At the risk of hyperbole, I make things clear before anything else: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny is shit on a stick. It is the worst anime ever made in the pretense of entertainment. If it is possible that there are worse shows that do exist, then there is no atom of desire in my being to experience them. If Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam is a sin against Mobile Suit Z Gundam or a sin against the Universal Century sub-franchise, then Gundam SEED Destiny is a sin against all anime.
Having said that, I enjoyed myself watching this rubbish. My emotional investment in it is rather scanty. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is garbage in my eyes to begin with , so even the exceptional shittiness of GSD isn’t something that hurt me beyond its blows against my personal aesthetics, good sense, and value of time. I mention this because it is forever linked with Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam, the other sequel in the franchise that is renowned for its awfulness, and is to day the only show that I ever truly hate (for reasons that I’ve already stated elsewhere).
So how did I accomplish this feat? I truly did enjoy Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny.
At the most superficial level, despite the fugly character designs, I happen to find several of the female characters quite fetching. Lunamaria Hawke and her silky voice (Sakamoto Maaya) and her pink skirt is very nice… until she actually tries to be useful in a fight (biggest missed gimme in Gundam FOR SERIOUS); Cagali can be quite the ingénue in the few moments she’s not being annoying (usually when she’s in the bath… it’s hard to stay annoying while naked in the bath, even for Cagali); and for all the flak I give her, I ♥ Murrue Ramius.
When I’m not thinking too hard, I get caught up with the shipping shenanigans. Oh ♥Athrun♥, you’re so pimp. Everyone not named Shinn is just so hot for you. Don’t worry, nobody likes Shinn. It took you dumping Lunamaria for her kid sister for her to finally go to Shinn, and Rey doesn’t count because he was raised in a vat. Shinn is into that.
Also, just like during the siege of Alaska in SEED, even a hater like me enjoyed the siege of Orb. I could suspend my intense dislike for this kind of mecha battle style to enjoy the intense action in that arc.
Lastly, terrible shows are best enjoyed with friends! But while I was sadistic enough to make people watch SEED with me, my conscience could no longer countenance inviting 3D friends to this 2D pursuit; 2D friends however!
Allow me to present my illustrious panel:
Now that I’ve introduced my BROs, let us get into the discussion of the show. We don’t really want to repeat any of the many, many, many, many, many complaints about GSD. While this is quite impossible, I’ll choose to frame the issues my own way.
#1. Who the Hell are the Protagonists of this Show?
We know this is Shinn’s show because the title is Gundam SEED Destiny, and Shinn pilots the titular Gundam. That’s how it works. The problem is that he becomes this third wheel between ♥Athrun♥ and Kira☆. And perhaps the bigger problem is that he is horribly unlikeable. Shinn combines the worst qualities of Kamille Bidan (Z Gundam: always angry and shouting, but without the bitterness despite having worse things happen to him on-screen to establish his distrust and foul mood) and Judau Ashta (sorry bro) who is forced on us to become sympathetic for having a morality pet in the form of a kid sister.
Shinn, as opposed to both references, fawns over authority! He blindly follows Gilbert Durandal, and Durandal’s puppet Rey Za Burrel. My Gundam lead pilot can’t be this subservient to authority while remaining an asshole to everyone else! Shinn Asuka can’t carry the story, which resulted in the overindulgence of ♥Athrun♥ and Kira☆, which compromised Shinn further – reducing his asshattery to raging emo crying in the latter part of the show.
#2. Nobody Really “Grows” Except Athrun.
A huge cast is a problem enough, if you want the viewers to care enough for the characters in a saga with names. Well, here are rules of thumb:
- If a character at any point becomes critical to the success of a main protagonist, then we should care about that character.
- If a character at any point seriously threatens the aspirations of a main protagonist, through direct or indirect conflict, then we should care about that character.
- If a character at any point becomes involved directly or indirectly in a romance or a romance-related conflict with one of the main characters, or even with another side character, then we should care.
- If a character at any point starts a rivalry with a main protagonist, then we should care about that character.
Gundam SEED Destiny had a host of characters that break these rules. Neo Roanoake was presented as an important villain, but for all intents and purposes the villain disappears as an excuse to bring back the popular Mu La Flaga from the dead. Mu La Flaga’s existence is given meaning by his sacrifice to save the Archangel in the finale of the previous show. Bringing him back this way is crude, clumsy, and cheap… and this is now a tradition in Gundam shows (Mobile Suit Gundam 00 second season). If side characters being worthless is bothersome enough, doing this for villains is even worse!
#3. Villainous Deeds Do Not Make for Memorable Villains
To further establish Durandal’s evil, Meer had to be portrayed as disposable. However, she was given something like two whole episodes near the very climax of everything. She didn’t even have a story prior to this, and suddenly her story derails the main plot so close to the end.
