to present themes in a proper level of depth such that all elements are considered, and I’ve long found that while politics form the backdrop of a given Gundam series, they are rarely the centrepiece of the series. Further to this, it is the case that very few online are capable of partaking in a civilised and constructive discourse on politics whether it be in the context of an anime or otherwise. This is primarily because politics has a tendency to boil down to identity, and this in turn precludes any meaningful conversation from happening; divergent ideas are seen as an attack on one’s existence, rather than an alternate mode of thinking that works for people of differing backgrounds. Politics nowadays amounts to little more than finger-pointing and name-calling: just recently, my home nation unwisely decided to join the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Games. But unbeknownst to those who endorse such actions or call for more drastic measures, this is ultimately a meaningless gesture that only makes it look like the politicians are doing something useful where in fact, they have accomplished exactly nothing.

  • The Olympics are intended as an event to celebrate a nation’s athletic prowess and politics or not, I intend to cheer on Team Canada once the games begin. The pettiness of real-world politics is why for me, Gundam speaks more loudly about personal improvement, understanding one’s goals and accepting responsibility for the actions one takes, than it is about influencing political systems. In every Gundam series, pilots seek to understand why they fight amidst a twisted world, and when they find this reason (to protect what is dear to them and do what only they can), they become legends in their own right. This holds true for Amuro Ray, Banagher Links and Setsuna F. Seiei, and it holds true for Kira, as well. Similarly, ace pilots and mobile suit mechanics offer interesting discussion on operator skill, hardware constraints and making the most of what one has. Char Aznable and Graham Aker are pilots capable of fighting Gundams to a standstill despite using vastly inferior machines. These other elements of Gundam are more relevant to my discussions, since there are more concrete analogs between these aspects and reality.

  • For instance, parallels between Gundam and real life can be drawn in observations like how one is most effective in their career if they are able to see the value of their contributions, and just because someone has better tools do not mean they can surpass someone with better skills. I therefore choose to focus on these aspects of Gundam when discussing them, because it is the part of these series that can impact me as an individual and compel me to be a better person. These sorts of conversations drive Gundam more strongly than partially-baked assumptions about politics, and is the reason why when pilots clash in Gundam, they also have a frank exchange of ideas; Gundam SEED Destiny has Kira and Rey doing the same, but in the original, the fight was much shorter, whereas here in the HD Remaster, the might of Kira and Rey’s respective machines and prowess as a pilot is portrayed to a better extent.

  • With this being said, while the Legend is supposed to be an improvement over the Providence, I never felt that Rey utilised its capabilities anywhere as effectively as Rau Le Creuset. Kira ultimately defeats Rey after convincing the latter that no matter what is origins were, and what expectations there were for him, he’s ultimately still his own individual. The shock of this revelation distracts Rey enough for Kira to completely disable the Legend using the Strike Freedom’s full burst mode. Kira subsequently docks with the METEOR and uses its beam sabres to cripple Messiah.

  • While Athrun’s piloting skills have been inconsistent throughout Gundam SEED Destiny, they relate directly to the strength of his resolve. In the final fight, Athrun has no trouble fighting Lunamaria and Shinn at the same time, to the point where despite its powers, the Destiny Gundam becomes a bit of a joke to behold. This was probably meant to show that as Shinn’s conviction in supporting Durandal wavers, his ability to fight similarly fluctuates. As a result, Athrun is able to take down the Destiny even after Lunamaria steps in to try and break up the fighting, putting herself in harm’s way: seeing this prompts Athrun to act, keeping Lunamaria safe and allowing Athrun to cast down the Destiny.

  • Overall, I was never a fan of Shinn’s character because his experiences throughout the course of Gundam SEED Destiny do not have a more incremental change on him. While he begins to show the same hesitation about the Destiny Plan as Athrun, this comes much later in the game, and he continues to fight for the Destiny Plan (albeit half-heartedly) right up until he is shot down. I would’ve preferred to have Shinn realise the hazards inherent in the Destiny Plan as a result of his experiences, and then have him be the one to confront Durandal instead, as this would’ve made it clearer that Shinn’s changed, too.

  • Altogether, while Gundam SEED Destiny isn’t the same powerhouse its predecessor was, I still found there to be merits in this series overall. Gundam SEED Destiny‘s strengths lie in the mobile suits themselves, as well as the fact that the series does touch on some notable topics relevant to reality and present them in a plausible manner. While the overall story is inconsistent in places, and some of characters are not as compelling as they were in Gundam SEED, I do not believe that Gundam SEED Destiny‘s outcomes warrant the sort of hatred that has surrounded this series since its original airing in 2004: back then, viewers spent countless hours on forums picking the series’ flaws apart on their DSL connections and 1024 by 768 monitors.

  • I would imagine that most of these individuals have since moved on with their lives, although these early haters set the precedence for the reluctance people have towards seeing Gundam SEED Destiny today. I will note that the words of people back in 2004 and 2005 certainly do not hold any weight today; these individuals are no longer around to defend their claims or disparage those who are curious now: flaws notwithstanding, Gundam SEED Destiny is something that is probably useful to have if one is curious about the new Gundam SEED movie. So far, no information has been released about this film, beyond the fact that it’s releasing in 2022.

  • In a private conversation with my best friend, I learnt that it would be in my interest to finish Gundam SEED Destiny so that I could pass my own judgement on it and so I was fully caught up for whatever lies ahead in the upcoming movie. Because of my old track record with anime, watching Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny initially seemed quite daunting. I had actually started watching Gundam SEED since last September, but didn’t really pick up until earlier this year. After I wrapped up Gundam SEED, I switched over to Gundam SEED Destiny and paused during the summer, before deciding to continue on with things. My journey through the Cosmic Era has taken around twenty five months, but I am very glad to have finished the series, since I can now form my own conclusions of the series, and because I’ve finally got the full context for things I’ve been wondering about for the past fourteen years.

  • Because I’m rocking the HD Remaster, Gundam SEED Destiny ends with Kira and Athrun making amends with Shinn before they vow to keep the peace in their world. Kira’s also become a ZAFT commander now, and here, he reunites with Lacus, who’s en route to a meeting with Cagalli to discuss their plans for what directions the world will take next. As such, some fourteen years since I first caught wind of Gundam SEED Destiny, and almost sixteen years since the series concluded, I finally cross the finish line. Gundam SEED Destiny isn’t going to rank up there with my favourite Gundam series of all time, but I found that all of the anger and hatred directed towards the series is uninformed: I daresay that it takes a better mind to see what different Gundam series are doing, and broadly speaking, haters only succeed in demonstrating how little they know. As it was, I’ve no regrets about following my own judgement for something like Gundam SEED Destiny and saying despite its flaws, I still enjoyed the series.

Altogether, it should be evident that I enjoyed Gundam SEED Destiny. This series is not without its shortcomings – the pacing at which Durandal’s plan was revealed was abrupt, and Shinn’s portrayal meant he is not shown as learning to overcome the hatred and thirst for revenge that led him to join ZAFT. Kira’s role is similarly limited: having found his reason to fight, Kira becomes a static character, standing in contrast with Athrun, who is forced to rediscover his place in the world anew after the events of Gundam SEED. Animation limitations are also especially visible in Gundam SEED Destiny: the frequent use of flashbacks also breaks the flow of a moment, and similar keyframes are recycled for combat sequences. However, in spite of these negatives, Gundam SEED Destiny still manages to tell its story in a way as to expand the Cosmic Era. It is clear that, if production issues among the staff hadn’t been an issue, and more resources were allocated to animation, Gundam SEED Destiny would easily have had the narrative and visuals to back what was, fundamentally, a strong concept. While detractors of the series are quick to fixate on the superficialities of Gundam SEED Destiny‘s flaws, underneath the flaws is the groundwork for what is otherwise a worthy successor to Gundam SEED, as well as an exemplary demonstration of how attention paid to detail makes Cosmic Era’s mobile suits among the most realistically designed in the Gundam franchise. Rather than allowing the technology to run away with the series and perform acts bordering on the supernatural, all of the mobile suits seen in Gundam SEED Destiny are logical developments from existing technology. In short, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s haters are wrong; while Gundam SEED Destiny is far from perfect and is rough in many spots, the concept is fundamentally viable. Similarly, any issues in Gundam SEED Destiny are often erroneously applied to Gundam SEED, as well. With this being said, viewers do need a bit of an open mind entering Gundam SEED Destiny in order to get the most out of things, and now, having watched Gundam SEED Destiny to completion, I can say that I am glad to have finally finished a series that I’d been curious about since my time in secondary school. Back then, the local TV channels played the English dubs on Friday nights, but because of the hour at which they aired, I would only catch glimpses of the episodes before retiring for the evening. Thanks to what contemporary technology allows, I’ve been lucky enough to finish Gundam SEED Destiny and find the answers to the questions I’ve had for the past fourteen years. There are no more mysterious on the table, leaving me ready to enter Gundam SEED‘s Twentieth Anniversary events fully caught up with things – I’ve heard that the MG Eclipse is well-received, and I am now looking forwards to see what Gundam SEED The Movie will entail.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point

“Anyone who’s ever cried because they felt weak and powerless has thought, ‘if only I had the power’. But the moment you acquire the power you dreamt of having, you become the one who causes others to cry. Try not to forget that.” –Athrun Zala

