Reviews: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
Generation 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Gundam AGE is easily the most contentious Gundam show I've had a chance to review. There's so much material I could cover that I'm going to review each generation individually, so I can provide a look at the good and bad parts of each one. AGE G1 starts out actually pretty good. The first four episodes are well-paced, dramatic and decently animated. It had me hopeful for the rest of the show, and made me think that all the bad things I'd heard about it were exaggerations by people dedicated to hating the art style. Then the Fardain Arc started, and it was as if the writers had suddenly decided to purposefully eradicate every last shred of goodwill I could possibly have had for the show. The Fardain colony and everything associated with it is absolute cancer. It features insanely annoying characters, a plot that could only be called 'moronic' by the most generous of individuals, and the animation quality drops to below SEED levels. I cheered whenever a character introduced in this arc died, and screamed with rage whenever somebody was saved from the consequences of their own immense stupidity. Watching this arc is like being beaten with a hosepipe made of pure fail. The main issue with AGE I’ve had so far is the obvious lack of budget. Its sound effects are almost entirely reused from SEED, or slightly modified stock sound effects. The X-Rounder ‘Newtype flash’ sound is a clip that has been around at least since the 90’s, and the UE beam vulcans use the Halo plasma pistol sound. The animation is also schizophrenic; the first and last four episodes feature fairly decent animation, but the Fardain arc is peppered with awful moments. Another problem is the antagonists. The UE are absolute idiots. They consistently fail to threaten the main characters even after being given multiple chances to destroy or disable the AGE-1 at no risk to themselves. Desil (aka ‘little fuckwit’) even calls off an attack that would have destroyed the Titus simply because he’s bored. Of all the Gundam villains, the UE are the only ones that seem like they’re better at defeating themselves than the enemy. Fucking hell. Minor problems include Flit constantly treating UE weapons as dangerous even while the AGE is immune to most of them, the incredibly boring designs of the Federation MS, and the ridiculously insulting way the Yurin plotline is resolved. You know your writers don’t give a fuck when a romance arc is reduced to a still-image montage. Sending out Fardain mobile suits against the UE while still armed with machine guns is another major sin in my book, for reasons that could take an entire extra review to explain. To wrap things up, I just want to note that AGE G1 does have a few genuinely good bits. They’re just shrouded in idiocy after idiocy. It’s tragic, really. This show had potential, but then it was gleefully squandered.
A New Low For The Franchise.
You know, I gave Gundam AGE a chance. I really did - All the way from the inconsistent start, the mediocre middle, and the disaster at the end. Gundam AGE isn't as bad as the naysayers would have you believe: It's worse. Way, way worse. This a Gundam series that utterly fails at *being* a Gundam series, a fact made infinitely more embarrassing by copious stealing from the playbooks of it's predecessors. The first arc is a tired rehash of Mobile Suit Gundam's plot, fraught with Expy characters and designs - Yet done with none of the care or heart that made the original a classic. Plot points are obviously and insultingly telegraphed, effectively performing a shoddy play-for-play re-enactment of the original: There's a thin line between a homage and self-plagiarism, and AGE skips across it without looking back. This is, however, merely a harbinger of things to come. After a marginally improved second arc (Hampered, as always, by a lack of character development, shoddy designs, and a lukewarm climax), AGE crashes and burns *hard* right when it should be racing towards the finish line. The final arc of AGE is everything wrong with the franchise as a whole, with characters being introduced simply to be killed off for the sake of cheap tragedy, climatic fights about as exciting as a damp squib, and the absolute worst, most insultingly stupid villainous master plan of ALL TIME. You thought Gundam Seed Destiny's rehashed finale was bad? You haven't seen 'bad', until you've watched AGE. AGE's third generation is where the bad writing and diminishing episode count come together in unholy unity: You'll struggle to remember who these characters are, and why you should care about them. There's no attempt to communicate the weight of seemingly significant events, and the plothole-ridden episodes unfold with neither rhythm nor reason - Further crippled by a downright stupid protagonist, who shoehorns the dreaded cancer of UNDERSTANDING into the plot with all the grace of a sledgehammer blow to the head. It's forced and utterly contrived, a senseless trainwreck that collapses at the slightest scrutiny. Between the terrible writing, rushed and disjointed plot, watered-down designs and paper-thin characters (And let's not even get into the disgusting treatment of women), AGE is simply not worth your time.
