Final Review: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE

DISCLAIMER: Anime reviews on this blog will attempt minimal to no spoilers unless otherwise noted. If a review seems dull or shallow, it’s because I’m trying to make sure not to go into too detail for those who are actually interested in the show before or after reading the review or those who have yet to finish the title. If you want further details, there are usually tons of reviews that can be found elsewhere on the internet. Furthermore, anime reviews in general are the sole opinion of the author writing it and thus differ across the users. There is no such thing as a “right answer” only a majority agreement. You are free to have your own opinions and thereby free to state and/or argue/debate in the comments section below or on the Fansub TV Forums. The review is not necessarily meant to serve as a recommendation but rather a personal opinion of having completed the series.

Gundam AGE is newest of the Gundam TV franchise. It is the first major/mothership Gundam title to not be primarily coordinated by Sunrise and is instead done by Level-5, the studio behind Inazuma Eleven and Professor Layton works. Granted that those two titles are fair watches on their own, Gundam is generally notorious for darker plots at times and whether Level-5 and co. were truly capable of the task given their history in audience targets is what really came into question. Gundam AGE spans over three generation of Gundam pilots, all of whom are part of the Asuno family: Flit, Asemu, and Kio. Like most Gundam titles, they involve some sort of war. Initially what is claimed to be aliens, it ends up being another human vs. “different human” type warfare. Gundam AGE is 49 episodes long and aired between October 2011 and September 2012. The show was neither simulcasted nor licensed by a US company.

To say Gundam AGE’s story and script are despicable is probably an understatement. Gundam AGE is by far one of the most poorly written Gundam titles in recent memory. To start off, the show is actually divided into four parts, not three. You have each of the different generations and then a final overall battle, which is typical for a Gundam title. In fact, the UC universe did this long ago in a far more elaborate, complex, and compelling manner. In terms of the writing, even the new staff did not learn from the mistakes of Gundam Seed Destiny. That is, a ton of recycled script work. Each of the generations are effectively the same story with a few slight alterations and a different set of characters. This makes the story overwhelmingly boring as you could effectively watch the first generation and then jump to the final arc and still get the gist of the overall plot. The characters are overall shallow and the entire show focuses on the theme of simple minded revenge acts.  If there is one thing that this Gundam title did do right, however, its minimal beam spam, which both Gundam 00 and Gundam Seed Destiny had overdone. Pacing wise, even with three generations, the story is clearly rushed. We never learn the truth about this so-called EXA-DB that supposedly involves mobile suit technology that surpasses current ones and we never really learn the whole story behind the Mar’s Rays. In essence, the story is a complete flop from beginning to end and filled with an incredible amount of holes. Oh and did I mention that they suddenly kill off everyone in a single episode rather than spreading it out?

Art wise is fairly basic with inconsistencies in details. Character designs are drawn a lot like the Inazuma Eleven cast, which is more or less expected from this show. They’re fine for the most part but lacking in originality as the generations go on. Even if kids do look like their parents, they don’t look that similar over three generations. I should also note that the four main mobile suits in this show are all significant rip-offs of previous titles. Granted that Age-1 is the standard RX-78 rip-off. AGE-2 looks too much like Zeta or 00. AGE-3 is a combination of mostly Impulse and Seravee. AGE-FX is your typical final bit/dragoon mobile suit, e.g. Nu, Providence, Strike Freedom, Nightingale, etc…  Animation wise is primarily by Level-5. As expected, quality is lower than Sunrise’s typical Gundam works. Lack of dogfights and flashy battles like previous Gundam titles make a large portion of the action in this show boring to watch.

Out of the four OP themes, only the fourth OP theme really stood out to me. On the ED theme side, the first and third ED themes stood out while the other two were boring. With that said, music is pretty much forgettable in this show. The sound effects are okay but typical Gundam sound effects. Seiyuu wise, some may remember Jerid Messa from Zeta Gundam as his seiyuu, Kazuhiko Inoue voices Flit. Asemu is voiced by Kousuke Toriumi, who has voiced Girge in Break Blade and Andy from Aquarion EVOL. Kio is voiced by Kazutomi Yamamoto, who is pretty much new to the industry. That said, everyone else outside of this is not really noteworthy due to the show’s dominance on these three characters. They’re average at best though if you ask me.

