Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny Collection 1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 13, 2006
Release Date: Monday, December 19, 2005



What They Say
In the year C.E. 70, the conflict between ZAFT Forces and the OMNI Enforcer has erupted into warfare of the highest intensity in the wake of "Bloody Valentine" carastropher. An armistice is signed following the Second Battle of Juchin Due, which saw massive casualties. No armistice could extinguish the hostilities that existed between the Naturals and the Coordinators. However, Shinn Asuka finds himself caught up in the OMNI Enforcers' Orb Operation, and sees his parents and sister killed before his very eyes in the fighting. He grieves, clutching his sister's cell phone, the only thing left to him, while the "Mobile Suit Gundam", the cause of all the fighting, flies away. Shell-shocked, he leaves Orb for PLANT and eventually, in C.E. 73, he becomes a soldier for the ZAFT Forces.

The Review!
After the first season that brought Gundam to a new generation of fans, Destiny kicks off with a huge amount of action and drama.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix included for the show is quite strong with a lot of directionality across the forward soundstage for both dialogue and action effects. The various big battle sequences have a good sense of power to them but not quite the overall oomph that a 5.1 mix could bring to it. It does come across very well for this series though and the dialogue sequences complement it well with nicely placed directionality and locations. Similar to English language dubs, the Chinese included dub has dialogue that comes across noticeably louder than the original Japanese track but was problem free from the areas we spot checked. We had no problems with distortions or dropouts with either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The release has thirteen episodes spread across three discs in a four/four/five layout. The shows very recent animation looks fantastic here with a very clean looking print that is free of problems such as cross coloration or aliasing. Colors are strong and bold here much as the original season of Seed was and this season, while not radically different, definitely comes across much more polished and smoother. The transfer retains the original Japanese openings and endings throughout each episode and eye-catches and opening sequences retain the original Japanese logo as well. The only problem with the video side that I can find is that for a lot of the episodes, but not all unless some were just smoother, is that when the chapter marks hit just before going to the episode credits, there's a slight pause. Sometimes this shows up just before the eye-catch as well but it doesn't seem to hit every episode but most. It's incredibly minor and hard to notice for the most part but it's a strange occurrence.

Packaging:
The three volume set is done in a digipak format that uses a lot of the original Japanese artwork. The first three covers from the Japanese run are used here with the pairings of the character artwork and their respective Gundam behind them but it's kept to just that and all the background used on the Japanese covers are just done in pure white here. This actually gives it a more striking feel that's really appealing. The front panel to the set has a shot of Shinn in his pilots outfit with his Gundam behind him. The back panel provides a number of glossy shots from the show and a decent summary of the basic premise of the opening set of episodes. There's also a lengthy column on the left side that lists the episode numbers and titles. The discs technical information is all clearly listed and easy to find though they do erroneously list the show as being 16:9 when it is definitely 4:3. The set opens to two more panels that feature white backgrounds for the Japanese cover art and then further to the four panels where the three discs lay. Under the three discs there are pieces of artwork from the three characters featured on the set with their Gundam and info on that Gundam while the fourth panel has some attractive artwork for the Kira, Athrun and Lacus character artwork.

Menu:
The menu layout is closer in style to the original Japanese covers as it features that kind of striped layout to it with character art sliding in from the left and the selection of extras along the right side while a bit of music plays. The layout is pretty solid and easy to navigate though some of the text graphics for the selections don't look quite as sharp as they could but it's an incredibly minor point. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Taking place about a year after the final events of Gundam Seed, Destiny kicks in with the first thirteen episodes here that are almost entirely action sequence after action sequence, drama built upon dramatic events and very little time to sit down and reflect about what's going on. We actually marathoned this entire set in one sitting partially because the adrenaline rush that kicks in from the continuous series of events is just so strong that it was hard to pull away from it. And just like we mention at the start of every other Gundam series we've reviewed, the first thirteen episodes only reveal the tip of the iceberg about the real plot here and it won't be until the halfway mark that it starts to become apparent. And we like it like that.

Similar to past series, there is a definite theme for how everything begins in the Gundam universe. In the time since the events that caused such massive destruction and brought both side together in order to ensure such wars don't happen again, there's been an uneasy truce but still some things bubbling just under the surface that threaten to explode. Cagalli, now the Representative of Orb, has made her way to one of the PLANT bases in order to meet with Chairman Durandal to figure out how to deal with some of these pressures but she ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. A group of three very strong and creatively powered individuals have made their way into the base to steal three new Gundam models that have been built and tested there unknown to the rest of the world. Everything on the base simply goes to hell as they break out and cause all sorts of destruction.

