Welcome to another Gundam SEED Destiny Doubletake! Each post, I dive into an episode or two of SEED Destiny and present two “takes” from it — two commentaries on plot or character points that stood out to me. I then explore each point from two perspectives — a fan’s perspective and a fiction writer’s perspective.
Frongi, Gundam DEE CORe… LAUNCHING!
Take 1 — Reunion of the Le Creuset Team
Athrun runs into Yzak and Dearka on his mission to help break Junius Seven in pieces. Banter ensues. “I’m the commander here; stop giving orders, you damn civilian,” shouts Yzak — when Athrun tells him to focus and that it doesn’t matter how he ended up there. Wryly, Athrun also remarks that Yzak “hasn’t changed a bit,” and Dearka, exasperated, mutters, “There they go again.” The three then proceed to kick ass and take names, forcing even Shinn to pause on the battlefield and realize, “Those veterans from Jachin Due sure know their stuff.”
Reaction as a fan: YESSSS! THIS IS THE BEST. THEY’RE SUCH BOSSES. I love their interactions — and Shinn’s awe.
Reaction as a writer: Having Athrun reunite with Yzak and Dearka gives viewers a taste of a dynamic that thoroughly entertained in the first show. Additionally, I found this reunion’s placement/timing satisfying. The situation around Junius Seven is dire; stakes are high, a battle is raging, and the Minerva crew can barely hold its own. Adding humor into such a situation is clever, because it allows the viewer a break from the tension. Tension in stories is necessary, but the caveat is that if it goes on too long, it fatigues the audience. Alleviating the pressure of an extended action sequence with humorous character interaction is a tactic that has been proven to work well time and again in successful stories. See Star Wars (extra comparable here because it’s a space opera just like SEED Destiny is).
Take 2 — Shinn Supports Athrun
When the Minerva crew gets called back to the ship, Athrun disobeys the order to return and stays out to finish breaking up Junius Seven. Shinn sees this and decides to cast his lot in with Athrun. They team up in battle… until an enemy remark launches Athrun into self-doubt and he freezes. Shinn then flies to Athrun’s rescue.
Reaction as a fan: THAT’S IT, BOYS — GET ‘EM! But crap, wait, Athrun… get your shit together! Don’t listen to the extremist remarks of the enemy! Don’t you DARE start doubting that breaking up Junius Seven was the right decision! I know your mother died in the Bloody Valentine Tragedy, but— WAIT NO, NO NO NO DON’T FALL INTO THE EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE LIKE THAT, AAHHH…. HELP HIM, SHINN!
Reaction as a writer: I did not expect Shinn to experience a change of opinion or heart regarding anyone affiliated with Orb so soon in this narrative. But at least this means Shinn’s character arc is in progress. By supporting Athrun, Shinn is showing that his rage hasn’t completely blinded him to sense; he is showing his ability to keep an open mind and change. That smells like good character development, so I can’t complain.
Bonus Take — It’s Finally Kira And Lacus
They’re revealed living a peaceful life on Earth (with Kira’s mother and a bunch of orphans) at the Orb beach location of Reverend Malchio’s they’re seen at in “Between The Stars.”
Reaction as a fan: FINALLY! But… Kira Yamato, you look like an OLD MAN sitting on that front porch rocker. You also don’t look happy or peaceful, you look creepily empty. I assume you must have terrible PTSD — and considering your mental state in “Between The Stars,” I can’t say I’m surprised that you seem disconnected. But WHY ARE YOU JUST STARING AT THE SKY AS THE PIECES OF JUNIUS SEVEN FALL DOWN? You could die! Aren’t you gonna DO SOMETHING? What happened to “If we have the power, we should put it to good use?” Don’t you have the power any more? What, did you decommission the Freedom? I KNOW you deserve your break now, but still…. And Lacus? She has the news on, and she knows what’s about to happen — why isn’t SHE doing anything, either? She’s probably protecting your delicate mental state. I get that, but YOU’RE NOT GOING TO STAY IN A DAZE LIKE THIS, KIRA, ARE YOU?! You’re Kira Yamato! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? WHAT ARE YOU FEELING? WHY WON’T YOU SAY ANYTHING? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU; JUST HOW BROKEN ARE YOU? AAAAAH!