Two years after the Battle of Jachin Due, the PLANTs and Earth Alliance have reached a truce. Cagalli visits the new chairman, Gilbert Durandal to express her concerns about ZAFT’s latest weapons programme, but during their meeting, a group called Phantom Pain commandeers three units. In the chaos, ZAFT pilots Shinn Asuka, Lunamaria Hawke and Rey Za Burrel manages to intervene, but Phantom Pain manages to escape. ZAFT’s latest battleship, the Minerva, is deployed to pursue the Phantom Pain pilots, but upon encountering the Girty Lue, Phantom Pain’s vessel, the battle turns. It is only with Athrun’s help that the Minerva manages to escape. While the Girty Lue has the initiative, an unexpected change in Junius Seven’s trajectory forces the Minerva to intervene, and although they are successful in breaking up the abandoned colony, the remnants impact the Earth’s surface and causes widespread damage, giving the Blue Cosmos justification in pushing the Earth Alliance to declare war against the PLANTs. While the Earth Alliance immediately uses nuclear weapons, ZAFT deploys a new weapon to neutralise the weapons. Meanwhile, the Minerva arrives in Orb Union, and Cagalli struggles to convince the other leaders that they shouldn’t be hasty in joining the Earth Alliance. Athrun briefly meets with Kira before taking off: almost immediately after the Minerva leaves Orb’s waters, they come under attack from the Earth Alliance forces. Shinn manages to fend off the fleet, and Athrun rejoins ZAFT, being assigned to the FAITH Special Forces unit after speaking with Durandal about his wishes to prevent a conflict of the sort Patrick Zala desired. While Kira extracts Cagalli from Orb after an attack on Lacus’ life forces the Archangel to reactivate, the Minerva undergoes repairs at Carpentaria and receives a request to destroy an Earth Alliance positron cannon keeping the area locked down. Despite his reluctance, Shinn accepts Athrun’s mission plan and succeeds in the operation. In the aftermath, FAITH member Heine Westenfluß is assigned to look after Athrun and the others, and Durandal invites Shinn, Athrun, Lunamaria and Rey to dinner, revealing that ZAFT is investigating Blue Cosmos and their manipulation of the Earth Alliance; it is suspected that Blue Cosmos, under the organisation LOGOS, is creating war to drive profits. Since Shinn and the others have some downtime, he heads off to the coast and saves a mysterious girl, Stella Loussier, from drowning. Shortly after, the Minerva is attacked by the joint Earth Alliance and Orb fleets before Kira intervenes in the Freedom. Cagalli attempts to get the Orb forces to stand down, but are unsuccessful, forcing Kira to engage both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT forces. Kira’s actions frustrate both sides and ends with Heine’s death. While Athrun heads off to speak to Kira about his actions, the Minerva make a disturbing discovery; the Earth Alliance has a secret facility where they produce the Extended, enhanced humans made purely for combat. This is about the gist of things at Gundam SEED Destiny‘s halfway point, the sequel to Gundam SEED that continues with the Cosmic Era from a more ZAFT-focused perspective.

At the heart of Gundam SEED Destiny‘s first half is the idea the world’s events are likely to be manipulated and influenced from the shadows. Blue Cosmos and Patrick Zala’s supporters had manipulated their respective sides into open warfare, and here in Gundam SEED Destiny, things are no different: this time around, the enigmatic Lord Djibril and LOGOs is the main foe, allowing extremists clinging to the Zala ideology to drop a colony on Earth for the sake of renewing a new war with the PLANTs and continuing on with Blue Cosmos’ stated goal of destroying the Coordinators. On the other side of the equation is PLANTs’ Gilbert Durandal, who on first glance, appears to have no appetite for war, and even after the Earth Alliance uses nuclear weapons against the PLANTs, attempts to negotiate; he reluctantly agree to defensive operations only once all other options are exhausted. With such a leader at the helms for the PLANTs, it does appear that the Earth Alliance, and their secretive benefactors are indeed the root cause of this latest conflict to strike the Cosmic Era. While Durandal reassures the PLANTs and orders his soldiers to be cautious, the Earth Alliance has no qualms about committing genocide or employing excessive force on suspected PLANT synthesisers. However, even this early on, it is clear that Durandal is not being entirely transparent. He may have a reassuring way with words, so that even Athrun is swayed into returning to ZAFT, but the appearance of a second Lacus (Meer Campbell) and Durandal’s explanation of the necessity of such an image stikes doubt into his objectives. In the case of Durandal, the mystery is what Durandal’s true intentions are. Gundam SEED Destiny suggests that despite the outward differences in appearance, ZAFT and the Earth Alliance are no better than one another once the chips are down and warfare begins. The clear delineation of sides in Gundam SEED Destiny is, in a way, strikingly similar to the geopolitical issues of the real world at the time of writing, and while the different sides may purport themselves to be economically, culturally and morally superior to their adversary, the reality is that both sides remain more alike than unlike, conflict will benefit neither party, and moreover, the sort of political posturing seen in reality now could prove disastrous, allowing even the smallest misunderstanding to ignite into open conflict.

Of note is Durandal’s mention of a Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) during a dinner with Athrun and the others. A MIC arises when a nation’s economy and public policy is tightly coupled to the military and defense industry. Gundam SEED Destiny‘s explanation of an MIC is admittedly an abstraction of the concept: Durandal notes that during wartime, industries involved with arms and equipment production see a boom in business. Weapons are fired, ammunition expended, parts wear out and machines need to be replaced, providing a vast stream of revenue for these companies. By comparison, during peacetime, weapons, ammunition, gear and vehicles sit in their hangars and silos. There is no question as to which of these two are better for business, but the tradeoff is that, in order to drive the most revenue, such companies would necessarily require there to be warfare. Durandal postulates that some individuals might even be willing to start a war to turn a profit. In reality, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against how the United States was headed down such a path and that a nation where the military was too tightly coupled with the economy would endanger liberty and democracy itself. While Eisenhower suggested that diplomacy and other peaceful methods were necessary to ensure American prosperity with the rest of the world, his warnings would go unheeded. The problems with this relationship began to materialise during the Vietnam War; historian George F. Kennan suggested that, if the Soviet Union were to collapse, America would need a new adversary in order to maintain their economy. Today, the MIC is a concept that has fallen out of favour, but one that remains relevant in works like Gundam SEED Destiny; Durandal’s theory behind why some wars never seem to end certainly does have a rational basis, and where money is involved, there are those who would gladly discard any principals and cast aside morality to assure themselves of a future even if it comes at someone else’s expense. This unusual symbiosis is one that benefits both LOGOS and Lord Djibril – Djibril leverages LOGOS in order to fuel his war of genocide, and by helping Djibril, LOGOS gains a tidy profit. The extent of these excesses are most apparent in the Extended facility that the Minerva’s crew finds, and any sympathy viewers might’ve had for the Earth Alliance will have evaporated by this point in time, leaving viewers to wonder how many more atrocities will unfold so long as Djibril lives.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Gundam SEED had been a solid experience, but I never expected that I’d be watching Gundam SEED Destiny, as well – the sequel is one of the most reviled works on this side of the planet, and per discussions with a friend, the series’ inconsistency was a result of troubles during production. However, said friend also remarked that with the Gundam SEED movie upcoming, it would be prudent to catch up with the series, especially now that the means were available to do so.

  • I therefore began watching Gundam SEED Destiny back in August, but ended up getting sidelined while trying to keep up with other things, and ended up delaying my journey until now. Gundam SEED Destiny begins similarly to SEED in that it starts with a special forces team taking possession of ZAFT’s Second Stage mobile suits on the same day Cagalli arrives to discuss disarmament with the PLANT’s leader, Gilbert Durandal. Inevitably, she and Athrun are caught up in things and end up boarding the Minerva in pursuit of the stolen mobile suits.

  • While ZAFT felt more to be the antagonists in SEEDSEED Destiny‘s foes are the Blue Cosmos and LOGOS – their portrayal as a shadowy organisation is both figurative and literal, as their discussions are often held in dimly-lit rooms. It turns out that Blue Cosmos and LOGOS acquiesces to Lord Djibril’s conflict of interest; he leads Blue Cosmos in place of Maruta and simultaneously runs LOGOS, keeping both the Blue Cosmos members happy by promising them a war, and then promising the stakeholders at LOGOS a tidy profit by fuelling said war. However, Djibril is also uncommonly arrogant and prideful, reacting childishly whenever his plans fail.

  • Early in Gundam SEED Destiny, Djibril watches the chaos unfold around the world from the safety of his base: to him, the deaths in the world are of little consequence because they occur behind his monitors. This is reminiscent of how people nowadays act wherever politics are concerned, and by dehumanising one’s opponents, arguments quickly become polarised. One could say that Gundam SEED Destiny, more so than its predecessor, represents what happens when short-sighted extremists are allowed to take charge – tragedy and chaos follows.

  • The Second Stage mobile suits are upgrades over the original G Project suits: while lacking the nuclear reactors seen on the Freedom, Justice and Providence, the Second Stage suits utilise a wireless energy transfer system for extended combat, and Variable Phase Shift Armour replaces the original Phase Shift Armour, allowing a mobile suit to dynamically adjust its defenses as required. Here, the Chaos and Abyss can be seen evading a shot from a ZAFT mobile suit: Chaos is intended for high-speed combat and possesses wire-guided weapons, while Abyss is an amphibious suit. All of the Second Stage units are able to transform into MA mode to enhance their mobility.

