Gundam AGE Restored My Faith in Gundam
Long long loooooooong time readers of AZM may have noted the distinct lack of Gundam related posts of late. The franchise lost me with Gundam SEED and it’s been a struggle to get back to it. I tried a few episodes of OO and just couldn’t get into it and I kind of lost steam with Unicorn. So by the time AGE was announced, I completely wrote it off. The character designs made it look way too kiddie and the AGE design seemed like a Bandai cash grab with its changeable forms.
I. Was. Wrong.
On a lark, I decided to give it shot since the GundamInfo YouTube channel has the entire series subbed. In two days, I marathoned the first sixteen glorious episodes! I’m fucking hooked and if you’re a Gundam fan old or new, I think you’ll absolutely enjoy this series.
The series begins in Advanced Generation (AG) 101 and spans three generations of the Asuno family, Flit (AG 115), Asemu (AG 140-142), and Kia (AGE 164). Each member of the Asuno family pilots his own version of the eponymous Gundam AGE. I’ve only gone through the Flit arc so my review will be somewhat incomplete. But I have every confidence that the next two arcs will be just as amazing. There will be some slight spoilers, but they probably only make sense if you’re a huuuuuge Gundam nerd.
The Ghost of Gundam Past
To longtime Gundam fans, Flit’s arc will feel very familiar. It’s almost like a very condensed remix of the original Mobile Suit Gundam with a little Zeta mixed in. Flit’s personality reminds me a lot of Kamille and it’s not just his hair. He’s so very conflicted about fighting and killing to save those he loves. He also shouts the familiar “Gundam IKIMASU” when he launches like Amuro and Kamille. And of course, in the tradition of “kill ’em all Tomino,” his mother dies in a fire right before his eyes which is weird because Tomino wasn’t involved in AGE.
Emily looks like a younger version of Sayla Mas. In a way, this show kind of answers what would have happened if Amuro and Sayla got together.
Flit’s star-crossed relationship with Yurin echos Amuro and Lala so you can guess how that turns out. I called it when they first met each other, but that didn’t make that final scene between them any less painful. There’s also a sort of Char clone in the guise of the mischievous child, Desil, which is a pretty interesting choice for a Gundam series. Normally, the Char clone is an older, stoic pilot with a lot of experience. Desil doesn’t even come close to stoic, more psychotic. So he’s not exactly a one-to-one Char clone, but the ease with which he pilots a mobile suit definitely reminds me of the Red Comet.
If you couldn’t tell by now, AGE also continues the tradition of absolutely terrible names and weird hair styles.
There are some other cosmetic references to previous Gundam series. The Zalam faction normal suits look like Zaku. The Diva’s final form looks like White Base. Oh, and Don Boyage sports a wicked mustache that totally looks like the Turn A.
If you’re not a longtime Gundam fan, you might not catch all the references. And I don’t think they matter that much to the series as a whole. The characters are wonderful and the plot is solid so if you’re new to Gundam, you’ll still enjoy AGE. But for us oldschool fans, the nods are a welcome bonus.
AND HARO!!! I love Haro.
The AGE System
Time to talk mobile suits. Though I know it’s a gimmick to sell more model kits, I really dig the AGE system. The system is housed in that cement mixer looking thing to the right of Titus there. It analyses combat data from the Gundam and builds a new component for the mobile suit that will help it adapt to defeat an enemy. It’s essentially a high speed rapid prototyping 3D printer. With the current advances in 3D printing, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see DARPA develop some kind of 3D weapon printer in the future.
Speaking of mobile suits, the Vagan enemy suits in AGE are lethal. For the first few episodes, they tear through the Federation suits like they’re made of paper. Conventional weapons don’t seem to do anything. They have two forms, a mobile armor form which is three times as fast as any Feddie suit and a mobile suit form which is armed to the teeth. As these shows go, the Gundam can usually run through a bunch of enemy suits without breaking a sweat. But with AGE, every fight with a Vagan mobile suit is earned. Flit gets his ass handed to him constantly. It’s a welcome change to the franchise and one that I hope sticks around. The stakes are raised when each fight really counts.
Two More Generations to Go
I’m really excited that I have two more Asuno’s to meet, Asemu and Kia, which also means that AGE-2 and AGE-3 are on their way.
So if you’ve been away from Gundam for a while like me, or if you’re interested in getting started with giant robots punching, I think AGE is a great jump on series for new and old fans alike. I believe it’s still streaming on GundamInfo’s YouTube page in Chinese, English and Korean. There are 49 episodes so be sure to get some popcorn ready.