Mobile Suit Gundam AGE – Episode 001 Review
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
Episode 001「救世主ガンダム」”Saviour Gundam”
The Internet voices (both East and West) have had a very mixed response towards Mobile Suit Gundam AGE’s promotional material and prerelease information thus far. Not unlike the reaction to Mobile Suit Gundam 00′s announcement way back in 2007, people have worried that the unconventional mechanical designs and different overall feel of the material will tarnish the Gundam franchise forever. Having been a long-time fan of the Gundam media franchise, I have been thoroughly excited about this new series, always wanting to see what will come next from the franchise. And, like always, I’ve been trying to keep opinions (positive and negative) at bay until seeing the anime myself. Well, after months of waiting October 9, 2011, has finally come and gone, and with it aired the first episode of Gundam AGE.
About RLZIII’s Reviews
I am not going to give a rating to every episode, so don’t expect that; I am going to give a few sentences as a conclusion if you want a quick read. I think that actually reading the review should say a bit more about how I actually feel about the episode then giving it a number of stars or rating it on a numbered scale. It should be noted that I’ll try to keep my opinions out of the synopsis; so if you don’t feel like reading through what you just watched, you can safely skip that section and not miss my opinions about the episode.
These reviews are obviously just my opinion; there are times that you may disagree with me, and that’s perfectly fine. I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks about it also. Stop by the MSGnet forum and discuss Mobile Suit Gundam AGE and the rest of the Gundam franchise to your heart’s content.
As a note not every character has official Romaji/English spellings as of yet (and it seems that even those that do aren’t consistent, as MBS/Sunrise/Bandai seem to still use Flit and Fritto interchangeably at times). I did my best here to use the closest to the official names that have been released.
I rather like the opening theme song thus far. I think it has a certain light heartedness to it without being any sort of silly. I’m not a huge follower of Japanese music, so I’m going to leave my opinion at that. I’m not going to go in depth about the animation sequences within the opening, as in my experience they can be quite deceiving to what happens in the actual story.
Our story starts out with a scene from the year A.G. 108 (Advanced Generation). A young boy named Flit Asuno is inside of a colony that’s in the midst of destruction. He witnesses his mother’s last moments of life as she is injured and trapped while surrounded by flames. She gives Flit the AGE Device and tells him that it’s very important. We see the colony is being attacked by the Unknown Enemy (also known as UE).
Flit wakes up and says that he had the dream about his mother dying again. We are also introduced to Haro, Flit’s mechanical ball friend. On television, Flit sees a news report about a cargo crew supposedly being attacked by the UE. The news reporter states that since the UE’s attack 14 years ago (A.G. 101) very little has been uncovered about them.
We are then introduced to Emily Armond, Flit’s good friend. They both are running late for school and head off. While going to school, Flit and Emily run into Commander Hendrik Bruiser and Miles Alloy. After salutations, they continue and run into Vargas Dyson, Emily’s grandfather, testing the Gundam AGE-1′s arm on a mobile worker. Flit expresses his disappointment that Vargas is testing the arm without his permission. However, being late for school, he must leave. Flit and Emily catch a bus to go to school.
While on the bus, Emily comments that Flit is very serious about the Gundam. We see a flashback of Flit as a kid and someone explaining to him that the Asuno family has a very rich history with mobile suit development. We also see a painting of a Gundam mobile suit that is called a savior.
At school Flit and Emily meet up with their friend Dique Gunhale in their class. He states that the Unknown Enemy must be aliens. The teacher comes in and Flit confronts him about the attack on the cargo crew and says that Nora is next place to be attacked by the UE. The teacher dismisses his statement saying that if the colony was in danger that an official statement would have been made. The teacher states that Flit is paranoid because he has been associated with the military while developing the Gundam.
Suddenly Nora is invaded by three UE Gafran units (one of them being a purple variant). Meanwhile, Flit and Emily are outside watching a starry sky display. Flit states that maybe Nora won’t be attacked next. He also adds that the UE have no mercy. Flit and Emily then see the UE attacking a city in the distance. Commander Bruiser and Grudech Aynor launch the Genoace mobile suits to counter the UE.
