Movie: It's been almost a year since I saw the final volume of the Gundam Seed series, knowing full well that the progression of the show would be to continue soon enough. For those who are unfamiliar with this incredibly popular franchise, it "focuses on a conflict in the distant future where technology has advanced to the point that mobile robotic suits can be manned by pilots to wreak havoc on one another. Science has also advanced to the point where space colonies are common and human biology can be easily manipulated, causing a rift between so-called natural humans and the genetically enhanced Coordinators. Each side sees the other in simplistic terms; the genetically superior coordinators thinking the riff raff of natural humans to be scum (since the coordinators are the natural leaders due to their superiority) while the naturally born humans see the coordinators as a threat to their existence. Needless to say, as with any other time in history that two sides think of themselves as significantly different from one another, this leads to war." The two main factions of the series are the Alliance and ZAFT although a technologically advanced third group, called Orb, also exists to promote peace and tranquility. In the series, the groups fight until humanity is almost wiped out; with the ending result being a peace treatise where everyone acknowledges the right of the others to exist and an agreement to work out differences is made. Well, if it were all that simple, there'd be no need for today's review of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V1.
The premise this time is similar to the previous series in the franchise in that it centered on the inescapable fact that people feel compelled to push for what they want, to the exclusion of what's best for the common good. At least initially, this series appears intent on focusing on a man named Shinn Asuka, a coordinator who lived with his family peaceably on an Orb controlled island, until an attack during the previous series killed his entire family (and almost him with it) during an evacuation. Rather than blame the attackers like most sane people would do, he blamed Orb and its ideals (had they allied themselves with one of the groups, the attack probably wouldn't have happened according to him). He now pilots a powerful new Gundam called the Impulse for ZAFT, driven by his hatred of Orb more than anything else. Here's a brief description of the volume, limiting the spoilers as much as possible for those who'd wisely rather see it for themselves:
The episodes were 1) Angry Eyes, 2) Those Who Call For War, 3) Warning Shots, 4) Stardust Battlefield, and 5) Scars That Won't Heal. They set the stage as being in Cosmic Year 73, 18 or so months after the cessation of hostilities from the previous war. Chairman Durandal leads the ZAFT nation and has invited former Princess and currently elected representative Cagalli Athha to tour a manufacturing plant for new Gundams. She knows full well that he's using Orb technology, using scientists and stolen information acquired during the last war and it bothers her greatly given the ideals she shared with her late father (who sacrificed his life to uphold them). He makes no secret that the path to peace, in his eyes at least, involves superior firepower and it isn't long before he recognizes her attaché as being someone other than Alex Dino, but actually Athrun Zala, one of the most skilled Gundam pilots ever to have flown a machine.
During the visit, the plant is attacked by a group that singles out three of the most advanced Gundams and steals them; destroying the rest of the facility before getting out of there. This leads to a lengthy series of fights both around the facility and in space, with the newly commissioned Minerva (a powerful new class of destroyer) hot on the tail of the ship the stolen Gundams have jumped aboard. In what is accepted would be a devastating advance for the enemy, the clock is ticking as the pursuit carries on with a familiar face in charge of one of the other enemy Gundams as well as the enemy ship. One of the things fans will likely enjoy is that for all the preachiness and morality espoused, the majority of screen time was definitely favoring action in the form of battles during these five episodes over the exposition common in the previous series. The limited amount of time where battles weren't taking place happened to be filled by character development and some history of the series, though you'll definitely want to watch the other series first in order to gain the context needed to fully appreciate all the minor details it had to offer.
After numerous fights, another crisis appears to take precedence over the events of the day, inevitably leading to the rekindling of the war in all likelihood. A disaster of epic proportions by an unnamed group intent of carrying forth their ideas regardless of the cost involved. Like Shinn, there are others who can't let go of the tragedies of the past, not caring about the consequences one bit having lost everything in the war. As all sides prepare for the inevitable consequence of the new disaster, the clock runs for those wanting to avoid a war that could finish off the job that the last one started. You'll want to note that the Gundam designs were as cool as every, with some interesting touches that haven't been seen in awhile, but the quality of the battles will be the strongest selling point from what I could see. I definitely think this one earned a rating of Recommended with the special edition probably a step above that (I didn't get a copy to evaluate on its merits so I'll refrain from definitively rating it).
Picture: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V1was presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as made in Japan. The colors, image, and clarity of the show were all top notch with no compression artifacts or noticeable video noise. Most of the show looked like it was traditionally made with some help from computers but every once in awhile, some CGI was employed that stood out like a sore thumb (usually on the capital ships during their flight sequences). For the most part, the show was handled nicely in this area and I only wish other series had so much attention to detail.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual two choices, a 2.0 Dolby Digital track in the original Japanese with English subtitles or the newly made English dub. I thought the voice acting on each had some merit, with slight nods to the original cast, but even the dub managed to give me a decent feel for the material. If you're a purist, you might want to at least listen to the dub, especially since the sound effects appeared to be remixed a bit in order to use the stereo aspects of the audio track more thoroughly. I also noticed the music score being somewhat richer this time on the dub, with a spot check revealing that this was the case in the last couple of volumes. It was pleasing to hear Japanese pop singer Nami Tamaki back on the ending credits, though I enjoyed the music a lot this time just as always.
Extras: The only extras this time were a textless ending and the usual trailers (that most of you don't count as an extra.
Final Thoughts: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V1 looks to be another winner in the Gundam universe given the attention to detail on the visuals, the audio, and the storyline that was different enough to keep things fresh yet still drive home the running themes of the various series. There were enough similarities to keep the fans happy but also enough use of clichés in better than average ways to enhance the show and perhaps bring in new fans to boot. The action sequences alone were top notch enough to warrant giving the DVD a few looks but I thought this was a keeper in most ways and well worth your time & money to add to your collections.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.