  • Besides the Gundams, ZAFT also fields the ZAKU (all-caps, to differentiate it from the Universal Century Zakus) – Gundam SEED Destiny‘s ZAKUs are an all-new mobile suit whose base performance exceeds those of the G Project suits, and unlike Universal Century Zakus, have an inner frame around which the armour is placed, rather than a heavily armoured outer shell. The average ZAKU thus has impressive performance all around and can be equipped with a wide range of weapons, making them formidable machines all around.

  • Here, Shinn’s Impulse and another ZAFT suit attempt to load a drill onto Junius Seven after it is found that the colony remains have unexpectedly accelerated towards Earth. The perpetrators are Patrick Zala loyalists, and their presence shakes the otherwise calm Athrun: Athrun’s greatest concern is that he will eventually follow the wrong path and bring others to ruin as his father did, as well as the fact that there are those who still believe extremism is the only way to correct past wrongs. In the end, while the Minerva is able to break up Junius Seven, the pieces still deal massive damage around the world.

  • The Vatican, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Monument National Park among the locations devastated: the entire scene is set to Rie Tanaka’s Fields of Hope, Lacus’ inset song for Gundam SEED Destiny. I’ve long been fond of Tanaka’s performances: Token of Water is the song that opened me to vocal music in general, and Fields of Hope is a similarly melancholy and wistful sounding song. I ended up using footage from Junius Seven’s earthfall and other parts of Gundam SEED Destiny as a part of an English project back in secondary school: because it’s been over a decade, I can’t remember what sort of project it was for, but I do remember that I excelled in English that year, enough to win the English award and surprise the folks who always figured the humanities wasn’t my jam.

  • The reality is that being effective in the humanities depends a similar skill-set one requires to succeed in the sciences: an analytical but open mind, logical thinking and a willingness to be wrong. However, I’ve found that a lot of people do not see things this way; these individuals believe that humanities require an appeal to emotion. This is the main reason why the thinking behind contemporary trends like activism and cancel culture is flawed: it is dependent on accepting a logical fallacy as a valid argument. Here, Talia and Murrue meet for the first time: Talia is unaware that Murrue is the Archangel’s former captain, creating a bit of dramatic irony.

  • The fact that the Earth Alliance strikes first, and with nuclear weapons, during their retaliatory strike on the PLANTs is actually not so unbelievable: in contemporary politics, I do not doubt that there are nations who have at least considered first-use in their efforts to get the upper hand over competition. In reality, there is no Neutron Stampeder to prematurely set off incoming nuclear weapons; ZAFT utilises such a device to render ineffectual the Earth Alliance strike, and this serious attempt at what amounts to genocide riles the PLANTs, enough for them to wish for a retaliatory strike.

  • Durandal, however, plays his new trump card to placate the citizens: he has his own Lacus Clyne double, Meer Campbell, and through her as a mouthpiece, Drandal defuses the situation enough to indicate that he is raising ZAFT’s alert level and preparing for defensive measures, but otherwise, will not authorise offensive operations. At this point in time, Athrun has also confided in Durandal and ultimately decides to accept Durandal’s offer of returning to ZAFT as a pilot, as well as becoming a member of FAITH, a special forces group with license to operate independently. Athrun believes that becoming the Saviour’s pilot will allow him to shape the course of events and stave off open warfare.

  • The phony Lacus, Meer, has fully embraced her duties as an idol and symbol of hope for the PLANTs. However, whereas the real Lacus was introspective and thoughtful, Meer is excitable and bubbly: she sings more energetic versions of Lacus’ iconic songs and wears more revealling outfits. Athrun is somewhat embarrassed by her manner: Meer tends to cling to Athrun, both because the original Lacus had been engaged to him before Patrick Zala called things off, and because Athrun himself exudes a very calm and composed demeanour.

  • Upon returning to the Orb Union, Cagalli has her hands full in trying to convince the cabinet of declining the Earth Alliance’s demands to join them. Since the events of Gundam SEED, Cagalli remains an idealist and is committed to the belief that Orb’s survival is contingent on being resolute in neutrality. However, the other members in the government feel that it is a necessary evil to join with and fight alongside the Earth Alliance owing to the fact that their nation technically owes no favours to the Coordinators. Cagalli’s wishes are ultimately brushed aside, and she’s forced to wed Yuna Roma Seiran.

  • While contemplating his next move, Athrun runs into two old colleagues, Dearka and Yzak. According to the materials, Dearka is reinstated into ZAFT, while Yzak now leads his own vessel and acts as a mentor for inexperienced pilots. While still somewhat impulsive, Yzak has matured. The group head out to visit Nicol’s grave: Nicol’s death had hit particularly hard, and Gundam SEED had done a fantastic job of showing how people on both sides of the conflict were human. This is something that I found to be absent in Gundam 00, where Celestial Being squared off mostly against nameless soldiers in the first season, and an openly evil organisation in the second.

  • After Coordinator special forces infiltrate the castle the Archangel’s crew are staying at, Kira sorties in the Freedom to take them out, stating that while he would prefer not to employ physical force where possible, there are things that must be defended through force. The Kira of Gundam SEED Destiny is more mature and resolute than the Kira of Gundam SEED, but for the first half of Gundam SEED Destiny, Kira’s role is minimal as the story focuses primarily on Athrun and who he’s become after the events at Jachin Due. The Freedom’s return, then, signifies how Kira is returning to play a larger role in the unfolding conflict.

  • The biggest action the reactivated Archangel crew take is kidnapping Cagalli from her wedding ceremony: while it saves Cagalli from an uncertain fate with the manipulative and controlling Yuna, Cagalli herself is unsure if this action would’ve been beneficial. One thing that is notable is how the Orb armed forces are actually reluctant to follow Yuna’s orders to recaptuire Cagalli, and several of the captains even salute the Freedom, placing their faith in Kira to do the right thing. This indicates that outside of Cagalli, Orb’s leadership has also grown corrupt and decadent, preferring band-aid solutions to options that would be more beneficial in the long term.

  • With Athrun’s decision to rejoin ZAFT, Durandal assigns him to the Minerva, which has already made a bit of a name for itself after eluding the Girty Lue and participating in breaking up Junius Seven. Here, Athrun makes to familiarise himself with the Saviour’s controls and finds himself face-to-face with a curious Lunamaria. She quickly became my favourite character of Gundam SEED Destiny: friendly, respectful, competent but also prone to jealousy, having her as a part of Minerva’s crew means that there’s reason to support the Minerva and hope they get out of difficult situations alright.

  • Whereas the old 4:3 aspect ratio of Gundam SEED Destiny meant there was a little screen space for things, 16:9 allows Lunamaria to put the ass back in the HD Remasster as she looks about the Saviour’s controls, giving me one more reason to be fond of her character. Compared to the Justice, the Saviour has superior technology, more efficient weapons and can hypothetically operate indefinitely so long as it was in range of a power transmitted, but lacks the Justice’s nuclear reactor, which enables the latter to definitively run on its own for extended periods of time. Overall, documentation suggests that the Second Stage Gundams surpass the Justice and Freedom in terms of pure combat capabilities and could theoretically overcome the older two suits if the circumstances are right.

  • Gundam SEED had Rau Le Creuset, and Gundam SEED Destiny brings on Neo Roanoke, a mysterious masked man who commands Phantom Pain, a black ops unit answering directly to Blue Cosmos. While Neo has a preference for mobile armours, he also pilots a highly customised Windam. The Windam is one of the Earth Alliance’s mainstay mobile suits, being developed from the Dagger (itself developed from the Strike Gundam): these mobile suits are comparable to the Strike in terms of mobility and firepower, and moreover, are highly flexible because they can equip Strike packs: Neo’s rocking such a pack here for improved atmospheric performance, and his own skill as a pilot means he can fight ZAFT forces to a standstill. Conversely, conventional Windams are shot down left and right: these excellent mass production units are given almost no chance to shine despite their technical strengths to show viewers how capable the Minerva’s crew are.

  • It feels a little unusual to watch a Gundam-type sortie alongside Zakus: of the pilots on board the Minerva, Shinn pilots the Impulse, which was itself a derivate of ZAFT’s ZAKU Splendor, a prototype ZAKU with a nuclear reactor. The Impulse’s main feature is that it can be assembled and disassembled on the fly, allowing it to be highly versatile in combat by switching out its loadout to suit whatever the situation demands. However, this does require that the Minerva be nearby. Save the nuclear reactor-powered Gundams, Cosmic Era mobile suits have always been particularly well-balanced and are employed in a strategic manner during battle. Moreover, their limitations continue forcing pilots to improve themselves, and here, Shinn fights Stella’s Gaia, a mobile suit that can transform into a quadrupedal form resembling the BuCUE.

  • While the PLANTs’ citizens readily accept Meer as Lacus, there are several indicators to allow viewers to swiftly tell the two apart: Meer sports a star hair ornament, while the real Lacus has a more subtle hairclip, and whereas Meer dresses more provocatively, the real Lacus prefers elegant but practical clothing. To emphasise the idea that the two are similar, however, Rie Tanaka voices both Meer and Lacus, although even then, one can hear nuances in how Tanaka delivers the real Lacus’ and Meer’s lines differently.