Isn't this how Seed began? And how many other Gundam shows?

Things aren't all bad for Cagalli as she's able to be protected by her bodyguard Alex, aka Athrun Zala in "disguise." They also luck out in that they're able to make it off of the colony by catching a ride with Durandal on board the new battleship the Minerva, which is essentially the upgraded and much more powerful version of the Archangel from the previous war. They're able to give chase for some time with the group that caused the raid and attempt to win back the Gundam suits but space battles are unpredictable and larger forces cause events to sway in another direction over time. The attack by these elements is given another face later on as disaffected ZAFT members work over a plan to launch a huge platform, once known as Junius Seven, down on Earth in order to wipe out the population there and free the people in space from the tyranny of the governments there. All of this sets in motion far larger plans by the Earth Alliance governments who see the attacks as a way to rewrite the future of Earth's history in the way they want, utilizing the citizen's hatred of PLANT as a reason to go to war and do whatever they want.

The political echoes of the real world in Seed Destiny are sometimes blunt but they're also echoes that have been in a number of previous series as well and they manage to mix and blend them nicely. The series across these first thirteen episodes has a number of new characters that have grown up from the first war and are now able to take part themselves and they bring all sorts of baggage along the way. Most notable is Shinn Asuka, a young immigrant from Orb who joined the ZAFT forces after his family died trying to evacuate Orb which he now holds responsible for their deaths. Naturally, with the Orb Representative on board the Minerva with him as well as the sheer reputation of someone like Athrun, he's a loose cannon at times with his words. Interestingly enough, you could assume by how these episodes play out that Shinn is supposed to be the lead character of this series but I don't see that. The first season was primarily about Kira but Athrun stole the show in a lot of ways with their relationship and the better angst storylines that he had. Athrun is definitely the star of Destiny though as you can see him being faced with some of the hardest choices here, from being offered a new Gundam called the Saviour to dealing with the repercussions of his fathers goals that so many had followed. Athrun has to grow up into a man and decide which path his life will take.

A lot of the fun for this season is seeing how characters who survived the first season have moved on. While we get plenty of time with new characters and those on board the Minerva, glimpses are given of others and they slowly become more important as it goes along, such as Yzak and Dearka showing their place in the military and then being drawn deeper into a bigger plot. I was also glad to see Waltfeld and Murrue show up in an interesting way as they've found a good way to live after all that they've been through. Most interesting was that it seemed to take almost five episodes before Kira and Lacus showed up which parallels some of Amuro's own journey in Zeta Gundam. It's the parallels to past shows, the nods and winks, that make this a lot of fun to watch but it's also done well enough that it stands firmly on its own.

This release is for the most part pretty slick and having thirteen episodes in one block is definitely the best way to watch this kind of show. Odex's release hits all the marks nicely but it's not completely free of issues. The video issues mentioned before is one of them but the other is that there's a pair of small but basic issues with the subtitles. Unlike series we saw from them back in 2001, there are no strange wording or cultural problems that come up and they read fantastic. One of the problems is that there's no separator for when there is dialogue for two people on the screen. Each is on its own line and if you listen and read at the same time you can figure it out, but there should be a "-" dash before each new dialogue line that comes from a separate person. The other is that if there is a long line of dialogue that gets split in half due to size, when the second part comes on the first letter is capitalized which can throw you off as you think it's the start of a new sentence. You get something like "This sentence starts here But it continues here" instead of "This sentence starts here… but it continues here". It's a small issue but I think it's part of basic subtitling. It doesn't really detract from the show and once you realize it you're able to just roll with it easily enough.

In Summary:
It's been months since the end of Gundam Seed so getting into Destiny took a bit of catch-up since I had forgotten characters and how the world was left politically but what you get out of Destiny in its first quarter here is a great big Gundam action series with lots of space and ground battles, decisive moments and characters who are dealing with some pretty extreme situations all while those in power manipulate the world to their liking and vision. Once it gets underway and the action starts, it peels away its layers slowly but it does reveal a lot and entice you as the characters make their choices and find their way in a very uncertain world. This set was a hell of a lot of fun to watch and Seed Destiny is some of the best marathon material out there, at least for this set. Very recommended for fans of Seed itself since I can't see this as a jumping on point unless you really like to learn about a shows history as you go along. I can't wait to get my hands on more of it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Mandarin 2.0 Language,Chinese Subtitles,English Subtitles,Malay Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 3 - Southeast Asia
Released By: Odex Private Limited
MSRP: SGD$39.90
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny