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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, but is the protagonist in the special edition of the latter series and the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge manga. Originally, close friend of Kira Yamato, he later became Kira's rival during the First Alliance-PLANT War, where he participated in the Gundam extortion plan at Heliopolis. He became the pilot of the Aegis Gundam and waged a fierce fight against Kira.[1] In the later stages of the war, they would return to being friends, as well as being comrades opposed to both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT.[2]

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
Beating Fred

Nicol recalling Athrun's victory over Fred of the Knife for Miguel. (Gundam SEED Suit CD Manga)

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 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.

Athrun is also pretty skilled in robotics, as evidenced by his creation of 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.

History

Athrun was born in December City of the PLANTs on October 29, CE 55. In CE 61, Patrick Zala sends Athrun to attend a preparatory school in Copernicus City, located on the Moon. Here, he meets Kira Yamato and they become good friends. In CE 68, Patrick calls Athrun back from Copernicus City. Just before he leaves, Athrun builds a robotic pet bird, Birdy (Torii(which means bird) in the Japanese version), which he gives to Kira. 

After returning to the PLANTs, Athrun finds that his father has arranged an engagement for him to PLANT pop idol Lacus Clyne. (According to the novelization of Gundam SEED, she is the first girl Athrun ever kissed. This kiss on the cheek is shown in episode 20 of the original Gundam SEED and in episode 19 of Gundam SEED HD Remaster.) Athrun builds Haro, a pink ball-shaped robotic pet-companion for her, which she likes very much – his response is to build her a large number of them, which she names based on their colors.

On February 21, CE 70, Athrun enrolls in the ZAFT military because of his mother's death seven days earlier in the Bloody Valentine tragedy, which was caused by the Earth Alliance. Among the Le Creuset team members, he becomes friends with Nicol Amalfi and Rusty Mackenzie, and he is the only member whose views on Naturals differ from his parent's (and with the most dramatic consequences).

During his time at the ZAFT Military Academy, Athrun was first in almost all of his classes and was the top graduate, just above Yzak Joule. This may account for some of Yzak's hostilities toward Athrun.

First Alliance-PLANT War

Theft at Heliopolis

Morgenroete secretly developed five mobile suits for the Earth Alliance in a concealed base on the space colony Heliopolis, belonging to the supposedly neutral Orb. As the mobile suits are intended to counter ZAFT's superior military technology, the Le Creuset team raids the base with the intent of stealing all the units for themselves. The operation has a snafu, however, as Rusty Mackenzie, who was accompanying Athrun, is shot and killed during the raid.

Kira encounters Athrun

Athrun encounters Kira

Although Athrun kills the soldier that shot Rusty, he finds Murrue Ramius near the cockpit of the GAT-X105 Strike. Before he can use his knife to kill Ramius, however, Athrun is shocked to realize that she is accompanied by his childhood friend, Kira Yamato. This brief halt allows Ramius to fire on him, forcing him to steal the GAT-X303 Aegis and retreat. Kira would eventually end up being forced to pilot the Strike in order to defend himself and his friends remaining in the colony.[3]

Despite having just acquired the unit, Athrun defies orders to remain inside the Vesalius, to accompany Miguel and Olor to try and attack the ship. Unfortunately, Miguel orders Athrun to provide support while he tries to seize the Strike. The entire mission ends in disaster as both Miguel and Olor are killed and the resulting battle causes Heliopolis to implode and collapse, destroying the entire colony.

Pursuit of the Archangel

Rau later inquires why Athrun would uncharacteristically defy orders, which Athrun explains was due to Kira's presence. Athrun believed that Kira had been manipulated into fighting them as he was a Coordinator, and could be brought back to their side. When Rau asks what to do should Kira refuse once again, Athrun reluctantly vows to be the one to kill him. Following them after Heliopolis's destruction, Athrun and Yzak are tasked with facing Kira while both Nicol and Dearka are left to fight the Archangel.

During their confrontation, Athrun argues with Kira, wondering why he would side with the Earth Alliance against fellow Coordinators; in response, Kira retorts that he simply had friends he wished to protect and questions why Athrun would join ZAFT and attack them despite previously claiming to hate conflict.

Athrun and Yzak eventually gain the upper hand over Kira, and Athrun is able to forcefully grab the Strike with the Aegis's MA mode despite orders to simply destroy the unit. Due to Mu La Flaga's ambush on the Vesalius and subsequent attack on Athrun, Kira is able to escape and rejoin the Archangel. In the following battle, Kira would wound Yzak, who would later direct some responsibility to Athrun due to his recent behaviour against the Strike.

Later, Athrun learns that his fiancée Lacus Clyne is on board the Archangel and is outraged when Natarle Badgiruel uses her as a hostage to protect the Archangel. Before withdrawing, Athrun asks Kira his idea of justice and vows to rescue Lacus at all costs. Kira later smuggles Lacus off the Archangel and back to Athrun. (And is even shocked to find a strangely bloated stomach which he has no idea that was just the result of having to force in the skirt of her dress in the suit) Upon retrieving his fiancée, Athrun asks Kira again to defect to ZAFT, but Kira again steadfastly refuses his offer. Neither Kira nor Athrun want to fight each other and they often think of one another and their unfortunate circumstances. Despite this, both declare to one another that they will shoot to kill the next time they meet.

Athrun and the rest of the Le Creuset team would continue to chase the Archangel after its descent to Earth; the ship having already bested both Commanders Andrew Waltfeld and Marco Morassim. Athrun is appointed as the team's head during Rau's departure, and the team's name is changed to the Zala Team. While traveling to ZAFT's base in Carpentaria, Athrun's transport plane is shot down by Cagalli Yula Athha in a FX-550 Skygrasper, and who is shot down in return. Due to the damage, Athrun and his unit are forced to eject from the plane.

Athrun successfully lands his mobile suit on an island. There, he encounters Cagalli, who is also marooned there. After being shot at resulting to an armed conflict between the two and having to deal with the awkward revelation that she was, in fact, a girl, Athrun takes Cagalli prisoner, binding her wrists and feet together. While trying to get to Athrun's mobile suit in her tied up stage, Cagalli accidentally ends up almost drowning in a small but deep puddle made by the rain where Athrun rescues her. An exchange of humorous banters is had between them that results in Athrun setting her free because she seemed like she couldn't be any serious threat to him. While waiting for retrieval, the two talk. Their viewpoints about the war clash, but they listen to each other with Athrun being the one to give up first knowing that it would get them nowhere. He falls asleep on her, giving Cagalli an opening to steal his gun that she eventually throws away, resulting to it misfiring with the bullet grazing Athrun's side. This eventually leads to a mutual truce between them and they exchange names. They later rescued by their respective forces. Neither tells anyone about what happened on the island.

Athrun later discovers that Cagalli is actually the princess of the neutral Earth nation, Orb Union.

A Tragic Duel

Although the Zala team attempts to intercept the Archangel before it can reach Orb, their battle comes too close to the nation's borders and its coast guards are sent to force both sides to halt. Not wishing to start an international issue, Athrun complies and orders his team to withdraw.

