We who have seen a lot of Gundam will never be surprised by what this show does in its first episode. We who have seen a lot of Gundam and love the franchise will not mind. Gundam AGE is wonderful stuff. It’s the Gundam show for the kids, for the kids who haven’t seen any of the Gundam series. With this I won’t have to force elementary school-age nephews to watch Gundam 00 or SEED, nor start them off on the wrong foot with G Gundam.
Yes, as awesome as Mobile Fighter G Gundam is, it isn’t the show I’d recommend to someone who I want to become a fan of the franchise as a whole. And W is something I can’t recommend in good faith. So AGE represents the possibility of being the Gateway Gundam for a truly new generation, and not just an introduction for anime fans who just happen to not have seen any Gundam yet.
For those kinds of folks, there are other shows to start with. But for now, let us talk about AGE.
The setting is a distant future wherein the Gundam was a legendary weapon from a distant past. Mobile suits would seem to be a similarly legendary kind of weapon, but there are bipedal mecha in existence and a GM-lookalike as well. In the original Mobile Suit Gundam the GM is the mass-production mobile suit that is derived from the Gundam prototype. Thus, humanoid mecha isn’t an outlandish idea in this setting.
The protagonist Flit, is entrusted with the legendary hero weapon by his mother who died in a fire – presumably during some kind of war or terrorist conflict. She gave Flit the key, for that thing he has to do in the future:
A mother working on a Gundam unit her child will pilot isn’t a new convention. Seabrook’s mom did so in Mobile Suit Gundam F91 way back in 1991 (yes, Tomino did this before Evangelion – but don’t give him too much credit, the film sucks). What made AGE different is how Flit already knew about the Gundam at the beginning of the narrative, and chose it. He was not forced into it by circumstance. He knew someday he will seize the reins of history and he did.
In this case he’s somewhere between Amuro Ray/Kamille Bidan reluctant pilots and the nutjob Setsuna F. Seiei (who wants to be a Gundam). I am totally okay with Flit’s determination, and naïve sense of heroism. Why? It’s because this is a kids’ show, where ideals are easy and are important. The conflicts will come mostly from enemies, who will be met with heroism.
Internal conflicts will have to do with acknowledging the contributions of others, trusting one’s teammates, extending one’s shield of protection to others who seem undeserving, etc. You know, kids’ stuff (that we probably don’t practice diligently as adults, let alone as adolescents – don’t even think of fronting, you punkasses).
The mobile suit designs and action animation won’t fit the tastes nor meet the standards of someone like me who’s idea of TV anime Gundam benchmark is the first season of Gundam 00, but is otherwise spoiled by OVAs like Stardust Memory and Unicorn. It’ll take me a lot to get used to the Digimon-esque transforming dragons, though they really come from the tradition of the Ispano Guymelef from The Vision of Escaflowne.
In any case, the enemies (who may not be evil, even if led by a selfish, evil guy) have attacked the peaceful colony and Gundam AGE has begun, and so I imagine quite a few lifelong love affairs with Gundam among these lucky, lucky children.
If the spirit of this first episode is maintained, and the execution of the production doesn’t fail, then I look forward to the day when I finally introduce my daughter to this cartoon franchise that I love so much.