Burke Rukes wrote:Here's some more of my thoughts on Destiny now that I've wrapped up my viewing (aside from Special 4, which I will probably get around to watching the SEED & Destiny Specials after I get through 00).
Too bad I missed out on the end of the series, everybody was letting it out and expounding on their feelings, without the AAAAIIIIGH factor that made episode commentary somewhat crazy back in 2005.
My final verdict on GSD is that it was a passable anime, even a good one in places. Unfortunately, it had the potential to be great, and missed out on being great, even to the extent of its predecessor, and that disappointed a lot of fans who could see the potential but never got the follow-through.
We STILL never found out how Mu survived getting incinerated in the Strike who rescued him, and why he was brainwashed/programmed into being Neo Roanoke....I dunno, that, along with other elements of the story, particularly late in the series, just felt like fan-wanking. I don't like this whole thing, but I so much wanted Murrue and Mu/Neo to have their happily ever after... *shrug*
This was one story feature that never went over with the fans over here, and was somewhat controversial even in Japan. It seemed they wanted to do us all a favor and restore Mu, missing out on the fact he had achieved mighty status by going out in style. But there he was, somehow, and we had to deal with it. At least "Neo" Mu didn't get written off, and stayed in to the end to make a newer, better life for himself and Murrue.
Speaking of fan-wanking... one of my other biggest problems with the series overall is... who am I supposed to be cheering for? The series starts off with ZAFT clearly being the good guys (including extremely hate-worthy and yet clearly-understandable Shinn) and following them, but as soon as Kira and the old Archangel gang are brought back into the action partway through the series... the ZAFT pilots & Minerva crew became a mixture of bad guys (Rey, Shinn) or good guys working for the bad guys (also Shinn, Lunamaria, Talia, etc.).
This is a valid criticism, and it led to a lot of internet ink being spilled on the subject. I do think the story unfolded more or less as planned, in that the continuing war had no "good" side between Earth Alliance and the PLANTs. Both sides had done a lot of damage to each other, and the continuation of extreme viewpoints made a fight to the finish inevitable, if not necessary. LOGOS had empowered Djibril, so they were in for the finish 100%. Durandel ended up the villain because he was over-correcting, and wanting to become a benevolent autocrat as per Republic
and Brave New World
. If both sides are flawed, then the Three Ships/Terminal faction become the good guys by default, if they are believably sincere about ending the war. The PC line common in Japan got played a lot more than some Gundam stories,and justifying character actions based on actually upholding that line made for some odd situations. The characters in the field were shown to be sincere about it, which at least made for some good drama and action setup.
Shinn... such a wasted opportunity for a Gundam hero. I could've totally accepted him as an anti-hero lead for a Gundam series, which would have been refreshing and different... IF he'd had some actual character growth. But he didn't. And that's why he was the single most frustrating element, alongside Athrun (who I'll get to in a bit), of this whole series. His character went NOWHERE.
Yeah, Shinn didn't earn his hero spot, and the story shifted to reflect it. I am not sure the staff officially acknowledged it or not, but Shinn's gradual eclipse by the older heroes showed he wasn't making the grade. It seemed at times after Diocula Base that Shinn was being deliberately groomed as a non-thinking loyal destroyer, to be unleashed at the whim of the Chairman, and petted and rewarded for his actions, no matter who they hurt, or what they accomplished. This was a definite trope-buster, since Gundam heroes are expected to be the guys who think about why they get in the cockpit. Did it work out well or not? YMMV for sure... Now, Shinn's non-hero development did have me ready to believe Durandel as a villain. So perhaps Shinn was set up to fail compared to Athrun and Kira after all, which makes me wonder then why so much story was invested in him to begin with.
And Athrun... poor Athrun. He could have become the sempai mentor for Shinn and helped him along with his much-needed character growth. It's sad that Athrun tells Shinn during the big final battle that he needs to stop living with his head stuck in the past. Athrun should've told this to Shinn 40 or so episodes sooner! But then, Athrun himself spent half the series with -his- head stuck in the past as well... as did we all, as the director cranked up the "spam the audience with flashback clips" dial to 11.
Ever wonder what GSD might have been like if even half of all the flashback segments had been replaced with actual story elements? I did for a while, and it about drove me up the wall. So much money and momentum wasted, and it led to the sequel becoming a parody of the first one at times, instead of being a true extension of it. Anyway, like I said earlier, having Athrun reprise his SEED journey of discovery did him, and his friends and comrades, no good. He started out so well, then lost his spine and spent about 10 episodes sulking instead of asserting himself as the hero and leader he was supposed to be.
Luna had a couple of opportunities to really question what she and her teammates were doing, had enough evidence personally witnessed to realize that -something- stunk really bad, but....ultimately she did nothing, and instead became Shinn's impromptu snuggle-bunny. Oh well.
Dominion-kun really liked Lunamaria as a character, and was furious when she got demoted to being Shinn's comped girlfriend. Even today he still gets heated about the careless waste of a female character like that. To reprise a criticism I made back when about it, Fa Yuri got more serious treatment ad both a MS pilot and a love interest. On the whole, Luna-chan and Cagalli got demoted to the type of stock anime heroines who make all their decisions based on their feelings of the moment, place all the burdens of decision on the hero, and never think about what could happen tomorrow, or the day after it. It was lazy writing, and unforgivable to me because Gundam was one of the ground-breaking anime for having female characters that could be part of the action, instead of watching it from the sidelines with a plate of cookies and a roll of bandages.
