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 genetically programmed 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." Okay, while I've been fortunate enough to review Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V1 and then Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V3, I missed getting a chance at the volume in between so it is with great pleasure that I now do so, filling in some of the blanks from my last review with today's review of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V2.
Show: Okay, the basic premise is the same; mankind is always involved in a technological struggle for superiority that will allow different groups to promote themselves at the expense of others. That may sum up the entire franchise but wouldn't do for a review of this volume so here are a few insights that were slightly marred by the out of order viewing I had to go with. One of the main characters of the series is Athrun, a coordinator raised by his ruling father for greatness. His dad died in the last series trying to wipe out the naturals through various means but Athrun saw the folly in such a course of action so he took up arms to defeat all who would callously kill and maim in the name of super greater calling. The primary plot point of this volume of episodes deals with a small group of well armed, well financed, terrorists that refuse to let bygones be bygones mere months after the close of the previous war. In the name of Athrun's deceased father, the terrorists forward a plan to launch the Junius Seven asteroid memorial onto Earth, thereby wiping out all the inhabitants of the planet and claiming what they see as revenge (and their destiny to supplant the human race) for the travesties of the war. By the time anyone notices the massive memorial heading towards the planet, the foregone conclusion that little can be done to stop it burns deeply inside all who watch the rock drifting ever closer to Earth.
Well, needless to say, the people of Earth aren't going without a fighting shot so they try to embark on a plan that stops the memorial, the public soon finding it really was a hostile force behind it. Athrun and the crew of the Minerva manage to assist in saving the day to an extent but the loss of life is still more than the public can bear and they are soon calling for all out hostilities to begin again. With Orb, ZAFT and Plant about to reignite the conflict in earnest, will anyone be the voice of reason against the folly of war? The second volume does establish the ZAFT Chairman as a friend to Athrun, giving him complete control over the most advanced Gundam yet; free of influence from anyone, including himself, only to have Athrun act on his own conscience. While a dangerous ploy to trust the young fighter, the Chairman realizes that to break the cycle of violence, someone from an outside force will need to step up to the plate, Athrun being his best hope of the survival of all concerned.
The episodes this time were 6) The End of the World, 7) Land of Confusion, 8) Junction, 9) Bared Fangs, and 10) A Father's Spell. Of note for series fans, Athrun was the driving force of the volume as were the political maneuverings of the players from each faction. In terms of where the series was going (especially since I had already seen volume 3), it was clear that the show was doing exactly what was needed to show the repeat folly the people were taking, largely by showing them making the same mistakes (with limited variations). Fans of the headier material (politics, backstabbing, power plays) will have a lot to enjoy as will those in it simply for the Gundams fighting all sorts of battle sequences. In general, you really can't go wrong with the show except that it should be noted yet again that the material will seem highly repetitive to those who have been following the quality franchise all along. Still, there is something about the show that really appeals to me and with the context of what took place both before and after, I have to admit that I thought the DVD was worth a rating of Recommended.
Picture: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V2 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 V2 may not have treaded any completely new ground and those who pay attention to detail will notice some of the minor tweaking the characters have gone through. There were some brilliant moments of revelation and other times when I thought the creative staff either took the cheap way out or just jumped the shark altogether but I can't deny the appeal of the characters as they fight FOR something rather then simply defend a chunk of land as in some of the related series (both in and out of the franchise). The battles themselves were interesting as the designs showed once again that the bigger is better philosophy was applied to the mobile suits and while I thought a boxed set of the series for a value price some day in the future would definitely seal the deal for me, I enjoyed the specifics of this volume better than I did with Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V3, perhaps due to having the proper context in which to appreciate some of the subtleties of the plot and characters.
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.