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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Vol. 4
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Vol. 4
Bandai // Unrated // September 26, 2006
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted November 5, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Background: There are precious few running franchises in anime that keep a tight balance between action and fighting with well written scripts that rely on fans paying attention and using their minds. One of these is the Mobile Suit Gundam show with numerous series falling well within the established Universes that are sometimes more closely related than others. 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 the previous volumes of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, I did so out of order so there might be some quirks I still haven't figured out yet (context is king folks!) but today's review of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V4 advances the story into deeper levels all the same.

Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V4 started with 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 initial plot point of this series dealt 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. The other major player in Shin, a man struggling with the loss of his family as he gains access to the most advanced Gundam created, given to him in the hopes of balancing out some of the more extreme elements from all three of the factions of humanity.

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. Shin 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 did establish the ZAFT Chairman as a friend to Shin, giving him complete control over the most advanced Gundam yet; free of influence from anyone, including himself, only to have Shin 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, Shin being his best hope of the survival of all concerned. The third volume expanded upon the idea with the crew of the Minerva leaving Orb, only to be attacked when they hit international waters. The changing alliances required that sacrifices be made, apparently old friends being first on the list. That leads Shin to take a reckless course of action (nothing new there) and kidnap his friend (and their leader, Cagalli), which fuels yet another thread of intrigue as the event is downplayed by the nation for the benefit of the scheming elements trying to take over her role.

All of which leads us to the four episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V4, comprised of episodes 15) Return to the Battlefield, 16) Struggle in the Indian Ocean, 17) The Soldier's Life, and 18) Attack the Lohengrin. The biggest development initially is with Athrun joining the Minerva as a member of the special elite service of Faith, an offshoot of ZAFT that elicits special attention from all involved. His presence on the ship greatly irritates Shin as the two share something of a past, but the larger stakes require that Athrun play a leadership role, assuming command of the gundams in various battles for ZAFT. Most of the first episodes deal with the Minerva establishing Athrun as a central character to the crew with the following episodes showing their prowess in battle against numerically superior forces in the Middle East. Shin isn't too happy with having to follow orders from Athrun but the establishment of a base by their enemies in the area puts the entire nation at risk and he manages to swallow his pride as he gets put into various situations that test his meddle ever more dangerously and give him a new understanding of Athrun. The battles were interesting with the political intrigue stepped up yet another notch as the crew are shown how the imposter playing Lactus is used to persuade public opinion as needed.

Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny continued the fine tradition of the series as the characters started to mesh well with one another in the face of the almost obvious conclusion of open warfare with former allies becoming enemies and the ensuing upheaval as all sides prepare for war. Neo Roanoke, the commander of the Alliance's Phantom Pain unit (the ones that initiated this series by stealing the technologically advanced gundams and destroying a base) makes it clear that he has special plans for the Minerva and some of her crew as they continually meet head on to protect their interests. As the series progresses, he takes a proactive role in the battles, leading his shock team as they counter almost anything the other side throws at them short of Shin and Athrun. The series is just warming up again and when the pieces are in place, I suspect that there will be even more interesting engagements. Watching the show in order, preferably with the previous seasons under your belt, will do a lot to limit the confusion of the characters and their situations (keeping track when screeners come in out of order has proven challenging for me too) but it was a series that I can suggest as Recommended nonetheless since the depth of the show goes far beyond the mindless bet 'em ups so many other shows rely on to attract the younger audience. If it continues to provide as much political maneuvering as action, the appreciation for better shows might even hit those youth but this is definitely one you can grow into with lots of replay value.

Picture: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V4 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 second textless ending and the usual trailers (that most of you don't count as an extra).

Final Thoughts: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V4 is another fine volume in the Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny worthy of your time and money. Granted, some of the characters look and sound so familiar that you'll almost have to watch the previous volumes every time a new volume comes out to keep track of the specifics but Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V4 continued to make this latest series a good one to check out. In short, the technical matters and the attention to detail by the creative crews on both sides of the Pacific Ocean will make it almost a must have unless you prefer the limitations of Saturday morning cartoons over quality anime. Give it a look in the context of the "Seed" series and you'll likely become a fan like I have done.

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.

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