Reaction as a writer: This is it. Here we go. They’re bringing Kira and Lacus back; they have decided that the time is now. I don’t know why yet, but it has begun.
…Please don’t screw it up, Destiny, please don’t screw it up, please don’t screw it up please don’t screw it up….
Take 1 — Fields Of Hope, Except Maybe Not
Junius Seven has been broken up… but the smaller falling pieces now wreak havoc across Earth. This is the first large-scale damage we’ve seen in SEED Destiny’s timeline (I’m counting the battle Shinn’s family died in as technically part of the first SEED’s timeline), and boy did they make it eerie. Lacus sings her new song, “Fields Of Hope,” to calm the hysterical children she and Kira are sheltering with, while viewers watch a montage of the destruction across the Earth’s surface. Partway through the peaceful, pretty ballad, the scene cuts to a horrified Stella who is watching the disaster from space. Stella asks, “Will they die? Are they all going to die?” And since we know how much she fears dying, that makes the scene twice as heavy.
Reaction as a fan: How dare you make me watch something so mortifying and heart-wrenching. We’re over, SEED Destiny. I can’t take this.
Reaction as a writer: This is well-executed drama and manipulation of audience emotions through successful use of juxtaposition. I have no critiques, just a nod of acknowledgement through my TEARS OF UPHEAVAL, THANKS, DESTINY.
Take 2 — Shinn’s Callout
Athrun is a complex character. But there’s one streak of his personality that is always easy to identify — his noble, self-sacrificing side. The Athrun that self-destructs his Aegis to take out Kira in the Strike. The Athrun that makes Kira have to warn him later, “It’s not your time to die, okay?” (In other words, “Can you stop trying to kill yourself unnecessarily for victory?”) The Athrun who zips into GENESIS to blow it up with his Justice.
Now we have that Athrun again — the Athrun who is falling to Earth and possibly about to die because his machine can’t handle atmospheric re-entry, but who tells Shinn not to help him because that might endanger Shinn as well. Well, Shinn helps Athrun anyway — and delivers a real doozy. It’s too great not to quote directly.
Shinn: “How come you always have to be so noble and say things like that?!”
Athrun: “…Okay, what would you rather I say, then?”
Shinn: “Something like, ‘Help me, you bastard!’”
Reaction as a fan: I’m getting this conversation tattooed on me. Okay, I’m not — but it’s still exciting. YOU NEEDED THAT CALLOUT, ATHRUN. Because apparently you learned NOTHING from the moment inside GENESIS when Cagalli yelled at you to stop running and keep living. Looks like you’ve found another person now who won’t take your shit. YES, GOOD; MAYBE YOU’LL SMARTEN UP THIS TIME. And now look at you and Shinn cooperate, being buddies! I love it.
Reaction as a writer: It was a smart move for Destiny’s creators to include something like this. It’s called “lampshading” in writer’s group critique terms; it’s when a writer deals with a story element that threatens an audience’s suspension of disbelief by addressing it incredibly forwardly, then breezing on. In this case, the threat to suspension of disbelief (at least mine) is how unrealistic it seems that anyone (even Mr. Dense Athrun) can go so long trying to martyr himself with so many people he trusts chastising him about it without ever acknowledging that fine, yes, he might be being foolish. When Shinn calls Athrun out and Athrun actually decides for once to accept help, it’s great, because Shinn is addressing exactly what viewers have wanted to yell at Athrun a hundred times themselves. (Essentially, “HEY ATHRUN, YOU’RE BEING DUMB.”) This enables us to move on from the issue and feel satisfied; the implausible situation has been, if not truly “resolved,” at least called out/lampshaded. In other words, I’m not going to waste brain cells yelling at Athrun anymore for being “Suzaku Kururugi Lite/Beta Version,” because Shinn has now done it for me — simple as that. I can now focus instead on everything else. A lampshade can be seen as a cheap way of fixing a weak plot element or piece of character development, but it works. Destiny has covered its ass well here regarding Athrun’s ongoing self-destructive streak.