  • When the Minerva leaves a base on Carpentaria after undergoing repairs following a bout with the Earth Alliance forces, which saw Shinn enter SEED mode for the first time and single-handedly demolish several Earth Alliance ships, they come under attack again, and during the combat, Shinn disobeys orders and attacks the base. This earns him a reprimand from Athrun. Athrun later speaks to Shinn privately and notes that being a pilot comes with responsibilities (hence the page quote): this was something that Gundam SEED had spoken to well, by having Kira and Athrun pilot the more limited GAT-series Gundams before coming to an epiphany and gaining access to the nuclear powered ZGMF-series’ nigh-unlimited power.

  • Athrun’s treatment of Shinn is tough but fair, and ultimately, Athrun is able to convince Shinn to use his prodigious skill on the battlefield without overstepping his duties. During an operation to take out a positron cannon, Shinn accepts the assignment after Athrun reminds him that he would not have been placed on the assignment, if Athrun hadn’t been confident that Shinn would be able to complete the mission. In the aftermath, the townspeople living near this cannon are overjoyed to see the Earth Alliance on the backfoot, although in response to the Earth Alliance’s brutal treatment of the locals, the remaining Earth Alliance soldiers are spared no quarter and summarily executed. Once the area is secure, Meer shows up to put on a performance for the ZAFT soldiers.

  • In recognition of their accomplishments, Athrun, Shinn, Rey and Lunamaria are invited to dinner with Durandal and Talia, where they discuss the possibility of conflict being fought for profits. I was particularly impressed with how Gundam SEED Destiny brought this topic into the open: Gundam Unicorn only touched lightly on the EFSF government’s unusually close relationship to Anaheim Electronics, and similarly, while Gundam 00 presented the PMC Trust and mercenaries as a factor in warfare, the military-industrial complex was never explicitly mentioned. The idea of wars being fought solely to enrich corporate pocketbooks is nothing new, and in retrospect, is one of the reasons why wars continue to persist in the post-Cold War era: for some companies, wars are good for business, and this demands that there be an enemy to fight (in the absence of a foe, these companies would report quarterly losses).

  • In private conversation, I’ve also noted that Gundam SEED Destiny captures real-world geopolitics surprisingly well, with there being analogues of both the Earth Alliance and PLANTs alike. The Earth Alliance is well-established and possesses vast resources, but is influenced by a shadowy group from behind the scenes, while the PLANTs are technologically advanced but led by a single entity, the PLANT Supreme Council. Misunderstandings between the two grow into open hostilities as a result of media rhetoric, and this is used as flimsy justification for increasingly extreme policies on both ends. Gundam SEED Destiny further suggests that whereas the Earth Alliance is openly corrupt, Durandal appears to be hiding something, as well; despite being the more sympathetic of the two sides, viewers should not be so hasty as to trust Durandal at this point in time despite his reassuring words and measured reasoning.

  • While Gundam SEED Destiny is primarily about the causes and consequences of warfare, more so than its predecessor, there are more lighthearted moments, especially where Meer and Lunamaria are concerned. Their antics are often accompanied by the whimsical-sounding piece of incidental music, Kaze no Kodou. On their break from the front lines, the most outrageous moment occurs when Athrun wakes up to find a half-naked Meer sleeping beside him, and things are cranked up after Lunamaria barges in and immediately jumps to conclusions.

  • Lunamaria spends the remainder of the episode in a huff over things: she’s not exactly good at concealing her jealousy, and this is another part of her character that I am fond of: while she’s a soldier and a pilot, she and her younger sister, Meyrin have common interests and worry about the sorts of things appropriate to girls of their age, on top of their usual duties. One thing I found especially noticeable in Gundam SEED Destiny is the fact that Meyrin will always append どうぞ to her ATC instructions to pilots (e.g. 発信どうぞ, hasshin douzo, literally “please launch”). This is something that carries over from Gundam SEED when Miriallia was running the Archangel’s comms, and because the Impulse has a lot of parts, this meant we got to hear Meyrin issue more instructions. I suspect that this is a way to indicate their youthfulness, standing in place of the usual “cleared for launch”.

  • One of the pivotal moments in Gundam SEED Destiny occurs when Shinn meets Stella for the first time, unaware that she’s an Earth Alliance pilot with Phantom Pain. Shinn’s story is a familiar one: he loses his family during ZAFT’s attack on Orb. While the battle is under way, civilians begin evacuating, but crossfire from Earth Alliance pilots kill off his family. Since then, Shinn had desired to fight for a world without conflict, and being a Coordinator himself, ends up joining ZAFT. As a result of his losses, Shinn is very impulsive and arrogant, even challenging superior officers, but his skill as a pilot is also evident, and when the moment calls for it, he is understanding and caring.

  • Being with Stella gives viewers a better idea of what sort of person Shinn is in the absence of conflict, and while Shinn is counted as an unnecessary addition to the Cosmic Era by some viewers, his brash attitude stands in stark contrast with Athrun and Kira, who both once stood in his place and ended up maturing as a result of their experiences. By the events of Gundam SEED Destiny, Athrun has matured considerably, and so, when FAITH sends Heine Westenfluß to take command, Athrun has no qualms deferring to him, and the pair even share a conversation about the nature of warfare that leads Athrun to reconsider what he’s fighting for.

  • This is why in the Saviour, Athrun’s combat is much more restrained than he had been in a ZAKU: his doubts are weighing him down and causing him to be more mindful of his actions. To the external observer, Athrun is pulling his punches. Conversely, Shinn has no qualms about beating the living daylights out of his opponents, and so, when the Minerva is faced with the combined Earth Alliance and Orb fleets, he sorties in the Impulse and sets about attacking Orb’s Astrays and new-fangled Murasames. The latter is a transformable mobile suit with strong all-around performance and a good mixture of both beam and physical weapons. The Murasame remains my best friend’s favourite mass production unit because of its characteristics; these suits have versatility, and the only reason they fall in large numbers is because they’re going against named characters.

  • During this particular fight, the Archangel moves in to intervene, preventing the Minerva from firing its main armament, the Tannhäuser positron cannon, at the Orb fleet. With the distraction Kira provides, Cagalli gets onto the communications channels and orders the Orb forces to stand down, but an inconsolable Yuna orders the Orb forces to attack anyways: he is deluded into thinking that this isn’t the real Cagalli, and this ultimately forces Kira to attack the Earth Alliance, Orb and ZAFT forces alike. While the Freedom is two years old at this point and lacks the features contemporary mobile suits have, its nuclear reactor and corresponding limitless power means it remains a powerful presence on the battlefield.

  • My friend and I have a fondness for drawing analogues between computer hardware and mobile suits in our discussions, and when it comes to computers, high on our list of priorities is designing a machine that gives good performance for value. There are some folks out there who enjoy building systems with the best parts money can buy, but because computer hardware always advances, one’s parts are obsolete before they even are launched. For instance, Intel just released their Alder Lake line of CPUs today, and while they look very promising, the reality is that Intel’s already got their eye on the thirteenth generation line, while AMD is going to be keeping a close eye on things as they develop even better CPUs of their own. As such, it is more prudent to build for a computer that does just a little more than what one needs for the present, and then upgrade parts if needed.

  • This is more cost-effective than trying to future proof a computer, and at the end of the day, things like a ten to fifteen percent improvement in performance does not always justify the thirty percent increase in cost. A well-built computer needn’t break the bank but can still last a very long time. In Gundam SEED Destiny, while the Impulse makes use of newer technology compared to the Freedom, overall, I would count it as an inferior suit purely on the basis that its operational time is limited, whereas the Freedom can operate indefinitely. In spite of this, it is still a superior suit to anything from the original G Weapons programme, taking flexibility and versatility to the next level.

  • Overall, I’d consider Shinn the inferior pilot compared to Kira: Kira’s strengths come from being able to fight with such a level of precision that he can disable enemy suits without much trouble, whereas Shinn typically goes for kills and struggles against foes in machines of equivalent power. While Shinn can only fight the Gaia to a standstill, Kira is able to lop off a limb without much trouble, showing that despite the Second Stage Gundams’ upgrades, the combination of Kira’s own prowess as a pilot and the Freedom’s still-impressive specs allow the Freedom to remain relevant by the events of Gundam SEED Destiny.

  • Heine’s death hit me particularly hard – I took a liking to him because, despite being more senior than Athrun, he has an easygoing personality and contemplates what war is for, as well as whether or not there are “preferred” foes to fight during war. While engaging the Freedom, his GOUF is destroyed by Stella, who had also been trying to attack the Freedom from behind. In the chaos, Heine’s GOUF is bisected, killing him instantly. The pain of his death was amplified by the fact that unlike Nicol or Tolle, few seem affected in the aftermath. This speaks to the callous nature of warfare, and while Heine had his own story to tell, things were cut short as a result of bad luck on his end.

  • After the events involving the Archangel, Athrun is determined to contact Kira and have him explain himself before miscommunication and assumptions lead to another tragedy between the two. To this end, Athrun speaks with Miriallia in an attempt to get in touch with Kira after the Archangel’s intervention, and is surprised that she’s got ways to contact Kira after all this time. It turns out Miriallia is now a freelance journalist, and she was present at the battle between ZAFT, the Earth Alliance and Orb forces, and the Archangel.

  • While Kira is more of an idealist, Athrun is more pragmatic – the two part ways on rocky terms and neither can really reconcile with what the other’s decisions are. Kira and Athrun have clashed previously, with devastating results (Nicol and Tolle both die from crossfire when they get between Kira and Athrun); the two are more mature now, but still find themselves at odds because, despite sharing the same desires, Kira and Athrun do not agree on how the same outcome should be reached. The two part ways, resolute on sorting things out in their own way.

