Title: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
Format: 49 episodes
Dates: 9 Oct 2011 – 23 Sep 2012
Synopsis: The year is A.G. 101. After an invasion by an unknown enemy dubbed the UE, mankind is struggling to find the appropriate weaponry to combat this new threat. Seven years pass, and finally the sole survivor of a UE raid, Flit Asuno, finishes building the ultimate mobile suit: the Gundam. With this robot and the eclectic “AGE device” that accompanies it, Flit embarks on an all out war that spans multiple generations.
Concept: Full of potential with 49 episodes to execute on it.
Flit Arc: Gundam! fused with Pokemon.
Asemu Arc: What all of Gundam AGE should have been.
Kio Arc: Made me want to rage quit.
Gundam AGE is Sunrise‘s attempt at introducing a younger audience to the lore of Gundam by tuning the character designs to younger sensibilities and streamlining the core themes. What makes the show so intriguing for older fans is the fact that it runs across three generations of Gundam pilots over a span of 50 years. The first generation kicks off as a mediocre children’s version of a Gundam series that only gets compelling in the final episodes. The second gen presents a solid action series that provides emotionally compelling conclusions to the seeds previously sown. The third and final generation breaks off the rails, hits a block full of pedestrians, falls into a river of acid and finds its resting place as a tombstone for all the poor souls who suffered through it.
The character arcs vary in execution, themes, and overall quality to such a degree that three separate reviews are almost warranted; however, for brevity’s sake let’s condense the whole thing down to what the show tried to do any why it succeeded or (more often) failed. The core theme of the first arc is the loss of innocence. It’s very much a typical Tomino Yoshiyuki Gundam story about a child, Flit Asuno, who learns of the horrors of war and leaves the experience with pieces of his soul shattered away. The whole experience is less than compelling because the writing and characterization aren’t up to the task of selling the whole thing. While previous shows from the franchise always has been a product for children, there has always been a biting edge or some instances of unusual cruelty. Gundam AGE is a tad too sanitary. Though no Gundam television anime has ever been a Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, there has always been a sense of true evil lurking beneath everything. AGE lacks this; its hands are too clean for an anime about war making the drama feel a tad more childish than usual. The Pokemon-esque character designs don’t help either.
The second arc follows Flit’s son, Asemu Asuno, and it tackles the idea of finding one’s place in the world. The characters are still not all too compelling, but some of the recurring cast members from the previous generation shine through. The key change comes from the former main protagonist, Flit, who has gone from a innocent child condemning war to a powerful war hawk advocating the complete and utter destruction of the enemy. Flit has becoming a towering figure in the world and Asemu has to constantly fight society’s and his own personal expectations to live up to the Asuno name. Though the ultimate conclusion is an idea as simple as Gurren-Lagann‘s “believe in yourself,” the strong execution makes the message resonate with crystal clarity.
The Kio arc is when it becomes obvious that the writers don’t have a goddamn clue what they are doing. The power of a three generation structure spanning a century is that it can be used to show the evolution of the characters over time, and it gives time to develop an intricate world that changes with the key actions in the series. None of this happens in any kind of convincing manner. The third generation of Asunos, Kio, actually degenerates over time as he tries to reason with people who are clearly insane. Asemu is shoe-horned into a role that makes no sense based on all that’s happened in the second arc. Flit really gets the short end of the stick as the writers force a 180 degree turn in his personality in one of the most phoned in instances of “redemption” I’ve ever seen. Beyond just the characters, the final arc unravels some of the secrets and closes out some of the drama in a manner that absolutely betrays everything that happens previously. Let’s just say there’s a revelation that the entire war the show is based on never had to happen.
Though the animation is decent, the fight choreography has its moments and the music is a joy to listen to, Gundam AGE is one of the weakest showings of the entire Gundam franchise. The third arc is so weak that it makes me want to revisit Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED Destiny to see their merits relative to the implosive rancid wreck Gundam AGE ended up becoming.
The Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Shadowmage