Believing the Archangel is still hiding in Orb, Athrun leads the rest of the Zala team on a covert mission. During their search, they're spotted by Junk Guild members Lowe Guele, Kisato Yamabuki, Liam Garfield and Serpent Tail representative Kazahana Adja as they're trying to find their away around. Yzak, Dearka and Nicol wish to kill them, but Athrun defuses the situation, letting them know they were new to the place themselves. Though suspicious, Lowe and the others blew it off and accepted it. When Birdy escaped from Kira, it flew to where Athrun was and the two boys confronted each other briefly. With his suspicions confirmed, Athrun and the rest of the team wait for the Archangel to leave Orb territorial waters. The intended ambush goes poorly thanks to Kira's sudden improvement in battle, Nicol in the badly damaged Blitz is killed by Kira's hands after he tries to protect Athrun, sparking the unbridled hate that would decide the aftermath of Athrun and Kira's next encounter later on.

The Zala team would be thrown in a frenzy by Nicol's death, with Yzak initially being angered at Athrun's leadership leading to Nicol's demise. In response, Dearka immediately separates the two and demands they focus on their next battle against the Strike.

Continuing the chase for the Archangel, the trio would eventually attack the ship once again, with Yzak and Dearka holding its support units at bay while Athrun destroys most of the ship's weapons. Eventually, Yzak is knocked off his Guul and crashes into the sea, forcing Athrun to shift targets and ends up fighting Kira in the nearby woods.

During their fight, Tolle Koenig attempts to aid Kira with the FX-550 Skygrasper formerly piloted by Cagalli. In response, Athrun hurls Aegis's shield towards the plane, smashing through its cockpit and killing Tolle. An enraged Kira then activates SEED mode and cuts off one of Aegis's arms. In response, Athrun also ends up activating SEED mode for the first time, further intensifying their dogfight, with each person destroying parts of their foe's Gundam and determined to kill the other or die trying.

Finally, Athrun seizes an opportunity to grab the Strike's cockpit with the Aegis's MA mode once again and attempts to use its Scylla Energy Cannon to finish Kira. Before it can fire, Aegis finally loses its last reserves and is unable to fire or maintain its Phase Shift armor. Desperate to kill Kira before he can retaliate, Athrun immediately sets the Aegis to detonate and immediately attempts to fly away from the Aegis's destruction.

Athrun is later found injured on the beach near the site of his and Kira's battle by Cagalli and ORB when they survey the battlefield. When Athrun regains consciousness, he finds Cagalli points a gun at him, demanding to know what happened to Kira. Athrun, obviously distraught, says that he has killed his best friend, Kira. Cagalli angrily asks why while aiming the gun point-blank at his face, Athrun snaps back that Kira has killed several ZAFT comrades and his anger had finally reached its peak with Nicol's death with him eventually stating that Kira was his enemy for not being on his side, on the side of ZAFT. Cagalli snaps and calls him an idiot, asking why he could do something terrible to his best friend. It is here that Athrun breaks down into tears as Cagalli explains some of the teachings her father, that killing for vengeance will never bring peace but simply more conflict and asks him again how his thinking will ever bring about peace. Before returning him to ZAFT, Athrun calls Cagalli strange and wonders if he should thank her and just resigns to saying that he really doesn't know. Cagalli gives Athrun her Haumea amulet as a good luck charm, hoping that it will protect him, and answering his question of why she would give it to him after killing Kira with "I just don't want anyone else to die."

Acquiring the ZGMF-X09A Justice

After returning to ZAFT, Athrun was awarded the Order of the Nebula for the achievement of destroying the Strike, and he is chosen to be under the direct command of the PLANT Supreme Council. Before leaving for space once again, Athrun is seen off by Yzak, the lone remaining member of the Zala team, who promises his rival that he will be the one in charge in their next meeting, and the two share their farewells with Yzak being sent to aid Operation: Spitbreak.

Upon arriving at the PLANT Supreme Council, however, he finds all the members in uproar due to the failure of Operation: Spitbreak and the betrayal of Lacus Clyne, who was involved in the robbery of the ZGMF-X10A Freedom. In response, Athrun's father gives him the ZGMF-X09A Justice and orders him to bring back the stolen unit or destroy it. While inspecting the Justice, Athrun speaks with the late Nicol's father, Yuri, surprised by his new stance in the war. Still filled with disbelief over the events, Athrun visits Reverend Malchio's garden, where he is given an invitation to an abandoned theatre by Haro. Once he shows up, Lacus reveals herself and asks Athrun of what he intends to fight for as well as the fact that Kira is still alive and is the Freedom's new pilot. She tells him to think about what he should really be fighting for. Instead of following his father's orders or feeling bound to his military duty, he should determine what he believes to be right. Lacus then tells Athrun that he should go to Earth and speak with Kira.

Their meeting is later interrupted by several soldiers, having followed Athrun to get to Lacus. Although the injured Athrun attempts to defend Lacus, the pair are saved by Martin DaCosta, who escorts Lacus away.

Still filled with inner doubt, Athrun launches in the Justice and arrives on Earth. Before attempting to locate Kira, he visits the wreckage of the Aegis and the Strike. There, he encounters Reverend Malchio, who gives him an update on the war. During his visit, he is kicked by an orphan, claiming to have lost his parents to ZAFT soldiers, which further increases Athrun's second thoughts of his father's methods.

Defection from ZAFT

Athrun eventually finds Kira in Orb, engaged in combat with the GAT-X131 Calamity, GAT-X252 Forbidden and GAT-X370 Raider. Athrun watches, wrestling with his own loyalties, until Kira is slowly overpowered by the enemy. Athrun then makes his choice and steps in to save his friend. As the enemy mobile suits retreat, the two friends try to work out their differences. Neither wanted to be the other's enemy and both wanted to end the First Alliance-PLANT War, but in order to do this, both friends would have to abandon their respective nation's militaries. Kira later points out that he killed Nicol, but did not intend do, while Athrun had killed Tolle, which could not have been helped in their situation. Kira later reiterates that holding on to such grudges would not bring either back and asks what he intends to do now that he has made such a choice to help him.

Uncertain at first, Athrun makes no promises, but he eventually aids Kira during the fall of Orb, instead of fighting him and retrieving the Freedom like he was originally ordered to do so. Athrun then follows the survivors of the battle into space.

Before deciding to join the resistance group with Lacus, Kira, and the others, Athrun decides to talk to his father, Patrick Zala, who was now the Chairman of PLANT Supreme Council, to find out his father's true intentions. Athrun returns to the PLANTs without the Justice and speaks to his father about the war. During a heated argument between father and son, Athrun's father reveals that he intends to drag the war on until all the Naturals are exterminated as revenge for the death of his wife, Lenore. Athrun is shocked and angered by his father's revelation, and is shot in the arm by his father then arrested for refusing to reveal the location of the Justice and the Freedom. Athrun is later freed by Martin DaCosta (under Lacus's orders), and they escape to the Eternal where Lacus was waiting. With Athrun and DaCosta on board, the Eternal then breaks away from its dock and escapes. However, their path was blocked by a Jachin Due fleet but they are saved by Kira in the Freedom, who was waiting outside the PLANTs.