  • For me, the Extended facility was probably the most difficult part about Gundam SEED Destiny to watch, and solidified the fact that the Earth Alliance and LOGOS were meant to be detestable: the extent they were willing to go in order to defeat the Coordinators is appalling, and Shinn rightly asks why the Naturals would stoop to such lows when they considered tampering with the human genome immoral. The site is traumatic to Rey, who collapses after entering, and if memory serves, for several episodes after, the horrors the Minvera’s crew witnesses inside the facility return to them in flashbacks.

  • The revelation that the Extended facility has been infiltrated sends Auel into shock, and Stella sorties to protect him. While they are still unpredictable and dangerous, the Extended are much more stable than the Biological CPUs of Gundam SEED, and considerably more human; this aspect does look like it will continue to create tensions in Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half, as Shinn has come to regard Stella as a bit of a younger sister figure in his life.

  • One of the other challenges about writing for something like Gundam SEED Destiny is whittling down the screenshot collection into a manageable count for this post. I’ve opted to end with a shot of the Impulse cutting open Stella’s Gaia, surprising Shinn. With this, I am now ready to enter Gundam SEED Destiny‘s second half; I believe that things are slated to become more inconsistent and crazy in the second half, but this time around, since I do have some context as to what’s going on, it will be time to determine for myself as to whether or not the existing reception online to Gundam SEED Destiny holds any merit. With this post in the books, I will aim to finish Gundam SEED Destiny before 2021 draws to a close, and in the meantime, because it is Thursday, I now need to catch up on The Aquatope on White Sand.

Halfway into Gundam SEED Destiny, I am not experiencing the same level of confusion and lack of understanding that I imagined would be the case; Gundam SEED Destiny has a reputation in the West for being unpolished and inconsistent which, in conjunction with recycled animation and an overwhelming number of mobile suits, sets the stage for a series that could prove difficult to follow. However, at this point in time, I have had no trouble in keeping up with things. This was my main concern entering the series; I’d seen glimpses of Gundam SEED Destiny when it had been airing on television some fourteen years earlier, and further to this, had only seen clips of the more iconic moments on YouTube. Beyond this, I had no personal experience with the series beyond the decidedly negative reception surrounding it. Back then, the technology available meant that watching the series in full was only possible if one caught episodes on Friday nights, and during this time, I had Chinese school on Saturdays, so I always needed to sleep right as episodes were starting. The only way to have watched Gundam SEED Destiny would have been to rely on the torrents of that era, but between the fact that I had dial-up internet and the fact that the torrents themselves would’ve likely had malware, downloading them was off the table. Fast forward to the present, and things have changed completely: Bandai’s official Gundam channel, GundamInfo, is host to the whole of Gundam SEED Destiny on YouTube, and broadband internet makes it trivially easy to legally stream the series and watch it at my own pace. Technological advances have allowed me to experience Gundam SEED Destiny for myself, and now that I’m here, I’ve gotten some of the answers to the questions that had arisen when I watched snippets of the show fourteen years earlier. I now know the context behind the Extended, the destruction of Junius Seven and where Shinkai no Kodoku fits into Gundam SEED Destiny. While the series hasn’t aged quite as gracefully as Gundam 00, Gundam SEED Destiny‘s first half has proven satisfactorily engaging: for one, watching this series in a relative vacuum has proven to be a remarkably enjoying experience, and the absence of know-it-alls picking apart every second of the series in internet forums means that I am able to properly watch things at my own pace.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Whole-Series Review and Reflection At The End of a Sixteen-Year Journey

“If we kill people to protect ourselves and this future, then what sort of future is it, and what will we have become? There is no future for those who have died. And what of those who did the killing? Is happiness to be found in a future that is grasped with bloodstained hands?” –Lacus Clyne

After undergoing repairs at Orb, the Archangel prepares to head for Alaska. However, the Zala team ambushes them shortly after they leave Orb’s territorial waters. In the ensuing chaos, Kira kills Nicol, and Dearka is shot down. Athrun retaliates by killing Tolle, and ultimately engages Kira in a fight to the death, resulting in the Aegis’ complete destruction. Kira is presumed dead, and while the crew grieves for him, Kira winds up in Lacus Clyne’s care. Meanwhile, Cagalli confronts Athrun and learns that they’d been friends. Upon their arriva in Alaska, the Archangel’s crew are detained and questioned. ZAFT prepares to mount an offensive on the Alaska base, while the Earth Alliance forces prepare to evacuate the facility – they’ve prepared a microwave weapon known as the CYCLOPS and activate it, destroying the facility and a large portion of ZAFT’s forces. However, Kira arrives in the ZGMF-X10A Freedom to save the Archangel from certain doom: Lacus had entrusted the Freedom to Kira for his conviction in fighting to bring an end to the bloodshed. However, she is marked a traitor, and Patrick Zala reassigns Athrun to retrieve the Freedom. In retaliation for Alaska, ZAFT attacks Panama and destroys the mass driver here. Without a mass driver, the Earth Alliance give Orb an ultimatum: to join them or be branded an enemy. To assist their forces, Blue Cosmos’ leader, Muruta Azrael, oversees the attack personally and three new mobile suits: Forbidden, Raider, and Calamity. These new mobile suits prove a match for Kira, and after Athrun arrives in the ZGMF-X09A Justice, he is convinced to begin fighting for what he believes in. Against the Earth Alliance and their new mobile suits, Orb is overrun and prepare to evacuate into space. Their leaders decide to destroy the nation entirely and entrust its future to Cagalli. However, there’s no time to lose – the Earth Alliance is hot on their trail with a new Archangel-class, the Dominions. They are intent on capturing the Freedom and Justice to learn their secrets. Athrun decides to return to ZAFT and see what they are fighting for, only to be arrested after learning from Patrick Zala himself of his intends to wipe out the Naturals. Lacus openly opposes this and with assistance from Andrew Waltfeld, seizes the Eternal, a ship designed to support the Justice and Freedom. Together with Cagalli and the Kusanagi, the Three Ships Alliance is formed. They are pursued by the Dominion, but manage to shake them off in a derelict colony. Here, Kira and Mu confront Rau le Creuset, who reveals that he is the clone of the late Al Da Flaga, who had desired clones of himself for eternal life. However, upon learning that Rau’s lifespan was similarly finite, he abandoned Rau, who in turn killed him and left behind his old identity with the aim of annihilating humanity for having brought him into the world. To this end, he gives Flay the technical data for the neutron jammer cancellers, which is the technology that allows Justice and Freedom to operate indefinitely. With this information, the Earth Alliance use nuclear weapons to destroy Boaz and prepare to fire on the PLANTs themselves. While Kira and Athrun stop these missiles, they cannot prevent Patrick from using GENESIS, which destroys a large portion of the Earth Alliance fleet and the lunar base. Kira and Athrun sortie again; while Kira defeats Rau in single combat, Athrun and Cagalli destroy GENESIS before it can fire again. Patrick Zala is killed by one of his officiers after demanding they fire even though allied forces have not cleared the weapon’s line of fire. Amidst the sheer chaos, PLANT’s moderate leaders call for a ceasefire. This is Gundam SEED‘s second half, a petal-to-the-metal ride as Kira and Athrun, having both come to terms with one another and their past sins, now fight together to prevent escalation of hostilities that would bring about humanity’s extinction.

Despite being an immensely busy series from a thematic standpoint, Gundam SEED presents its messages in a succint and precise manner. The dangers of genetic engineering and the cost of ignoring bioethical concerns manifest through Rau le Creuset and his nihilistic contempt for the human species, suggesting that possibility brings with it the danger of creating something monstrous that would seek the destruction of its creators. Kira and Athrun’s fight with one another highlights how war desecreates what is sacred, no matter what one believes in. These are complex matters, and it is owing to the series’ lengthy runtime that Gundam SEED is able to cover its messages in a satisfactory manner. Amidst the themese in Gundam SEED, one of the most standout is the notion that atrocity and calamity follows when societies are handed over to madmen holding extremist ideals. As Blue Cosmos infiltrates the highest echelons of the Atlantic Federation and meddles in the military’s operations, the Earth Alliance’s policies and actions become increasingly immoral. This is best embodied through Muruta Azrael: director of the arms manufacturer Atlantic National Defense Conglomerate, Muruta also heads the Blue Cosmos organisation, whose intent is the total annihilation of all Coordinators even if it means killing Naturals who stand in their path. While the Earth Alliance is ostensibly moderate and do not actively seek out war with the Coordinators, as the horrifyingly misguided Blue Cosmos gains sympathisers with their rhetoric, the world is placed on the precipice of catastrophe. Similarly, Coordinators would prefer to live in peace, but radicalism within their upper echelons eventually displaces reason with madness. Patrick Zala holds the belief that existence belongs to the genetically superior Coordinators, viewing Naturals as an infestation. Gundam SEED thus illustrates what happens when two unyielding forces meet: atrocity and desolation is the end result. While Gundam SEED presented this to set up a scenario depicting the outcome of extremist ideologies clashing, it is unfortunate that the story is not without basis in reality. One of the largest consequences of social media usage for politics is that people have become increasingly polarised and sympathetic to radical rhetoric. Where incorrect and dangerous beliefs manifest and become mainstream, they will even seep into the corridors of power, impacting policy and decision-making alike. The media’s insistence on dæmonising certain nations, and the internal strifle between the radical left and far right are both examples of how misunderstandings begin: much as how Blue Cosmos and Patrick Zala lack the ability to listen and understand, proponents of extreme viewpoints dehumanise their opponents and will flat-out refuse to listen to reason and logic. When taken to its logical conclusion, as Gundam SEED portrays, things will not end until one side is completely annihilated. This is a very grim outcome, and humanity does run the risk of hurtling towards unprecedented destruction should media pundits and social media continue be treated as a valid and useful form of discourse. However, while there are those who would seek to destroy the world for their own gain, Gundam SEED also provides hope; there are selfless individuals who oppose extremist rhetoric and fight to return the world to a state where different sides, and different opinions can co-exist. Where things are too far gone for sitting down to peace talks, Gundam SEED introduces the power known as Gundam, wielding it to force all sides of a conflict to look in the mirror and see how far they’ve deviated from their original aims when blinded by hatred and anger.

