Gundam SEED Destiny returns to a world where peace is hanging in the balance.
The battle of Jakin Due has taken its toll on all players in Gundam SEED, and as Destiny begins, it seems that peace might be at hand. As the Earth Alliance and ZAFT sign a treaty, our heroes in the previous series cope in their various ways to life without war. Then a special Alliance unit infiltrates a ZAFT base, taking off with three high-end Gundam mobile suits, and it seems as if the galaxy is about to be plunged into war again.
Gundam SEED Destiny takes the baton from its immediate predecessor and starts the series running. Within the first few minutes of episode one, we meet the newest major character of the cast, Shinn Asuka, a citizen of Orb who saw his entire family slaughtered by missile fire. He went to ZAFT to make certain that he never was left helpless again.
Chairman Dullindal is another new face. As the man who has succeeded Athrun Zala's father as the leader of ZAFT, his choices will ultimately create the world that everyone else will have to deal with. Under his guidance, the nation of Coordinators struggle to resist constant attempts by the Earth Alliance to return to flat-out war.
Old faces from the previous Gundam are back, but many of them take supporting roles. Kira, Gundam SEED's foremost protagonist, doesn't even appear on the front of official pictures, but Athrun remains in the middle of the action, struggling to cope with what has happened in the first series. A new pile of conflict is thrust upon him as he learns that there are many in ZAFT that still believe that his father's decision to kill every last Natural was the right choice.
Some characters, like Kira Yamato's old classmates, or Deaka and Izak, pilots in the ZAFT special forces, have their cameos and then disappear to be replaced with a group of characters that, as of episode 17, are not as developed or interesting. However, if the length of the first SEED is of any indication, Destiny has plenty of time to flesh its newcomers out and let them grow.
Characters have always been a strong point in the Gundam universe. Beyond the motif of constant war and gigantic, unrealistic machines dueling in space, the Gundam series broke new ground with its struggling heroes and human enemies. Gundam SEED Destiny continues to improve upon this legacy with around twenty reoccurring characters and complex interaction and relations to such a point that those who never enjoyed the Gundam universe before, including this author, finds this series extremely entertaining.
The obvious connection between Rey Za Burrel, ZAFT pilot, and Neo Roanoke, Destiny's token masked man, hearkens back to the rivalry of Mwu and Raw in the first SEED. What's up with the Lacus Cline impersonator, and how does Athrun feel about his once-fiancée being used in such a fashion? And of course, there's the problem of a certain Lord Jibril and his goals to rule the universe and kill a lot of people while he's at it.
Plot wise, Destiny is very much a sequel rather than an independent series. There are certain things that simply don't make any sense to someone who hasn't seen the previous series, such as multiple cameos by those who survived the first war, and references to events that happened in the later episodes of SEED. Watching Destiny before seeing SEED might even spoil some things, but watching all fifty episodes of the previous series is worth it to enjoy this show to the fullest.
For those who have seen SEED, Destiny is the long awaited continuation to a story that seemed to leave us hanging in space in the last episode. The shock of certain deaths gives way to an interest in how those who managed to survive cope with life now. Questions about how our heroes settled down after that last fateful battle are answered. For those who enjoyed the first SEED, the second manages to stay true to its predecessor while still introducing new plots and conflicts. For those who didn't like the first series, there isn't enough difference to warrant a change in opinion.
Destiny might be even more successful in approaching its topics than SEED was, because now there is a more solid basis for what is happening and characters have matured. The zeal of Shinn seems adolescent in contrast to Athrun and his battle wariness. Since the viewer and the old characters have now seen the real effects of war, the frustration at seeing everything they fought for start slipping away again feels more real.
There are no surprises with the art and music. True to its Gundam heritage, Destiny is brimming with new mobile suits, superweapons and urgent techno. T.M. Revolution returns with an new opening song, and Takanori Nishikawa, the group's front man, has a new voice part as Haine Westenfluss.
Other titles are being released based on the SEED universe at the same time, including SEED Ashtray a collection of side-story manga with a completely different cast and storyline.
With Gundam SEED already licensed and awaiting an American release, Destiny is sure to be licensed for domestic release, just in time for when you're finished with Gundam SEED. 2005 is looking to be a very good year for the Gundam fanatic.