Gundam AGE could have been a great series. It has lots of enjoyable moments, emotional impact, an intriguing set-up with the Generational Saga
. Characters like Woolf Enneacle and Arisa Gunhale are a blast to watch. But ultimately, AGE is a long line of missed opportunities.
The pacing is awful. Things drag out and then get squashed together; the writer clearly was trying to make 15 episodes do the work of 50 in each arc. And they couldn't make up their minds about the factions: is the Federation mostly good with some rotten apples, or corrupt? Does Vagan have a reasonable and sympathetic cause, or are they just bloodthirsty asshats? It keeps wavering between the two. And too often, the show ignores the potential it sets up by falling back on a Gundam trope—only without the things that made it work in the first place, so it ends up cliched. (see: episode 14, the not-orphan trio of G3.)
By the third arc, the characterization just falls apart and we end up with a whiny pacifist versus a nutter. There's nothing inherently wrong with a pacifist pilot, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. AGE does it the wrong way: Kio refuses to work for it and he's just grating to watch. In the meantime, G3 continually throws in new, temporary enemy characters, wasting precious screentime that could be better used elsewhere. Returning characters like Obright and Unoa are reduced to extras.
The show is absurdly sexist throughout its run. The women of AGE either revolve around their man to be written out after childbirth, act as some kind of prop for an Asuno, or die. Not that veteran Gundam fans expect egalitarianism, but this isn't the 80's anymore. Recent Gundams have given us the reasonable expectation that at least one female character will get to be cool without being punished by the story. The mothers should have some
kind of opinion on what their husbands and sons are doing, but it's never expressed. Female characters are either stuffed or jump headlong into the fridge for the sake of a plot point.
AGE could have been a fantastic Gundam. G1 is a little bumpy, but promising. G2 is fairly solid aside from a rushed ending. But G3 ends with a downward spiral—it's hard to even care about the final battle. It's a case study in dropping the ball.