Heaven and Hell: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE 31

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[Mobile Suit Gundam AGE 30]

There is an irony, a paradox, an inauthenticity… depending on who you ask, about the theme and execution of Gundam as an animated narrative. On the one hand, there is this theme of “War is Hell” that is important in every show, albeit in varying degrees. I maintain that it is still the original Mobile Suit Gundam from 1979 that did this best (albeit in the film versions) but I’ll have to prove that some other time because it does deserve its own essay. My point here is, that even the best of portrayals still manifest this dissonance:

War is hell, but fighting (in the Gundam) is just about as close to heaven as it gets.

A good pilot, with super powers, in a clearly superior machine, with so much possibility in front of him. How can he not experience joy? How can we avoid being entertained? The animated violence is the primary spectacle that draws us to watch. Duels and set-pieces are the highlights of the experience, set up/framed, and made meaningful by the other narrative elements.

Mobile Suit Gundam AGE is no different, as it gives us the renewed thrill, and for the third time, of the lead pilot discovering his own powers and abilities for the first time, while piloting the Gundam.

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This is wonderful to me. I love it when the young leads discover the distinct thrill of handling their robot. One of the things that put me off in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is how Kira was immediately, always, and ultimately more than the Gundams. Athrun was never about the Gundam and Shinn… his destiny was never going to be a legendary Gunda pilot. Amuro… he piloted two Gundams, and his signature moments were in its cockpit: the last shot he took during A Baoa Qu, and of course meeting Axis in its atmospheric approach (though one can argue that his whole battle, from fighting the Alpha Azieru to Char’s Sazabi was his signature moment in that battle). Amuro was, and chose never to be more than, “just a pilot.” This ties him irrevocably to the Gundam and is why he remains its legendary pilot and the hero of the whole franchise.

Amuro’s, and many of the other characters – and Flit’s is no different heroics are tied to the Gundam. Their heroism, while may sometimes be read as self-sacrifice, is more self-actualization – that of being who they truly are, one with their Gundams, performing heroic feats of combat. This is the spectacle of the franchise, and war being hell, is also the grand stage for all this.

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But let’s dial it down a notch or three. In this episode, we’re treated to the child discovering his abilities in his magic machine. You remember that moment on your bicycle, when you sped down your first steep incline, faster than you’ve ever been on two wheels. That moment on your skateboard… that moment when in your car, when you first went full throttle and gunned that engine for all it could give you. It took some skill, it took remembering some things more experience people told you. And in that moment, you put it all together, and yes… you felt indestructible. There was nothing better than you at that moment, you really believed it.

And in a robot anime, this meant beating the tough opponent and laying waste its forces. Kio did his mid-air disengagement and combining with AGE parts. It gave him the AGE-3 Fortress, based on Gundam 00’s Seravee design. And thankfully, Kio didn’t pull a beam saber and instead beat his enemies with pink rivers of laser death. It’s the kind of awesomeness that turns hater assholes into fanboys. It put Wootbit Gunhale in his place. Kio you are the X-Rounder heir of Flit Asuno. Destroying Vagan mobile suits is your birthright.

So, is war truly hell? Sure, but perhaps hell comes and goes.

In other news, our new captain is still suffering. It’s all good.

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Captain N00bilicious should have more to do next episode, maybe.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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49 Responses to Heaven and Hell: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE 31

  1. schneider says:

    Next week’s preview is a little unsubtle with what Shanalua is going to do next. But it was the right amount of heartrending for Kio to apply her teachings in “winning”.

    My favorite part of the episode? AGE-3 Fortress cooking the dunes with that sweeping beam. Hot damn. Love the yellow vents on the Fortress’s shoulder armor.

  2. I’m surprised Domon didn’t appear, those Vegan desert MS had GOLDEN FINGERS

  3. megaroad1 says:

    I think the Gundam franchise in general is a pretty solid example of the truth in the phrase so long attributed to Truffaut that “there is no such thing as an anti-war film” or in this case series. As long as there are awesome shiny Gundams delivering the explosions and excitement, it’s hard to bring the point across.

    • An anti-war film might be possible, I’m thinking of a film that has scenes of places before the war, and the same places after the war, never showing the war. Then focus on the despair, the destruction, the suffering.

