I also think the show just jumps into things. There's no setup, no kind of meandering sub-plots, it just goes.
Zeta, which really hit it's stride in the last ten episodes, suffers horribly from this.
On the one hand, I agree that what you said was a strength for 08th MS Team. On the other hand, I never felt Zeta Gundam "suffered" from them. I felt it was a good pace for what they were trying to do.
And speaking of Gundam, I just finished Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny
. First off, I'd like to say that this show was not as bad as I was led to believe. I think 'Guarded Praise' best sums up my feelings for it.
Starting with the visuals, the mech designs were even better than Gundam SEED's - a feat, I'd say, since I held SEED's designs to be the best in the series. The character designs were also as good as ever - Hisashi HIRAI continues to be my favorite character designer. The animation was also fantastic, as far as I could tell. The music was also very good, though not as good as the music in Gundam SEED. Oh, and I should also note that the dub was mostly good...although the dubbed music wasn't so good.
The story I felt was very entertaining. It wasn't anything exceptional, but it held my interest for the majority of its 50 episodes. Most of the characters were alright, and most were developed well enough that I cared for them when they either died or I thought they were gonna die. The beginning and ending were disturbingly similar to Gundam SEED's, but while SEED's beginning was more meaningful, Destiny's ending had more of an impact.
What I didn't like were the blatant references to other Gundam shows, particularly the first Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. Then there's Shinn Asuka - I don't think I've ever hated a character in the entire metaseries as much as this guy, and he's the protagonist. He's a naive fool, through and through - putty in the main villian's hands. On the plus side, though, for once the main villian isn't entirely evil, and I found it difficult to understand why he needed to be stopped. He was actually at least partially in the right, and his thinking always made sense. As far as I know, this is a first for the series, and something that I felt it really needed.
In the end, I really liked this one. It's not exactly top material - it made too many references for its own good, and the protagonist annoyed me the whole way through - but it was definitely entertaining and easily recommendable to fans of the first Gundam SEED.
EDIT:Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray
- Not much to say about this one, seeing as it was 15 minutes all together. It was basically meant to entice people into purchasing the model kits and manga. Personally, I'd say it did it's job fairly well. The characters were charming right off the bat, and the action was excellent. The mobile suits were very well shown off. I'm definitely far more interested in the manga now, and I see they're fairly cheap. I might have to get a few volumes.