Athrun Zala (アスラン・ザラ Asuran Zara?) is the deuteragonist of both Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, as well as the protagonist in the special edition of the latter series and the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge manga.
Personality & Character
As seen and even mentioned by Lacus Clyne herself, Athrun is described as a quiet, reserved, and often a benevolent individual. Athrun is shown to have a firm belief that if soldiers follow their orders then eventually the war will end with success. While good at following orders, Athrun has trouble acting as a team leader due to his compassionate outlook in life. In Destiny, Athrun's personality and ideals does not change much, but he does mature in some respects, especially when he rejoins ZAFT at the personal behest of Gilbert Durandal to command and become part of the ZAFT forces as a field commander aboard the Minerva. Due to his status as a hero to the PLANT colonies and ZAFT ace pilot, he somehow instinctively portrays a very professional aura and doesn't hesitate when giving orders that can come off as being harsh or demanding. Despite the former's particular distaste of being ordered around, Athrun still manages to act as a mentor to his young subordinates, such as Shinn Asuka and Lunamaria Hawke.
However, Athrun does have two major flaws, both of which often plague him in both SEED and Destiny. His perseverance to find himself and discern the truth of the moment amidst the chaos in both wars waged in both SEED and Destiny eventually eclipses that flaw. His second flaw is a by-product of his first flaw as his indecisiveness comes off as being labeled as a traitor to either side of the war, much to his frustration and denial. After his defection to Terminal, Athrun seems to regain a sense of what he is fighting for, but it is not clearly portrayed if he has resolved this personal issue.
Skills & Abilities
Before becoming a full-fledged pilot, Athrun had underwent training at the ZAFT military academy. It was there that he showed natural talent as a soldier, ranking 1st in mobile suit piloting, hand-to-hand combat, and knife-fighting, even going as far as to beat the renowned knife-fighting instructor "Fred of the Knife". With his natural experience as a pilot and high scores at the academy, it's very surprising that Kira Yamato was able to match him with skill alone.
His fighting style is not visibly limited in style, his mobile suits, GAT-X303 Aegis, the ZGMF-X09A Justice Gundam and later the ZGMF-X19A ∞ Justice Gundam, are all well-rounded ranged and close-combat type mobile suits that are always equiped with sufficient firepower and a minimum of two beam sabers. Although his style is typically well-rounded, he can also pilot mobile suits with more basic ability, and therefore less strategic uses, such as the ZGMF-1000/M Blaze ZAKU Warrior.
It is likely that Athrun's technical skills as a pilot are thanks to his long-practiced hobby of creating robotic toys, such as Kira's Birdy and Lacus's Haros.
Athrun's resolve in battle is often profound. He debates "truth", "war" and even the real difference between "right" and "wrong" on the battlefield. These thoughts never cloud his mind in the sense that they hinder his abilities. However, his anger or desire for revenge often make him act in a way that he later regrets. His only weakness as a pilot is his good nature, which leaves him troubled when faced with having to kill Kira, his best friend. Ultimately, his "perfect solider" mentality and his father's expectations blind him to what he truly wants.
- Kira Yamato
- Kira is, presumably, one of the first friends Athrun made that he could truly open up to, despite his social awkwardness with most people. His childhood friendship with Kira became one of his most cherished things, evident in his keeping of pictures and such from the old days with Kira. As a sign of their friendship, when the two separated, Athrun gifted Kira with his robotic bird, Tori.
- Meeting Kira again, but on the battlefield, gave Athrun much confliction between his feelings and duty. In battle he would often hesitate in attacking Kira. Squandering his chances to defeat his friend early on in battle took a toll on him as it would result in Kira growing too strong, and inflicting damage to others Athrun cares about, like scarring Yzak Joule, and eventually killing Nicol Amalfi, resulting in Athrun to kill Tolle Koenig in return. The deaths of Nicol and Tolle put a strong strain on their friendship as they let go of their doubts and feelings and went to full on fight in order to kill each other in revenge.