Any discussion of Gundam would be incomplete without considering the role that the eponymous mobile suits that give the series its name. Gundam SEED‘s Gundams are so-named for their operating systems and occupy several leading roles. In the second half of Gundam SEED, after Kira and Athrun annihilate the Aegis and Strike, respectively , they are forced to reconsider their beliefs on what warfare is worth and what they each fight for. Lacus helps Kira to understand why he took up the responsibilities of a pilot, while Cagalli presses Athrun to do the same. In this way, both Kira and Athrun grow; Kira accepts that a certain amount of force will inevitably be required to force combatants to take a step back and realise what they’re doing, and that it is possible to fire a gun and stop a war without reducing the other side to rubble. Athrun comes to understand that while a soldier is beholden to their nation, when a nation goes astray in its thinking and leads its people down a path to ruin, the soldier’s obligations are to protect the people, first and foremost, irrespective of what side they might be on. Gundam SEED demonstrates that there are ways to fight without exterminating every last enemy: once Kira and Athrun understand this, they gain the right to pilot two exceptionally powerful machines, having proven themselves worthy. The Freedom and Justice, with their nuclear reactors and neutron jammer cancellers, are able to operate indefinitely and bring considerably more firepower to the battlefield than the Strike and Aegis. In the wrong hands, as Rau le Creuset proves, such Gundams are dæmons capable of untold destruction. As Gundam SEED progresses, both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT begin building increasingly powerful machines. While ZAFT constructs the Freedom, Justice and Providence, the Earth Alliance’s Calamity, Forbidden and Raider appear; these machines are operated by biological CPUs, modified humans who fight with ferocity and violence surpassing that of ordinary pilots. While they may bear the appearance of a Gundam and be counted as such for possessing a specific kind of operating system, they are not Gundams from a symbolic standpoint. Like the Providence, these machines were used purely for destruction. Conversely, because Kira and Athrun are fighting for what they believe is right, the power that the Freedom and Justice possess give them the tools to swiftly and precisely end battles. With the Freedom, Kira has enough control to disarm his foes and force them to retreat, rather than killing them outright. Having Kira and Athrun become responsible enough to handle machines of such potential represents how individuals come to handle positions of power well. Had these neutron jammer canceller machines been available from the start, Athrun’s devotion to ZAFT, and Kira’s naïveté would’ve only caused more sorrow. The symbolism in the Freedom and Justice is handled extremely well, and it is unsurprising that both Gundams were wildly popular amongst viewers: with their bold, sleek designs, these machines visually represent what Gundam SEED is about.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After Kira and Athrun’s titanic duel, the pair are both out of action. Their fight was meant to show how warfare can desecrate everything we hold as sacred, and after coming to the brink of killing one another, both Kira and Athrun are pulled away from the abyss. Kira ends up rescued by Lacus Clyne, who takes him back to her home in the PLANTs, while Cagalli finds Athrun yet again. Unlike Lacus, Cagalli is a bit more impulsive and desires to shoot Athrun herself, at least until she realises that killing Athrun won’t bring Kira back.

  • Over time, Athrun and Cagalli come to understand one another better, while Kira slowly comes to terms what sorts of things must be done after speaking with Lacus. These developments ease the pain both Kira and Athrun experience as a result of their conflicting objectives, although for Athrun, things are a bit slower because he is a soldier and therefore, torn between serving his nation and doing what he feels is right.

  • This meeting between the Earth Alliance’s command conveys the shadowy corridors of power; while ZAFT has a massive operation planned out, the Earth Alliance are confident they can lure ZAFT to their doom at JOSH-A, their Alaskan base. While the EFSF in the Universal Century was corrupt, in Gundam SEED, their counterpart is outright racist and acquiesces to extremist behaviour. The phrase “for our blue and pure world” becomes synonymous with fanaticism, a sign that one cannot reasonably expect the Earth Alliance to be rational and helpful towards the Archangel and its crew.

  • Sai, Tolle, Miriallia and Flay begin to play a lesser role as Gundam SEED progresses; with the Archangel having landed in Alaska, the situation between the Earth Alliance and ZAFT have deteriorated to the point where open conflict is inevitable. The story thus focuses on how Kira and Athrun come to determine what their role in things is. However, before that point is reached, the tensions on board the Archangel reach new heights when Miriallia, grieving for Tolle, encounters Dearka and tries to knife him after he mocks Tolle.

  • The Archangel’s crew prepare to separate as Mu and Flay are transferred elsewhere, along with Natarle. However, when Mu comes upon abandoned command centres, he immediately suspects something is off and returns to the Archangel. Flay winds up being captured by Rau Le Crueset, of all people; the outcome is not unlike how Char Aznable is able to come upon Lalah Sune and Quess Paraya in the Universal Century. Seeing how Rau Le Crueset and his team operated leads Flay to understand that Coordinators are not conceited monsters as she’d made them to be, and Flay does begin to realise that war is a highly complex matter.

  • Lacus was ultimately the reason why Gundam SEED became a series on my backlog: as the story goes, back when I was a secondary student, I come across the song Token of Water while searching for the Gundam SEED soundtrack. I’d been looking for Seigi to Jiyuu and Strike Shutsugeki, but found this one instead; I decided to stick it on my iPod, and the next morning, I listened to it while waiting for the bus. I was immediately hooked. The song opened my mind to vocal pieces and J-Pop, as well as anime as a whole. Since then, I’d had a curiosity to see the context behind the songs, and I finally decided the time had come to really check Gundam SEED out.

  • After Kira finds his footing anew, Lacus decides that Kira’s conviction is worth something, and she helps him to commandeer the ZGMF-X10A Freedom, a next-generation ZAFT mobile suit equipped with a neutron-jammer canceller, allowing for it to carry a nuclear reactor that confers unlimited combat endurance. Such a powerful weapon mirrors the idea that, with his heart in the right place, Kira has earned the privilege of piloting such a powerful machine into battle. No longer concerned with power constraints or clouded by his doubts, Kira is therefore able to fight at his full potential and bring out the Freedom’s power.

  • Indeed, when Kira escapes the ZAFT PLANTs, his first move is to disable the mobile suits shooting at him, and similarly, he now shoots to disable and warn rather than kill. Because of the Freedom’s exceptional precision despite its firepower, Kira is able to prevent a ZAFT mobile suit from destroying the Archangel’s bridge, and subsequently uses the Freedom’s most powerful ability, full-burst mode, to disarm a large number of combatants and force them to retreat. Even when confronting Yzak, Kira now is confident that he can make his point without harming him, and severs the Duel’s legs from the base-jabber.

  • This scene is set to T.M. Revolution’s Meteor, a phenomenal song that captures the Freedom’s power. Once Kira has the Freedom, Gundam SEED takes on a different tone: the series had kept battles fairly localised and in comparatively smaller scale while Kira piloted the Strike, but with the Freedom, entire fleets of enemies become the norm. Gundam SEED elegantly shows how as one’s skill grows, the attendant responsibility follows: from here on out, viewers are reasonably confident that Kira has the power to fight in his own style to defend what matters to him.

  • Athrun, on the other hand, is given the ZGMF-09A Justice. Although he originally accepts the post to serve his nation, doubts about ZAFT and Patrick Zala’s intentions eventually lead him to defect and help Kira in his fight. The Justice is similarly powerful: had Athrun chosen to follow orders, he’d be a very challenging foe for Kira. Athrun’s turning point comes when he learns Lacus was the one who’d given the Freedom to Kira, and he ends up confronting her: her betrayal leads Patrick to scrap the two’s arranged marriage and organise Siegel Clyne’s assassination.

  • However, Lacus ends up convincing Athrun that there’s more to fight for than his orders: of the female characters in Gundam SEED, Lacus is an ethereal character whose sense of unwavering morality and idealism remains constant throughout Gundam SEED. While she might’ve been presented as a bit of an air-headed celebrity with a solid singing voice and good public image, Lacus does seem infallible, changing the lives of those whom she meets.

  • Back on Earth, Muruta compells the Earth Alliance to mount an all-out assault on the Orb Union’s territories in order to capture their mass driver after ZAFT annihilates the mass driver at Panama, denying the Earth Alliance a critical asset that would allow them to easily send manpower and materiel into space. During this battle, Orb’s new mobile suits, the Astrays, are deployed to fend off the Earth Alliance forces. While each individual Astray is more powerful than the Alliance’s Strike Dagger, the Earth Alliance’s powerful manufacturing base allows their numbers to pose a threat to Orb. Here, Mu takes to the battlefield in the Strike, inheriting it from Kira after it was rebuilt and modified to allow a Natural pilot to wield it.

