Since this has been playing on my mind, and the next episode is really going to make it difficult for me to rationalise a certain character, I'll just post this now...
(NB: it's a bit convoluted, since I've written it down in parts...)
Despite the many similarities to Gundam SEED (right down to the main character becoming rather full-of-himself, and freeing a person, bringing him under the possible wrath of higher authorities), there seems to be a slightly deeper plot to Destiny. Whilst there are things I dislike (such as Kira having such a big part again, and Lacus being reduced to a supporting character who repeats one word for the first few episodes she's in...), I kind of like the way the show is going. What annoys me though, are the dynamics on certain forums; people are either (1) bashing Kira/Archangel or Shinn for something, (2) crowing about one or the other. (Bashing Athrun is fine...he's fallen really far; and Cagalli and Lacus have yet to do anything significant either.) Neither of them are perfect, but it seems like the director is trying to polarise Kira and Shinn against each other, particularly trying to make the viewers think the latter is an *** by placing him in complete contrast to a character that has already experienced much of what he is experiencing in this series. I don't like either particularly much, but it's possible to understand their actions, even if we don't like the eventual outcomes.
Some people say AA is operating along a double standard (we don't want to kill, but we're going to kill anyway). Analysing AA's actions, I disagree. Going back to one of the earlier episodes, the crew basically agreed that ORB signing the treaty threw the balance of power in the EA's favour. Yes, Minerva probably had the upper hand in ep.22 before her main cannon was destroyed - so we'll never know if they would have come out unscathed, given the number of ships stacked against them. But Cagalli and the rest of the AA crew obviously believe that ORB's military power is a decisive element - besides preventing the deaths of ORB soldiers, what they really wish to do is remove ORB from any one side. If anything, it was the timing of their intervention in ep.23 that was completely off...had they interfered without Kira destroying the main cannon, or attacking Stellar before Heine, perhaps things might have been different...
Could they have done that by trying to overturn the treaty, as Athrun suggested? Another unknown...but regarding Cagalli's diplomatic position; given that she gave in to the Seirans and the other Emirs, I think she was feeling pretty powerless even though she was the sovereign of the country. At 18, she is still very young, and doesn't have the experience of Lacus (who, it seems, didn't want to take her responsibilities up, at least until recently), nor the same standing in her country. Take a look at history and see just how often an underage ruler was actually listened to rather than being controlled - it can't have been very frequent (the real world isn't quite like Naboo of Star Wars fame; history probably won't tell us the real story either anyway, come to think of it...). Could Kira, Lacus, Murrue etc have provided support? Given that they're either coordinators, otherwise, just the captain of a ship, I don't believe so. The diplomatic option is/was basically closed to them.
Athrun, in asking them to return to ORB and do something about the treaty, was actually rather naive himself. Did he understand what caused Cagalli to agree to sign it? The pressure she was under and the ridicule with which she was being treated by the Emirs? Did he expect them to be able to do something immediately? ORB was already out on the ocean, and there would have been no way they could have prevented the second battle...in fact, it certainly looked like Minerva would have lost had AA etc not intervened again.
In addition, when the AA crew decided they wanted to prevent ORB from fighting, they didn't know that Athrun had rejoined ZAFT. Despite Minerva being that ship that had saved the earth, Cagalli's primary loyalty lies with her people - she doesn't want them to die, but even more importantly, she was hoping to remind the individuals (not the commanders, since Jona was effectively in command) what the ideals of ORB were. Given that they decided then, should they go back on that decision just because Athrun had rejoined ZAFT? or even because, as Athrun says, EA and ORB are in the wrong in the first place, and they should not be attacking Minerva? Kira shot the Minerva's Tannhauser because they were about to fire at (and probably destroy) a carrier of the ORB fleet, which Cagalli wanted to protect. Basically - Cagalli wants to prevent ORB from fighting, and since the diplomatic option really wasn't working, AA intervening is the only way they can get their view across to the ORB fleet. They are not (at this stage) interested in convincing the Minerva to see things from their point of view, although the ORB ideal is what they want the whole world and PLANT to believe in. Yes, they could have simply done nothing, even back in ep.23, but that would mean betraying the ideals of ORB; whether others (i.e. Shinn) believe they are being too idealistic, since that is their ideal, that is what they must live by.
Last thing on AA...they don't trust Dullindal - why? They didn't label him as the one responsible for the colony drop...why they don't trust him is primarily because of the assassination attempt on Lacus. They hadn't heard from Athrun, who had gone to PLANT to find out what the situation was. Given that it seemed that Lacus was being hunted by coordinators, it was understandable that Kira didn't want to risk going to PLANT, and that p.o.v. seemed justified when they found out about 'the fake Lacus'. Given such a situation, wouldn't you similarly have thought that the leader of PLANT, Dullindal, was probably not showing his true face? They weren't privy Athrun's interactions with the chairman, so they don't even have a reason to believe that he is resorting to such actions in an attempt to keep the peace. Lacus decided to go to PLANT herself to see what the situation was because what Athrun believes conflicts with what is apparent to them - but I don't think she would have decided that if they hadn't heard from Athrun.