      • Reid says:

        This line of reasoning (and I agree with it, by the way) seems to be similar to that used by Frank Herbert when he took what could have been a truly amazing, action-packed storyline and turned it into nonstop amazing talking with “Dune” and all the sequels. It’s the anti-exciting sci-fi book. I still love ‘em though :)

    • zetatrain says:

      “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Grave of Fireflies” do the whole anti war thing without glamorizing violence, at least IMO. But yeah GL makes a good point, its odd how we’re able to take a show’s anti-war theme seriously while the show contains flashy mobile suit fights.

      • Maybe we saw how fucked up some of the pilots are.

      • Reid says:

        Or maybe if a mobile suit pilot/team wasn’t the focus of the story, though even “War in the Pocket” could not completely succeed using that strategy, since Zaku v. Gundam action + Kampfer attack + Hygoggs at the Antarctic base at the beginning kind of does away with the war-is-hell theme. I guess what would have to happen is a “Grave of the Fireflies”/”Barefoot Gen”-style story set in the Gundam universe without any real focus on the mobile suit battles. Most mobile suits, even the most aesthetically challenged ones, are simply too cool to convey anything other than wonderment and excitement when they take to battling.

        • Raidenwarrior says:

          Whatever we say here, let’s face this: Mobile Suit Gundam, under the direction of a toy company, is all about selling toys, and the “anti-war” stories are a mere diversion. This creates yet another bread-and-circus culture in Japan, living in the illusion of an anti-war anime while at the same time indulging ourselves in the flashy mechas, satisfying the bloody little demon in us. This is what we Gundam fans are. As Reid pointed out, so long as we have this toy-producing machine AGE Builder making flashy toys for us to play with, it is extremely difficult to see any real sign of anti-war message at all.

    • senshi says:

      I still say 0080 was a good anti-war Gundam.

    • I don’t doubt the sincerity of the narrative to not advocate war, but it must be said that it is secondary to portraying combat as a spectacle.

    • Luis Simões says:

      So Victory Gundam wasn’t about war being hell? If anything that show made that point too well, to the extreme that most viewers disliked it (thus proving Truffaut reason for why an anti-war film wouldn’t be appealing). After all, it had some of the best battle choreography to date (none of which was reused in the show) yet avoids that feeling of awesomeness much thanks to the sheer amount of destruction (note that most exciting “anti-war” shows manage to spare most, if not all their cast) and especially to the extremely dissonant (and ironic) soundtrack.

      The episode itself was also very good. The only thing that worries me is if the crew is going to reduce it’s appearances to a bunch of gags rather than become a relatable bunch of people (cough*ZZ*cough). On another note, isn’t this age much more standalone than the previous? I mean, I wouldn’t have any problem with this being a brand new show and not knowing things like Flit’s backstory and the Vaegans struggle, whereas the second Age nearly required it…

      • Best battle choreography? You’ve got to be kidding me. Victory has got some of the worst. You can’t talk about Victory without remembering the last run of the old timers in that capital ship which they rammed into the enemy.

        That ship was firing all forward facing weapons and was being fired at in turn for what must be a full minute of battle time. ALL CAPITAL SHIP WEAPONS, but NEITHER SHIP WAS SIGNIFICANTLY DAMAGED to explode or be affected to change the dramatic outcome the story was committed to show.

        This is the kind of bullshit battle choreography that pisses me off about anime in general. No, V Gundam is a terrible show for many reasons, and battle choreography is one of them.

  4. themaguskiller says:

    I was expecting Romi Paku, erm, I mean Shanalua to kiss Kio or something. You know, something hot and heavy in the cockpit of the AGE-3. Haha.

    On the other hand, Natola Einus is still MOE. I was expecting a tsundere, not a shrinking violet, though. Kinda like Misaka Mikoto from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, perhaps. And she’d be tsundere for Seric Abis, but, hey, too bad I’m not the writer of AGE. Otherwise Arisa Gunhale would have been Kio’s mom and Yurin L’Ciel would have been Asemu’s mom. Haha.

    4x SigMaxiss Cannons = Vagans’ arguments are invalid. Go back to Mars and be a family man. XD

    • Andaer says:

      Yeah, this was obviously suppossed to to be a kissing scene!

      What I like about the AGE-3 is, that it is all about combining (and separating). Kio hammering on the relevant button reminded me of the Final Fusion.

      Well, nown three kids are on board playing with haro – and one useless girl ruinng after them. They never let go of this tradition.

      • Yes, we were denied a Kissing Scene(remember Kids are watching and Shanalua double the AGE of Kio… but darn that is not excuse).