  • The biggest surprise came with the introduction of the Calamity, Forbidden and Raider, second generation machines built using data derived from the original GAT-X series. Despite still possessing their predecessors’ limitations, these machines have been given minor updates that leave them far more formidable in combat, to the point of giving Kira trouble when fighting them. The Forbidden is equipped with a scythe and a special deflector system that renders it nearly impervious to ranged attacks. It is operated by Shani Andras, who listens to music outside of combat and prefers working alone.

  • The Calamity is a heavy bombardment unit purely designed for ranged combat and lacks any melee weapons. Owing to its design, it is cumbersome in the atmosphere, and although capable of hovering, cannot fly for any distance. It is piloted by Orga Sabnak, who fights with a wild abandon and will not hesitate to engage even if his allies are in his line of fire. When not fighting, he’s reading a paperback of some sort.

  • The Astrays end up being quite effective against the Earth Alliance’s Strike Dagger, a cut-down version of the Strike possessing only a beam rifle and beam sabre. While technically inferior, the Earth Alliance has the advantage of numbers and begin overwhelming Orb’s Astrays. The design philosophies of mass-production suits have always been of interest to my best friend, and there are numerous parallels in Gundam SEED to real-world decisions: prototype and experimental technology is often over-engineered, and circumstances result in many unfeasible or challenging features being omitted.

  • The Strike Dagger exemplifies this pattern entirely, and is meant to act as a callback to the RGM-79 GM series, which was essentially a stripped down Gundam meant for mass production. While lacking any of the RX-78 II’s most powerful features, these mobile suits were superior to the Zaku IIs, being equipped with a beam spray gun that could still melt through mobile suit armour despite lacking any serious range. The Strike Daggers definitely prove their worth at Orb, although many of them are still wiped out.

  • When it looks like Kira is about to be overwhelmed by the new model Gundams, Athrun appears in the Justice. He fights off the Raider, whose most distinct armament is the heavy-duty mace that can punch through even Phase Shift armour and is operated Clotho Buer, an unstable pilot who games outside of combat. Watching Kira and Athrun fight these machines, and only barely keeping up, puts to bed the tired claim that Kira is an invincible pilot in combat: Gundam SEED had always portrayed Kira as being talented, but even his skill has limits. Together, Shani, Orga and Clotho continue to challenge Kira and Athrun: it turns out they’re “biological CPUs”, super soldiers who’ve been put on a drug to enhance their reflexes and eliminate fear, but also was highly addictive – this is something that the Earth Alliance would use to keep their Gundam pilots in check.

  • In the aftermath of their battle alongside one another, Kira and Athrun come to terms with what’s happened – even without exchanging words, it’s clear both Kira and Athrun have the strength to forgive one another. Of course, Cagalli rushes in and embraces the two to really drive home this point. From here on out, the Justice and Freedom are on the same side, separate from either the Earth Alliance and ZAFT’s objectives. However, despite being driven off for the present, the Earth Alliance has no intention of giving up their conquest of Orb to make an example of them.

  • Of the characters in Gundam SEED, I personally found Muruta to be the most despicable individual – despite his outwardly cordial appearance (in fact, I can’t help but wonder if CLANNAD‘s Youhei Sunohara was modelled after him in looks), Muruta believes that all Coordinators should be destroyed at any cost and will endanger even his own forces to accomplish his goals. It is later revealed that as a child, he was bullied by Coordinators and grew envious of their abilities, wishing he were their equal until he was berated by his parents. Since then, his resentment of Coordinators grew, leading him to join and lead Blue Cosmos.

  • In order to assure Orb’s future, Uzumi stays behind to destroy Orb’s primary base and entrusts the future to Cagalli. He reveals that Cagalli and Kira are actually siblings (in a very Star Wars-like twist), which surprises her. However, in her despair, she receives support from Kira and Athrun, who remind her that irrespective of her parentage, Uzumi had raised her. Despite her reluctance, Cagalli is better equipped than anyone else to lead Orb forwards.

  • With Orb’s Earth territories overrun, survivors prepare to head out into space using a special phenomenon created from the Archangel’s Positron Cannons, the equivalent of the Nahel Argama class’ Hyper Mega-Particle Cannon: the positrons fired are highly damaging and will eliminate ordinary matter. In an emergency, firing these cannons in the atmosphere creates a vacuum along the beam’s path, allowing the Archangel to escape. To ensure that the Kusanagi and Archangel can focus on their flight, Kira and Athrun do their utmost to hold off the Earth Alliance’s mobile suits.

  • This image of Lacus sitting at a desk lingered in my memories for the past sixteen years, and for the longest time, I’d wondered what the context behind this scene was. It turns out that after fleeing from the PLANTs after being branded a traitor, Lacus continued to broadcast her message to the world from obscure locations, with support from loyal ZAFT forces. Eventually, Lacus and her supporters, known as the Clyne Faction, gain enough momentum so that a sizeable number of ZAFT’s forces defect and declare their loyalty to her.

  • Once in space, the Archangel and Kusanagi link up with the Eternal, a special vessel dedicated to supporting the Freedom and Justice. An old face, Andrew Waltfeld, makes a welcome return. Disillusioned with the way ZAFT was conducting themselves, Waltfeld defects and joins what would later be known as the Three Ships Alliance. The Eternal is a highly mobile vessel, capable of a top speed exceeding that of ZAFT’s Nazca-class, the fastest vessels in their fleet. Despite being lightly armed, the Eternal’s power comes from its two mobile suit complement, and in this way, resembles the Ptolemiaos II.

  • While eluding ZAFT and Earth Alliance forces, the Three Ships Alliances seeks refuge at the aptly-named Mendel Colony, which had been wiped out by a viral outbreak. The colony is where research into genetic engineering first gave rise to the Coordinators, including Kira. For folks familiar with hereditary genetics, the name Mendel isn’t too surprising; Gregor Mendel’s experiment with pea plants gave rise to the laws of Mendelian inheritance, which propose that traits are passed on through genes. While revolutionary for his time, Mendel’s work only gained traction in the twentieth century with the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid as the information-carrying molecule.

  • The revelation that Mu la Flaga and Rau le Creuset share the same genetic materials would’ve been a surprise to viewers, and in their confrontation here, Rau reveals that having grown up knowing nothing but hatred and pain, and seeing the suffering human ambition created, his intent is to utterly destroy the world and free the entire species of its hubris. The confrontation yields Gundam SEED‘s main themes about the juxtaposition between progress and its results, as well as its dangers. However, for me, it is also worth noting that, had Gundam SEED followed a more traditional model and eliminated the Blue Cosmos faction, it is likely that the moderate ZAFT factions would’ve eventually turned against Patrick Zala and Rau le Creuset the same way Zeon and the moderate factions within the EFSF ultimately united to defeat the Titans, and how Celestial Being found unlikely allies in the Earth Federation when fighting the Innovades and A-LAWS.

  • Gundam SEED‘s story was able to proceed the way it did because of the Earth Alliance’s extremism and unyielding stance which, in conjunction with Patrick Zala’s superiority complex and Rau le Creuset’s nihilistic beliefs, sets the stage for a confrontation that was unique to Gundam SEED and therefore, refreshing from a narrative standpoint. Here, Rau le Creuset reveals his plans to create war of gargantuan proportions: he gives Flay a drive containing information he calls the key to opening a door. This information is the schematics to the Neutron-jammer Canceller technology, which would allow the Earth Alliance to have access to nuclear reactions again. The move is reminiscent to how Char Aznable had leaked psycho-frame technology to Anaheim Electronics solely for the purpose of being able to fight Amuro on even footing.

  • The METEOR System acts as a support craft for the Freedom and Justice, greatly amplifying their anti-fleet and mobile suit capabilities greatly. During the conflict at Jachin Due, Kira and Athrun use their METEOR Systems to destroy the Earth Alliance’s nuclear missile attack after their opening offensive on Boaz completely destroys the base. The use of nuclear missiles in Gundam SEED demonstrate that while the Earth Alliance is behind in their technology relative to ZAFT, their weapons nonetheless remain effective and are a reminder of the lengths that extreme factions among the Earth Alliance forces are willing to go in order to wipe out the Coordinators.

  • The final few episodes to Gundam SEED are non-stop action as the Earth Alliance and ZAFT forces duke it out, but unlike something like, say Gundam 00 or Gundam Unicorn, battles tend to utilise the same keyframes in different contexts. Gundam SEED and its reused footage is actually so controversial that it remains a point of contention to this day, and some people flat-out refuse to watch Gundam SEED because of this reputation. Further to this, all of my experiences with Gundam SEED comes from the HD Remaster, which was done in 2011 (coinciding with the fact that 2011 also saw Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary release), so I can’t speak to what the original experience was like (whereas, having played the original Halo: Combat Evolved, I can compare the two). With this in mind, I did enjoy the HD Remaster considerably.