- Over all Though, Kira and Athrun share a similar ideal of peace and appalling of violence and unnecessary death. Once the two join forces they consistently have each others backs, even despite mixed feeling about previous actions. The two have a natural brotherly bond and chemistry together, shown in their intense team-work and combination attacks, trumping otherwise challenging foes.
- Cagalli Yula Athha
- Athrun's feeling towards Cagalli was original something of mind-boggling for him. Meeting her stranded on an island after a fight, the two bonded in which Athrun couldn't help but be able to naturally connect and bond with her, a trait only shared with a few like Kira and Nicol. The two eventually grew more as they reunited as allies. Athrun was very comforting to her after the death of her father, Uzumi Nara Athha, having a similar pain due to the loss of his own mother, Lenore Zala.
- The two eventually fall in love, and decide to risk life and limb to protect each other. Athrun even abandoned his position and fame in ZAFT in order to be close to Cagalli, even despite the secrecy that came with it. He disliked her engagement with Yuna Roma Seiran, but despite it he still shared his feelings with her and didn't give up on her. Though, after a prolonged time of differing views and execution of ideals, a strong strain was put on their relationship. However, after Athrun's defection from ZAFT once again, he is rescued along with Meyrin Hawke. While just awoken from his injured state, Cagalli rushes in to the infirmary, teary-eyed, after hearing of Athrun's awakening. Thus which, she brushes his bangs from his face, to where he catches a glimpse of the ring he gave her, giving her a soft loving gaze afterwards. Soon after, they have a private chat, to which they apologize to each other. Athrun, for his harsh words toward Cagalli and Kira, and of his re-enlistment to ZAFT without say. Cagalli, for almost going through a marriage with Yuuna Roma Seiran. However, to an understanding, Athrun tells her that it was to protect ORB. They both forgive each other, and Cagalli later questions if there is no hope for the world, to which Athrun answers, "No. Definitely not." After which, Cagalli is seen watching over Athrun as he rests.
- Before the Archangel descends for space again, Athrun is surprised to see that Cagalli is not wearing is ring when she is giving the Archangel crew a speech. However, it is shown that she still keeps the ring in safe keeping in a ring case stored in her drawer (shown in GSD Remastered episode 44 and GSD Special Edition 4). Though Kira and Lacus want to assure him, Athrun himself already knows, saying that they didn't need to rush (on their relationship or any marriages; they're still young of age), as they needed to stop the war first. And added that they share the same dream. In Gundam Seed Destiny the Edge, Athrun added his personal monologue, "So that our paths may cross again, I will protect that future." Meaning that he and his friends needed to stop the war and create peace once again, so that he can one day be with Cagalli again.
- In the "GSD Final Plus", "GSD Special Edition 4", and "GSD Remastered" episode 44, Cagalli gives her friends her good-byes as she cannot go with them to space due to her duties in ORB. Athrun is shown to be the only one to initiate a more intimate hug, surprising Cagalli, but she soon returns the hug with the same affections.
After the war, Athrun is shown to be the only one out of the entire gang (besides Miriallia Haww, Murrue Ramius, Mwu La Flaga, and Andrew Waltfeld) to return to ORB and officially becoming a commander (Admiral in GSD Special Edition 4) of its military (possibly stating that he decided to become an official ORB citizen of his own identity). This could state that Athrun decided to return to Cagalli's side and take on the role of protecting her once again (as Kira did for Lacus by becoming a ZAFT commander and moving to PLANT to be with Lacus).
- Shinn Asuka
- Athrun had much respect for Shinn as a pilot, seeing greatness and potential in him. However, he had great concern for him as soldier, finding Shinn to be too influenced by his own emotions and opinions, causing him disobey orders and go off on his own. During his time on the Minerva, Athrun took interest in Shinn's development as a mentor, trying to teach him lessons of war and battle, in hopes of influencing him to change his ways, let go of his anger, and not fall under the same cycle Athrun himself suffered. However, Athrun's problems with connecting with people was a hinderance to his attempts, often resulting in him merely hitting Shinn for his mistakes and lecturing, as well as Athrun lack of conviction in his choices, weighing down his abilities, caused Shinn to steadily lose respect for the ace.