Rise of Three Ships Alliance

After Athrun defects from ZAFT, he joins the newly formed resistance group called the Three Ships Alliance. Kira, Cagalli, and former Le Creuset Team member Dearka Elsman were part of this alliance consisting of the Earth Alliance's Archangel, Orb's Kusanagi, and ZAFT's Eternal. Upon return, Athrun provides aid to the Archangel when they are attacked by the Dominion, accompanied by the Calamity, Raider and Forbidden. Eventually, when the situation begins to turn, the Dominion's captain, Natarle Badgiruel, orders a tactical retreat.

When the Kusanagi's path is obstructed by various cords, the Dominion returns to try and attack the suspended ship, causing Athrun and Kira to once again launch to intercept. During this time, however, Kira becomes distracted by Flay Allster's shuttle, and Freedom is damaged as a result, but Athrun is able to rescue Kira and bring him back to safety.

As Flay's shuttle contained ZAFT's secrets regarding the Neutron Jammer Canceller, including data on both the Freedom and Justice, the Earth Alliance finally gains the technology and justification to use nuclear weapons. This renewed vigor would soon be unleashed over on the ZAFT fortress, Boaz, where the previously impregnable facility would be reduced to nothing.

Believing the next target would inevitably be a nuclear attack on the PLANTs, Athrun and Kira move to intercept the nukes of the Alliance forces. To their shock and horror, however, ZAFT responds with the superweapon, GENESIS, which instantly wipes out half of the Alliance's fleet and pushes them to retreat. Upon return, Athrun later confesses that had this been his father in the past, he never would've imagined that such a weapon would ever be given the green light, but in the current situation, he is no longer sure if his father would dare to fire it again. In the prelude to the final battle, he and Cagalli finally develop a romantic relationship after he and Lacus opt to mutually break their engagement. He later kisses her, promising to protect her in the upcoming battle.

Seeing that the Earth Alliance was now attempting to fire nukes once again, Athrun and Kira first move to intercept its assault. Athrun later destroyed the GAT-X131 Calamity, killing Biological CPU Orga Sabnak. With the Alliance forces losing ground, alongside most of its nuclear arsenal being destroyed, Athrun, Cagalli and Kira are ordered to head straight for GENESIS. Midway through their trip, however, Kira senses something amiss and immediately heads back to the Archangel.

Athrun, Cagalli, and an unknown Orb pilot eventually fight their way into Jachin Due and are shocked to find his father shot by ZAFT commander Ray Yuki. As Patrick Zala lies dying, he urges his son Athrun to fire the GENESIS superweapon at the Earth. His death pushes Athrun to tears, but does nothing to sway Athrun from trying to find away to stop the GENESIS from firing.

As he is unable to abort the process, Athrun decides to detonate the nuclear-powered Justice in the GENESIS itself, intending to kill himself as well, in spite of Cagalli's objections. Despite using the Justice's Fatum-00 to shake off Cagalli, she continues to chase him to GENESIS's core, reminding him that he needs to stop running and have the courage to live. Moved by her words, Athrun boards Cagalli's MBF-02 Strike Rouge and they escape the explosion together. Afterwards he is seen exiting the mangled remains of the Stike Rouge before being caught in a teary-eyed embrace by Cagalli. Later they find Kira alongside his badly-damaged Freedom by following his robotic pet bird, both of them crying tears of joy at the sight of him.[4]

After the end of the war, Athrun and Cagalli visit Lacus and Kira in Reverend Malchio's orphanage to celebrate. Athrun later has a small dialogue with Kira, wondering why he can still eat and sleep despite all of the war's atrocities, which Kira simply replies: that because they are still human. 

Second Alliance-PLANT War

After the First Alliance-PLANT war, Athrun opted to remain with Cagalli, Lacus and Kira in Orb under the pseudonym Alex Dino (アレックス・ディノ Arekkusu Dino?). During the Armory One incident, he is present in the PLANT as Cagalli's aide and bodyguard during her meeting with new PLANT chairman, Gilbert Durandal, and is involved in the fighting to retake the stolen mobile suits. As they are left alone thanks to the chaos, Athrun is forced to board an unmanned ZAKU Warrior to defend themselves. Although he does briefly help Shinn Asuka fight against the stolen units, Cagalli is injured as a result of the fighting, and Athrun is forced to leave for a safe zone.

He soon spots the battleship, Minerva, and lands, where the pair are initially in custody before "Alex" explains who they are. Coincidentally, they are taken to Chairman Durandal, who had also taken refuge in the ship amidst the chaos. "Alex" later accompanies the Minerva in its initial skirmish for the stolen units' mothership, dubbed Bogey One. While the ship sends out the Impulse, a Gunner ZAKU Warrior and two GuAIZ to engage the stolen units, the two GuAIZ are immediately destroyed, leaving both Shinn and Lunamaria Hawke isolated and unable to aid the ship after it's ambushed by Bogey One. In an effort to evade the enemy vessel, the Minerva takes cover in at a nearby asteroid, only for Bogey One to attack their shield, intending to bury them underneath. Because of this, Rey Za Burrel is sent out with his Blaze ZAKU Phantom to try and cover them while they find a solution. When "Alex" asks if there are any units left, Minerva captain, Talia Gladys replies that they have no pilots left, causing Athrun to feel guilty of not joining the fray.

Instead, "Alex" asks the captain simultaneously use all of the ship's remaining engines and its weapons to cause, intending to use the explosion caused by the weapons to create an explosion that will blow them through the debris. Gladys complies, and the Minerva is able to turn the battle around, nearly scoring a direct hit on Bogey One. The Minerva's pilots later begin wondering why someone as capable as him would go so far to deny his identity, although Lunamaria does thank Athrun for rescuing the ship with his split second decision.

When terrorists cause the Junius Seven Colony Drop, Athrun is forced to drop his pseudonym to request permission to use the pilotless ZAKU in order to help support Yzak's demolition team. While providing cover, Athrun encounters the Chaos and easily destroys both of its Weapon Pods before locking into a stalemate. Eventually, the demolition team finally causes the colony to split in half, but Athrun deems the remaining chunks to still be too big and urges demolition to continue on, inadvertently exposing himself to a surprised Yzak and Dearka. Together with Yzak and Dearka, they are able to easily dispatch a trio of GINN High Maneuver Type II controlled by the terrorists, and also force both the Abyss and Chaos to flee back to Bogey One.

As the colony nears Earth's atmosphere, Athrun and the others are signaled to retreat while the Minerva will continue to attack the remaining debris during its descent to Earth. Before returning, Athrun opts to finish one more drill, where he is joined by Shinn, unable to understand why Athrun would side with Orb. Before they can complete their job, they are attacked by another group of terrorists, including their leader, Sato. To his surprise, Sato blames the weak leadership of ZAFT following Patrick Zala's death and shouts for both pilots to not forget the lives lost in the previous war. This cringes Athrun long enough for Sato to slice off his ZAKU's arm. Once they reach Earth's ozone layer, Sato attempts to drag Athrun down with him, but Shinn is able to arrive in time to cut off the leg of Athrun's ZAKU, causing Sato to plummet to the burning remains of Junius Seven.