Worse, it involved one of the lamest assassination operations in all anime. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex preceded this show. The thought cripples the mind. How bad was it? Pilots were hitting rifle-carrying snipers, using pistols at distance, while remaining unscathed themselves. That Kira☆, he is godly.
#4. Someone forgot this is a robot show.
The funny thing is how the AU Gundam shows starting from Mobile Report Wing Gundam have been the status quo for “real robot” shows for over a decade. SEED and GSD are very much follow the tradition and build further distance from the more grounded and grittier UC Gundam shows in terms of robot action. Pilots and their suits become de facto super heroes on the battlefield wielding otherworldly powers to vanquish armies of opponents. They are never challenged unless faced with another Gundam or a form of monstrous mobile armor (in GSD, this is just another but larger Gundam).
I’m not making UC Gundam to be faultless in this comparison, but they do have sterling examples of what I hold to be top-tier real robot action: Mobile Suit Gundam Char’s Counterattack, 08th MS Team, 0080 War in the Pocket, 0083 Stardust Memory, and Unicorn. It’s no coincidence that these shows are films or OVAs – which almost always appeal to a more mature audience. But I contend that Gundam 00 made some headway into this for whatever it’s worth: The best bits in 00 involved the different Earth government factions out-foxing and out-piloting Celestial Being with their overpowered Gundams. It was truly good, if only for a short while.
Gundam SEED Destiny is the most underrated source of enjoyment in anime of all time.
Yeah you read that right. For obvious reasons (a good number of them mentioned by my panel of haters), people hate GSD. I’m saying right here that their hate is cheap. I’m talking about cheaper than being engaged to ♥Athrun Zala♥ kind of cheap. If you’re a long-time fan of the Gundam franchise (and I’m talking about much longer fan than I am – I’ve only been a fan for 2 years), like way back in the 90s fan or earlier and is a fan of the franchise as a whole and not just UC, or AU, and you feel like GSD’s awfulness spelt the doom of your beloved franchise… I might have sympathy for your hatred. I can’t imagine being there under those circumstances while this show was airing. The pain must have been exquisite.
Otherwise, the hate is overblown, and has more to do with self-proclaimed allegiance to standards of merit in anime or some other set of ideals than anything else. A show this bad is so easy to drop. I’ll say it again:
A SHOW THIS AWFUL IS SO EASY TO DROP.
If you persisted in watching it, then you really must have something immense invested in its success. Otherwise, you stuck there to hate. And if you did, it says more about you than it does about the show.
Going further, I suspect a lot of you started doing what I intended to do here all along: you started getting off on hating the show. You just couldn’t wait posting on your internet boards and commenting on blog posts about how just awful this show is. You’ve tried making an art form out of making jokes at how bad the show is. You baited people by claiming this show isn’t as bad, or funnier, mentioning other people’s favorite shows are just as bad or even worse than this one. Sure you’re just getting some value out of the sunk cost of your time, but c’mon let’s be real. You actually love to hate it. Gundam SEED Destiny gives you the quickest and most massive hate boners.
Obviously, I can’t possibly describe everyone’s experience of the show, so if what I just said doesn’t completely describe you, that’s okay. I don’t mean to insult anyone’s intelligence here. You’ve already done enough by finishing Gundam SEED Destiny.
Before you get all worked up, I’m not condemning you for doing so. It’s exactly what I’m doing right now: entertaining myself to absurd levels, performing alchemy by turning rubbish to revelations. It’s just an invitation to authenticity. Haters gonna hate. Say it with me:
I love to hate Gundam SEED Destiny more than I actually hate it.
And this just proves how there really is so much joy to be had as a fan of Gundam. No other franchise can match this wealth.
The Ultimate Value of Gundam SEED Destiny
It exists to remind us that an epic level of awful exists, that something so consistently bad and presented in a progressively horrendous fashion over the course of 100+ episodes (to account for side stories and films). Yes, I count Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. It reminds us how no franchise, however successful or important, is ever immune to utter travesty. And more importantly, it reminds us how things of such atrocity can become overwhelmingly popular and successful despite itself. People did enjoy Gundam SEED Destiny without irony or subversion.
It also tells us, that we can overcome these things, as I did, as many others before me. I have found a way to enjoy GSD, by spinning the coin of love and hate and smashing it with the hammer of fun at random intervals.
Now you tell me, what were your favorite things, moments, aspects of Gundam SEED Destiny that you love, or love to hate most?
Haven’t seen any Gundam at all? Don’t know where to start? Find your Gateway Gundam!