This show is separated into three different arcs, so I will write a review for each one of them. Also be warned that I mention a lot of spoilers but it’s not like there is a major plot twist if you are familiar with even a couple of Gundam series. Plus, I hardly recommend this anime, so I feel like I should warn you why you should stay away from it.
REGARDING THE FIRST ARC (EPISODES 1-15)
I am by no means a Gundam fanboy anymore but I still watch any new series that comes out just to know what new ideas they may come up with in the franchise. So their latest show is Gundam AGE. The basic story is about aliens invading Earth and little kids fighting them in their robot.
1) WHAT THE HELL ARE ALIENS DOING IN GUNDAM?
Gundam’s theme was always about a war drama amongst humanity, it is what defines it as such and not as some random mecha show with the name Gundam glued on the cover. It totally ruins the whole premise. Furthermore the alien side wasn’t fleshed out at all and remained as nothing but generic faceless adversaries with no personality. Remember when they decided to throw in some aliens in the movie finale of Gundam 00 too, and what was the result? Uber fail! Why? For the exact same reason!
Oh well, at least we may enjoy watching this for the cool action. Because this is another trademark of the franchise; it is about poser robots with poser action and poser visuals. So guess what …
2) WHY THE HELL AIN’T THE PRODUCTION VALUES THE STATE OF THE ART FOR THE TIME IT CAME OUT?
The memory of how great they were in 00 is still fresh and the battles there were cool. Yet the lowered budget in this one is striking right away and the action scenes are simplistic to the point of yawning.
Maybe we can still enjoy this for the cool and charismatic characters? Another trademark is the edgy teenagers piloting robots and splattering teen angst all over the screen. Sadly no …
3) WHY THE HELL ARE THE MAIN PILOTS JUST KIDS?
How is it possible to feel the angst if it’s with tiny little kids? I mean, sure, I have seen space war dramas with kids in anime before and not all of them were bad. Infinite Ryvius is one; Round Verian Vifam is a least famous but still good example. You can create an interesting show with kids and robots and space battles if the presentation is done properly. And sadly …
4) WHY DO THE CHARACTER DESIGNS SUCH SO MUCH?
The simplistic artwork makes them look like they are Smurfs. War dramas require from the artwork to be about realistically drawn characters and not blobs. And yet you get character drawings that look like they are Megaman or something. Fail!
5) WHY THE HELL IS THE STORY SUCH A CHEESEFEST?
The storyboard is so stereotypical, to the point it feels like a run of the mill mecha show with average production values and a generic cast of one dimensional good guys and bad guys. Here are the faceless EEEVIL aliens and here is the super robot piloted by the good kid. It is way too simple to count as Gundam without constant internal struggles, minimal political intrigue, and military coups thrown in for kicks. They don’t even build on the concept properly.
I can make my own moon out of all the cheese. This is what you used to expect in a typical 80’s mecha show and not in a modern Gundam. Although all the things I described are present in one way or another in most Gundams, you can somewhat excuse them for being made in a decade where such things weren’t an issue, they were better presented, and the characters were all older than 12. Seeing this thing with today’s saturation having taken over most of everything, it just feels completely stupid.
REGARDING THE SECOND ARC (EPISODES 16-28)
So what happens afterwards? Instead of wrapping everything up in those 15 episodes, they decided to go for a generation 2 of sorts and now we get the son of the first kid to be the protagonist. And thus we get the second arc where the EXACT SAME EVENTS repeat all over again with more kids. Although I admit the second arc is definitely much better than the first in terms of action, suspense, and character interaction. It feels a lot less like a Saturday morning cartoon and a lot more like a space opera/war drama, as it should be FROM THE START! Why didn’t they just start from this generation and keep only a few important scenes from the SO DULL first arc as flashbacks? It felt like the first 15 episodes were wasted just to reveal to us that the aliens are humans and that’s it. But at least the battle is now clearly between humans and not aliens and even the bad guys finally get some focus. You now sort of understand their motives and hatred for Earth. Although I must say they are still much overlooked compared to the earth people. You get lots of scenes with the good guys doing all sorts of every day activities but the bad guys remain to the most part as nothing but grumpy or insane cardboards.
Beyond that, the build up is damn simple and unexciting and many plot twists happen in a very passable way. And by plot twists, I mean character deaths. Over half of the cast gets killed in the war, bringing back Tomino’s infamous huge death toll gimmick. Sadly none of them feel important enough for you to feel any sorry, since they are not Gundam pilots to matter to the plot and there was very little focus given to them in the first place. It’s always about the main robot and the protagonist doing everything; the rest are just ants and that kills the tension.
