We’re 13 episodes into Mobile Suit Gundam AGE (though I have not yet had the time to watch the latest episode, so take that into account when you comment!), and I think by now everyone watching it has to have accepted that it’s a kids show, right? Right? Good! Because I’d sure hate for you to be one of those folks watching AGE with his or her eyes narrowed, angry that it’s not a Big Adult Grimdark Gundam. AGE is full of Gundam lariats, shotas piloting mecha, an officer constantly eating candy bars, warring factions cheering like sports teams, and, oh yeah, a machine that can make whatever weapon is needed for Flit to kick some ass. I am fine with this.
So Gundam AGE is a full-on kids show, but that’s not a bad thing at all, of course. I’d say it’s not just “good for a kids show”; rather, it’s a solid kids show. It has the basic framework that nearly all Gundam series share, but simplified for the younger set — Flit can be a big, brave hero and fight giant alien monsters (who may be human, who knows!) in this world because kids are totally down for that. Where AGE has earned my respect, though, is in its awareness that “simplification” does not necessarily mean “dumbing down.”
There’s a war going on, and while conflicts and solutions can be simple, the stakes are at least high enough that everyone knows some Bad Stuff is going down. AGE doesn’t hide the bad part of its conflict from its young viewers: People sacrifice their lives in relatively gruesome ways, groups of people get caught up in petty battles, and even those in charge of humanity are not totally trustworthy. There are plenty of cartoony aspects of AGE that are fun in their own ways, but I like that when it comes to the main conflict, it doesn’t feel as if Sunrise is talking down to its audience.
One other aspect of AGE I like a lot is that there’s a real feeling of unity in the battle against the UE. It’s not all Flit flying out in his Gundam and spamming superweapons and picking up little girls and whatnot. When Flit picks up a new weapon from the AGE system, it’s of course basically a sure thing that he is going to be victorious afterward, because that is The Rule in a kids show. Nonetheless, he is still an inexperienced pilot — and, um, a 14-year-old kid — so he has his fair share of trouble in battle. He doesn’t have the hardened instincts of a veteran pilot, so he needs all the help he can get, and he receives plenty of it out in space.
I think we can all agree that Woolf Enneacle is the coolest of the cool. Even his Gundam name is less lame than all the others. He starts off as an antagonistic “lol Flit you suck totally taking your Gundam because only I am awesome enough to pilot that hotness” character, but quickly warms up to Flit once he fights with him and becomes a valuable ally and a constant source of coolness. Every kids show worth its salt needs that one awesome adult character all the kids want to be when they grow up. Capt. Grodek is also notable as a character who is a capable leader and who also provides the shades of gray that allow Gundam AGE to be real with its audience. Grodek has skeletons in his closet that give him strong reasons for going after the UE as hard as he does, and he doesn’t always execute plans in a goody-two-shoes manner. He’s someone you can follow, but you wonder if he’ll ever put his goals ahead of your life, and that makes him interesting.
But we cannot forget the regular folks, either. I quite like this post on Ogiue Maniax about a couple of the more prominent “average” characters in AGE. These are not characters who will power the big victories against the UE, but the cogs in the machine who keep things rolling in their own ways. You have Largen, who gets his own big moment by getting his ass beat down by a superior opponent but keeps ’em busy long enough for the day to get saved. He knows he is going to get owned, but he also owns his role, and that’s what makes him cool. And you’ve got Adams, who is very much a by the book sort of person and disapproves of Grodek’s methods. He’s there to keep the folks on the Diva honest. He comes off as the kind of dude who wants to do things right and doesn’t act the way he does as a holier-than-thou kind of thing. I can respect that.
And here’s perhaps the most divisive character of the show, Emily, except I don’t really understand why she’s so divisive. I suppose it’s because she is a kid who does kid things. How dare she be worried about a friend who could die in combat at any moment. Shut your mouth and get into the kitchen, Emily! Whatever. She’s an all right character — she’s there for moral support, and the scene where she stands up to Grodek and questions him is one of the better scenes in AGE so far. Kids gotta stand up if they see something wrong, right? That alone makes Emily a worthwhile character.
There’s plenty to be excited about as AGE hits the climax of its first part. I’m really interested to see how the Gundam succession is handled, and if this sense of unity among a crew is something that will remain a constant throughout the series.