I began with a fairly positive impression of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. It had a lot of promise, with the premise of a three generation arc over the course of a hundred years. Not only that, but writing duties were passed off to the folks at Level 5, who are known for making some pretty nifty games. With that combination alone, you'd at least expect a decent, if not fantastic show.
To say that they missed the mark would be a dire understatement. Over the course of the second half of the show, we've seen Gundam AGE go from entertaining, to bad, to worse, to down right awful. It's a lot like watching a baby gazelle grow up, get shot in the leg, stumble through crocodile-infested waters and fall onto a land mine.
Hit the jump to get a recap of the finale and see me rip into this mess of a show.
Before I get started, let's recap what happened in the final episode. Ezelcant, safe in his room on Second Moon and damn near close to death, feels Zeheart pass on the battlefield. With few options left, the Vagans decide to unleash Zera Gins, a cloned soldier with no heart or remorse, in Vagan Gear. The big and ugly super weapon heads out and the three Asuno's head out to face it, but not before Ezelcant attempts to appeal to Kio via X-Rounder thought space. While difficult to battle on a single suit basis, the combined force of the Gundams are able to keep Gins from going too crazy. Things get complicated when a fully repaired SID arrives and combines with Vagan Gear, sending it out of control and into the Vagan space fortress. This causes insane amounts of damage that puts the space fortress and Second Moon in imminent peril.
While the three Gundams try to figure out what's wrong with Gins, Flit disengages and grabs a Plasma Diver missile. With an opening like this, the vengeful old crank can't help but try to take advantage and take out his enemy. Kio jumps in front of the missile and starts with his usual anti-fighting routine, ending with a X-Rounder blast directed to his grandpappy. Flit has a vision of Yurin, who tells him to let go of his hate and, more importantly, to forgive himself for the deaths of his friends. Flit finally lets go of his grudge and the three Asuno's come up with a way to save Second Moon.
After an impassioned speech and the firing the Plasma Diver up into space, the Vagan and Federation decide to cooperate with Flit's plan. Unfortunately, Vagan Gear SID interrupts the party. However, with the combined help of Federation and Vagan forces and the extremely powerful AGE-FX, the monstrosity blows up and Second Moon is saved. There's an extremely quick epilogue that mentions that through the EXA DB, a solution to the cosmic ray problem is found and everybody lives happily ever after. On the 100th anniversary of The Day Angel Fell and 37 years after the last battle, you see an older Asemu and Kio looking up at a statue of Flit and they mention how well Earth is doing. THE END.
Wow. Where to begin? Well, I'll take it from the first arc, which covered the youth of Flit. AGE began strong, setting up this kid genius Flit with internal anger that only grew from episode to episode. As more of his friends died and the more the Vagans destroyed, you can see that Sunrise was trying to build the little guy into your typical ball of hate. I think this was done well. I mean, you can understand why somebody who saw his mother, a male role model, a strong willed old man and his girlfriend killed would grow to be angry and bitter. Even worse, the man who saved the Federation took a nasty fall and was imprisoned for years. Flit was betrayed by the people he was defending and found out that the evil that ruined his life was no different from him. At this point, AGE was doing well and had a great set up for the next arc.
The beginning of the second arc was also alright. We saw that Asemu, the son of a legendary pilot and military man, was trying to get out of the shadow of his father. There could've been a great show in that. However, this is where AGE begins to careen off the rails. Instead of being earnest and willing to do what he needs to do, Asemu comes off as exceptionally whiny, and that's saying a lot considering the history of Gundam. Besides trying to deal with his father's legacy, Asemu has to deal with the inadequacy he feels with his friend/enemy Zeheart. I'll go into Zeheart more in a bit, but it's sufficient to say that their relationship could've pushed the show into even better territory. Instead, we get these two involved in a glorified prick-waving contest, only the pricks are giant robots. This arc ends Asemu hero-worshiping this dead senpai and Flit, who remains as vital a character as we was in the first arc, cleansing the Federation of Vagan agents.