Steadily becoming one of the better things to come out of Gundam (a look at episodes 7-15)
Finally got around to start work on Asemu's arc now and I thought it'd be best to go back and wrap up the second half of Flit's arc, which is where stuff really started to change for the better. The Fardain arc had its share of detractors but it wasn't that bad compared to some of the ridiculousness in past shows and the kids were a very brief feature in it. And the rest of it was pretty cool; we got to see the Titus and G-Exes debut and Largan got to fight again (if only to job but he put up an admirable effort!) I rather enjoyed the capstone of that arc too, with the large space battle pitting the Euba, Zalam, and Diva forces all going up against the UE, and the UE forces actively trying to re-ignite hostilities between the Fardain militias. We were also finally introduced to the Sparrow/Spallow/whatever mode for AGE, which gets creativity points for having guns in its knees and all those thrusters to justify its mobility. The final stretch of Flit's arc ended up having a whole host of plot twists too, including introducing the Newtype equivalent, finally revealing the truth about the Vegans, and of course finally making good on all of Yurin's death flags. And honestly, I feel the sequence with Yurin was handled a hell of a lot better than most of the ones we've gotten recently, including Unicorn's. She wasn't so much fighting as just being a conduit for Desil to control another mobile suit, and the girl was emotionally frail enough I could imagine the Vegans manipulating her into their demands. And she obviously wasn't happy about it at all, either, more trying to be happy but still feeling sad that she had to meet Flit again that way. The scene following her death was pretty touching too. I know a lot of people still probably dislike AGE, and they're allowed to do that. But the show really is a huge blast for me. It's been a damn long while since I've watched a Gundam series and not wanted to punch someone for being an asshole. Not to say there aren't horrible people in AGE, I just look forward to them being on-screen because I know eventually they'll get what's coming to them. The designs are fine too. Yeah a lot of them are basic but in Flit's era mobile suit technology was horribly outdated, and in Asemu's we see it improving. Can't wait to see how Asemu's arc will unfold.
Just when you think it couldn't get any worse than Destiny (Contains Spoilers)
At first, I admit that I was enjoying Gundam AGE. But the more I thought of the series, the more I realized how flawed and downright insulting this installment is not just to the franchise, but to one's intelligence in today's world. For one, the writers have no idea how to write a decent story. I admit that some of the battle scenes were inspired, but otherwise the overall writing in this series is laughable and much of the interesting points of the plot are skimped over in favor of what are essentially fillers, most notably the Fardain arc. And that's before getting into the main plot twist in Episode 39, which I won't spoil. What I will say, however, is that it will A. catch you completely off-guard and B. blow your mind by how little it makes sense. The main problem, however, is not its Bad Writing nor its bizarre Shocking Swerve. Nope, the biggest issue I have is its creepy, hateful view of women. I'll admit to being moved by Yurin's death, but as the series progressed, I realized that female characters in this show almost solely to either A. pop out new descendants of the Asuno family or B. get Stuffed In The Fridge. The only exceptions to this ludicrous rule are Arisa, Millais, and Natora, and even then they are either shown to be weak and irrelevant or are overshadowed by the almighty male Asunos (Yunoa Asuno is a nurse. And no, she doesn't have her own Gundam). And before you ask, this is coming from a male troper. Having read Episode 41's preview, it seems that Fram Nara, a perfectly competent Vagan officer, is going to combat. Having seen that the women in this series who develop the slightest sense of independence and strong-will are the ones who are most likely to die, I can't say I have much hope for her. Doesn't mean I won't be pissed and consider her death as a confirmation of AGE's misogynist views. Gundam AGE really makes you wonder how Sunrise views women and what message the company's trying to tell to the viewers. Do yourself a favor, and skip this installment in favor of Gurren Lagann, Martian Successor Nadesico or better Gundam shows like Gundam X, Turn A Gundam, or Gundam Unicorn.
A promising series tragically smothered by bad planning
Gundam AGE had the potential to be a really imaginative take on the Gundam franchise. 3 generations, the evolution of ideas across them, the effects of total war for that long...while it tackled these ideas, it unfortunately wasn't able to fully realize them. One of the biggest mistakes was waiting until 3/4 through the series to humanize the enemy faction; previously they had come across as a bunch of genocidal maniacs. Unrealized characters, deaths that lacked weight, and inconsistent writing for living really dragged the story down. It felt as if, over time, you could just see the series derailing more and more. Sure Gen 1 had the tedious Fardain arc, but overall it felt pretty solid and there was interesting drama and plot goings-on. Gen 2 was also not that bad, even though it had a rushed ending. Gen 3 was rushed from start to finale, and the entire arc suffers for it. Really, this should have been a 65-epsiode series to get everything done in time. Also, it seems that overtime the writing staff grew to rely on old Gundam standbys and Shout Outs rather than the interesting elements they entertained in the first 2 arcs. The Galette family also were very interesting antagonists at first, but over time you couldn't really tell their true motivations. Ezelcant himself really suffered the same fate, lacking gravity and believability as a villain in the end. The mains' relationships with the grunt characters also seemed to become less important overtime. Gen 3 really felt like The Kio Show, and it seemed like the writers wanted to force us to believe that his morality was more important than any other character's. I haven't (and don't intend to) cover every detail that went wrong in this review, but hopefully I've given you a snapshot. I can only hope that a special edition improves on this tale of the 2Xth century, but for now I think it feels a lot like the Star Trek Voyager of the franchise.