  • The loss of Boaz to nuclear weapons gives Patrick Zala the justification he needs to field GENESIS, a powerful weapon that uses the gamma radiation from nuclear explosions to power a laser. This weapon is far more sophisticated than anything the Earth Alliance has, and in their first shot, ZAFT wipes out most of the Earth Alliance’s attacking fleet, before turning the weapon against the lunar base. The battle is practically won, and under normal conditions, ZAFT would probably just need to mop up any hold-outs. However, Patrick Zala isn’t fighting for victory, but rather, the extermination of the entire Natural population. He thus sets the GENESIS weapon on Earth and prepares to wipe out Washington D.C. During the course of this battle, Yzak eliminates the Biological CPUs and their Gundams to defend the PLANTs.

  • At the same time, the Earth Alliance begin to realise their losses are severe, but their leadership refuses to stand down: Muruta states as long as they have nukes, they’ll use them. While Natarle had been doing her utmost to follow orders, the military’s directions cause her conviction to falter. In the end, she understands why Marrue ends up choosing the path that she does, and to prevent Muruta from perpetuating hatred further, chooses to defy his orders and fights him, while ordering her crew to abandon ship. Muruta’s final act is to fire the Dominion’s main cannons at the Archangel, but is thwarted by Mu, whose Strike is destroyed in the process.

  • Grief-stricken, Marrue orders her gunners to fire on the Dominions, killing both Natarle and Muruta. The moment is bittersweet: on one hand, Muruta, leader of Blue Cosmos, is dead, but so is Natarle, a dedicated but not unkind officer who’d been through so much with Marrue and the Archangel. I imagine that Natarle’s death had an impact on the community back in the day: Gundam 00‘s Kati Mannequin fulfils a similar role in the Anno Domini timeline but lives, and in games, players can choose a sequence of events where Natarle manages to evacuate the Dominions before it is destroyed.

  • Flay herself also dies after Rau le Creuset shoots the shuttle she’s in, killing her instantly. Folks familiar with the Universal Century will see the parallels between this and Lalah Sune’s death, but unlike Amuro, who accidentally killed Lalah during his fight with Char, Flay’s death comes deliberately at Rau le Creuset’s hands. Flay dies completely different than when she first started the journey, having come to accept that Coordinators were as human as any natural, and that her prejudices were inconsequential compared to the costs of war. In addition, despite having started a relationship with Kira on a lie, in time, she would come to genuinely fall in love with him.

  • In a scene reminiscent of what happened after Lalah dies, Flay’s spirit reassures Kira that she’d come to understand what she missed in life, and that from here on out, she’ll protect him as best as he can. Overcome with emotion, Kira enters SEED mode with a fire in his heart, prepared to defeat Rau le Creuset and his ZGMF-X13A Providence. This battle is a clash of fundamentally different ideology, with Ray le Creuset representing nihilism, and Kira’s corner hosting existentialism. For Rau le Creuset, nothing matters, and human ambition is a curse that must be eradicated. Conversely, Kira is determined to find a way to make things work, whatever that might be; while pain and suffering are a part of life, but so is happiness, and as such, one has a responsibility to figure out how people can live their lives in a manner of their choosing.

  • Nihilism and existentialism are polar opposites, and nowhere is this better portrayed than the design philosophies behind the Freedom and Providence: the Freedom’s sleek design and use of white indicates an operator who believes in humanity, whereas the Providence and its dark colours suggest a forsaking of humanity. Moreover, the Providence’s most lethal weapons are its DRAGOON system, remote weapons that act similarly to the Funnels from the Universal Century (and the Bits from Anno Domini): carrying a total of eleven DRAGOONs for a total of forty-three guns, the Providence was meant to overwhelm enemies with pure firepower.

  • Patrick Zala’s madness is ultimately his undoing: so blinded by his desire to remove the Naturals from the world and avenge his wife, he fails to realise that his actions contradict what the PLANTs had been intended to be about. When he demands to fire GENESIS despite the allied casualties, one of his own officers ends up shooting him after Patrick had shot him for questioning orders. Without Patrick at the helm, the officers desert their posts as Athrun arrives with the aim of destroying the weapon: its immensely tough construction had made it resistant to all external attack.

  • Kira is often counted as an overpowered pilot whose exceptional skill and talents simply come from the plot demanding his survival and triumph. However, Gundam SEED presents Kira as a pilot who earns his victories; beginning out inexperienced and uncertain of himself, Kira comes to master the Strike and find his footing. However, against the Biological CPUs and Rau le Creuset, Kira struggles: he’s certainly not the invincible walking deus ex machina people suggest him to be during the events of Gundam SEED, and for this, I’ve come to greatly respect Kira as he is in SEED.

  • Unlike Lacus, whose strength lies in her ability to sway hearts and minds, Cagalli is very much a hands-on individual. She accompanies Athrun onto the battlefield and ends up pulling him out in her Strike Rogue before he detonates the Justice to destroy GENESIS. The Strike Rogue was made from leftover parts from the original Strike, and its reddish hue comes from a special component that increases the unit’s operational time compared to the original Strike. The concept behind the Strike Rogue appears to be a precursor for the Trans-Am system seen in Gundam 00, which was itself modelled on Char Aznable’s signature trait of rocking red mobile suits tuned to have three times the speed of their ordinary counterparts. While Athrun had intended to finish the job himself, Cagalli convinces him that living takes more courage than dying, and moreover, there are people who care for him, as well.

  • As Rau le Creuset’s madness sets in, he becomes increasingly unpredictable, standing in contrast with Kira, who begins to regroup after Flay’s death. Kiramanages to whittle down the Providence’s DRAGOONs and is able to land a killing blow, taking him out of the fight. GENESIS subsequently misfires from the damage it sustains, vapourising Rau le Creuset, bringing Gundam SEED to a close. A special episode, titled After Phase, follows up on what happens after Kira is rescued: he, Cagalli, Athrun and Lacus share a meal with Reverend Malchio and the orphans under his care, sharing their thoughts on the war.

  • While my Gundam SEED posts are larger than average, I remark here that it remains very difficult to cover off every conceivable thought that passed through my mind while I was watching. I will remark that, having seen Gundam SEED now, questions that have stood for sixteen years are now answered, and I am glad to have watched this series. With news of a host of projects announced ahead of the two decade anniversary, this is excellent timing, and my best friend actually did recommend that I go ahead and watch Gundam SEED Destiny all the way through for the “most” Cosmic Era experience; he feels that despite SEED Destiny‘s flaws, there remain merits in that series.

  • Besides providing a solid story that brought the Universal Century’s best features into a new timeline and exploring meaningful themes, Gundam SEED also makes clever callbacks to older Gundam series, while at the same time, also helps me to spot references from later Gundam works. I therefore conclude that Gundam SEED is worthwhile, and that the criticisms directed at this series was harsher than appropriate; I imagine that the backlash was originally intended for Gundam SEED Destiny and seeped back into SEED. With this in mind, I’ll have a clearer picture of things once I do give Gundam SEED Destiny a shot. In the meantime, having finally finished Gundam SEED, I’ll be hosting Dewbond on short order such that we may cover off things that I missed in my own discussions, and I hope that readers will look forwards to a contemporary revisit of a Gundam series whose reputation isn’t always a fair one.

The Kusanagi’s assembly in orbit, and Lacus’ speech to those at ZAFT while seated at a desk were my first-ever memories of Gundam SEED, dating back some sixteen years. Back then, the local youth television network still played English-dubbed anime, and it had been a Friday night. I was preparing to turn in, since I would need to awaken bright and early for Chinese language courses on Saturdays. Those two moments in Gundam SEED captured my interest, and for sixteen long years, would continue to hold my intrigue. What was the Kusanagi being used for, and what was Lacus intending to do? However, Gundam SEED‘s lengthy two-cour runtime always dissuaded me from starting the series, and so, until now, all I’d known about Gundam SEED had been that the soundtrack was masterfully composed, featuring a wide range of incidental pieces that were iconic and touching. Finally, at the insistence of two individuals, I finally found my motivation to start. My best friend stated that Gundam SEED was an excellent series, one whose controversies were poorly-placed. One of my blogging peers, Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime, became curious to know what I made of one of the most popular and respected Gundam series. Both my best friend and Dewbond indicated that, with Gundam SEED‘s HD Remaster available, there was no real reason not to check this series out. They had me there, and with my excitement elevated, I thus set out to see Gundam SEED for myself. Almost immediately, I found that both my best friend and Dewbond had been right about Gundam SEED: it is a mature, thoughtful and well-written series that brought elements from the Universal Century into the 2000s, acting as a superb entry into the Gundam universe. While the series’ animation is a bit dated, the story and messages were themselves solid, creating an immensely enjoyable experience that withstands the test of time: although Gundam SEED might be two decades old, the core themes and ideas remain as relevant as ever. As such, I am very glad to have finally taken the time to experience Gundam SEED; this decision allowed me to finally see the context behind two scenes that have remained etched in my mind for the longest time. With full knowledge of what happens in Gundam SEED now, I am able to both share my thoughts with my best friend, who had been waiting sixteen years for someone to discuss Gundam SEED with in a rational and productive manner, as well as invite Dewbond over so that aspects of Gundam SEED I’ve not yet touched on can be covered in full; the internet’s perspective of Gundam SEED appears to remain quite unfavourable, and while our goal isn’t to alter this substantially, we do wish to demonstrate that Gundam SEED‘s merits far outweigh the negatives and as such, makes this a worthwhile Gundam series to check out. The timing of this couldn’t be better, since a host of Gundam SEED Twentieth Anniversary works were announced, and it looks like I’ll be caught up by the time these are available.