It feels like just yesterday that I was ripping on Gundam AGE for being a boring kid’s show. There was so much wrong with the Gundam/Pokemon hybrid that I could only help shake my head in disbelief at how dreadfully mediocre the whole thing was. Now one could argue that the show made no strong indications that it was anything but a piece of children’s programming, so I have as much right to complain about AGE as I have to SD Gundam Force. I would agree with this argument if AGE weren’t so blatantly trying to be taken as a child-friendly but nonetheless serious Gundam series. The only strand of hope I held onto was the premise of the show: a war across three generations spanning 100 years.
As the title of the article indicates, Gundam AGE does get significantly better with the second generation. The series is still very much a kid’s show, but it has become worth watching week after week. So, what caused this change? I would argue it’s a combination of a simpler narrative, the fruition of the multigenerational concept, and better fight scenes.
The first arc of Gundam AGE follows a rather complex series of events filled with politics, conspiracies and a gamut of side characters that no one cares about. The core questions of the series are “who are the Veigans and why are they attacking humanity?” The second act of the series tells a far more straightforward tale of best friends turned enemies by war. While the concept of unveiling a conspiracy might seem far more interesting than a shounen action type conflict, the second generation works significantly better for the level of scriptwriting and the visual design choices the show has. It’s really hard to make people care about a rather tepid mystery whereas a simple rivalry story is far easier to pull off.
Though the core focus of the series has radically shifted, the background conspiracies and politics have not all gone away. However, it’s the recurring cast members of the first generation are the ones embroiled in this conflict. This is one of the interesting things the multigenerational storyline can pull off. It can create layers of drama that work in tandem with one another and gives time to evolve the characters. For instance the first main character Flit has gone from the moral stance of “killing humans is bad” to “let’s commit genocide” as he has spent decades in an interplanetary war.
Fight scenes are the main draw of any Gundam television series. The mecha designs, the dramatic crescendos and the world building are what has made some incarnations timeless, but the initial reason to sit through the show is because there are so few other sources of “high budget” giant robot carnage. In my eyes, the nail in the coffin for the first incarnation of AGE is that the fight scenes are incredibly boring. They are just static images of robots shooting giant laser beams at each other. This problem has been more than rectified in the second arc. Though art consistency has been shot in the knees to fund the change, the action choreography is on a level that is exciting to watch.
How history will ultimately judge AGE in the massive franchise that is Gundam will be determined by the conclusions offered in the third generation, but for now, the show has gone from waste of time to genuinely entertaining. Give it a second look if you like giant robot brawls that is still set for younger audiences but can finally be enjoyed by anyone.