REVIEW: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE – Episodes 11-15 (2011)

A TV series in the Gundam franchise by Sunrise and Bandai

In the final stretch of the first arc, the crew of The Diva is placed in quite the predicament. Captain Grodek has discovered the location of the headquarters of The “Unknown Enemy”, but had to go AWOL in order to do something about it. It appears that The Earth Federation is hiding the identity of the mysterious foe for some reason, and Grodek is determined to not let that stand in his way. Now fighting Federation battleships, and UE mobile suits alike, it looks grim for The Diva, but they pull through of course. The reason, it appears that Flit may be a type of evolved human referred to as an X-Rounder that can access a part of his brain that normal people cannot. This allows him incredible reflexes, and seemingly an ability to predict the future to a degree. This is of course, Gundam AGE‘s answer to “Newtypes”.

“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.””

Episodes (From THIS site):

  • Episode 11 – The Reunion at Minsry – “The Diva arrives at the neutral space colony Minsry, where Captain Grodek attends a conference to devise a strategy to assault Ambat, the UE ‘s main base. Flit attends the meeting as well, where he meets Yurin once more. While attending the conference, Federation forces move in to arrest Captain Grodek with charges of mutiny. In order to free him, Flit disables the two Genoaces present and the rest of the crew rescue Grodek from the Federation soldiers.”
  • Episode 12 – The Rebels Set Sail – “As the Diva leaves Minsry in preparation for the attack on the UE stronghold, a Federation Fleet lays in wait at its path to capture captain Grodek. At that moment, the UE initiate a surprise attack on the fleet. Will Grodek take this opportunity to escape or will he rescue the fleet, risking capture?”
  • Episode 13 – Space Fortress Ambat – The crew of the Diva make their final preparations before their assault on Ambat. The Zalam-Euba Alliance and the Diva arrive at Ambat and lay down a heavy barrage of suppression fire at the fortress, when the thought occurs that they may have attacked an abandoned facility. Suddenly a UE mothership emerges from Ambat, accompanied by a large number of mobile suits. Grodek smiles in defiance and orders the Diva’s transformation into assault landing mode. With Flit’s aid and the help of the recently arrived Mukured Madorna, the Diva successfully destroys the UE mothership with its Photon Blaster Cannon and continues on to Ambat.
  • Episode 14 – Flash of Sorrow – “The battle to destroy space fortress Ambat rages on. Flit senses the presence of Desil on the battlefield and goes to confront him. During their fight, Yurin appears in a new model, which Desil controls remotely, allowing him to overwhelm Flit. Before the Gundam is stabbed in the cockpit by Desil, Yurin shields Flit with her mobile suit and is subsequently killed. Outraged, Flit proceeds to defeat Desil (but spares his life) and changes from his damaged Spallow form into the Titus form, helping the Diva get inside one of Ambat’s space docks.”
  • Episode 15 – Those Tears Fall in Space – “The crew of the Diva enters space fortress Ambat and begins hand to hand combat in order to gain access to the control room. Flit engages Yark Dole in his Defurse in battle. After Yark Dole’s mobile armor is disabled, he escapes on foot and Flit chases him. The crew of the Diva arrive at the control room at the same time as Yark Dole. Yark Dole, then, proceeds to reveal the true nature of the Unknown Enemy.”

Being a big fan of the large-scale space battles in shows like this, I quite enjoyed all five episodes here, seeing that episodes 12-15 were all basically a huge battle between The Diva/Earth Federation coalition and The Unknown Enemy. It’s probably because I adore Leiji Matsumoto space operas that have these sorts of battles designed to basically be naval battles in space, and Gundam is one of the many franchises that has these sorts of motifs. With this being a bit simplified for kids, I did feel that the end of the tensions between The Earth Federation and the Diva crew ended far too quickly.

Stoller Guavaran, the man placed in charge of recovering The Diva, goes from being hell-bent on capturing Grodek and bringing him to a military tribunal to being buddies pretty fast. If anything, that’s one of the chief issues I have with this show as a whole, but I understand I am not the target audiece for this, and small children don’t want to watch cartoon characters have political discussions.

We are finally introduced to the fighting ability of Desil, the primary antagonist of this portion of the show. Also being an X-Rounder, he is basically the Char to Flit’s Amuro, and wants to fight simply because he is gets his kicks from fighting, and especially likes the risks of possible death in battles. Despite being a small child, he is fairly terrifying in that he seems innocent in the way that he speaks, but has evil motives behind everything he does. He puts Flit in a bad situation by forcing somebody he loves to battle against him in a Mobile Suit, much in the same way Amuro was forced to battle Lalah in the original. As a Gundam fan will realize, this never ends well in any way – this show is no exception. This girl, named Yurin, is also an X-Rounder and is the catalyst for flit’s entire demeanor for the remainder of this show. It will be interesting to see how far this rivalry between Flit and Desil Goes.

I do wish the “Unknown Enemy”, actually called Vagans, were not so comically evil. I understand that they have a reason for hating The Earth, but their motivations are far too one-dimensional and lack the Nuance found in most Gundam shows. Rather than all sides being various shades of gray, we have a definite villain here unless later installments of the show can tone the “mustache twirling” down a bit. We end up finding out that they once were colonists on Mars that suffered a plague outbreak and were basically left to die 100 years prior to the show. Their entire culture seems to be based on returning to the Earth and killing all Earth people in a generational curse of vengeance. This could be interesting, but so far I’m skeptical.

Aside from the Newtype analogues mentioned above, we see a number of definite callbacks to the original Gundam show here. At one point the Diva “transforms” into a battle configuration that bears more than a small resemblance to White base, upon seeing this a member of the UE quips that “It’s quite the Trojan Horse” which was one of the many nicknames for the home base of the original Gundam Crew. The Battle between Desil and Flit is fairly similar to the battle between Amuro and Char with largely the same outcome. I enjoy the callbacks, but hope the show can stand on it’s own moving forward.

Finally, I mentioned in my second review that I was somewhat drifting away from liking this dubbed version I have been watching, but it’s a LOT better here. It seems the voice actors have either gotten better or the director stopped having everyone do silly voices. I guess it could also be that I’m used to it now – either way, it’s fine. I’ve heard better and worse dubs, I think most of the hate are from folks that hate dubs no matter how they are, good or bad. I’d rather have emotive silly voices ala a kids cartoon than bland voice acting, the sort that plagued early 2000s anime dubs. Next episode is a whole new group of characters, so we’ll see how it goes.

Overall, once this “season” really got rolling, I enjoyed it a lot. This isn’t my favorite Gundam show by any means, but I respect what it was trying to do and where season one took us. I have a couple of problems with the show, but they are the same minor problems one with a critical eye will see in just about any show. I’m excited to see what the next “Generation” is like and how some of these characters age. Twenty-five years is quite the time jump, and it will be tricky to not stall the show’s momentum, but perhaps new blood will reinvigorate it? Tune in soon for more reviews / recaps of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, where we are entering AGE 2.

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