Check-in Station: Gundam AGE eps 1-15 (The worst dreams are the ones that give you what you want.) (2023)

I’ll eat a little crow on this one. I did tweet that I was gonna enjoy “oldfag” hating on Gundam AGE before the series got started. I figured that with the kiddie designs and some of the mecha designs I peeked at that I wouldn’t get too deep and my enjoyment wouldn’t extend past laughing at its attempts at greatness. Sure there may be some surprise moments of awesome, but I had placed my bets on Gundam Unicorn impressing me. But once I started watching I started to wonder if would just be “remembering love” or if this would truly make me “see the tears of time”.

Gundam AGE has made an interesting “gumbo” with the Gundam mythology, its key elements and history so far. Even the early episodes I couldn’t realy pin down to one or even two Gundam series. Flit’s age reminded me of Uso (Victory Gundam), Yurin gave me thoughts of Tiffa (Gundam X), and of course the Gundam and the colony strikehearkenall the way back to the original 0079. It hints at aliens (something only Gundam 00 even attempted to play with, results left up to opinion), and incorporates possibly its one controversial element (in my opinion anyway). The AGE system.

I suppose the AGE System, which appears to be a super computer attached to some super tech creating massive manufacturing/fabricating unit, is the series equivalent and replacement for the Gundam metaverse’s traditional “plot armor”. Most Gundam shows use Gundanium, a mythical alloy that gave the machine its super endurance. The SEED universe replaced it with Phase – shift armor (a very interesting, flawed idea). G Gundam seemed to replace Gundanium with a combination of GAR and Guts. Gundam Wing literally used not only Gundanium, but actual plot armor itself in the way important characters in grunt mobile units would take significantly more damage before going down, as opposed to their actual grunt counterparts. Gundam AGE has managed to attach itself to the Gundam metaverse in its own way. Allowing the Gundam to become stronger or faster as the super computer saw fit.

The other way it attaches itself to Gundam tradition is through the use of the term …ugh, “X-Rounder”. It seems like an extremely simplified and unromantic take on the famous Newtype theme. The even attribute an X-Rounder’s heightened abilities to a scientifically (by anime standards) identified X-Region. UGH! I’ll make myself perfectly clear when I say I HATE the term. And it’s clearly an example of me “oldfag” hating on the series. But the term feels way too dry and straigh forward for me. I guess calling people psychic or Newtypes is no longer in style, but I just can’t let it go.

Somethings just as important as the plot armor and special pilots to Gundam are the kid pilots and the captains. Flit is as young as any Gundam pilot I’ve seen, and I severely underestimated him. Someone who I thought was just a mentally talented and driven, but naive kid turned out to be one hell of a pilot once he got a little experience and got pushed a bit. I expected Flit to just rely on his plot armor and mobile suit. But Flit has shown to be good leader, an excellent pilot who could even hang with real aces like Woolf, and an absolute natural “Newtype” (yeah, I’m stubborn). He accesses his “abilities” with a command even SEED’s aces had trouble managing. While Kira and Athrun from SEED seemed to need an emotional trigger, Flit seemed to be able to focus and dig it out. Maybe it’s an apples to oranges thing comparing X-Rounder abilities with SEED factors and even Newtype flashes. But it does show that the writers are allowing him to have a high level of discipline and skill I didn’t think he’d be allowed so early in the series. That overachieving kid has turned into an exceptional, though potentially traumatized human being.

Another exceptional human being in this series Captain Grodek. I didn’t know what to think of Grodek at first, I was quick to compare him to the legendary Bright Noa for convenience reasons, but he’s no Bright. He doesn’t really compare to any of the commanders and captains I can think of in Gundam. He really is a renegade. This man had one mission. To make the UE pay for killing his family. By the end of this story arc, I was expecting him to torture his enemies Punisher style. But despite my fears he turned out to be an excellent and driven leader, as opposed to the blood thirsty maniac he easily could have been. I still say that ground assault on the Ambat fortress was pretty dumb and insane, but I would probably blame that more on grandiose writers. The point is that that man was a beast, and may very well be what Flit turns into in the future given how alike they seemed to be and the events that ended the fifteenth episode.

