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 — Athrun The Ladies Man, Sort Of
On his day off, Athrun wakes up in a nice hotel room (courtesy of the Chairman) to find Meer Campbell sleeping with him. She’s dressed in pink lingerie, and Athrun doesn’t know how the heck she got there.
Lunamaria has ideas, though. Jealousy turns her bratty when she sees how close “Lacus” and Athrun are acting.
Reaction as a fan: ATHRUN — DID YOU SLEEP WITH MEER?! WHAT THE— Oh. Oh, you didn’t? But what do you MEAN she just SNUCK INTO YOUR ROOM while you were asleep? And you didn’t wake up? FOR GOD’S SAKE, MAN — YOU’RE A SOLDIER. Where is your instinct for danger? WAKE UP WHEN SOMEONE CREEPS INTO YOUR BEDROOM. And as for YOU, Lunamaria. Here I thought you were a likable character. Now you’re not, because it seems like you’ll do anything to get in Athrun’s pants... including become obnoxiously petty. Athrun is “engaged to Lacus,” as far as you know. He’s also your damn superior! Keep it in your pants; it has nothing to do with you!
Reaction as a writer: I see they were trying for some humor at Athrun’s expense. It was funny. But my suspension of disbelief broke from the get-go, as soon as I was asked to believe someone like Meer could sneak into Athrun’s bedroom without his noticing. An irksome development from a writing standpoint, for sure... but not a dealbreaker — because I did get a laugh from it.
Take 2 — Shinn Meets Stella
They run into each other when Stella falls off a cliff into the sea and can’t swim. Shinn rescues her, and while they wait for help to arrive, they start chatting. Shinn makes a promise to protect Stella so she won’t die.
Reaction as a fan: Stella is painfully socially awkward, but considering her situation with Phantom Pain, I can’t blame her for the mess she is. Shinn is ADORABLE, trying so hard to manage her and help her. I love that he sympathizes with her because he sees himself in her, assuming she must have lost her loved ones in crossfire the way he did. THEY’RE SO FREAKING CUTE TOGETHER.
Reaction as a writer: They’re so doomed. Because this was so cute, it’s going to hurt us so much more once Shinn and Stella realize they’ve been fighting each other in opposing mobile suits. That’s good drama for the story, though. Also, I’m pleased we got to see a sweeter side of Shinn Asuka here. He’s been doing so much bratty shouting and so much battlefield killing lately, we needed a reminder about why we’re supposed to like him. The writers have taken on a difficult task; choosing a protagonist with views like Shinn’s and pitting his ideals against those of other, better established SEED characters (who all want peace at any cost) while still keeping Shinn likable is a tall order. A scene like this where we can see one of Shinn’s good sides helps.
Take 1 — Memory Wipes
Sting, Stella, and Auel get back into their bubble-pods to sleep, and Neo speaks to the scientist in charge of overseeing them. He tells the scientist to wipe the kids’ memories yet again, and thoroughly — because after all, who needs memories?
Reaction as a fan: I— whaaat?! THE WHOLE TIME, THESE KIDS WERE HAVING THEIR MEMORIES PARTIALLY OR MOSTLY ERASED? No wonder Stella seemed like an airhead! She probably couldn’t remember how to tie her own damn— OHMYGOD. She’s not going to remember Shinn at all. She’s not going to remember.... AUGH! Like their relationship wasn’t tragic enough already!
Reaction as a writer: At first, this development seems excessive. Sting, Stella, and Auel were interesting enough already, and Stella and Shinn’s relationship had plenty of obstacles already present. Why bother to add yet another complex layer on top of it, when the conflict present was already enough? I’LL TELL YOU WHY. BECAUSE THIS EXPLAINS “NEO,” THAT’S WHY. Because obviously, from this we can guess what happened to Mu La Flaga. His freaking memories are gone! We don’t know if Mu chose to have his memories erased, or if they got erased without his consent, but BAM, we now have our answer. This isn’t actually about Sting, Stella, and Auel at all. This is about Neo. The added plot of memory wipes does seem excessive, sure — but now at least we know the writers put it there for a reason. It has to do with Neo’s backstory.
And of course, this reveal also begs the question, “Can any of these characters get their memories back?” Will Mu be made to remember Murrue? Will Stella remember Shinn? And if so, how? Burning questions like these make viewers want to keep watching, so even if this still feels over the top, I can’t say it isn’t an effective storytelling choice.
Take 2 — Yuna As Orb’s Supreme Commander
The Earth Alliance calls on its new ally the Orb Union, ordering Orb into battle against ZAFT. In charge of Orb’s military is Yuna Roma Seiran — the purple-haired sleaze who nearly married Cagalli.
Reaction as a fan: Wow, this guy is pretentious as heck considering how much of a weakling he is. UNLIKEABLE CHARACTER ALERT. He’s going to get everyone on Orb’s side killed.... Look at Neo, just leading Yuna on and using him as cannon fodder, while he sits back and reaches for the popcorn!
Reaction as a writer: Okay, you got me, Destiny. I had pegged Yuna as a throwaway character. After the wedding went awry, I thought we’d seen the last of him. I’m not pleased learning I was wrong — because this guy is obnoxious, and I want to break his face with a Haro, not have to watch him any more. That said, my anger is a sign that his character’s writing is effective. The Destiny team wanted to create someone gross, and they succeeded; I am yelling at their character for being obnoxious, not at them for writing him poorly. A strong viewer reaction to a character (in any sense) means the writers did their jobs. Also, it’s important to have unlikeable characters. If we liked everybody.... Well, that’s just not realistic, is it? That’s not the world. Destiny is including characters of all types to make this setting feel more real, get us riled up, and create more conflict. (Now, since I just acknowledged this dumb jerk’s importance, can we please hurry up and kill him off?)