Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny Collection 2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, February 25, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 21, 2006



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!
While not quite as action filled as the first quarter of the series, Destiny moves the expansive cast of characters about more as the situation becomes increasingly complex.

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 slight pause we noted with the first set is complete absent here and overall this is just a great looking presentation.

Packaging:
The three volume set is done in a digipak format that uses a lot of the original Japanese artwork. The 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 Athrun in his ZAFT 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 more 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)
The second collection in the series of four brings us to the halfway mark of the series and while the show slows down a bit from the overly hectic pace of the first thirteen episodes, there is still a considerable amount of action and battles both on a personal level and on a mobile suit level throughout here. A good portion of this volume is set to move the characters to where they need to be for the second half as the alliances have changed and an underlying bit of evil starts to become more apparent in the grand scheme of things.

In watching this batch of episodes in one marathon session, one thing became clear to me at least from the shows that I've seen in the last few years. The Gundam franchise is the only anime series that really tackles the subject of war, the perceptions of it and the numerous effects of it on people, property and relationships to any real effect anymore. There used to be a number of shows and OVAs that would deal with this in the eighties and early nineties but Gundam has seemingly become one of the last places for it in the anime world and it's a shame. Not because the show is bad, far from it as it really is the cornerstone of shows that looks at war from many angles and with most of the characters not really being evil but rather just have differing points of view, but because it is a subject that's so relevant to the world today and one that has so many things that can be done with it. Watching one scene where some of the key players from the first season talk about what they want to do or are trying to do and believing in the need for peace brings so many of the realities to the table that it makes the entire show much more interesting.

Across these thirteen episodes, there is a lot of things going on but we'll just tackle a couple of the main themes. The results from the previous set where Orb has been forced to align with the EAF and Yuna is now set to marry Cagalli in order to cement everything has left a bad taste in a lot of peoples mouths and the Orb military find themselves feeling more like pawns as the overall EAF command starts instructing them to move into situations that they really don't want to be involved in. Losing their neutrality and having to make choices like these don't sit well with them, especially when their spiritual leader in Cagalli seems so despondent and disconnected up through the wedding ceremony. Kira's view of all of this has left him rather unhappy with the direction of Orb so it's little surprise when he heads off in the Freedom and basically abducts Cagalli from the wedding and she gets back into being a key person on board the Archangel.

A lot of varying battles start happening on the planetside of the series since the Minerva and its crew are on Earth after saving everyone from the devastation that could have been Junius 7 and they find that they're assigned to dealing with one of the problem areas in the Suez. While the EAF has managed to erect a stronghold in many areas of the world there are several breakaway countries that haven't followed suit so more widespread flare-ups have been happening and the extra help has been welcome. This is also an area where Orb finds itself being sent into so there are some ugly confrontations between former friends and comrades that make things very uncomfortable. The action scenes are good throughout here with some creative missions set into play. I do continue to not like the three part nature of Shinn's mobile suit though since it really feels like just a goofy Transformer. Not that Stella's own mobile suit doesn't when it shifts into a jaguar style mode.

Some of the exploration of the themes of war are interesting at times, particularly in how Athrun has to try and defend his re-enlisting to Cagalli – in which he doesn't mention being a part of FAITH at all, as well as some of what Durandal is trying to achieve. He continues to be a real wild card in the show since he's seemingly being incredibly restrained considering all that's happened against PLANT and his thoughts on war in general almost have him seeming to be detached from humanity in a sense. Between his approach to all of this and the revelations we start to get about Blue Cosmos and the kinds of genetic research they've been doing to create their EAF Extenders, there is this real presence of an evil of sorts that's permeating the under layer of the show. When it dips into these areas it just takes on a tone of disgust and disquiet at times, something that even goes to affecting some of the characters which is a welcome change.

Watching this show in marathon form like this is almost like a drug but these episodes aren't quite as maddeningly addictive as the first set of thirteen was. This is actually fairly well expected though going by past experience with several other Gundam series as the show tends to have a lot of downtime with explanations and subplots running in the late teens and twenties. When the thirties start up though as those revelations start to be exposed and acted upon it picks up in pace for a rapid barrel approach to the last dozen or so episodes. It's formula and it's Gundam Formula but it tends to work well for me and Gundam Seed Destiny doesn't seem to be straying much.

In Summary:
In continuing with the Seed universe with another season I was afraid of the show repeating too much of what it did before and not being able to move into new areas. While there is a fair bit of repetition of themes, some with new characters and others going through the motions again, there is a self awareness at times about it that is forcing the characters to recognize it and to try and find new paths since they don't want to repeat the past. This admittedly minor twist does work in the shows favor though along with the new people that have come into the series as the war takes on new tones. Seed Destiny hits a lot of high notes across these episodes but is overall a fair bit more balanced overall and definitely less frenetic but still quite enjoyable.

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: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny