So, Gundam AGE Got (A Lot) Better

Ore Wa Super Pilot Asemu Asuno!

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.

Cliched? Yes. But this is biting off exactly what you can chew.

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.

9 Responses to “So, Gundam AGE Got (A Lot) Better”

  1. Yesss! I love me some Gundam AGE and so far I am having a lot of fun watching everything, but the best part so far has got to be the generation stuffs with Flint and Asuno…all but a recent death of a coooool character T___T

    I do love the fight scenes between the Gundam and the other enemies and the second half is very good so far, but I can agree there have been a few battles where the animation gets terrible.

    Fun series for Gundam fans and maybe a few that are not to familiar with Gundam? I think this series could become a nice “starter” series for anyone wanting to get into it.

  2. Ironically, it seems AGE is actually (still) failing despite the superior 2nd cour carrying the weight rather well. In fact, from what I have read on MAL it seems that Gundam Unicorn’s sales are enough to circumvent the failure of this series. It is rather sad since I hope that they don’t pull a Gundam X on this regardless.

    Still, AGE has been on quite a roll lately and it cetainly could very well have the potential to be the best Alt-Century series since Turn-A. So, I am really hoping that things continue to go well with Kio Asuno’s arc probably not too far ahead.

  3. @foshizzel

    I agree that this is a good starter series for the Gundam franchise. It distills a lot of the ideas and concepts of the original lore into a simpler and more modern form.

    @Flash Sword Irene
    I suppose the hidden blessing here as the the show bombed early so even if the show is cut off around 39 episodes the creators have the time to repace the story and make everything fit.

  4. Gundam AGE has been excellent since the final third of AGE-1, I think. Even though that first arc has rough patches, the weight seeing all that adds to AGE-2 cannot be underestimated — I can only imagine how great AGE-3 will be after what’s to come here. (Going by the pace of AGE-1, we’ve got about six or seven episodes remaining.)

  5. “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.”

    Heil Flit Hitler? And it’s not really genocide because the Vagans deserves it for killing off the only cute character on the show.

  6. @Shinmaru

    The first gen did have its moments, but as you’ve mentioned, its primary value to me is setting up the second stage of events. Gen three should be interesting since it should have 3 perspectives running in tandem. I wonder how they’re going to pull that off.

    @ID

    Yes, poor Lalah. Can’t even catch a break in alternate universes.

  7. I’m personally of the opinion that people have been much too harsh on Gundam Age in general. Yeah it certainly seems like it has gotten better, but it was never actually bad. Perhaps a little more average that you might expect from Gundam, but plenty of multi cour series take a little while to get rolling.

    Too many people sunk this ship right from the moment magazine scans came out, which is quite the shame.

  8. @Reckoner

    I think that people were most distraught at the fact that this was the first AU series ever that was an unquestionably “kiddy” retelling of the Gundam lore. Sure, all Gundam shows are effectively glorified toy commercials, but the design choices at least gave it a biting edge.

  9. I really don’t think Gundam Age is bad. I liked it so far. I thought the first age was good. They have kids killing each other, how’s that anything like Pokemon? I’m glad I gave this show a chance and I enjoyed it. Give it a chance, all I’m saying.

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