Unfortunately, the damage to Athrun's unit proves too much and he ends up losing grip of Shinn, causing both to free fall down to Earth. Despite the damage, they are both able to make it through atmospheric descent safely, and Shinn eventually finds and rescues Athrun once again.

Upon landing and rejoining the Minerva, Athrun is shocked by all the damage that had occurred in spite of their efforts and is plagued with guilt of being unable to stop his father's followers. He later spots the Minerva's pilots having a small target practice session, where Lunamaria reveals that they had all been aware of Athrun's previous heroics without affiliating him with his father's actions, and admits that many in ZAFT still genuinely see him as a hero regardless of his extremist father. Athrun later takes up Lunamaria's offer to teach them how to properly utilize a gun, impressing and surprising them with his marksmanship.

Athrun and Cagalli then disembark from Minerva at Orb, where Cagalli's political duties keep them separated much of the time. Upon return, Athrun visits Kira and later confides of his continuing sensation of powerlessness in the face of the new conflict to come. Seeing the deteriorating political situation, Arthun decides to return to the PLANTs to meet with Chairman Durandal in order to search for the answer for his doubts. Before leaving, Athrun silently slides a ring onto Cagalli's finger, which leads to an awkward moment before they regain their composure and share an emotional farewell, including a kiss. (In Gundam SEED Destiny I: The Shattered World, this kiss was reanimated into a light peck on the cheek).

Return to ZAFT

In the turmoil preceding the declaration of the Second Alliance-PLANT War, he returns to ZAFT, hoping to avert the war. Athrun's visit is soon met by both Yzak and Dearka, who were asked to act as Athrun's escorts. As the trio mourn their late teammates from the previous war, Yzak reveals that he and Dearka should've been killed for their crimes in the previous war, but thanks to Durandal's speech of the folly of punishing the youth for fighting a war started by adults they are acquitted. Inspired by Durandal's defense, Yzak and Dearka rejoined the military to make use of their skills, and Yzak urges Athrun to rejoin ZAFT as to not dishonor their comrades or allow his talent to go to waste.

By the time Athrun meets with Chairman Durandal, Atlantic Federation rejects his pleas of innocence regarding the Junius Seven Drop and attempts to once again launch nuclear missiles on the PLANTs, which is stopped by Durandal's Neutron Stampeder. Athrun is also surprised to see a new "Lacus Clyne" being used by Chairman Durandal, who admits that he cannot match the actual Lacus's prestige, especially after her disappearance. Athrun meets shortly after with Chairman Durandal, who convinces him to use his power to keep the world on the right path. Athrun re-enlists in ZAFT, and Durandal appoints him a member of the elite special forces, FAITH. Athrun is assigned the new mobile suit ZGMF-X23S Saviour, and given total freedom of action before sending him to meet "Lacus".

This "Lacus" later privately reveals herself as Meer Campbell, who admits that she has borrowed Lacus's visage to hopefully bring a swifter end to the war. Unfortunately for him, she is unaware that he had already broken off his engagement with Lacus and believes that they are still a couple, causing her to be highly assertive in her romantic advances.

With Saviour, he returns to Earth and attempts to first meet Cagalli. To his surprise, he is denied entry by Orb's security forces and is subsequently attacked, revealing that the nation had now joined the Earth Alliance. Because of this, Athrun flees and rejoins the Minerva during its attempt to escape Orb territory. He also provides Captain Gladys with her own FAITH insignia sent by Chairman Durandal.

Lunamaria later informs him that Cagalli had almost gone through with an arranged marriage to Yuna Roma Seiran, but she was kidnapped by the Freedom before the ceremony was completed. Athrun would later have his first battle with the Minerva when it is attacked by Phantom Pain during its travels over the Indian Ocean. During the battle, Shinn gets overeager in his pursuit of Neo Raonoke's custom Windam and separates himself from Athrun and the Minerva. Furthermore, Shinn also finds a nearby Alliance base which he attacks in order to save the civilians being forced to labour for the base despite Athrun's orders to rejoin them and to not attack the Alliance soldiers that were not able to defend themselves. As he is busy dealing with the Chaos, Athrun is unable to personally reprimand Shinn throughout the battle.

As soon as they return, Athrun promptly slaps Shinn in the face for disobeying orders and trying to play the hero in a battlefield. Athrun later meets Shinn, having learned of the demise of Shinn's family during the battle at Onogoro. Athrun later explains that Shinn must never forget the purpose of why he chooses to wield his power, and that effectively doing so was what would separate him from being a common killer and a soldier.

In their following battle at Gulnahan, Athrun gives Shinn the critical role of sneaking through a narrow valley to get to the rear of the mountain's Löhengrin Gate, where he will need to dismantle defenders while Athrun and the rest of the Minerva and the accompanying Desmond, would hold the attention of the Atlantic Federation's main forces. Shinn eventually accomplishes his mission, and he and Athrun are met by the local populous, rejoicing over their newfound freedom thanks to them.

At ZAFT's base at Diokia, it is revealed then both Chairman Durandal and Meer had both come to help address the local forces, with the latter also giving a concert for the soldiers. Additionally, the Minerva also ends up being joined by FAITH member Heine Westenfluss. Heine soon becomes quick friends with Athrun, sympathizing with his previous encounters as the "survivor" of his group and having dead teammates and friends. During Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge, however, Heine actually meets the group for the first time at the ZAFT base at Mahamul instead before joining them again at Diokia.

While at Diokia, Athrun receives a distress call from Shinn, having fallen to the bottom of a seaside cliff rescuing Stella Loussier. The pair later return Stella to her guardians.

After briefly meeting both Chairman Durandal and Meer, Heine is assigned to the Minerva alongside his GOUF Ignited. For their constant interferrences in Alliance affairs, the Minerva is attacked by the joint Alliance-Orb fleet at Dardanelles.

To everyone's surprise, Cagalli arrives on her Strike Rouge alongside the Freedom and the Archangel, imploring for the Orb forces to cease their attack. In response, she is outed as a fake and is immediately attacked, leading to Kira open firing on all other units on the field until no one can continue the battle. During the chaos, Heine's GOUF attempts to strike Freedom's back, only to be blind-sided from behind by the Gaia, and Heine is killed when his unit is cut in half.

After Dardanelles, he bumps into Miriallia Haw, who arranges a secret meeting for him with Cagalli and Kira. Athrun and the others disagree strongly on many points. He tells Cagalli that if she wants Orb to stop fighting against ZAFT, she needs to return to Orb and get them to end their ties to the Earth Alliance. In return, Athrun is told that Coordinators have attempted to assassinate the real Lacus, which means Kira and the others do not trust Chairman Durandal. Much is still unresolved after he leaves. Unknown to them, however, Lunamaria had been spying on their meeting under orders from Captain Gladys.

Upon returning, Athrun accompanies Captain Gladys, Shinn and Arthur Trine in investigating an abandoned Alliance laboratory in Lodonia. To their horror, the facility turns out to be the training for the Biological CPUs, where children were subjected to rigorous kill-or-be-killed programs, drugged and tortured repeatedly when they lagged behind and cruelly disposed of if they died.

