December 20, 2008
I usually don’t care for spin-offs, but I seem to be on a Gundam kick again, and I’d heard pretty decent things about Stargazer, so…
STORY – Stargazer is a side story that takes place around episode 7 and 8 of Gundam SEED Destiny. I have nothing but contempt for Destiny in general, including its story, but thankfully, Stargazer manages to leave behind most of the nonsense and only utilizes a few key plot elements, namely, the drop of Junius Seven onto Earth. And as colony drop plots are kind of common in the Gundamverse, it’s pretty easy to forget about Stargazer’s parent series. (Well, Stargazer does mention a few prominent political names that tie it into Destiny, but that’s pretty nice because continuity and relevancy is always good, even if the parent story isn’t.)
As a three-episode OAV, Stargazer has an appropriately narrow focus. It gives the colony drop’s resulting devastation an impressively realistic treatment and follows its effects on the lives of two characters, an Earth Alliance soldier and a neutral (Coordinator) researcher. Short and simple. The storytelling mostly relies on the actual events to develop the characters, which are pretty subtle, but it’s effective in its own way. I realy, really loved the ending of this series too. Some of the best dialogue is right there at the end. It’s ambiguous, but you get a little bit of extra footage after the credits are over. If you do some math and assume certain assertions are true, you could get a definite conclusion. I thought that was pretty damn neat.
CHARACTER – Considering the series’ length, the characters felt pretty whole to me. Sven’s past was only addressed in a few short flashbacks, but they were broken up enough that it didn’t feel like they were circumventing anything major by portraying it that way. Or at least, the holes in his past were the holes in his personality that both he and the audience had to grapple with. Selene didn’t get much of a flashback treatment, but her personality and history was revealed discreetly through conversations, which is one of my favorite ways to trump overt exposition. Both characters’ place in the world was very clear; their emotions regarding the coming war were subtle, and their hopes for the future similarly so, but that made their actions feel more poignant. There was a lot open to interpretation, which is important when there’s so little time to tell the story, and it made the OAV more thoughtful, a quality I think is absent in a lot of Gundam titles because there’s so much focus on the fights and action.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – As expected, the art was consistent with the style in SEED and SEED Destiny, but I did feel the animation was a bit slicker and more put-together. It was actually pretty neat seeing familiar uniforms on new characters, and even though all the Earth Alliance Gundams were just recolored versions of the suits in SEED, it was appropriate and didn’t feel like it was cheap or too much of a cop-out (I think I prefer the Strike Noir’s colors to the Strike’s, really). There was also a scene in here that reawakened by love of BuCUEs — they’re just damn badass. As for the Stargazer, I love the concept, and the resulting design is pretty unique; I feel like they could have pushed it a little further still, but it worked well enough.
MUSIC – I was pretty surprised that most, if not all, of the familiar tracks from the SEED and SEED Destiny repertoire were missing in this OAV. I don’t know if any new music was composed for Stargazer, but I’m very well acquainted with all… eight soundtracks for SEED/Destiny, and I’m fairly certain that none of the leitmotifs showed up here. And regardless of that, the music for Stargazer is pretty top notch. I’m especially fond of the slower tracks that played during thoughtful scenes. I’m not familiar with the artist (Satori Negishi), but the ending insert song was also very beautiful and fitting.
VOICE ACTING – Kind of generic, but still appropriate. I liked Selene’s voice in particular.
OVERALL – All things considered, I found Stargazer to be pretty enjoyable. Honestly, you could place it inside of any number of Gundam continuities, and it would have functioned well enough, so it doesn’t have to be treated as a SEED Destiny-specific title. The story and characters were pretty simple, but the storytelling was solid. There’s a lot left up to the viewer, so if you’re not a fan of having to interpret things for yourself, then maybe it’s not worth the trouble, but considering it’s less than an hour long, it doesn’t take much out of your life to give this OAV a chance.