(Sidenote: Kira is annoying...best pilot (the staff officially said so), and as ep.30 shows, 'humble' and aware of his mistakes as well... 'Naive' is a better description I think...this has been brought up on one of the forums discussing Destiny; Kira is not perfect. If anything, what he has to learn is that he can't just sit and do nothing, and he probably has to become involved in politics (or at least Lacus has to, dammit!). Ep.30 showed that he's just not comfortable with that kind of authority, even if lots of other people trust and respect his opinions.)
Shinn has always been irritating to some people (and argh!!...the way SuzuKen is voicing him so arrogantly makes me want to kill him very occasionally...much prefer his voicing characters like Kakeru (Furuba) and Daiya (Parfait Tic)!) but the last few episodes have really driven the dislike to hate. In episode 28, Shinn fired at Freedom after the latter intervened (to save Minerva). Given the deaths that resulted from the Tannhauser being destroyed in ep.23, all of Minerva's crew was going to despise them for interfering. Talia herself looked at the situation in the same way as Shinn, ordering the crew to treat AA as a HOSTILE ship; she just had enough sense to realise that they weren't there to attack Minerva per se, and so didn't bother to fire at AA. Shinn on the other hand, stupidly shot at Cagalli, inciting Kira's anger/protectiveness, thus causing all the problems between the Minerva and AA forces in the episode. He needs to develop some common sense, but his Gundam sums up his character well...he's impulsive - which is nice because it's unlike Athrun and Kira (more like Yzak...I'm missing Yzak now...never thought I'd say that...).
Shinn also destroyed the Takemikazuchi, killing Todaka, the ORB captain who comforted him after his family were killed two years previously. Considering that Shinn wouldn't have known that, along with the fact that Minerva was being overpowered (thanks at least in part to Athrun's stupidity!), I can't blame him, although I wish it hadn't come to that.
Shinn has now become powerful enough to prevent the deaths of those close to him (well...to a certain extent). What Shinn has got to realise this time is what Cagalli drummed into Athrun in GS - the fact that fighting to protect someone usually means that someone else is killed in the process. When an enemy is defeated, is it necessary to have them killed? He chose not to kill Stellar, possibly because he believed that she was being used, that she was just obeying orders. How is that different from what the ORB military was doing? How is that different from what Minerva is doing? Shinn's development has been interesting though - with Stellar, he has learned that his enemies (or at least some of them) are humans too; hopefully he'll learn a bit more about the politics in all these cases during the rest of the series.
More recently (ep. 30), Shinn's success in defending Minerva and the subsequent awe in which he is held on the ship have gone to his head somewhat (cf. Kira in the second quarter of GS). He was (according to some) really rude towards Athrun...although the latter deserved it. What Shinn said is right - if Athrun want to fight, he should do so without a doubt in his head, but the way he put Athrun down in front of the other characters...that was just immature...
I get the impression they're trying to make us riled up at Shinn. I've read a lot of people on other forums saying that they like Shinn because he is impulsive and doesn't like authority. (Basically, they like psycho characters as opposed to 'God-like' characters or characters who can't decide what it is they want to do). On the other hand, he is being rather hypocritical. His belief that Neo will keep his promise and take Stellar out of the war is really going to bite him - he is being idealistic about one girl when he won't even accept the ideals of ORB.
Given his character and his previous experiences with ORB (family's death, encounter where ORB didn't allow Minerva back into their waters) and AA (ep.23), it's understandable. He blames Uzumi Nalah Athha for his family members' deaths, whether we think his reason is just or not, and Cagalli's incompetancy to far hasn't given him any reason to think otherwise. Currently, he thinks that the ORB ideal is stupid because it's only going to get more innocent people killed. Given that ORB was destroyed, I think he has a valid reason to think as he does...even though his uncontrollable temper etc is problematic, and someone is going to have to deal with that.
Shinn doesn't really comprehend how complicated the political situation is/was for Cagalli (and neither does Athrun, so it seems) or her father - I'd like to see how he leads a nation if there's an ideal he wants to hold on to. He thinks everything is pretty straightforward, and when you are a soldier who is meant to be following orders, that's probably true. However, it seems like that's a view he's going to have to modify in the course of the show (if they want his character to evolve, that is). What's really annoying on some other forums is that some fans don't want him to realise why the ORB ideal is so important to Cagalli and so relevant to peace - well, people have the right to think that it is a bit too idealistic...but if we don't have ideals, will we aspire to make this world a more liveable place?
And the one thing almost everyone agrees on - Athrun, in GSD, absolutely sucks. How in the world are they going to redeem him? (Yes, I know about Infinite Justice ...and I also know that Infinite Justice and Strike Freedom are currently in the 'unknown faction' category.)
edit: Forgot again...it's Takahashi Hiroki (高橋広樹)'s week at seiyuu.