REVIEW: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE – Episodes 1-5 (2011)

A TV series in the Gundam franchise by Sunrise and Bandai

NOTE: I am planning a number of these Gundam reviews, and don’t want my blog to have 500 reviews that are largely similar, so I am splitting them in groups of 5 or so. Maybe when The Witch from Mercury is released I will do that one episode by episode, but that’s perhaps months out.

I will admit, some ten years later on, that I never gave this show a chance. I absolutely LOVED Gundam 00, so when a new show was announced I was somewhat saddened to learn Sunrise was targeting small children with it’s newest show. With my general dislike of most “fansubs”, and no US release in sight (at that time), I think I watched about 4 episodes and never went back. There were a number of reasons I dropped it – I started a new job in 2011, I had to move, I had family stuff, and a sinking suspicion that I wasn’t going to like the show stuck in the back of my head. I’m not a big “GUNDAM MUST BE SERIOUS 24/7” guy, but this looked initially like it would be akin to a Digimon show or something, a snap judgement I regret now. I’ve discovered the episodes on YouTube dubbed (I didn’t realize it got dubbed!), and am now giving this show a second shot.

“In A.G. 101 (the 101st year of the Advanced Generation calendar) a mysterious entity known at the time only as “UE”, or “Unknown Enemy”, attacks and destroys the space colony Angel. This brutal attack becomes infamous as “The Day the Angel Fell”, and marks the beginning of the “One Hundred Years War”. The series begins in A.G. 108 when the UE attack the space colony Ovan, where Flit Asuno lives with his mother after they escaped colony Angel before its destruction. Flit’s mother is mortally wounded by the UE, but before dying she gives her son the “AGE Device”, containing the blueprints for a powerful weapon from the past—the ancient messiah named “Gundam.””

Gundam AGE has it’s fair share of good and bad in the initial few episodes. I honestly feel that Level 5 played everything “too safe” by borrowing comfortable Gundam tropes from the past, especially in these initial episodes. Character archetypes, mobile suit designs, and the initial plot is vaguely similar to the original 1979 series. Granted, we don’t exactly know who the villains are at this point, simply called “UE” or “Unidentified Enemy”, and it has a weird mishmash of being very “kiddy” and insanely gruesome at times. This show has quite possibly the slowest introductory episodes of perhaps any Gundam show, and that’s including some of the Tomino ones like Victory Gundam that were forced to move episodes around since the titular giant robot shows up like five episodes in.

I do like the overall concept of this show, that we will see a conflict that pans over one hundred years through the eyes of multiple generations of a family. I know the creator wanted to make more than what we have here, so I hope it’s not rushed and choppy like After War Gundam X was, a show that was cancelled early.

Episodes:

  • Episode 1 – The Savior Gundam – AG 115: Orphaned by the Unknown Enemy assault on his home colony Orvan, Flit is raised on the Federation military’s Arinston Base on Nora. Believing that the day will come when humanity can turn the tide against the UE, he uses plans found in the AGE Device left to him by his mother to develop mankind’s savior–the mobile suit “Gundam”. Then, Nora is attacked by a new type of UE mobile suit. Flit pilots the Gundam he built to defend the people of Nora!
  • Episode 2 – The Power of AGE – The U.E. attack on Nora has left the colony in imminent collapse. The Federation commander of the colony, Hendrick Bruzar, comes up with a plan to use the new battleship, Diva, to save the colony core, thereby enabling the colony inhabitants to escape the destruction. However, the captain of the Diva has other plans. Meanwhile, Flit tries to escape the colony while piloting the Gundam, but comes upon a stranded girl named Yurin L’Ciel, who seems to have mysterious powers of her own.
  • Episode 3 – The Twisted Colony – As the Diva struggles to remove Nora’s colony core from the collapsing outer shell, Flit is engaged by a black U.E. mobile suit. After a fierce fight, the black suit unexpectedly retreats, allowing the Diva to complete the evacuation, albeit at the cost of Base Commander Bruzar’s life, who sacrifices himself to enable the colony core’s escape.
  • Episode 4 – The White Wolf – Inside the Diva, ace pilot Woolf Enneacle awakens from his cold sleep. Woolf, wanting the Gundam AGE-1, challenges Flit to a paintgun duel to see who will keep the Gundam. Their fight is interrupted by the arrival of the UE, as well as their mothership. After the brief battle, Grodek comes to realizes what the UE truly is.
  • Episode 5 – The Demon Boy – Diva docks at the space colony Fardain. The Federation planned on arresting Grodek and having him court-martialed but he manages to blackmail the officer in charge. While on Fardain, Flit meets a young boy who steals the Gundam and attacks several UE mobile suit type forces with it, defeating them with ease. The boy then returns the Gundam back to Flit and leaves. In another section of Fardain, the boy is met by several hooded men who explain that he is part of the group of people “chosen by Eden”.

Not a whole ton goes on here other than establishing the main character, Flit Asuno, as somewhat of a hardass child that has aged to nigh adulthood despite his age. Having his entire life upturned not once, but twice, at the hands of the “UE” means that he has a very one-track mind when it comes to what is important to him – vengeance. We see him interrupt his teacher with a proclamation that Colony Nora was next on the list to be attacked, following a pattern he has picked up on. He gets scolded and told to stop causing trouble, showing that he likely does this a lot. Flit was raised by a man named Hendrick Bruzar, that despite showing the contrary, claimed he only took flit in as a way to build mobile suits. Once Nora is attacked, his goals of fighting back against the “UE” are now within his grasp.

Since I watched this in English, I noticed some of voice acting was somewhat rough, but it gets better. Namely, I found the characters of Dique (pronounced D.K.) and Emily somewhat irritating, but they grew on me as the show progressed. Everything else is fine, and the fact that there is a dub makes me wonder if this was planned to be on Western TV at some point. This one may have honestly been done in Australia for the “Asian Market” (Singapore, Malaysia etc.), so there is that, and that would explain the rough quality at times.

The Japanese version is pretty much the same sort of voices, so I really see no reason to watch it subtitled unless you are a hardline sub fan. I’m always of the opinion that since I don’t know Japanese, I can’t judge voice acting from Japan. To me a lot of anime voice tracks over there sound like a lot of it is yelling and over-emoting, and have heard that it’s seen as “hit or miss” over there as well.

Overall, This isn’t the greatest start to a Gundam show, but there is potential. As we get to episodes four and five, the plot starts moving a bit and some background characters start getting a bit more fleshed out. The true test will be the next review, as I assume the plot will escalate quite quickly. There are pros and cons to the show so far – the mobile suit designs are cool, but a bit “too safe”, and the artwork is beautiful, albeit stylized in a Level 5 (Professor Layton, Yokai Watch) way that may turn some fans off. So far the “UE” are cool, but I hope we eventually figure out their motives at some point, as having an unknown enemy only goes so far.

I plan to keep watching this, so stay tuned for more installments as the months go on. I have also been watching some other shows and will be updating periodically.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s