By this point, AGE had already dived off the rails and was careening into the forest. In fact, I can directly point to episode 24 being the point where the show decides to go off in a completely illogical direction. The shark leaps the moment that Romary prevents Asemu from arresting Zeheart. Asemu had a pistol trained on the white-hair pretty boy Char knockoff and could have dealt a heavy blow to the Vagan movement. Instead, she helps the enemy out by preventing Asemu from taking him in. The sheer stupidity of that moment was where I finally understood that Level 5 had no idea what they were doing with this story and was attempting to rely on Gundam cliches to fill it out. Granted, plenty of other Gundam shows have used this same tactic, but they usually did it with some amount of cleverness.
As for the last arc, it could be some of the worst stuff that Gundam has ever brought to the table. For transparency's sake, I've never seen Gundam Double Zeta or Gundam SEED Destiny, two shows that are widely reviled in the fandom. I have read up on them and I can understand why people really don't like them. I'm going to stick my neck out and say that this arc brings equally bad material to the table as those "classics" did. For one, it decides to forget about entire chunks of the cast. Yeah, we see Arisa's useless son Wootbit, but we don't see her or Millais or just about anybody else from the old Diva. Obright and Algreus are the only non-Asuno old hats that come back. It's a tremendous waste and pissed me off after seeing so many of these characters grow from part one to two.
It also suffered from an incredibly rushed ending that felt like a cop out. An incredibly hasty final villain that was briefly shown an episode or two before in a machine that was never mentioned. The idea of an Ezelcant clone being bred with no emotions for pure combat could have been interested if it was built up correctly, but the way it was done was sloppy and worthy of ridicule. Then there's the EXA DB, a maguffin that's introduced way too late for it to make any sense. It feels like the main writer had no idea how to explain the Vagan's rise to power and wrote some BS to cover his ass. Oh, and it also solves the problems with the cosmic rays despite being a weapon database. How convenient.
With the story taken care of, let's dive into a couple of the characters. I could go on for quite a while about each of the main characters, but I'll start with the main Asuno trio. Flit by and far was the main character of this show. Don't be fooled by promise of the multi-generational story. The only one of the Asunos that has an arc is Flit. You see him grow from bright child to disillusioned adult to genocidal old crank who finally realizes that his hate is based partially on his inability to forgive himself. He's the only one who changes in the end. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that he's on screen the longest of the three. It's a consequence of the three generation structure of the show: the guy who was around the longest got way more time to have a fleshed out story. If AGE were better paced or had better writing, things might have been different. Unfortunately, it isn't.
As mentioned earlier, Asemu's story could've been great. Being the son of a famous pilot and not inheriting a vital aspect of his genetics could've been a helluva underdog story. Instead, he complains and bitches and moans. It takes the death of Woolf for him to get his head out of his ass and worry about being a pilot. When Asemu goes from SUPER PILOT to SUPER PIRATE in the time between the second and third arcs, you see that he's the same petulant kid, only on a bigger scale. For some strange reason, even after helping Flit clear out the Federation of Vagan spies, he feels the need to keep both sides balanced by attacking both Federation and Vagan ships. It's completely illogical, especially because Asemu should know the fanatical levels the Vagan devolve to. He's ultimately useless as a pirate, just as he was useless as Flit's son and Woolf's number two.
