Have they come up with a way yet to distinguish the arcs of Gundam AGE yet? Is this the Flit arc? The Ambat arc? Whatever it’s being called or will be called, I’m calling it the first fifteen episodes of Gundam AGE.
There’s a tendency when writing positive things about this series to try and defend it from its critics. I am going to try and avoid that, because it’s a waste of time. Gundam fans are the worst for creating a non-existent ideal in their heads of what their favourite show should be. I know this because I have my own non-existent ideal that the past three Gundam series have singularly failed to live up to.
So far though, Gundam AGE gets closer than most. And here’s why.
Different body types. This isn’t even a Gundam thing. There’s some difference in body types in the original series, but nothing approaching Gundam AGE‘s array of near spherical grandfathers, underclass manual labourers with tiny legs, pretty boy pilots with hair shaped like ears, and kids with out of control blue fringes. What it reminded me more of was Leiji Matsumoto’s character design work, but that might just be the sci-fi setting as Level 5 like this sort of variation in their other works like Professor Layton and Inazuma Eleven. It’s just a little more swish coming from Sunrise than when it comes from OLM.
Just one Gundam. Gundam variants are fun, and they sell more model kits, but I do like the idea of giving a Gundam a mythical quality by making there be only one. And in Gundam AGE, it literally has a mythical quality, with the idea of a Gundam lost in the past, and resurrected by the hero Flit. Plus the AGE system is a clever way to have variants, but still keep only one Gundam in the show.
Mystery. While the show hits a lot of beats familiar to long time Gundam fans, it does something different in making the whole first 15 episodes essentially a mystery story. That mystery is who are the Unknown Enemy? By the fifteenth episode we have an answer, but more many more questions. The characters themselves though become so driven by revenge that by the time the reveal is made, they have arguably dehumanised the enemy in their minds that the answer is meaningless. Certainly it appears that way for one of the leads.
Big Dumb Sci-Fi Idea The show has a bunch of old Gundam concepts, sometimes dressed up in new names, but it also has the big dumb sci-fi idea of the show – the AGE system. It is essentially a 3D printer that creates modifications for the Gundam based on combat data. You know who else uses 3D printers? The designers at Bandai who work on Gundam model kits. Adding to the sense that the mecha design is going from Gunpla to Anime rather than vice-versa, is that the AGE system created modifications attach themselves to the Gundam frame as if they were pieces of a model kit.
The lessons of the last 15 years of anime designed to sell toys/games, is that you have to make the characters’ experiences with the “toys” in the show as close as humanly possible to the customers’ experiences in the real world. That’s a tall order for a show about pilotable robots (compare it to the LBX robots of Level 5’s Danball Senki), but this feels like an intelligent attempt to address it. Can it do it better than the shows that have shouldered out robot shows from the daytime schedules? Time, and money, will tell.
I’m looking forward to see how the generational gimmick makes a difference as we jump 26 years ahead in the story and join Flit’s son, Asemu as he becomes the hero of the series.