Background: War stories have long been one of the most popular genres throughout the history of our race, allowing for the inevitable battles, love affairs, and forms of conflict (internal and external) to keep us glued to our seat, be the story in book, movie, TV, or other form. In anime, there are a number of series that provide similar experiences with the Gundam franchise being among the most popular. As I said earlier this year; "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, I never saw the second volume of the series but Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V3 made its way into my sweaty little hand and here's a look at the story as best I can relate it under the circumstances.
Movie: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V3 continues the adventures of the cast as outlined in Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V1. If you haven't been watching the various related series, this would be a bad place to start in on the show as so much has happened to date. The rear box cover put it like this: "The Alliance is still reeling with the failure of their attack on the plants. Meanwhile, in Orb, Cagalli battles against allying with the Earth Alliance, but her words fall on deaf ears. On the PLANTs, Athrun wonders what his next course of action should be, and spends some time with some old friends. Things deteriorate quickly, and the Minerva leaves Orb. As soon as they are in international waters, Yuna orders the Orb navy to attack them. Meanwhile, a group of Coordinator commandos comes to Orb and infiltrates the house where Kira, Lacus, and the others are staying. Their target is Lacus. Enraged, Kira boards the Freedom for the first time since the war."
Volume 3 picks up with the political maneuvering making former allies turn against one another to embrace former foes. This irony is not lost of the characters as they all appear to have differing motivations as to how they should proceed with the coming alliance between Orb and the Alliance. The major political parties are still engaged in rebuilding their respective homelands and the war effort quickly takes over any progressive thinking as the new breed of super powerful Gundams fall into enemy hands. This tips the balance of power and threatens to reignite the old war, showing the viewer the folly of the path that our race has taken so very often in the past.
The episodes this time were 11) The Chosen Path, 12) Blood in the Water, 13) Resurrected Wings, , and 14) Flight to Tomorrow. The general theme (to avoid spoilers) was how key players from the previous series are forced into positions they aren't happy with, having learned their lessons about the futility of war and armed conflict. Sadly enough, those with something to gain manipulate events in favor of all out warfare, causing Lacus, the crew of the Minerva, Kira and the Freedom, to once again take up the mantle to fight for a better future. On the down side, this means that the super Gundams that were stolen get proven to be inferior to the next generation of mobile suit, sparking an old lame manner of handling such things with the single suit being able (through advances in technology) to fight them off and destroy whole fleets at the same time. The upping of the ante in terms of a single pilot being able to sway the course of events so readily strikes this reviewer as a poor plot device, even if it makes for some decent animated action sequences.
Other than those parts of the story, the subterfuge of the various players in the warring factions proved to be kind of interesting; although here too the lone defender is given almost supernatural powers over highly trained combat units for no reason at all; marking a decline in the writing quality as a result. I like many aspects of the story and it may be possible that the second volume contained some plausible reasoning as to the "why" and "how" the viewer should believe in these tricks but I find that unlikely at best. Still, if you like Gundam as much as I have in the past, the limitations were such that they were balanced out by the quality of animation, the overall themes, and the way some of the new characters were woven into the fabric of the existing universe so I thought a rating of Rent It was fair.
Picture: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V3 was 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: V3 furthered the characters of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: V1 a bit but was held back by the use of the newer suits that might as well have been labeled as virtually unbeatable. Such plot devices weigh heavily on my mind in that they force the loss of all subtlety in how the conflicts take place and the interactions of the cast. Knowing full well that such a suit places an incredible responsibility on the user (and limits what can be done against whatever side he chooses to be on), the emphasis on furthering friend against foes in a shifting alliance made the story kind of weak by comparison to some of the previous entries in the franchise (where many fans such as myself have expressed similar concerns as I recall). Losing the context of a middle volume, I can't say for certain if it might have mitigated the issues I faced but I seriously doubt it having watched dozens of related shows in the past. I still have a warm spot for the show in my heart and will try to continue to watch it, accepting that it could very well get much better quickly (as has happened in the past).
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.