The one thing that really threw me off was the UE. It was bad enough that in the beginning they were advertised as aliens, that immediately threw me off. I don’t take kindly to new things like aliens being in my Gundam. I didn’t believe it for awhile, then I did believe when I saw them. Then I saw that the series had a thing for really weird hairstyles and colors, so I thought that maybe they were a race of “Cyber Newtype” type beings created and forgotten by the Earth government. It turns out I had been led in a circle and that the UE were just abandoned humans with advanced technology. In a roundabout way, they used the UE as a new angle on the old Zeon standard.

Ghost corrected me in the comment section of his episode 15 post, I had completely forgotten about the Jovians of the UC timeline. The Veigans would be more of a apt comparison, but with some Zeon elements in there, too. Seeing as how a Jovian, Paptimus Scirrocco is one of my favorite Gundam characters, this adds an additional bit of joy to me watching the series’ second “age”. I can think of it a little as Scirrocco’s buddies waging a war on the Earth Sphere. Joy!

During the One Year War of the original 0079, you could always have compared the “space men/spacenoids” of the Universal Century to aliens. At the time their mobile suits were highly advanced technology, they invaded the Earth, and you could say they were on a campaign of revenge against the abusive, yet neglectful Federation government. In that way, these faux-spacemen of Gundam AGE are exactly the same. It’s a wonderful idea, and I’m very glad I was exposed to it.

All these elements have been combined to help make this a very solid, very accessible and fun Gundam franchise so far. The series isn’t without its weak points. Despite the show getting rather dark and a bit more graphic near the end of the arc, the writing and plotting for some of the episodes felt a little too familiar and simple at times. Situations I thought could have been more tense and complicated were often resolved through convenient plot points and techniques. The timely arrival of an enemy or friend in the middle of a tense situation. Predictablesolutions to problems happened a little too often for me. And I didn’t feel like the pacing allowed some of the characters and relationships to blossom fully. Yes, I’m saying some of the dreaded character development episodes were needed in this series. Admit it, sometimes there needs to be some real quiet moments for this to really stick and feel significant. Flit and Yurin’s relationship being the biggest victim of this failure.

For those reasons, I’m inclined to compare this to another favored show of mine, Fairy Tail. Both shows have excellent elements and use the lessons of the successes and failures of their respective lineages and genres to build a unique and distinctive niche for themselves. But unfortunately, some of the elements are so familiar, and so well worn to veteran like me that I fail to be emotionally moved by their key elements. Though to both their credits, Yurin’s death and some scenes in Fairy Tail I have found genuinely powerful.

I’m hoping with the next “age” of Gundam AGE we’ll get to be more invested in the characters. We already have the added bonus of seeing how the characters from this age grow and progress. I have a feeling Flit may be a bit bitter and obsessed. Though it looks like his son is gonna be quite the firecracker. I wonder if Woolf may be a bit more sympathetic to the Veigans’ cause? I don’t think we’ve really seen our Char equivalent in this show quite, yet. Desil looks like he’s going to grow up to be a very good villain. Though I do worry that they’ll just saddle him with the loser villain role after losing so handily to Flit.

Ract is a character that also shouldn’t be forgotten. Though how could anyone miss that hair? He could be an influential ace pilot, but I think I would like to see him captain a ship. With Grodek out of the way (for now), I think he’d be an excellent replacement the next campaign. And most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing if the second “age” takes more cues from the Universal Century and we see a show more similar to Zeta Gundam. The seeds of hate have already been sewn. And Gundam AGE has shown us in the past three episodes that it doesn’t fear its bloody roots.

Gundam AGE clearly has quite a way to go, both literally and figuratively , but I feel good about this show now. It’s a complete 180 from how I felt about the series a few months ago. And to me that equals success. I greatly look forward to seeing what the series has in store for the future. And maybe if it does things just right, it will squeeze those precious “tears” from me.

ghostlightning:

Some of these numbskulls twisted my arm and said they wanted in on this post. DonKangolJones unfortunately has to take it like a man.

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