Flit and Emily run into Vargas while fleeing and see a Genoace ready to attack. The Genoace attempts to defend against a UE Gafran while Flit, Emily, and Vargas go inside a building. Inside is the Gundam AGE-1 on a trailer; Vargas said he moved it there for hiding. The UE Gafran outside defeats the Genoace with a beam saber. Largan Drace, a pilot in the Federation, meets up with Flit, Emily, and Vargas. Flit suggests that Largan pilot the Gundam AGE-1, however Vargas says that it’s too early in the testing stages. Largan decides to pilot a nearby Genoace instead. Flit insists that the Gundam AGE-1 should be launched, so runs to it himself stating that he knows it best as he created it. A large door opens for Largan to exit, but he is surprised by a UE Gafran from the outside and instantly defeated. The door closes again trapping the UE Gafran outside.
Flit exclaims that he must use the Gundam AGE-1. Vargas says that Flit could be killed, but Flit retorts by saying that if he doesn’t pilot the Gundam AGE-1 that everyone in the colony may be killed. Vargas gives Flit his blessing and gets into the trailer to lift up the Gundam. Flit boots up the Gundam AGE-1 with the AGE Device. We see a flashback of Emily being around Flit for a long time by his side, such as during his mother’s funeral and during a construction phase of the Gundam AGE-1. Commander Bruiser appears on the cockpit’s screen and makes Flit promise to survive. Flit starts to walk with the Gundam AGE-1, and sees all of the destruction that was done to the colony in such a short amount of time. The UE Gafran fires a few beams at the Gundam AGE-1 but it easily holds up against them. A second UE Gafran lands and Flit tries using a Genoace’s beam pistol from the ground against one of the UE Gafrans, though it is of no use. He then uses the beam dagger from the Gundam AGE-1 to easily defeat one of the UE units. The fallen UE unit dispels a yellow energy skywards. A purple UE Gafran appears and seems to scan the Gundam AGE-1 with a red light. The other Gafran then completely destroys the fallen UE Gafran with its beam cannon and is then instructed the purple Gafran to stop fighting. The two remaining units then fly away.
Just like the opening of this series, I like the ending as well. It’s soothing like the opening, which is an interesting contrast to what’s actually happening in the episode.
Initial Overall Impressions
Of course I have only seen the first episode; however, I’m intrigued so far. This first episode definitely has a very “Gundam feel” to it, while still not quite seeming like a straight rehash of what we’ve been seeing for the last several decades. This is always something hard to accomplish in a universe like Gundam; the staff has to keep the existing viewer base from years previous by making sure the series is still “Gundam,” while still enticing non-Gundam fans to give the series a shot by having something that other Gundam anime hasn’t offered in the past.
Several aspects of this episode pay homage to previous entries of the franchise (e.g. three Unknown Enemy units attack a colony, which instantly sparks the memory of three MS-06 Zaku mobile suits invading a colony of Side 7), which is to be expected. These little allusions always make long time viewers feel right at home; of course the trick is to not over do them. The flow of this episode is very smooth. Like with most inaugural episodes there’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of introductions. The start of any story, that initial impression, is always very important and I think Gundam AGE does a great job with it. The narrative is very easy to follow and (more importantly) it really grabbed me.
I like the overall setting and world that’s been revealed so far. We haven’t heard much about Earth and the role that it plays, but I assume that will be fleshed out later in the series. I like the mystery of the Unknown Enemy; it makes for a very eerie feel. I am definitely intrigued. I also am really interested to see how the story will span over three generations. This will be a major change for a Gundam narrative, and a very interesting one at that.
