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!
This was a recap episode, narrated by Athrun, whose thoughts were angsty as usual and amounted to, “I did all the crap I did because I was conflicted!” Yes. Thanks Athrun, we know that’s your MO. Kira narrated the second half of the episode, and his thoughts amounted to, “Yeah uh, Athrun, you were wrong. But it’s okay, let’s just go save the world and end war with non-violence, because we know now that fighting to end fighting just ends up causing more fighting.”
Reaction as a fan: This is not when I want a recap episode. I want to give Athrun a new Gundam, ‘kay thanks bye; I am fast forwarding through most of this.
Reaction as a writer: Did we really need this recap here, right as events are beginning to pick up and lead us toward the show’s climax? This is only our second full recap episode, so I suppose it could be worse, but the sheer number of repetitive flashbacks we’ve already had in each regular episode makes this feel extra tedious.
On a side note, though — Kira explicitly states in this episode that they’ve all got to try a non-violent route now. How are they going to do that, and what haven’t they tried before as a solution? What would be most non-violent as things stand? Remember how I suggested they should try to change the system and fight Durandal from the inside? I am still waiting for Kira to join ZAFT. It would make the most sense, dang it! How else does Kira intend to achieve a non-violent solution, especially when Durandal is seemingly after anyone who won’t cast their lot in with him? Even if Kira doesn’t join officially, I at least want to see him infiltrate the PLANTs or something….
Take 1 — Lacus’s Allies
During the battle at Orb, a pod drops three unknown purple machines into the fray. Lacus tells the Archangel crew not to attack the new machines — they’re allies. The apparent leader of the band of three is a female pilot with flaming orange hair and an eyepatch. These three new characters also feature in Destiny’s most recent opening theme.
Reaction as a fan: Who the hell are you three?! You don’t look like throwaway characters; your designs scream “I’m important,” but I’m… skeptical now, thanks to Heine’s uselessness. Are you three from some other chunk of the Cosmic Era canon? (I am ashamed to admit it — for as much a SEED fan as I am, I never got into Astray or anything.)
Reaction as a writer: As a general rule writing fiction novels, you’re not supposed to introduce new characters in your last fifty or so pages. Why? Because if you introduce them super late, it feels cheap. There isn’t enough time left at that point to develop them decently. They feel superfluous, thus annoying, as if the writer didn’t plan well enough to even hint about or foreshadow their existences earlier. Or like the writer forced them in last-second because they needed a random character to Deus Ex something, or otherwise patch up a plot problem somewhere that the writer wasn’t able to account for more cleanly. If nothing else, suddenly having to orient to three new characters this close to the story climax is distracting; it takes me out of the story. Not good. We have a mere eight episodes left of this fifty episode show — and three brand new characters are getting thrown into the fray NOW? No, Destiny. No, no, no.
Take 2 — The Justice Reappears/Athrun’s Decision
Kira and Lacus come down from space to join the battle — with a mobile suit for Athrun in tow. It’s the Justice. At first, Athrun isn’t sure he wants to pilot it. By now, he realizes how many mistakes he’s made; he doesn’t want to fight more and make them again. But Lacus — awesome like she is — imparts some words of wisdom onto him, resulting in Athrun’s following realization.
Power is neither good nor bad. It’s what a person makes of it. Athrun just needs to decide what to make of it.
Reaction as a fan: I’m pretty torn. On one hand, I love the Justice. And I should have known it would show up if Kira’s Freedom was preserved from the first series, too. But… but everyone else just got upgraded machines. Where’s Athrun’s golden plated and/or butterfly winged mobile suit? Also, as glad as I am that you’re making decisions and have finally grown a set of ovaries again, Athrun… how are you supposed to pilot the Justice when you can barely walk? You are fresh out of your hospital bed and probably shouldn’t even be moving!
Reaction as a writer: I thought you wanted to sell Gunpla, Gundam! You can’t sell me anything here; I’ve already built the Justice! But maybe this is only fair? Kira has had two machines now, one old and one new (Freedom and Strike Freedom) and so have Shinn and Cagalli (Impulse and Destiny, Strike Rouge and Akatsuki). Athrun just worked backwards — got his fancy new machine first (Savior). So now he gets his old one, and everybody is even, but—
Reaction as a fan: Wait. Stop.
As a writer: What? Why?! What are you doing?
As a fan: I’m sorry. I didn’t look closely enough; I was too invested in Athrun’s struggle and everything that he was yelling at Shinn. I just pulled up the ol’ Gundam wiki to double check, because I was still so salty…. This Justice… it is different. Can confirm — it’s a new machine.
As a writer: You’re making me look like an idiot. Did we honestly miss that the moment that it first showed up? I mean, I guess it’s been ten years since I’ve seen SEED, and my 1/100 of the original Justice is in storage, but still.
As a fan: To be fair, the characters are only referring to this new machine as “the Justice.” Which makes it sound not like a new thing. But it is. It’s actually called the Infinite Justice, and has a different model number, and now that I’m looking, I can see that it—
As a writer: So Athrun actually gets to be SPECIAL? Unlike everyone else, he gets two new machines?! Ten points from SEED Destiny for failing to address this more clearly! (A Big Deal was made out of the introductions of all the other new machines. So what gives on downplaying the Infinite Justice?) If Athrun’s that cool, then I want to know without debate! If the Gundam has a name, the Infinite Justice, then why is no one in the show using it?! Writers? Hello?! Was this supposed to be an Easter egg thing only for the people sharp enough to notice? Are you being elitist, did I miss something, or is there a good reason no character in the show addresses that this is indeed not the Justice but a new, upgraded, Infinite Justice?!
I’m pumped that Athrun’s finally on the verge of ceasing his waffling, his machine aside. As much as I love angsty Athrun, his character can’t develop if he stays conflicted forever. In the first SEED series, Athrun went hard at everything he did — so to have watched Destiny this far through without ever truly seeing Athrun resolute about anything…. That has been nail-biting nerve-wracking for me. But here the writers are delivering in the end, giving us the pay-off for waiting through all Athrun’s struggles. Athrun is going to decide what he wants at last and go for it!