Age by Age
Gundam AGE was ambitious, doing something no Gundam series did before, actually showing the Gundam technology passing from one generation of the Asuno family to the next: Flit, to his son Asemu, to his son Kio. AGE 1 Despite its accusations of being kiddy, Age 1 wasn't half bad. It had its flaws, such as the idealistic ending to the Fardain episodes, and the plot wasn't necessarily strong. What made it watchable for me was a few good characters, especially Grodek Ainoa, the Ensemble Darkhorse mysterious and vengeful Guile Hero, who knows that he ended up becoming a victim of the Cycle Of Revenge...and just doesn't care. If it hadn't been for him, I probably would have stopped watching after the first few episodes. Desil was also interesting as a surprisingly creepy Big Bad. AGE 2 The best Age, and unfortunately the shortest. It's good to actually see Flit mature into a competent commander and see what the effects of the previous Age are on him. It is unfortunate though that he never explains his motives and pain to his descendants, and that he loses his hate due to a psychic vision induced Deus Ex Machina instead of actual Character Development. I also thought it was nice for Asemu to be an actual soldier and bold for the series to not have Asemu become an X-rounder and instead focus on honing his piloting skills. However, I didn't like the tacked on love triangle which ends up resolved off-screen. AGE 3 This is where everything goes to the toilet. First off, Kio is an absolute idiot who trades his family military secrets for something worthless and hypocritically doesn't want to kill but won't stop fighting. Then Asemu is turned into a horrible father. Then there is Ezelcant, whose nonsensical Evil Plan makes you want to Dope Slap the writers. Age 3 would be better off if Zeheart just shot him once he heard it. The only high point of Age 3 for me was Seric and Obright taking out custom suits with named Vagans in them. As for the villains, the Vagans waffle back and forth between competency and stupidity. Most of their victories are examples of "that was the plan all along", and they capture a Gundam only to lose it again way too easily. Then there is the misogyny of the Asuno wives being Put On A Bus after they pop out the next protagonist. It could have been nice to have one of the Gundam pilots be female.
I practically agree with the last two reviews. Age had an average beginning, awesome middle, and craptastic end. My main problems stemmed from Kio's arc- the only reason I was watching it was because I'd watched so far already. The Big Bad seemed like a mentally retarded 12 year old with a Live Journal account instead of a mastermind. Followed by severe character derailment from most of the developed characters, shallow characterization from the new characters, and my willingness to say the Eight Deadly Words just skyrocketed. However, it did have some good points. For one, the mecha designs and battles were always nice. Plus Asemu was awesome as always, even though he is quite possibly the worst father to ever grace the franchise. I could count on one hand the things I actually liked about the last arc; namely, Natora and Seric. There were like four good episodes of that whole arc. Saddening, really. All in all, I would give Gundam AGE's Kio Arc a 3/10. I hope the next series is of a much better quality. Then again, I suppose if it weren't adapted from a videogame, and instead just a standalone anime, it would have been much different, and perhaps, enjoyable. Here's hoping Super Robot Wars can make this trainwreck a lot of fun.
A Nice Return to Form for the Gundam Franchise (1st and 2nd Generation)
Contains Unmarked Spoilers I admit to being hesitant with this series when I saw the initial artwork. However, if you read my posts on the forum or my edits for the page, it's no secret that I'm enjoying Gundam AGE. AGE, however, is not a flawless installment. For one, I swear that Akhiro Hino is Japan's George Lucas when it comes to dialogue. While the nadirs were undeniably the entire Fardain arc and Asemu's reunion with Zeheart in Episode 24, the overall dialogue is definitely not Shakespeare. Also, the series has issues with its focus. For example, I think they could have skipped the Fardain Arc altogether so they could spend more time focusing on much more potentially intriguing segments of the story, not to mention further develop the characters, such as those within the Diva and Vagan. That said, let me explain why AGE Needs More Love. The MS designs are not only original, but are also a treat to see in action (Zeydra is my favorite). I also appreciate how AGE takes fresh takes of classic Gundam tropes. Yurin's death scene, for example, showed her reliving her happiest moment with Flit before the environment dies around her. It was refreshing and more emotionally effective than if Yurin's last moment was the usual naked Newtype farewell in space. Moreover, as the antagonist faction Vagan is awesome. Sure, there are rotten apples like Desil, but otherwise Vagan is morally grey like Zeon. Overall, the first and second generations of AGE are solid, not perfect. The series has issues with its focus and its scripts. Even so, the first two seasons of AGE improved over Gundam Seed Destiny and Gundam 00.