While making the full report on the matter, they are attacked by the lone Gaia, which Shinn and Athrun successfully disable. Surprisingly, Shinn defies military law when it is revealed that the pilot is Stella, and immediately demands for the Minerva's medical crew to tend to her. To their further shock, it eventually becomes evident that Stella was one of the Biological CPUs that came from Lodonia.

Second defection from ZAFT

During the following battle at Crete, Cagalli and Kira once again interfere in another vain attempt to implore the Orb forces to withdraw. With Cagalli herself being attacked by Shinn this time, Kira moves to enter the battle, but Athrun responds by repeatedly barring Kira's path. As a result, Kira eventually admits that he does understand Athrun's logic and thoughts entering the battle, yet is unable to understand his indifference to Cagalli's emotional distress. Kira then enters SEED mode and proceeds to dismantle Saviour, leaving it irreparable.

As both Lunamaria and Rey's ZAKUs are also heavily damaged at Crete, Shinn is left the only one in the Minerva with a working unit. Due to Shinn's fears of Stella dying or being turned into a lab rat by ZAFT's scientists, Shinn once again defies military law and makes contact with the Atlantic Federation to return Stella so she can stay alive before returning and being arrested. Athrun visits both Shinn and Rey, who had helped Shinn exit the Minerva's bay, and Athrun debates with Shinn once again over the state that Stella is in. While Athrun scolds Shinn for doing something foolhardy as well as naively believing that she wouldn't be placed in another unit to fight them in the future, Rey, however, tells both of them to put the matter to rest as what's done is done.

Chairman Durandal later pardons both Shinn and Rey on account of their previous merits, and the Minerva is later sent to Berlin to assist the local forces in fighting the GFAS-X1 Destroy Gundam. Although they arrive late and already find both the Archangel and Freedom locked in combat with Destroy, Athrun and the other pilots watch as the massive suit is finally defeated when the Freedom stabs Destroy's chest cannons before they can fire, causing explosions that finish the massive gundam.

Shortly after, Athrun is surprised to see Shinn and Rey running repeated simulations against the Freedom, with the former being incredibly determined to kill Kira and destroy the Freedom. Despite Athrun's objections, Rey reiterates that there should be nothing wrong with doing research on an enemy to find their weaknesses so that they can be defeated. Athrun later watches Chairman Durandal exposing the terrorist organization, Logos, to the world, as well as using footages of the Minerva and Impulse's fight against Destroy at Berlin as propaganda against them. While viewing the program, however, Athrun immediately notices that clips of both the Freedom and Archangel had been conveniently ommited from the battle at Berlin. Meanwhile, ZAFT's higher-ups deem the Archangel and Freedom as a potential threat and immediately concoct Operation: Angel Down, with the intention of destroying both before their upcoming attack on Logos.

To Athrun's horror, no chance for negotiation or dialogue is given to Kira and the Archangel, as they are attacked en route to Orb. Additionally, Shinn, having finally learned of Kira's unwillingness to target an enemy's cockpit, is gradually able to gain the advantage, repeatedly attacking the Freedom without relent, while making use of the Impulse's various component parts to refresh damaged areas. The Archangel is soon caught by the Minerva's Tannhaüser during its attempt to submerge, causing severe damage to its main engines. Kira is caught by surprise thanks to this, giving Shinn the opening to finally impale Freedom using the Sword Silhouette's Excalibur, destroying Freedom.

Not long after watching the epic battle between Shinn and Kira during Operation Angel Down, an overjoyed Shinn immediately offers a handshake to Athrun, having claimed vengeance also for Athrun's previous defeat. Instead, however, Athrun immediately punches Shinn for killing Kira, but Rey responds that they defeated them because it was their mission, and a mission Athrun should be supporting as a member of ZAFT.

The Minerva is soon called to return to Gibraltar, where Shinn and Athrun are personally greeted by Chairman Durandal, who presents them with respectively with the ZGMF-X42S Destiny Gundam and ZGMF-X666S Legend Gundam. While Shinn is overjoyed for his new unit, A confused and disillusioned Athrun immediately questions Chairman Durandal's decision to brand the Archangel and Freedom as enemies. In response, Durandal immediately believes this is about Kira, and he laments that had Kira been trained as a soldier from the beginning with his talents, he would served a greater purpose for the world. These comments, however, only further aggravate Athrun's doubts with the Chairman's true desires for peace.

While reflecting in his room, he is visited by Meer, who tips him off that both Rey and Chairman Durandal now had doubts of his loyalty thanks to the attack on the Archangel and Kira's death. She also presents photos of his meeting with Cagalli and Kira before the battle at Crete, which are intended to be used against him for the crime of treason. At this point, Athrun's doubts and fears come to life, and he believes he is now being eliminated as he will no longer blindly follow them.

Rather than be arrested or defend himself against the allegations, Athrun knocks out the guards sent to arrest him and flees, attempting to take Meer with him, warning her that she would likely be disposed of once her purpose is fulfilled. Meer refuses his offer to escape with him, shouting that she would rather be "Lacus", forcing Athrun to flee alone. Soon after, Athrun take refuge in the room of Meyrin. Although Athrun explains his situation and wishes for Meyrin to act like a hostage to not be suspected as an accomplice, Meyrin acts against this by faking a bath to distract the officers searching for Athrun.

After she hacks the base's security system to trigger multiple false alarms and acquiring a car for them to use, Meyrin and Athrun make their way to the base's hangars, where they are spotted by Rey, who fires at them. Athrun is able to disarm Rey, and he and Meyrin soon board a GOUF Ignited and flee the base in search of the Archangel. Though Meyrin believes that the ship had already been destroyed, Athrun remains hopeful that both it, and Kira, were still somehow alive.

Claiming that Athrun is working for Logos and has stolen ZAFT's top military secrets, including its plan to attack Logos headquarters at Heaven's Base, Chairman Durandal orders Rey and Shinn to pursue Athrun with the Legend and Destiny. The pair eventually catch up to Athrun, and Shinn initially attempts to convince them to surrender, but Athrun argues to Shinn that he is being deceived by the Chairman's words. In response, Rey interjects himself, warning Shinn that Athrun was now attempting to trick them. During their fight, Athrun is shocked when Durandal authorizes them to also kill Meyrin when Rey confirms that she willingly accompanied Athrun to the GOUF. Although Athrun asks to at least allow Meyrin to escape, Rey denies it as she must also be killed for helping with the escape.

Rey then demands Shinn to uphold his duty of destroying all the enemies of peace by killing Athrun and Meyrin. Dragged to his mental brinks, Shinn eventually enters SEED mode, and Athrun's final attempts to reason with him soon fall on deaf ears as Shinn proceeds to impale the GOUF with Destiny's anti-ship sword, before leaving it to plummet into the sea.