- Despite his earnest attempts to persuade Shinn, his own social problems and sense of doubt proved to be ineffective, the manipulation of Gilbert Dullindal and Rey Za Burrel being far stronger than Athrun's influence. In the end, Athrun managed to beat down Shinn, after gaining the belief in himself he needed, but spared Shinn knowing all the blame for his actions didn't lie on solely him, and still offered Shinn a friendly hand, joining forces.
- Lacus Clyne
- Athrun and lacus go back a ways, being connected by their fathers who were both Supreme Council members. They were fairly good friends who cared about each other, but Athrun and Lacus never truly connected emotionally, despite their fathers' arrange engagement between them. They went along with the wishes of their parents though, at least enjoying the kindness they shared between each other, Athrun even creating Lacus' bundle of Haro (anime)s. Their engagement ended with Lacus falling for Kira and defection from the PLANTs, as well as Athrun falling for Cagalli. They still shared their friendship though, and high amounts of respect with each other, as well as concern. Athrun was often inspired by Lacus' words and speeches, even snapping out of a depression and returning to battle after defecting from ZAFT the second time.
- Nicol Amalfi
- Nicol was a closer friend to Athrun during his time with ZAFT and the training academy, and one of the very few people Athrun truly connected with, like Kira and and Cagalli. Where as Yzak and Dearka were often paired together and side by side, Athrun and Nicol shared that similar relationship with each other. Nicol admired Athrun's strength, even telling stories about how he wa top of the class when they were in training. Athrun on the other hand enjoyed Nicol's kindness and innocence, thinking he never really did belong on the battlefield, but was admirable for being so. Athrun also seemed fond of Nicol's music, listening to the scores he wrote, going to his recitals when they were on leave, and even keeping his sheet music once he was gone. The death of Nicol was one of the biggest blows Athrun ever took, throwing him into a deep depression, and later a fit of great rage, being enough to forsake his friend kira for his action, and truly attempt to kill him.
- Yzak Joule
- Yzak and Athrun had a rough frenemy relationship ever since they met at the ZAFT Academy. Athrun never really condoned Yzak's more spiteful, violent, and rage induced motives or style. As for Yzak, he always wanted to be the top man, but always played second fiddle in terms of skill to Athrun. But despite their differences and sometimes bickering, they truly did grow on each other, and became friends, even if their friendship was silence. Athrun truly saw Yzak's more emotional side after the death of Nicol, and the team shared a moment of sorrow together, before getting their act together to avenge their fallen teammate. Later, Yzak vowed to become the next commander, and strong leader, and he will lead the team with great strength.
- Towards the end of the war, Yzak semi-sided with Athrun's side, without betraying his own. in C.E.73, the two were reunited during the fall of Junius Seven, Yzak surely enough the leader he vowed to become. they fought side by side, Yzak teasing Athrun about being a civilian now, and doesn't belong here, but secretly still smiled, happy to see his friend alive, well, and fighting. Meeting on the PLANTs, Yzak with Dearka expressed their wishes to have Athrun return to ZAFT and fight in the new war, saying its where he belongs. During the final battle Yzak once again found conflict over fighting with his old friend again, but surely enough sided to team with Athrun, sharing a same goal of destroying a super weapon before it took more lives than needed to be lost.
- "War is not about being a hero!"
- "Killing for revenge. Dying for revenge. Does it truly bring us any closer to peace?"
- "Remember; this is a mission, not a fight."
- "Stop fooling yourself! Destroying everything! Even wiping out the future! Is this really the world you desire?! Or that kind of power you desire?!"
- "I can't exactly fight a war with a big smile on my face."
- "We separated as friends and the next time I saw him we were enemies"
- "Using a rescued civilian as a hostage? So do you still feel justified in fighting by their side with these cowards? Kira?"
- "You need to stop fighting while you're still trapped in your past! Doing something like this won't bring anyone back!"
- "You know I'm not the type of person who gives up."