Good ideas, just implemented badly.
Just to affirm people's assumptions, yes, when it was first revealed, I did facepalm. To me, it looked like they were turning Gundam into a kids' franchise, and needless to say, I had reservations. Nonetheless, I sat down to watch it with an open mind, and while the storyline is certainly far from that of a kiddy show, the characters are written well and the plot is original, there are certain things that put me off too much to be able to actually gain any enjoyment out of it. The first and most obvious is the character designs. I actually found that I got used to the softer, more brightly-coloured art style after a few episodes, but what kept bugging me with the designs themselves is the persistent emphasis on cuteness. This I can understand with a few characters, particularly kids, but barring various Mooks, almost the entire cast appear somewhere on the scale between eccentric (Enneacle's "wolf-ear" hairdo) and downright bizarre (Boyage and Ezelcant), not to mention that more than half have disproportionately short, stubby legs and large heads making them look borderline SD. Then of course, come the schizophrenic mechanical designs, with some MS looking like kids' toys (The Desperado even comes with a little hard hat. D'aww!) and others like Kaiju; well, only if they weren't just reinventing older Gundam designs (AGE 2 and 3 Normal resemble 00 Raiser and ZZ respectively), or taking "inspiration" from elsewhere (Ghiraga bears a striking resemblance to Zone Of The Enders's Anubis, but without wings). Of course, there are some good ones, like the genuinely creepy Zeydars (though, I haven't seen this one in action yet). The combat felt "off", too, with the Gafran's lasers sounding like Halo's Plasma Pistol and the Gundam constantly stopping to pose before every attack. OK, we get it, Ban Dai, you wanna sell these things. Now get on with the fight! The pacing's also in need of patching, with what should be 50 eps crammed into the space of 15. Maybe they should have gone the way of The 08th MS Team, which does well for only 11. If they left the cuteness out, this would've been awesome. As it is, it's so-so.
Mobile Suit Gundam SIGH (updated review)
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.
Far from the worst thing to come out of Gundam (a look at episodes 1-6)
I'm just going to say this outright: a lot of the criticisms of Gundam AGE are nothing more than kneejerk reactions because herpderp, Hino and character designs. And Gundam AGE is turning out to be a hell of a lot better than a lot of angry neckbeards would have expected, and although I can't say anything for the story as a whole, the initial six episodes are perfectly fine. In them we get introduced to probably the most important people in the initial cast and, more importantly, the world of the Advance Generation. We see just how the UE operate (and much to my enjoyment they don't feel like a rehash of a faction from a previous show) along with Flit's growth from just a prodigy mech designer towards being a real soldier and Captain Grodek's awesome antics. I like the scale the story has right now. The story is starting small, with fairly basic mobile suits mostly armed with little more than popguns seeing as how damaging they are, which is good. As the century goes by we'll be able to see the technology become more advanced; that was a problem I really had with Gundam SEED and it's very rapid technological advancement. Heck, the Gundam doesn't even have its beam saber yet! The AGE builder also isn't being spammed in every episode, which is nice. Instead of rushing through the set pieces, as the battlefield changes Flit has to adapt his Gundam, and in fact his crisis of needing more close-range weaponry seen in episode 6 (which was never an issue) looks to be what births the Titus parts. As for the characters, well who isn't to like? My only real complaint is I want to see Largan do more. He almost seemed like he was going to be the story's ace pilot character in the first episode, but now he seems more regulated to some kind of mechanic position. It's unfortunate, really. I also like what it looks like they'll be doing with Desil. As someone on /m/ pointed out, if Flit were to have an older rival, it would probably amount to being some evil variant of Woolf, a UE ace pilot. Giving us a younger, better, more confident, and also downright smug bastard of a rival for Flit just amps up the tension between them. So then. Is AGE perfect? Hahahaha, no. No Gundam series deserves that title. But it's entertaining and it's trying to do something new and I appreciate that.