Although widely believed to be dead, pair were only injured and unconscious and are rescued by a defected Earth Alliance ship led by Ledonir Kisaka, the former Kusanagi co-captain in the First Alliance-PLANT War, who was posing as an Earth Alliance officer. By the time ZAFT commences its attack on Heaven's Base, Athrun regains consciousness, and he finds himself within the Archangel's medical bay, being greeted by Kira, who had survived the Freedom's destruction. He is later visited by a tearful Cagalli, with Athrun replying that they had both simply chosen their respective paths.

While recovering, Athrun learns that Lacus and the Eternal had been found by the ZAFT forces and were now making a desperate bid to drop some important cargo to Orb before they are shot down. Despite being heavily wounded pushes himself to try and make a message for Kira to go to her aid. Fortunately, Neo Raonoke sees this from his bedside and relays this to the Archangel's crew. Although Athrun thanks him as Commander La Flaga, Neo reiterates his name to a confused Athrun. To Athrun's relief, Kira does manage to save Lacus.

Battle of Orb

During the battle of Orb, the injured Athrun opts to at least provide some aid to Archangel by helping operate the ship's CIC. Before setting of, Athrun advises Meyrin to escape once again, as they would likely face the Minerva in battle. To his surprise, Meyrin immediately breaks down in tears and asks Athrun not to leave her behind, eventually convincing him to allow her to help in the Archangel. As the battle rages on, he sees Cagalli finally regain control of Orb as well as reinvigorating its soldiers with the Akatsuki. He later shouts her name in terror both in the original, in Gundam SEED Destiny Special Edition II Flames of Destiny and Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge when he discovers that Shinn had joined the fray with Destiny and was now poised to kill her. Kira, however, returns with his ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom, saving Cagalli and having​​​​​​ Lacus deliever the ​ZGMF-X19A Infinite Justice Gundam.

Upon meeting Lacus, she inquires of Athrun's mental state, in light of the past events that have shaken his faith over himself. Athrun soon asks Lacus if her "present" to him means that he is nothing but a soldier, but Lacus responds that perhaps Athrun is a soldier, but he is still Athrun by the end, and that he should decide for himself what he is. Moved by these words, Athrun opts to depart for battle in spite of condition.

Even though Athrun is not fully recovered from his wounds, he helps Kira who has been fighting the Legend and Destiny by himself. Athrun rescues Kira by intercepting Shinn, who is immediately shocked to see that Athrun is still alive. Athrun once again attempts to speak out to Shinn, asking him if what he truly wished to accomplish was through the destruction of Orb. In response, Rey declares that Athrun is a traitor that couldn't stay dead, and shouts for Shinn not to be swayed. While Kira defends Athrun from Legend, Athrun moves to bar Shinn from attacking Orb any further.

Shinn is eventually pushed into SEED mode during a deadlock, and he proceeds to knock the Infinite Justice back with the swing of its anti-ship sword. Finally pushed hard enough, Athrun also enters SEED mode and chops off Destiny's hand, however in the Special Edition it revealed this was possible due to Shinn getting distracted. Athrun is, however, badly beaten by Shinn in Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge thanks to the severity of his injuries.

After the ZAFT forces retreat, Athrun loses consciousness and the Infinite Justice begins a free fall. Kira, in the Strike Freedom, catches the Infinite Justice and prevents a crash. When Kira removes Athrun's helmet and pilot suit back on the Archangel, Athrun's wounds have re-opened and he is bleeding profusely. Kira orders a stretcher to bring Athrun to the sick bay and Athrun recovers from his injuries not long after. He briefly watches Cagalli and Meer's respective broadcasts post-battle, with Lacus opting to depart and finally expose Meer as a fake. After a full recovery, Athrun is commissioned into the Orb military and assigned as one of the Archangel's mobile suit squadron commanders.

Return to Space

Following Lord Djibril's attack on the PLANTs using the Requiem superweapon, Minerva returns to space on Chairman Durandal's orders and there is another conflict between ZAFT and Lord Djibril in space, which leads to Djibril's death and ZAFT's capture of the Requiem.

Athrun and the crew of the Archangel, which now includes Neo Roanoke, go into space aboard the Archangel and vow to stop Chairman Durandal from implementing his "Destiny Plan". Before they leave, Cagalli addresses the troops. Athrun is surprised to see she is no longer wearing the ring he had given her, and she leaves without speaking to him. His friends Kira and Lacus attempt to speak with him about Cagalli, but Athrun assures them everything will be all right. Meanwhile, Cagalli tells Meyrin to take care of Athrun and leaves, crying. Cagalli returns to her homeland, using her political position to sort out the issues that have plagued Orb while she has been away. 

In Gundam SEED Destiny "Final Plus", new footage had been added to the scene in episode 45. The new footage shows Cagalli embracing her friends. Athrun Zala being the last (and only one to have initiated the embrace first) to be embraced before the they leave Earth. Cagalli stays in ORB and attends to her duties instead of going with them. In Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge, the scene is retained and after embracing Cagalli, at the end of Phase 19 of Volume 5, while at the bridge of the Archangel with Kira, Athrun silently says to himself (instead of Kira and Lacus as in the Final Plus) that there was no need to rush and that their dreams were the same. Even adding at the end of his personal monologue that:

"So that our paths may cross again...

I will protect that future."

The Archangel docks at the free Copernicus City on the Moon, where Athrun, Kira, Lacus, and Meyrin go on an information gathering trip in the city. They receive a note addressed to Lacus, in which Meer claims she is about to be killed. Athrun and Meyrin both suspect it is a trap, but Lacus wants to see Meer regardless.

At the meeting, ZAFT soldiers attempt to assassinate Lacus. Athrun guns down most of the opposition, though Kira and Meyrin prove competent in defending the group as well. Meer however, is shot and killed by a bullet intended for Lacus. Distraught, Athrun carries Meer's body back to the Archangel, where she is given a funeral.

This scene is different in Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge with the most prominent change being Athrun's still injured state, the absence of Meyrin during the trip to the city and the presence of the three ZGMG-XX09T DOM Trooper pilots in her stead.

Battle of Messiah: Assault on Requiem

When the Atlantic Federation, Orb Union, and Kingdom of Scandinavia refuse to participate in the Destiny Plan; Chairman Durandal uses the captured and repaired Requiem superweapon to destroy the Arzachel Lunar Base, killing Atlantic Federation president, Joseph Copeland and part of the Earth Alliance fleet.

The remainder of the Earth Alliance fleet and a few defecting members of ZAFT then join the forces of Terminal in an attempt to stop Durandal before he can use the Requiem and its relay station again to fire upon and thus annihilate Orb.

Despite interference from both the Minerva and Gondwana, Athrun and Kira are able to successfully destroy one of the relay stations with support from Yzak and Dearka. To their shock, a portion of the allied fleet is wiped out when Messiah emerges with Neo-GENESIS. Athrun and Kira then end up facing both Rey and Shinn once more, with it soon becoming evident that the ZAFT forces are simply stalling for time until both superweapons can be used again.

Because of this, Kira orders Athrun and the Archangel to leave immediately for Requiem, but Shinn and the Minerva pursue them in response.

