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 — Freedom vs. The Destroy
Kira and the Archangel crew try to stop Phantom Pain and its new Destroy Gundam from razing cities — but they don’t have much luck. The Destroy dwarfs Kira’s Freedom, and Stella proves a formidable pilot.
Reaction as a fan: BRB, laughing maniacally because this Destroy is amazingly overpowered; I guess though, how else are you a match for the Ultimate Coordinator? LOL Kira hasn’t even gone SEED mode yet, though....
Reaction as a writer: While fan me might be laughing at how ridiculous the battle seems, writer me finds this well-executed. Until Stella arrived on scene in The Destroy, Kira was the overpowered one. He’s the Ultimate Coordinator, and as such he’s been utterly untouchable. He hasn’t even broken a sweat — and that kind of invincibility, especially in a main character, gets boring. That kind of invincibility is not what makes a good protagonist. Story is about conflict and struggle. If you have an untouchable protagonist with nothing to struggle against, there’s no story, because there’s no room for that character to grow (and viewers like to watch people actively growing and fighting to achieve goals). The fact that Kira can’t successfully attack Stella and is becoming frustrated in this episode is therefore fantastic. Having a big boss to fight puts Kira squarely back into the story in an active role; now he’s got to change again and make some tough decisions, or he’s not going to get out of this battle alive.
Pitting him against Stella specifically might also be great planning on the writers’ end. It remains to be seen. But if it were me, and I really wanted to torture my foremost protagonist (Shinn) in order to force him to grow... well, I’d force Kira Yamato into a tight place first, where his only choice would be to hurt or kill Stella despite his prior pacifistic leanings. This would then heighten drama between Kira and Shinn once Shinn actually realizes who Kira is (the pilot responsible for the specific mobile suit clash that killed his family, as well as now having harmed Stella).
Shinn would lose his shit entirely. Smells like good drama to me!
Take 1.5 — Er, My Predictive Powers Are Too Strong
So I drafted Take 1 while the episode was paused, close to the episode’s start. And by the end of the same episode, most of my predictions came true, especially the ones from Take 1 above.
But to recap. Shinn and the Minerva join the battle. Kira Yamato gets desperate and decides to attack Stella pretty brutally in order to halt her destruction cold. Then Stella dies in Shinn’s arms.
Reaction as a fan: While I can no longer take seriously the sparkly, naked, astral floating body imagery whenever SEED characters die (thanks for that, Flay Allster), this scene still whammed me in the feels. Stella was a REALLY tragic character. I have felt so bad for her this whole time, and she didn’t deserve to die like that. Kira Yamato, you Ultimate Coordinator, you... you done effed up bad this time.
Reaction as a writer: I called every bit of this. On one hand, awesome. This means the story is going exactly where it’s supposed to. Kira and Shinn are fated to clash indisputably now. On the other hand... my analyzing and predicting everything sure saps the fun and the raw emotion out of watching SEED Destiny for the first time. I wasn’t this spot on a decade ago when I was enjoying Gundam SEED. Pardon me while I get grumpy about making my writer bed and then having to sleep in it, thus spoiling cool anime for myself….
Take 2 — Neo Tells Shinn The Truth
When Shinn arrives on the scene and begins to attack the Destroy, Neo flies at Shinn’s Impulse and tells Shinn to stop, because the Destroy pilot is Stella. Shinn stops... and Kira takes Neo out in the pause.
Then Kira tells Murrue Ramius to come “pick up the pilot” of Neo’s Windam; earlier in the episode it seems like Kira recognizes Neo’s battle moves as reminiscent of Mu La Flaga.
Reaction as a fan: Wow. Okay. So this whole Mu thing is happening NOW? I was waiting for it, but now, during this battle is not when I expected this to come to a head. I feel very unprepared somehow.
