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Dated 17 July 2006: Gundam SEED Destiny Special Edition I

I love Gundam SEED Destiny. Wait, that's not true. I love railing on Gundam SEED Destiny because it's so flawed. And yet I still find it endlessly entertaining to watch.

Athrun and Cagalli find a Zaku
Athrun shelters Cagalli in a Zaku, now with more fire!

I think most people will agree that Gundam SEED Destiny has a lot of great parts, but is a terrible show as a whole. I certainly feel this way, and I've heard others express similar opinions regarding the series. There is a school of thought that speculates the SEED Destiny compliation movies will actually be good, since they'll cut out all the stupid parts, leaving only the good stuff. To some extent, it appears this theory is accurate. It turns out that the first of the (eventually) three four compilations movies is pretty good.

Athrun kisses Cagalli
The ring scene from episode eight.

I credit the improvement to liberal editing and unrepentant retconning. For example, it appears Sunrise is packing the compilation movies with Meyrin scenes. Perhaps I just don't remember these early-episode scenes very well because Meyrin was a fairly minor character during these episodes, but I get the feeling that every single second of Meyrin screentime was preserved—and that perhaps a number of new bits were added. I'd have to do a scene-by-scene comparision to be sure, but I did notice an unusually high number of Meyrin scenes in the first Destiny movie. Some of them seemed designed to enhance her importance to the show.

Athrun kisses Cagalli
Revisionist ring scene from the movie.

Naturally, along with the Meyrin boost, there's obvious intent to diminish Cagalli's importance. For example, the infamous ring scene of episode eight was altered so that instead of a warm embrace and tender kiss, Cagalli gets a chaste peck on the cheek. She also laughs at him a little more.

Cagalli
Cagalli cries. In other news, fire burns.

They also made sure to include the bit where Cagalli bawls her eyes out after Shinn rips into her, only now Athrun's attempt to console her seems half-assed. It seems he immediately runs out into the hall, and gives Lunamaria the brush-off before heading off to do something more important. Speaking of Lunamaria, the entire plot line about propping Athrun up to be Lunamaria's love interest is gone. I'm pretty sure there's a new scene with Lunamaria and Shinn together, though.

Athurn consoles Cagalli
"Not this again. Can I skip ahead to my shower adventure with Meyrin?"

I have no doubt that Sunrise intends to prop up the Athrun + Meyrin "romance" that they discovered lying in the middle of left field towards the end of the series. To that end, there are little edits and new cuts underscoring Meyrin's character and her low-key interest in Athrun. For example, during the Junius-7 arc, there's new chatter among the other pilots and the mechanics where they mention that "Meyrin says he used to be in ZAFT," and they learn that ol' Alex Dino is really Athrun Zala

Lunamaria is shocked
There's always time for gossip.

Perhaps the final nail in Cagalli's coffin is the surprising change to Jona's character. All the scenes of Jona being a craven little bitch are gone. Going strictly from his scenes in the first compliation movie, Jona is the cool voice of reason who is acting purely in Orb's best interests while an indecisive, worthless Cagalli at the reigns almost steers the Orb chuck wagon off a cliff. Revisionist Jona is a decisive, take-charge sort of guy instead of a manipulative doucebag. I wouldn't be surprised if the compilation movies omit all of his scenes of cowardice and idiocy in order to make the viewer less sympathetic of Cagalli. Such are the machinations of the Athun + Meyrin Illuminati.

Jona and Cagalli
Jona and Cagalli.

Most significantly, Shinn is no longer the focus of the show. In fact, you have to get about an hour into the first Destiny movie before you see the full "Shinn's family dies" sequence. Instead, they've shifted the primary focus onto Athrun, where it should have been in the first place. The story is much more from his point of view, and Athrun has frequent voice overs during the movie (and will narrate the next two three, I've heard). Moreover, he flatly states the Gundam SEED Destiny thesis statement. (It sure took the writers a while to come up with one.)

Core Splendor launces
They still kept the entire Impulse launch sequence, though. At original speed, no less.

It's a damn shame the writers hadn't mapped all this out before the start of the series and referred to it before making any creative decisions. Had they set out these themes and remained loyal to them, Gundam SEED Destiny could have been a really good show. Why they tried to make us care about Shinn and then careen back and forth going nowhere instead of just making the series about Athrun all along (the way the first SEED series was about Kira), I have no idea. It sure would have worked a lot better than trying to do it retroactively now via the compilation movies.

Meyrin
Expect to see a lot more Meyrin.

Anyway, the first Destiny movie is quite good, and I remain optimistic that the next two three will also be good. Then again, the first third of the series was the strongest and most cohesive, so maybe I'm unjustified in thinking that the next two three movies won't be train wrecks. I can tell you this, though: If things keep going the way they've been going, we're going to see a bare-chested Jona wrestle alligators to save Cagalli's stupid ass in Part II, and Meyrin is going to ball Athrun's lights out in Part III. (This will be right after a comic sequence featuring Athrun struggling to peel off Meyrin's LCL-soaked plug suit—don't ask—as that funny-type music plays. You know which one I mean.)

Oh, and don't expect that bit about Meyrin thinking she's fat to make it into the second movie. That's going to be cut for sure, unless the "Include All Meyrin Scenes" motion carries. P.S. "Join."