Despite my initial admiration for him, and totally digging his words and thought-provoking dialogue, I was always suspicious of Durandal from the start. I'm an anarcho-libertarian, which means I distrust all politicians, no matter how nice and slick of a package they come in. And ultimately, as I suspected he would, he turned out to be the Big Bad. But he was about as great a Big Bad as they come! And like all tyrants, who may have started off with good intentions, but get caught up in their fevered egos, fueled by the power they possess, thinking their way is the only way, ends up being just as bad as those they're trying to do away with. A fascinating, and tragic, and even sympathetic villain. Definitely a real highlight for this series.
That's a pretty good summary of Durandel, and may explain why Shuichi Ikeda was willing to take the part. Durandel is a complex Gundam villain, who sincerely wants to fix the problems the CE 'verse has made for itself. The conversations Athrun has with Shinn could also be applied to the Chairman. Meaning to do good and prevent further evil, he is going to go too far and force people to conform to his ideal future. Then he will become hurt and disappointed and kill-crazy when other people refuse to play along. He has a great presentation, and may even believe it at times, but to see the real Durandel, say "So what if I say no?"
He also serves as a reminder to Athrun that the citizens of the PLANTs are not as free as the PR might make it. Truly free people can live their own lives without getting government permission to do so. They will be the sort of people who will live in peace, and leave others in peace, for the most part.
Kira and Lacus and the old gang... it was great to see them back, and it was great that they had an active part in the series... but they truly stole the spotlight.
I like many others suspected that Sunrise (and paymaster Bandai) disapproved of director Fukuda's original storyline, and leaned on him to make changes in an attempt to protect the potential AU franchise. Kira and Lacus were pretty much the prince and princess of Gundam in Japan for nearly all of the past decade, with related sales to match.
However, since the dirty laundry was not washed in public, we might as well skip it and take the story as written. Yeah, it would have made for a tighter story if the TSA crew had an actual background supporting role. Given the first dozen or so episodes, it seemed like that would be the situation. However, the GSD story set potential allies and comrades at each others' throats, so we can take it as a lesson for all Gundam heroes to be careful to look before they leap into a conflict. Athrun, Cagalli, and Shinn all made hasty decisions based on too little information and too much personal turmoil, and they had the good fortune to live to regret it. (Some other supporting characters were not so lucky.)
That aside, looking back there was a sense of "we can top that" that was making its way into anime at the time, especially the big dramatic pieces like Gundam. It wasn't enough for the production staff to have Big Reveals, Big Dam Hero stunts, and other Big Moments at the appropriate times in the story. There was a gradual cascade effect of Big Scene on top of Big Scene, until the audience was numb...or rebellious. Given the way GSD kept turning up the drama meter to "11", we should not have been surprised to see what happened in Gundam 00
or Code Geass
. One of those animes was able to overcome its cascade effect and turn into a successful sci-fi mecha drama. The other one crashed and burned in a most spectacular fashion in its second season. We'll let Burke make the call on which one is which in a little while when he gets further into 00, ne?
I was sad to see them end up going their separate ways (if, indeed, they HAVE, it's still a little vague, but it does seem to be the general consensus), but... that's life. Sometimes things don't work out. I'm sure Mirialla and Dearka could talk about that (there's another story I'd love to hear
If wishes were horses, the Athrun & Cagalli shippers would own a herd in Colorado.
Maybe the supposed movie was supposed to get them together again, and at teh time I liked them as a couple enough to wish for it. Unfortunately, the relationship was thoroughly story-sabotaged as much as the Kou-Nina romance in Stardust Memory
, minus the bullet of course. Both of them might gain from starting over again and remaining old friends.
As for the fate of the Milly-Dearka ship, well, that one got torpedoed in port. At the scene where she officially returned to Archangel
and got asked about it, the translated line is "I dumped him." The original Japanese line reads as "I threw him away." Ouch!
I also want to talk about Meer Campbell, and her personality and background. I honestly thought the 2 episodes near the end which ended her story and gave us some insight into her was a refreshing and welcome breather before the final big battle. She was another tragic character, a product of both others' design and whatever childhood traumas caused her to WANT to be someone else, someone she idolized, rather than herself. (This is an interesting recurring theme in this series, dealing with false identities: Athrun/Alex, Neo/Mu, Rey/Rau, Meer/"Lacus".)
Now that I look back on it, Meer is the not-subtle example to prove that Durandel's Destiny Plan was not going to be the perfect fix for a lot of people. It was Meer's "destiny" to be like Lacus, but not the real one, and she ended up regretting it.
It's the implementation of the plan that I'm really wondering about. Durandel wanted to create a society where everything is engineered and controlled and managed and planned, with the focus being on the genetic side of things... and yet... human beings are more than their genetic code. We're the summation of our experiences and memories, our joys and traumas, and so on.
That's the main theme of all the SEED anime right there. Sure, physical and quantifiable mental characteristics are important and provide a solid foundation for personal growth. But as the Coordinators proved, even if everybody is pretty and athletic and smart, some people will still do well, and some will not. Some people will find their place in society, some will not, and some people will decide their place is not right and needs to be made to fit them a little better. Some people will accept their setbacks, and either surpass them, or at least learn to live with the limitations. Some people will not accept their setbacks/limitations, and will try to remove them....or look about for somebody else to take the blame. But human society needs the perpetual search for consensus and the resolution of conflict. Otherwise, how will we determine what is desirable and what is not? It drives everybody who wants a well-planned, tightly-run shop crazy, but things still manage to get done and we all move on. And I'm not just saying that because I was on the staff of a successful anime con this past weekend, either.
"I am fire. I am death. I am Hashmal."
"Discontent is the first step in the progress for a man or a nation." - Oscar Wilde