Reaction as a writer: This felt forced and rushed. I’m not sure so many major plot points needed to happen in this single episode. Killing Stella and having Kira begin to suspect that Neo might be Mu would have been enough to digest for now. It feels like Neo’s conflict of conscience/his concern for Shinn and his reveal as Mu to Murrue was crammed into the episode. Also, just considering that Neo made a promise to Shinn to remove Stella from war and then didn’t, seemed annoyed by Djibril and then followed Djibril’s plan anyway... and considering that all that happened in the space of like, two episodes... I don’t feel that Neo’s inner conflict was clarified or developed enough, or given enough time for viewers to understand his thinking. When he suddenly steps in to stop Shinn from hurting Stella, it feels out of left field — because the last thing we saw was Neo brainwashing Stella into the Destroy and not seeming to care that he was doing so!
Have we already been waiting thirty episodes to learn whether Neo is really Mu, and whether he’s really still good or not? Yes. But does that mean we want the reveal rushed when it finally comes? No. It still has to make sense. And as is in this episode, Neo’s thought-process doesn’t make sense. We can guess what it must be (he’s Mu, he’s good, of course he’ll ultimately try to save Stella!), but we shouldn’t have to; it’s not clear enough what’s going on in Neo’s head to prompt his change of heart at the specific time the change occurs. The writers didn’t put enough into it. And they definitely shot themselves in the foot trying to make all the coincidences in this episode seem believable as they forced plot to happen. Good writing should never compromise character development to prioritize plot happenings; character is what drives and determines plot, not the other way around. You’re not supposed to say “and then THIS needs to happen because it would be cool or is the only way to make this other thing I want to happen occur,” and force the characters awkwardly into situations. Major plot happenings should result from a character’s decisions, not the writers’ desires regarding events they want to see executed, and I just— I need to calm down.
I’m gonna take a deep breath and at least clap the writers on the back for being bold enough to have Kira Flipping Yamato kill Stella. That was an example of a great decision in terms of character that will direct the plot — and I’m hoping it means the creators had something brilliant in mind for how to resolve the obvious mess of hatred that will come from Shinn and Kira’s clash henceforth.
I’m also gonna contemplate how messy things might get before the resolution. I am now wondering, again, if Lacus is as doomed as I previously pegged her for. I can see a life for a life, here, before the damage is terrible enough to force all parties to settle the down and forge peace — even if the life isn’t taken deliberately. Kira killed Stella... Will Shinn be responsible somehow for offing Lacus? I’d consider it, at least, if I were the writers.
Take 1 — Lunamaria’s Reality Check
It’s evident that Athrun prefers to take orders rather than give them; while he’s perfectly capable of assuming command, and even brilliant at it, he has proven again and again that he’ll ultimately hesitate when put in charge of great power. As a result, he hasn’t done much with the FAITH agency Durandal awarded him earlier in the show. And in this episode, Lunamaria calls him out for that.
She basically tells Athrun, “Um, you’re FAITH, remember? You can do whatever the heck you want. And by the way, if Shinn’s annoying you, you don’t have to angst over it — just use the pair of balls you have, put him in line more concretely, and Shinn will actually listen to you.”
Reaction as a fan: Athrun needed to hear that. Am I convinced he’s going to listen? Pfffft, NO. Zala is a professional waffler! But am I pleased Luna told him what she did? Yes. Lunamaria’s getting awesome.
Reaction as a writer: The writers are really holding out here, dragging out Athrun’s development and the reveal of whatever part he’s ultimately meant to play based on the choices he still has to make. Athrun has so much power, so much agency... and he has barely used an ounce of it. The man has got to DO SOMETHING. Since he made plenty of decisions early in the series, I’m more confident he will make more in due time. But the longer his waffling drags on, the cooler his next decision will have to be to make up for us viewers having to sit here and watch him continually, over and over, waffle and angst and crumble under the pressure of power. (Please don’t screw it up, Destiny.)
Take 2 — Durandal’s Worldwide Declaration
In one fell swoop — one worldwide broadcast — Durandal achieves a host of incredible things. He tells the world the truth about the recent battles and who was responsible for them. He proves the PLANTs and Coordinators just want to get along with everyone. He outs Logos as the instigators of the current war (apparently a taboo — I’m guessing because it’s generally not wise to unveil the existence of dangerous secret societies to the common public, who might only panic), and essentially unites the entirety of the world — Coordinators and Naturals both — against a new common enemy.
And then he declares war on that enemy.