While making his trip to Requiem, Athrun encounters Lunamria, now piloting the Impulse. Still enraged for putting Meyrin in danger, Lunamaria immediately attacks Athrun, who is forced to cut off one of Impulse's arms in self-defense. Despite Athrun warning her to fall back as he had more important things to deal with, Lunamaria attempts to attack him again, forcing Athrun to retaliate by detaching one of Impulse's legs with Infinite Justice's beam boomerang.

Seeing this, Shinn proceeds to attack Athrun in rage for attacking Lunamaria. In a burst of rage, Shinn charges at Athrun while in SEED mode. Despite the setback, Athrun regains the advantage, knocking away both of Destiny's beam boomerangs and destroying its anti-ship sword. Athrun once again tries to reason with both of them as their current actions will not bring the dead back nor will it bring true peace.

In the HD Remaster and Final Plus, Shinn defends their decision, reasoning that the world must change in order to achieve peace, and Orb must be destroyed to usher in the new era. In response, Athrun asks Shinn once again if he intended to destroy the future with the power he now held and if this was what he really wanted to use it for. Desperate to defeat Athrun, Shinn attempts to use the Destiny's beam palm cannons against him. Lunamaria, having realized the truth behind Athrun's words and fearing for Shinn's unstable state, moves between them in an attempt to stop the battle at the last second, but Shinn is unable to stop himself from attacking. Athrun goes into SEED mode and saves Lunamaria, heavily crippling the Destiny and propelling it downwards onto the Moon’s surface. With the badly damaged Destiny and Impulse no longer a threat, Athrun goes off in search of the Minerva and disables it's main thrusters using the ∞ Justice's Fatum-01 backpack/sub-flight lifter.

Athrun, along with Mu La Flaga in the ORB-01 Akatsuki, make their way past ZAFT's last defensive front and penetrate the Requiem's positron deflector. Just as the superweapon is about to fire, they destroy the core of the Requiem, ultimately saving ORB.

In the Gundam SEED Destiny "Final Plus" episode, Athrun then boards the Messiah, following Kira. He arrives just in time to overhear Kira and Durandal's conversation and even lay witness to the scene of Durandal being shot by Rey. He and Kira escapes the Messiah safely afterwards. When retreat flares are fired from all surviving ships, Athrun, feeling pity for the two, picks up Shinn and Lunamaria from the Moon, in the Infinite Justice. In episode 50 of Gundam SEED Destiny, Athrun never boards the Messiah.

Aftermath

In "Final Plus", at the ravaged Orb memorial previously visited by Shinn, Kira, and Lacus, Athrun, Shinn, Meyrin and Lunamaria pay their respects with Kira and Lacus joining them. Athrun formally introduces Kira as the pilot of the Freedom, much to Shinn's shock. In spite of this, Kira simply offers a request to have Shinn join them in continuing to stop conflicts together, a request he tearfully accepts. Afterwards, the three pairs go their separate ways with Meyrin following behind Athrun, and Shinn and Lunamaria following after them. The creators later confirmed Athrun and Cagalli had resumed their relationship.

In the ending credits of Gundam SEED Destiny: Special Edition, Athrun was apparently promoted from commander to admiral as he escorted Kira to the PLANTs to meet with Lacus, implying he chose to return to and stay in ORB.

Relationships

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.
In the second Alliance-PLANT war, Athrun ironically begins leaning towards Kira's original behaviour in SEED, joining the Minerva due to his unwillingness to see any of its crew members die after being reminded of his earlier days with the Le Creuset Team. Kira, however, calls out Athrun for failing to understand Cagalli's emotional strain as well as not having hope for upholding their principles. In response, Athrun calls Kira a hypocrite for claiming to not want to fight despite interferring at Darndelles and attacking everyone. Despite their conflict, Athrun becomes incredibly distraught thanks to Kira's supposed death
Rey later comments that Kira will never truly die unless Athrun is the one who kills his friend, and that Kira would still live on in Athrun's heart.
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.
They 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 Haw, Murrue Ramius, Mu 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. Athrun was the one who gave Lacus her Haro. After Lacus told him she enjoyed Haro's company, he continued to create them resulting in a number of Haros in Lacus' manor. Their relationship ended when Patrick Zala broke up their engagement. 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 eventually have him genuinely attempt to kill Kira.
He and the other surviving members of the Le Creuset team later pay their respects to Nicol and their other fallen comrades during the beginning of the Second Alliance-PLANT war.
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. Despite their differences and occasional bickering, the pair still often worked closely together though keeping their relationship mostly professional at best. 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 be the one to lead Athrun in the future.
 In C.E.73, the two were reunited during the fall of Junius Seven, Yzak being surprised, but delighted with Athrun's arrival. Despite Yzak calling Athrun a civillian, the two would still keep their synergy, easily dispatching a pair of GINN High Maneuver Type II and the more advanced Chaos and Abyss. Meeting on the PLANTs, Yzak with Dearka expressed their wishes to have Athrun return to ZAFT and fight in the new war, urging him to not waste his skills or dishonor their late teammates by not defending the peace. 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.

Quotes

  • "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."
Lunamaria:What's this machine? It's the latest,isn't it? I hear its structure is transformable.

Athrun:Yeah Lunamaria:Wow! It's nothing like ZAKUs! It's like the Impulse...or maybe more like Chaos? Athrun:Do you want to sit in it? Lunamaria:Can I?! Athrun:Yeah. Go ahead. But don't move it. Lunamaria:I wouldn't do that. I see. The panel for the mode selector is different. New types of plug ins are use,right? Athrun:Yeah. Lunamaria Hawke & Athrun Zala.,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny about Savior in Episode 15

Shinn:If you wanna hit me,go right ahead! But I did nothing wrong! The people there were helped by what I did!

Athrun:War is not some game to play a hero! Stop making decisions to suit yourself! If you have the power,show you have the responbility to handle that power! Shinn Asuka & Athrun Zala.,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny in Episode 16

Lunamaria:Now. How should I spend my day?

Shinn:What do you mean? Lunamaria:I'd like to go into town,but it wouldn't be any fun going alone. I sorta feel sorry for Rey,so maybe I'll go back to the ship. Athrun:Why don't go out with Shin? It's your day off. You should take it easy.I'll return to the ship,so don't worry about that. Athrun:But... Lunamaria:I see. You're already had your turn at taking it easy,Commander...with Miss Lacus. That's right. In my opinion...I think you should've have gone with Miss Lacus as a bodyguard. Athrun:Lunamaria Lunamaria:You're a FAITH member,Commander. No one gonna argue with whatever you choose to do. Athrun:Wait a minute,Lunamaria! Go ahead without us. Shinn:Ah,right. Lunamaria:Would you hit a woman? Athrun:I'm partly to blame for what you saw this morning,so I don't wanna make excuses. But you are misunderstood. And I'm not particularly pleased with yor attitude based on that misunderstanding. Lunamaria:Misundertanding? I can't imagine there's anything to misunderstand. Very well. I'll be careful in the future...Whenever Miss Lacus around. Athrun:No. What I'll saying... Lunamaria:Don't worry. I think I fully understand th situation between you two. Lunamaria Hawke,Shinn Asuka & Athrun Zala.,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny in Episode 21

Heine:You'd rather not fight,would you? Aganist Orb.