        The Fuc@#~ tradition of the 3 useless Kids is the blame of Tomino, as always mention, in the fisrt generation would have been forgiable but not now

    • That near kiss reminded me of Evangelion, most definitely. It would certainly be a strange shoutout, given the circumstances… I never saw the moment coming.

  5. sadakups says:

    Holy shit, man. For remembering love on a desert battle, I sure liked what they did here. As with the artile, Kio was having fun for sure.

    When Kio disengaged during that sandstorm triple team, and later shooting one of the low-rent Black Tri-Stars right in the fucking face – that was fucking godlike. And that upgrade, Tieria is crying for you, son.

    I just find it funny that the 3rd-gen Gunhale has a better first impression than either of his granddad or mother combined. I can’t hate him for hating Kio but I can already see BFFs in the making.

    I like how Shanalua is actually playing the mentor role to Kio. But that preview, damn, I hate to say it, but please, I don’t want her becoming an Emma later.

    • Why would Tieria cry?

      Would you prefer that she become Reccoa instead? I think she’s more Reccoa than Emma here.

      • sadakups says:

        Tieria would be like, “Damn, I used to do that shit back in the day” then shed some manly tears.

        You’re right. Shanalua is more Reccoa than Emma.

  6. ces06 says:

    Kio sure is a nice kid.

    So AGE-3 is a definitive 2-pilot unit? Oh, all the fun hax it’ll have in SRW games with both Kio and Flit.

    I love my desert fighting, however silly those Vagan mechs are. They paid attention to terrain too.

    The fed’s base in South America. Gotta love the throwbacks.

  7. The chapter was Amazing, againt the KIDS take away point but was good.

    The Whole KioxShanalua Scene, start as both student and teacher and them BANG.. That almost kiss(in a OVA would be a full kiss) and the whole ‘red brush’ of both… and being the final generation is easy to ship them… but them in the preview the ‘twist’ happen, simple both will face each other… Poor Kio,so young and already a girl stabbed him in the back( At least you’ve Usso as an Advisor about it)

    The poor MOE Captain Natora(or Kancho Einus,XD), she is the ‘yes woman’ to both the ‘co-captain’ of Flit and Seric, still waiting for the moment when she awoke her ‘Bright Interior’ and become a full-flegde capatain..at least better than Murrue.

    So long… a traitor come, and some will face each other.

    • Our Captian will have her moment. I’m definitely rooting for her. It’s interesting because her fight is more within the Federation and not necessarily against the Vagans.

    • sadakups says:

      She’s no Bridge Bunny – she’s the frickin’ captain. I expect things from her as well.

  8. Turambar says:

    It’s pretty interesting the differences in combat philosophies that Flit and Shanalua is instilling in Kio. Specifically, the fact that Flit didn’t actually teach Kio about defense and self preservation. It fits his agenda, but what’s gonna happen when Kio starts internalizing the idea that the enemy doesn’t deserve “death under any circumstance”.

    • Reid says:

      What, are you kidding? OF COURSE THOSE VAGAN ANIMALS DESERVE DEATH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE AND BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

      Flit age 14: I want to save everyone! I’ll defeat the Vagans because they killed my mom and wiped out two of my home colonies and killed that one chick who I connected with on a deep spiritual level!
      Capt. Grodek: You are a true bro, kid. A man cut from the same cloth as me, Big Boss.

      Flit age 46: The Vagans are not men. Men get justice. DOGS GET PUT DOWN.
      Asemu: WHY DIDN’T YOU LOVE MY MOM! WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?! Is it because I’m not an X-ROUNDER LIKE YOU, DAD?! ZEHEART IS…IS…He means a lot to me and…
      Flit age 46: SHUT UP YOU LITTLE BALLERINA. I don’t care if you’re an X-Rounder or not. I don’t love you because you lack conviction. There’s only room for ONE SNAKE AND ONE BIG BOSS.

      Flit age 60-something: Here you go, sport; it’s a video game…yeah, it’s gonna make you the ultimate friggin Gundam pilot ever. Why do you have to pilot the Gundam? Don’t be silly, little buddy; IT’S SO THAT WE CAN WIPE OUT THOSE VAGAN ANIMALS. THEY DON’T DESERVE TO LIVE!!!
      Kio – Yay!!! Ok Grandpa!!! I want cool glasses just like yours! And a whole gaggle of women who love me!
      Flit age 60-something: No problem, champ. Now let’s go melt some sand dunes!