Reaction as a fan: Durandal is the most effective Chairman and boldest bitch I have ever seen. The man is— I am such a fan. He’s wrong, ultimately, but I’m still SUCH A FAN.
Reaction as a writer: This is a turning point. Durandal has effectively just Deus Exed the entirety of SEED Destiny. Whereas a Deus Ex Machina would normally irritate me, I would rather have this glaring new plot event re-route everything drastically than see the series continue along the sloppy route that it was on. It was getting too difficult to balance Kira, Shinn, and Athrun’s perspectives, the ZAFT perspective and the Alliance perspective, not knowing who was right or wrong, etc. Too many sides, too much to consider, too much gray area... and now it’s gone. Now we have only two blessedly simple camps — the people who want peace, and the people who want war. Kira, Shinn, and Athrun are — whether they like it or not — all on the same side now! Even if they don’t realize they are! Even if it’s ultimately not the truth!
Hello, viewers. I am here to tell you that this isn’t going to be Logos versus Durandal’s Peace-Loving World, no matter what Durandal says or what you believe after seeing this episode. Durandal is not on the same side as any of our main characters. Think about this show and its themes. Durandal just created a war to bring peace. He just created a war. Kira wants to stop war. Athrun wants to stop war. Shinn wants to stop war. But Kira and Athrun (and Lacus, and Cagalli) have tried before to stop a war by using weapons to force peace. Look how that turned out (not good)! A major theme of this show is history repeating itself; Kira and Co. are trying to avoid repeating history. They need to fix their past mistakes. So, if the writers know what they’re doing, there is no fighting Logos, here. The only option now is to fight war itself (like the Archangel crew has been trying for) — and thus, to fight Durandal, who is starting a war — whether that means with weapons or not. We now must have Kira and the Peace-Lovers against Durandal and his clever new crap.
How is it gonna happen, though? I have some predictions about that, and I cannot hold them back. I feel like first, Kira needs to find out what he’s done to Shinn. Then he needs to make a choice that will redeem him and help promote peace/stop war without repeating his mistakes. What has Kira never tried before as a solution — and what is the least violent route he could take with things as they currently stand so as to avoid more needless death? KIRA YAMATO MUST JOIN ZAFT. He needs to be right where Durandal is if he wants to change what Durandal is doing but also avoid needless destruction. He needs a little Suzaku Kururugi (just like Athrun has, but in a better way) — he needs to try changing things from inside the system causing the problem, and he needs his means to justify his ends. He’s already tried Lelouch-ing it; Kira wanted his ends (the cease of war) to justify his means (using violence to fight for peace), and it hasn’t worked. I promise you guys — I will resign from these articles and go yell at the Destiny writers for dropping the story ball if Kira Yamato does not choose to join ZAFT.
In other news, I finally know what kind of character Durandal is meant to be. He is the best freaking villain ever. He’s admirable, capable, charismatic, he is so many positive things and he wants the right things at the bitter end (peace), but he’s taken his goals too far, gotten misguided, and become the bad guy. It is tragic as heck. He’s the kind of person you really don’t want to have to label the villain. But if he’s just created yet another war... he is. Sorry, Durandal. Also, you’re probably going to die for this, if there’s anything redeemable left inside you that will allow you to realize you went too far. I hope your death scene is awesome.
Bonus Take — Stella And Mu Stuff
Shinn lays Stella to rest in a watery grave, sobbing his eyes out. Meanwhile, Neo/Mu wakes up and makes life emotionally trying for Captain Murrue Ramius.
Reaction as a fan: Where are my tissues? I am still so sad for Stella and Shinn. And Murrue is an ANGEL; why must you put her through this kind of strife, Mu?!
Reaction as a writer: This was great, poignant emotional stuff. Shinn putting Stella to rest while sobbing that at least she doesn’t have to be scared or participate in war any more shows us that the only way for anyone to find peace in a war is through ending up dead. Yikes; what a gut-wham. Also, now Murrue has to come to grips with the fact that the man she loved but thought dead is 1) actually alive, but 2) not himself anymore. This was well-executed dramatic payoff of the set-up we’ve been seeing until now, and I have no complaints about execution.