Then there's Kio. I could go on and on and on about the little punk ass, but I'll keep it short and say he's by far the worst pilot I've seen in a Gundam show. With the power he had with the Gundam AGE-FX and his tremendous X-Rounder abilities, he could've put a quick end to any conflict he was involved in. Instead, he takes more time to remove the heads of the Vagan mobile suits so as to not kill the pilots. While he's wasting his time doing this, more and more of his comrades are dying and not getting the same kind of consideration. So, more of the enemy lives while more of his people die. It makes absolutely NO sense. Hell, if Kio actually did what he was supposed to do, nobody else in his team would've had to die. Seric wouldn't have had to deal with that idiotic super weapon and wouldn't have gotten caught on the Vagan ship. Obright wouldn't have had to take out two named villains and die in the process and Jonathan wouldn't have been merced by Fram. The damn kid even sold out the secrets of the Gundam for a case of Tic-Tacs that barely helped the sick little girl that was going to die anyway. He did more to help the Vagan than the Federation and he should've gotten a court-martial for it.
One of the few overall positives of AGE was the interesting and mostly competent secondary characters. I really liked Woolf as the requisite senpai who gave a boost to the lead characters when they needed it. Millais and Grodeck were interesting in their runs as the captain of the Diva. I'll definitely give Grodeck a lot of credit as a great character who was willing to take the fall for his men in the name of revenge and protecting the Federation. His death hurt and was done in the right way to push Flit's hate even further. Seric was also an intelligent pilot that helped out Einus and showed great bravey in death, as did Obright. I'll also give credit to Level 5 for making me care so much about the Diva. I felt more when the Diva was destroyed than when most other characters bit it.
Unfortunately, there isn't much to be said about the Vagan. For the most part, they are two dimensional villains who are fanatical devotees to a mad man. There isn't a single Vagan who questions their genocidal leader and that makes them beyond saving in my opinion. Most shows would attempt to make a few sympathetic villains in order to make you feel that there are two sides to the war and, really, no one side is completely right. In AGE, any attempt to humanize the Vagan falls flat when you see them react to Ezelcant's speech on Second Moon. That doesn't mean they should all burn (as believed by Flit), but they should be defeated as quick as possible to prevent casualties, not saved so they can come back and kill again. The sign of this was Yark Dole in the first arc. You can understand why the people on Mars would want revenge for what happened to them, but after years of terrorist attacks I would find diplomacy hard, if not impossible.
There's a lot to say about the psychosis of Ezelcant, who is willing to use some rather aggressive eugenics to create his version of the "perfect" mankind. He tells his people that he wants to take them back to Earth and away from the Mars sphere and its deadly cosmic rays. Usually, people like this meet a rough end via hand gun or laser blast. Instead, he's rewarded with a peaceful death on Second Moon with his wife by his side. There's no sense of satisfaction at seeing his plan fail and his final "redeeming" line with his wife rings false and hollow. A sad and pathetic leader, he was.
What could be the biggest tragedy of the show is Zeheart. Right from the jump, you can tell he's going to be the Char clone of AGE. He's pretty, he's an ace pilot, he has extraordinary special abilities and he has a penchant for red. Unlike that legendary bad ass, Zeheart lacks the conviction and leadership skills that the show wants to foist on him. Yeah, he's better than Asemu during the second arc, but that has more to do with Asemu's deficiencies and less with overall skill. When we see that Flit and eventually Kio are able to easily surpass him, you understand that he's the loser villain of the show. It would be like looking under the mask of Char Aznable and finding that it's Jerid Messa. The only reason that Ezelcant would give Zeheart command of the Vagan fleet is because the plot demanded it. He's an idiot that fell hook, line and sinker for the ramblings of a powerful madman and lost any sort of hope for redemption by the time he died in his knock-off Gundam. Good riddance.
In summary, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE is an absolute mess of a show that squanders the good will that it builds during its first third. It has some interesting ideas, but the writers over at Level 5 were incapable of making it into something decent. It's badly paced, awfully presented and lacks any sort of ability to make me sympathize with its characters by the time the last episode is completed. If this were part of any other franchise, I'd be concerned for its future. The only good things I can say about AGE are that the first third of the show was solid, the secondary Federation characters were mostly interesting and the suit design was pretty good overall. Besides that, it's a complete waste of time that I'd recommend to nobody, not even the most hardcore of Gundam completionists. Avoid at all costs.
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