Mobile Gundam Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C-

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  • Art Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 0-3454-9274-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Gundam SEED DESTINY

Mobile Gundam Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY Vol. #01

By Ben Leary     June 25, 2007
Release Date: June 01, 2006

Mobile Gundam Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY Vol.#01
© Del Rey

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Masatsugu Iwase (Original Story: Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino)
Translated by:Ikoi Hiroe
Adapted by:Ikoi Hiroe

What They Say
Year 71, Cosmic Era. After the terrible battle of Yakin Due, an uneasy peace rests between the Earth Alliance and the Zaft Empire. But even as Cagalli and Athrun visit Chairman Durandal to cement the tentative cease-fire, Zaft terrorists plot with Neo Roanoke to drag both sides into all-out war. The plan: storm Zaft territory and steal several Gundam Mobile Suits. But that's only the beginning. They're also scheming to engineer a catastrophic event, one designed to drive the Earth down a bloody path. Now the crew of the Minerva must prevent disaster, as everything and everyone "including the love between Athrun and Cagalli "is thrown in mortal danger.

The Review
No matter which Gundam era you're in, peace never lasts.

This is, hands down, the best part of this release, although that's not saying too much. On the front we get the requisite shot of our lead (foreground) and Mighty Morphin' Impulse Gundam (background). The title is on the left in red, and done vertically, which was a good choice considering the layout of the art. On the back we get the fancier title logo and a Gundam action pose next to the write-up. The spine is particularly nice: the classy red-on-black lettering and headshot really help the book stand out on the shelf. In the back are several pages of mobile suit designs, followed by a brief rundown on the creator and artist, and then a one-page piece on the history of Gundam Seed--mainly that it's the first full-length Gundam sequel series since Zeta and ZZ. At the very end is a preview for the next volume, but with Japanese text only. Hiragana, anyone?

The art was a tough call for me. I can't deny there's some real talent here. Backgrounds and furniture and the bigger ships and all the little odds and ends are drawn really well with a lot of good detail, and the money shots have a lot of flair. The problem is the the main draw: the characters and mobile suits. These aren't exactly bad, but they suffer a lot from having very little differentiation. In the characters we see this early on when Shin and Athrun are having an argument and both characters look identical except for one having his mouth open. Later on we're introduced to another male character who's a dead ringer for these two. In the anime I suppose it would be easier to distinguish the characters by the color of their uniforms, but you need more than that in a black and white manga. Nearly all the characters have the same facial features, so you generally have to fall back on hair colour/length to figure out who's who. The robots are a little easier to tell apart, especially when they're drawn together. but trying to tell which is which in individual shots is constantly irritating. You know you're in trouble when the most distictive design is Haro (yes, he's back.)

Things are mostly good on this front. Text is clear and fits the speech bubbles neatly. The translation makes for natural reading; I don't think it's to blame for the confusion I felt reading this. Sound effects are in Japanese but translated in small type next to the effect. Something odd that keeps cropping up is the use of ellipses and question marks inside speech bubbles, evidently to convey a certain state of mind in the characters. Sometimes it works fine, but mostly it seems like a lazy substitute for putting emotion into facial expressions. The most awkward use of text is in a crying scene, which is expressed by--this is an direct quote--"WAAAH". Exactly like that, no punctuation or anything. It's hard to feel for a character who can't even cry with exclamation marks.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Before reading this book my only exposure to the Gundam world was some of the Universal Century anime. I'd never seen any of the alternate timeline shows, not even Gundam Wing. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached this volume. Would it be the same grand, tragic but exciting blend of human drama and mecha action? Or would it be something that recycled the classic Gundam designs and then did just another robot series? I can't say my hopes were high, but I was at least curious to see what would happen.

I still am.

Let me explain that. As the book opens we find a guy who looks like the guy on the cover running along to get somewhere fast. (It actually turns out to be the guy on the cover, but you can never be too sure when two other character designs look just like him.) He collides with a cute girl and falls on top of her. When he tries to get up, he accidentally puts his hand on her breast. She slaps him.

Something as cliched as this would be a lackluster beginning for a harem comedy, even a second-rate one. As the beginning of an epic saga of love and war in a legendary franchise, it's inexcusable. It's bad enough to be unoriginal. But this is unoriginal in the wrong genre.

From unoriginality we slide into sheer confusion. Three hijackers walk into a military base and hop into some mobile suits. The ensuing fight is impossible to follow because it's a Gundam vs. Gundam battle and there's no way to tell one side from the other. You can't fall back on the character designs because those all look the same. Characters enter the story helter-skelter. I still don't know who they are. I even went to the official Gundam website (now there's a place you can just lose yourself in) to see if that would help me make sense of what's going on and who these people are. It didn't. A derelict space colony begins to crash toward Earth. I never discovered how that started. My heart leapt up when I saw a character ask "Who are we fighting?" "Aha," I thought, "now for some exposition." The other character answered, "I don't know. I just know that they're our enemies."

At that point I gave up.

Then I remembered an old movie story about the making of the Bogart film The Big Sleep. The director and his writers were working on the script, trying to figure out who committed one of the many murders in the labyrinthine plot. They couldn't figure it out, so they contacted the novel's author, Raymond Chandler--and it turned out he didn't know who committed the murder either. They then realized they could never make any sense out of the plot, so they just put in a bunch of scenes with Bogey and Lauren Bacall and hoped for the best. And that's the way you have to watch The Big Sleep: forget about trying to figure out who killed whom, because you're never going to do that, and just enjoy the good material that's there. So I went back to Gundam Seed Destiny with the same spirit. I stopped trying to follow the plot. I stopped trying to tell the characters apart. (Hey, this is Gundam: they'll all be dead by the end anyway.) I stopped trying to piece together the motivations and aims of the different factions. I just plowed along, thrusting aside the questions that I found rushing at me from every page, and simply watched the robots flying around blasting the crap out of each other. If you approach it like this, the book starts to get readable about two-thirds of the way through. It doesn't get good or anything, it just stops frustrating you. And the process becomes second nature after a little practice. When I saw a wedding being interrupted by a Gundam kidnapping the bride (seriously, this happens--take that, Lochinvar!) I didn't wonder why it happened. I just wondered what the guests would say at the reception. And it was even easier to enjoy the Wagner references, since I'd have liked those anyway.

I can't think of a positive note to end this on, so instead, based on my reading of this volume and prior Gundam knowledge, here are my predictions for future volumes:

1) Shin will cross paths again with the cute girl he fell on top of.
2) She'll slap him again.
3) A whole bunch of people will die, most of them uselessly.
4) New secret weapons will be revealed.
5) Haro will try to provide comic relief and fail.

If the chairman follows through on his plan to fight against all the factions for the sake of peace then this could even get interesting. But I can't say I'm looking forward to the next volume, even with the last couple of chapters beginning to show just enough promise to keep the content out of the D range. If you don't have any previous familiarity with Gundam Seed, then I'd definitely say pass this one by. Even if you do, I really doubt this will fit the bill. Gundams really belong in motion, not stuck in tiny black and white still panels. Only the most dedicated fans need apply here.


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