    • BEING AN X-ROUNDER IS THE BEST DEFENSE.

  9. Shining_Bard says:

    Well I guess Shanalua is going to get offed. God I hope Kio’s ending doesn’t go all Zeta Gundam on us.

  10. Shining_Bard says:

    This is why I kind of like the Gunpla Builders universe more than some other alternate universes. The “War Is Hell” hipocrisy doesn’t exist in that dimension. It runs on the idea of awesome robots kicking each others’ asses, but there is no underlying metaphors or themes. It’s people having fun, but in a way that doesn’t condemn nor weaken the franchise.

    • Rusty says:

      But look, the gunpla are only exciting because there is a story behind them. All the blood, tears, tragedy, and yes, hypocrisy give them meaning (at least to some of us anyway). I think that’s why those model kits are centred around the anime. Otherwise, they’re just random pieces of plastic.

    • I dunno man, the Gundams suck in Builders, which is a big deal. Furthermore, without a real war context, it’s never as compelling. This is why Real Steel will never be as compelling as Rocky (or even Bloodsport LOL).

  11. Rusty says:

    Kio indeed acted exactly like what you say: happy and proud to master the legendary Gundam and beat the enemy. I don’t remember any other Gundam protagonist that cheerful to “meet the Gundam”. Flit, maybe, but I don’t think he was that expressive about his joy. Now the question is what is the most painful way to break the boy, if he is going to be broken at all. We will find out next episode, I guess.

    Talking about learning to combat with video games, Gundam AGE is getting a video game, which is slated to be released in summer. It’s kinda old news but I only know it now. We can destroy Vagan suits to our hearts’ content.

    • reidjou4342 says:

      It’s like Ghost said a long while back; Kio really does have the best piloting pedigree of any Gundam pilot in the whole Gundam multiverse. He’s a really resourceful, respectful, competent and nice kid to boot, which makes him a breath of fresh air after years and years of brooding anti-heroes.

      • Rusty says:

        Yeah, but then again looking at the past two generations, Flit turned from a cheerful optimistic young hero to a revenge-driven man. Asem was a trusting nice guy but the inferiority complex kicked in. Kio is sweet, but as certain corners of the Internet say, the purer something is, the more satisfactory it is to corrupt it. We will find out which way Kio heads soon enough.

    • If there’s an arcade simulator, it’d be perfect.

  12. reidjou4342 says:

    Here’s this episode in condensed format:
    Seric to Flit and the Captain: We’re heading down to Jaburo to rendezvous with the other Feddy forces for that big counterattack.
    Fit: Sounds good. Those Vagan dogs must pay for their sins.
    Captain: But what if we…
    Flit and Seric: SHUT UP YOU USELESS WOMAN YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT YOU SUCK

    Wootbit to Kio: You little jerk. I hate you because your family gets all the limelight, because you get to drive a Gundam and I just wrench on them and because you’re fit and dress well and have all these women who want to jump your 7th grade bones!
    Kio: My grandpa is really cool! Mr. Roddy is cool too though! Maybe we should all get together and talk some time…I have lots of respect for my elders and I admire your technical proficiency!
    Wootbit: GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE YOU SIMPERING CREEP.

    Shanalua: Kio, c’mere. I’m going to try to seduce you in the cockpit of the AGE-3 while I’m teaching you how to be a better pilot. Let’s make out to cheer you up after that fat kid hurt your feelings.
    Kio: I’m not that upset, really. It’s ok, ma’am.
    Shanalua: (Crap, I wanted to molest this kid…maybe later) Oh ok! Good! I’m glad you’re alright.

    IN THE DESERT

    Phantom 3: We have these cool amphibious/desert use transformable MS. We’re the friggin Street Sharks.

    ON THE DIVA

    Flit: TEKI HAKKEN!!!! Send out the mobile suits with desert equipment!

    BATTLE IS GOING ON

    Kio, trapped in the sandstorm Delta Attack: OPEN GET GRANDPA!!!
    Flit: YEAH! DO IT!
    EXPLOOOOOOSIONS
    Flit: No change get to AGE-3 Fortress
    Kio: YEAH!!!!!! FINAAAAAAAL FUUUUUUSION!!!!!!! HELL AND HEAVEN!!!!!!!!!!

    EVERYTHING EXPLODES

    the end

  13. Pingback: Sympathy For The Traitor: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE 32 | We Remember Love

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