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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Vol. 8
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Vol. 8
Bandai // Unrated // May 15, 2007
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted June 10, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Background: I'm a big fan of the way the Japanese cater to niche audiences with their anime, often allowing a franchise to branch off, explore new territory, and even use characters in alternative scenarios. One of my favorite such franchises in anime is the wealth of Mobile Suit Gundam series that usually spend as much time detailing the cool giant robot battles with the various political intrigues of the characters. 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 or more factions 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." I've been fortunate enough to review the previous volumes of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, with the last one being Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V5, each chapter advancing the plunge into war once more by the various forms of humanity in the futuristic setting. Well, we did not get in the last couple of volumes of the series but from the looks of it, I didn't miss too much as I now look at Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V8

Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny 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 V8, comprised of episodes 31) The Endless Night, 32) Stella, 33) The World Revealed, and 34) Nightmare. The stakes get raised when the Earth Alliance changes tactics to go from their usual rules of war conduct to a campaign of eliminating the population with a super large mech called the Destroyer. Shinn still wants to avoid unnecessary combat and do the right thing as he swore to do, regardless of his orders from above. This puts him in direct conflict with his superiors and the end result is he lets someone special to him go; an enemy combatant with unique skills but a very fragile state of mind. Neo's promise regarding Stella proves to be worthless and the tragic end result shows Shinn that no matter what he does, or how good his intentions may be, the end result of his actions can easily cause people to suffer. As the Destroyer rampages through Europe, an attack team is assembled and sets up a unique confrontation where the Archangel and Minerva get to go toe to toe, any hopes of peace withering as civilians die in mass quantities.

With a series of major cities left in ruination, the focus on how to care for the survivors pops up and Chairman Durandal makes the bold step of taking on the dogs of war that continually promote conflict for their personal gain. This makes him a major target for a variety of factions but that is something that will play out in a future episode or three, the death of Shinn's friend causing him more than a little grief along the way. In general terms (I'm trying to avoid spoilers as best I can), the volume paved the way for a number of possible developments although it also came across as terribly predictable and mundane for all the fantastic battles going on. Some of the logic regarding character development and events transpiring also seemed to be rushed, almost as if some suit dictated a couple of key matters to be dealt with prematurely. Still, while the most common complaint I've heard about the series is that it stretches out material that would be best knocked out in half or a third of the number of episodes, there was enough for fans to enjoy a time or two.

Well, I like the series and there were some fine moments to this volume as well but lacking the background of the previous two volumes, it's a tough call as to how well it played into the events from those missing episodes. This was in addition to a sparse number of extras and that's why I struck me as only being worthy of a Rent It unless taken as part of the greater series (a boxed set would score higher if released at a value oriented price). I still want to see what happens but the air of sameness permeated the episodes and some great opportunities were cast aside by the end of the Stella arc so while it was decent, it simply didn't measure up in many ways to some of what has taken place before.

Picture: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V8 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 was a Mecha Dictionary and the usual trailers (that most of you don't count as an extra). There were no paper inserts in my copy of the movie either.

Final Thoughts: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V8 was more action packed than the last few volumes I was privy to seeing but while the eye candy aspects of the fights were pretty cool, the larger developments seemed tossed to the wind with the exception of Durandal's proclamation and new course. I know that alone should have been enough for me to enjoy the rest of the matters (especially the fighting scenes) but the fact is that whatever Shinn does seems to turn to crud pretty quickly and it gets old after awhile. Further, the way some of the higher ranking types rail at their orders yet take no affirmative stance against doing what they "know" to be wrong struck me as completely out of character for this anti-war series; something odd considering some of the previous material in the earlier parts of the show.

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, Best of Anime 2005, and Best of Anime 2006 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.

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