Athrun:No. Heine:Then who wouldn't you mind fighting? Athrun:No,it's not like there's someone I'd rather... Heine:You know,I thought so. Same here. That sums it up,dosen't it? Stop worring about it. We're in a war, and we're a soldiers. Otherwise,you'll die. Athrun:R-Right. - Heine Westenfluss & Athrun Zala,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny in Episide 22

Shinn:I got revenge. For you,too. What are you doing?!

Athrun:Kira...He wasn't even trying to kill you! He never tried to kill anyone! Ever! But look what you did! This is revenge?! Shinn:You're not making any sense! Stop it already! Athrun:Are you that happy about defeated him?! Are you proud?! Why him... Shinn:Is it wrong for me to be pleased?! I finally defeated a powerful enemy! Can't I be happy about it?! Then what do you suggest I do?! Should I cry and be sad about it? Should I be praying?! Or,are you saying I should've been the one defeated out there?! Well?! Athrun:Shinn!! Shinn:Damn you! Shinn Asuka & Athrun Zala fight each other about Kira Yamato .,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny in Episode 35

Athrun:Don't do it,Shinn!

Shinn:Athrun? But...that can't be... Athrun:That's enough! Do you really understand what it is...you're trying to destroy?! You want to end war forever. So you have to destroy Logos! And destroy Orb as well! Is that really what you want?! That won't listen,so we have no choice but to destroy them! Is baring your fangs at the nation really the answer?! Try and remember,Shinn! What is it that you really wanted?! Athrun Zala to Shinn Asuka.,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny in Episode 43

Athrun:Shinn! Would you stop it,already?!

Shinn:Damn! Why you? I won't lose to you! Athrun:Stop fighting with your mind stuck in your past! No matter how much you do,nothing is gonna come back! Shinn:H-How dare you! Athrun:And now you're trying to kill off the future as well?! Shinn:I know! I know this much! That's why the world has to change! That's why Orb needs to be wiped out! Athrun:Stop kidding yourself! By doing thst you destroy everything and kill off the future! Is that really the kind of world you want?! That kind of power?! Athrun Zala & Shinn Asuka.,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny in Episode 50

Athrun:Shinn. This guy's Kira. Kira Yamato. He pilots the Freedom Gundam.

Shinn:What?, Athrun Zala introducted Kira Yamato to Shinn Asuka.,Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny Final Plus: The Chosen Future

Gallery

Gundam Seed

Gundam Seed Destiny

Gunpla

Notes

  • Athrun has a Slovene surname.
  • In the manga series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: The Edge, the events of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny are told from Athrun's point of view. Chimaki Kuori's artwork depicts him as a more mature, yet somewhat effeminate figure. Chimaki Kuori, the author, noted that this series had a shoujo ("young girl") flavour in her remarks at the end of volume 1.
  • In the Gundam SEED manga, Masatsugu Iwase tries to make him look gallant while not making him look too feminine as he wanted to make Athrun look affected by Kira.
  • Athrun is also the narrative figure in the Gundam SEED Destiny: Special Edition compilations.
  • Throughout the SEED franchise, Athrun is known to be the most formidable SEED mode user, not having been defeated once while using it. Even while suffering from his injuries, Athrun still manages to slice off one of the Destiny's arms in the battle for ORB, though he did lose consciousness soon after. In the final battle though, he was able to defeat Shinn and his Destiny with ease after activating his SEED. It should be noted though that Athrun had already gained a significant advantage without needing SEED mode and gaining said advantage after Shinn had used his.
  • Athrun has the somewhat dubious honor of being the only character in the Cosmic Era who self destructed his mobile suits not once but twice. (He detonated the Aegis to destroy the Strike and self destructed the Justice to destroy GENESIS.)
  • Throughout the SEED franchise, Athrun is shown piloting mobile suits that have a reddish color scheme. This idea was probably based on, or some sort of homage to, another ace pilot in the Gundam metaseries, who also pilots red commander-type mobile suits.
  • Athrun pilots four different Gundams in the SEED and SEED Destiny series, all share a reddish color scheme and tall sensor unit on their head. The first Gundam that he pilots in both series (Aegis Gundam in Seed, Saviour Gundam in Seed Destiny) are both transformable MS capable of high-speed combat, and their most powerful ranged beam weaponry fire multi-coloured beams.
  • ZGMF-X23S Saviour is not a playable unit in Super Robot Wars L and Super Robot Wars K. The default unit for Athrun in Super Robot Wars L is a common green ZAKU Warrior until he receives the ∞ Justice. While in Super Robot Wars K, Athrun will join the player's faction after the battle of Messiah with the ∞ Justice. However, an early scenario give the player an opportunity to play as Athrun (as Alex Dino) with a Murasame as his unit.
  • In Super Robot Wars L, due to a different chain of events, Athrun never left ZAFT until after the Invasion of Orb and his relationship with Shinn Asuka was much less hostile as a result. After the invasion, he left Minerva and joins the Three Ships Alliance, but not before entrusting Shinn the duty to protect the Minerva.
  • Athrun, due to a mix of reasons, such as his separation from Cagalli and being the subject of three girls' crushes, has acquired a reputation for being a womanizer among some fans.
    • In the first Super Robot Wars Z2 game, there's a scene where Ozma Lee from Macross Frontier states his mistrust of the ship's womanizers, noting Athrun to be particularly bad. Kira merely chuckles after seeing this. Super Robot Wars V continues with this "meme" and has the ladies of the Cross Ange series express attraction to him. Nine from Super Robot Wars V pokes at the fact that Athrun has a women problem.
    • This reputation may also be caused by Athrun's side changing tendencies in both series. In SEED he changed sides from ZAFT to Orb/Three Ships Alliance and in SEED Destiny, he goes from Orb to ZAFT and Back to Orb/Terminal again. This in itself has caused some fans to make jokes about him seemingly suffering loyalty issues.
    • Ironically, in the Omake Quarters Drama CD Vol 3., a drunk Shinn jabs at Athrun's indecisiveness in romantic partners, claiming that "while he was only successful once, it's still better than Athrun, who never succeeded at all". He also believes Athrun to be two-timing Meyrin despite her affections towards him.
  • Athrun won Animage's Anime Grand Prix Award in 2004 in the category of favorite male anime character of the year.
  • The English dub of Gundam SEED voice actor, Samuel Vincent was also voiced of Russel Perguson from Littlest Pet Shop (2012), Edd (Double D) from Ed, Edd n Eddy Krypto from Krypto the Superdog, Flim from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic (2010), Billy and Martin Mystery as himself of the Marathon Media show and other characters from the show.
  • Since the release of Extreme VS in the arcades, Japanese fans have subjected Athrun's energetic voice clips into several comedic MADs, most notably "Tuhh!" and "Hyeeeah!". Such videos are often tagged with "Apologies to Ishida-san" .
  • Athrun makes a cameo appearance in the Sunrise anime Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon .

References

  1. MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM SEED|ATHRUN ZALA
  2. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Phase 39, Athrun
  3. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Phase 01, False Peace
  4. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Phase 50, To a Future that Never Ends


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