Enjoyment? Gundam AGE hasn’t been entirely painful to watch but definitely much more boring than any other Gundam title in recent memory. It’s not a show I anticipated weekly and its repetitive presentation over the three generations only hurt it more than helping it. The obvious demographic for this show is for a younger generation fans rather than the aging/older Gundam fans so it’s not surprising that there is a large sense of disapproval for this show. Whether this demographic strategy actually worked though is one to remain to be seen.

Overall, Gundam AGE has some good ideas but approached them with a very childish mentality rather than the more complex or intelligent fashion that is seen in some of the ancient relic titles. Long-term this is not something to rewatch, especially in this very elaborate franchise. It will definitely be a forgotten title. If anything Turn A Gundam or After War Gundam X does everything what this Gundam title wanted to do but much better. You could also make the analogy that this title was Gundam 00 Awakening of a Trailblazer degraded to a more child “friendly” level.

Story and Character:

  • Premise (0/1): Typical Gundam start. 3 generation setup is not new. UC did this already and much better too. Aliens really?
  • Character Personalities (0/1): Can’t blame Flit for being so stubborn but he is annoying. Asemu can be kinda cool at times and Kio is childish as expected.
  • Character Development (1/2): For three generations of material, it is damn shallow as to what we really learn about any of them let alone how they properly develop as pilots. We got more development for side characters and antagonists, which is absolutely laughable.
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (0.5/2): The cast grows so large over time that those who survive into the next generation are pretty much forgotten due to their lack of experience. That and they’re occasionally killed off.
  • Pacing: (0/1): Starts off with a snail pace and then ends up having to rush a large amount of the “story.”
  • Reasonable/Plausible (0.5/2): Maybe some reason is involve for the various actions in this show, but it’s basically simple minded revenge when it all boils down. X rounder abilities are too inconsistent across characters.
  • Conclusion (0/1): Too many holes. Plays the act of “the war is over.” Tries to copy Char’s Counterattack too much.
  • Total: 2/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (1/2): Basic with occasionally inconsistencies. Sometimes it can look quite pretty.
  • Character Designs (1/2): People don’t look the same as their parents three generations later or at least not normally. Gundam designs are too similar to prior ones.
  • Fluidity (1/2): Not enough dog fights. A lot of simple and basic animation. Pretty consistent nonetheless
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (1/2): Getting rid of beam spam is good. Getting rid of too much is bad. Not enough dogfights.
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (1/2): Inazuma Eleven and Professor Layton are both well animated. Gundam AGE is pretty much in that range though.
  • Total: 5/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (1/3): OP4 was good as was ED1 and ED3. Everything else sucked.
  • Background Music (0/2): Forgettable background music.
  • Sound Effects (1/2):  Standard Gundam sound effects.
  • Seiyuu (1.5/3): Fairly average seiyuu cast
  • Total: 3.5/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (0.5/2): Boring until second arc. Second arc has more interesting action and less whining but still terrible story.
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (0/2): None.
  • Presentation (0.5/2): Too much repetition across generation. Writers are not creative enough and makes audience sit through 39 episodes of repetition before getting to the final battle. This isn’t a video game.
  • Re-watchable (0/1): Zero.
  • Recommendation (0/2): Effectively all other Gundam titles surpass this. I’d personally recommend Turn A Gundam or After War Gundam X if you’re looking for more children like pilots.
  • Value (0/1): Demographics is clearly for kids but even then I don’t see this new generation of Gundam fans wanting to show this title to their children when there are much better shows both in the franchise and outside the franchise.
  • Total: 1/10

Preliminary Score: 5/10

Final Score: 3/10

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