There’s been a lot of discussion about how Gundam AGE is geared towards a younger audience than some previous Gundam shows. Let me first say that ALL Gundam TV series are geared towards a young audience. The Gundam franchise exists to sell merchandise and kids by merchandise. I would say that Gundam AGE’s target audience might be a couple of years younger that normal in some ways, but also a couple of years older in other ways. There’s a balance for sure. A straight kid’s show normally doesn’t introduce itself with the main character watching their mother die. But I can see how some aspects of the series so far, such as certain character designs, could bring in a younger audience. But, again, the target audience for Gundam has always been young Japanese males, and that’s something that we as fans should all know by now. This has been talked about to death over the last few months, so I’m going to leave my entire thought about it in this paragraph alone for now; I may revisit this topic in a later review.
This episode does a great job with character introductions. Instead of trying to introduce too many characters in depth right off the bat, the direction really guides you well and lets you focus your attention on some of the main cast, such as Flit Asuno and Emily Armond, for now.
The character designs themselves don’t bother me, but they don’t do a ton for me either. I’ve never been someone who really cares what characters look like; I’m much more interested in how they act, talk, feel, react, socialize, et cetera. There’s definitely a range of different character designs present throughout this first episode, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. As a fan of the Dragon Ball franchise, strange and seemingly-out-of-place and off-the-wall character designs are the opposite of new for me.
I’m not going to go into too much depth about mechanical designs right off the bat as we’ve only seen a small amount animated with this first episode (excluding the opening sequence and line art). The big discussion going around has been about the Gundam AGE-1 (which is only natural). For some the Gundam AGE-1 too closely resembles its ancestor, the RX-78-2 Gundam. Personally, I don’t mind the design. While it’s not my favorite design, I don’t have any real qualms with it. The “spoiler” on the backpack is definitely nontraditional, but I’d assume that’s the point. As a designer, you want something that stands out and catches the eye. I think for the Gundam AGE-1 the two points that do that are the spoiler and the chest. The design has definitely grown on me over time. With the release of the High Grade 1/144 model kit I have come to appreciate the overall look and I also like how this mobile suit looks in animation. Even though the first episode didn’t show off the design to an extreme (I predict we’ll see some real action with it in the couple of episodes to come), it does break away from the line art to which we’ve become accustomed. I think that most people that have been on the fence with the design will come to enjoy it more as they see it animated. This same kind of deal happened with the GN-001 Gundam Exia’s line art versus its animation for many people, and they are both designed by the same person, Kanetake Ebikawa.
The Genoace’s design is definitely a nice fit into the series. I admire the GM-esque design. I am curious as to what the future customizations will look like. I will revisit this suit and talk about it and future variations more in depth in a future review.
The Unknown Enemy units sport a whole new look for Gundam, and they’re pretty damn awesome. We only really saw the Gafran type in the first episode, but the way that they are portrayed is pretty cool. They have a very eerie look and presence and they display quite the destructive force. I’m looking forward to seeing more action from the UE.
I am really digging the animation so far. Gundam AGE is the second Gundam series that has been produced in High Definition and it really shows. The animation is very clean, smooth, and crisp. The style is a bit of a contrast to Mobile Suit Gundam 00, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Everything comes together quite well to produce quite the beautiful anime…or at least the first episode.
Overall I really enjoyed this first episode. I’ve dedicated many, many hours to this franchise, and I’m always very eager to watch new installments as they are released. While this is only the very introduction to this new series, I am definitely on board. I already have questions that I want answered (What kind of a father will Flit be? What’s up with the UE? How will Earth play a role?) and that’s not a bad thing; part of the art of motion pictures is to create something that people continue to think about long after they walk away from the screen, and Gundam AGE is definitely doing that. Of course there are parts of this first episode that I’m “eh” about or that I don’t care for, but that’s with everything. So far I’m enjoying the difference in tone compared to Gundam series in the past. The mix of serious aspects with a more lighthearted visual is working for me so far (time will tell if it continues to). At the end of the day, I’m much more excited about this series than I thought I’d be, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode.
I couldn’t cover everything I wanted to in this singular review, so be sure to read future reviews as I’ll cover different aspects that I didn’t in this review (such as part that I don’t care for too much, similarities to past Gundam shows, predictions, et cetera).
Review by Team GG [RLZIII]