Some improvements can still be found compared to the first arc. I liked how the first hero has now turned to a grumpy anti-hero who has to do some really nasty things in order for his agenda to be fruitful. I also liked how the new platonic girlfriend is not a nagging bitch. Of course for the same reason she is just a flowerpot. SHE DOESN’T DO ANYTHING! She is just a calm minor bridge bunny that simply happens to bump on the new protagonist all the time and they simply love each other right away without any build up to that. Boring! There is also a sort of romantic triangle with a spy from the aliens but it doesn’t have much excitement after his identity is revealed and he just runs back home. So the small opening they had to make the romantic aspect of the show more interesting is trashed right away.
The action is ten times more interesting and grand-scaled than those spars they had for most of the first arc. But even so it will still be hindered a lot by the production values which are, as I mentioned already, not top notch for the Gundam franchise. Both the battle choreography and the character designs will feel too simple to manage to transmit properly the dread of war. What you get most of the times is robots standing still while being pounded by elite robots or saved at the last second by an ally who blocks the attack somehow. There are still absolutely no tactics and the battles are again won just by the Gundams.
REGARDING THE THIRD ARC (EPISODES 29-49)
And after a few decades later, here comes the third generation with more kids. This time the hero is the grandson of the first protagonist and has an easy going life with again an already established platonic girlfriend. Suddenly the enemy attacks once again and this time they begin their final stage of their masterplan. Now, regarding this part, I still had no bloody idea what the Vagan masterplan was all this time. All we see them doing all these centuries is just attacking civilian targets. They only manage to pass as evil bastards who love genocide to the viewer when they should be seen as victims of a cover up. The second arc tries a bit to make them more humane but here it just makes the whole war feel like it’s retarded.
It’s not like they can excuse this with “an eye for an eye” mentality. This whole war could have been avoided altogether. Can anyone guess what would have happened if they had sent peaceful representatives to Earth? The Earth government would look like jerks for letting them die, the world would sympathize with their suffering, they would be given a hundred privileges as a way to show they are sorry, and pretty much the Vagans would have taken over the Earth without losing a single unit. If they still wanted to wipe the earthlings after that, it would sure be easier than randomly attacking them all these decades. And if the military tried to cover up the whole thing and tried to kill the Vagans, well, you see how much firepower they have. They would only make the Earth people look more jerks than they already are. It is a win-win situation.
But instead of that they chose this retarded invasion thing. Not only that, they refused to reveal their identities to the Earthlings and pretended to be aliens, as if this way they would be more mysterious and threatening. Bullshit! If their enemies knew they were fighting people like them, people they sent to build the future of mankind and then abandoned to die, their morale would drop to bottom rock! The war would be won easier.
And it’s not like Earth is that organized and protected. I mean look at the beginning of this arc; the Vagans magically managed to sneak in thousands of their soldiers and mecha without being noticed. Something that would have been done a lot easier if they WEREN'T ATTACKING SPORADICALLY ALL THIS TIME! Couldn’t they just initiate their attacks right now instead of giving the Earth people decades of time to improve their weaponry and defences? And if they want so much to take over the Earth, shouldn't they just focus on military bases and not random civilian areas? Talk about waste of resources.
Anyways, the new kid is given a new Gundam to pilot by his grandpa, which now is a modular type. Meaning, it is required to go transformer and unite with other parts for some reason. And I love how the new kid knows how to pilot the Gundam on his first try. He plays simulations on portable consoles, which automatically makes him an elite pilot of a gargantuan war machine. YEEEAAAHHH!
"Yay, I just beaten three evil robots and got my own super robot!"
You also killed three people in case you missed that part. Not hard since they rarely let us see the enemy pilots. Anyways, there is so much transformation and special attacks going on in here that it feels like I am watching GaoGaiGar instead of Gundam.
So they roam around trying to fend off the invaders until it is revealed that the villains are looking for forbidden technology like the one that they use for their robots. This part makes no sense, since if they wanted the technology, then they should have began their invasion after they had found it. It also makes no sense how such technology is forbidden, yet a little kid managed to create a Gundam. The lol part is how the villains eventually kidnap the Gundam in order to study its technology. Shouldn’t they have done that since the first day they encountered it? Who cares about the rest of the technology if they have this one?
What is even worse at this point is when we are shown how the Vagans are living. It’s a world full of deadly radiation, and they are all sad, and fight for a better future for their families, and hope one day to return to Earth. Oh boo-hoo is that supposed to make them tragic heroes in our eyes? Too bad this is rendered useless since as soon as they board their mecha all they think about is killing innocent and defenceless Earth civilians. Jerks! And I can’t even believe the protagonist fell for all that crap and even decided to help them despite knowing well all the death they caused. Luckily his father comes to the rescue and snaps him back to his former self. Yeah, go obey the person that dumped you when you were a kid and now loots your homeland. Did I mention his Gundam looks like a pirate? Its main weapons are hooks to boot. Lame!
After that, the Vagan plan is finally revealed. Turns out that their leader wants to create a new peaceful world by killing most of humanity and making the rest to be too disgusted with war to try it again for the next few millennia. It felt plausible on a very basic and inhuman level but then he had to go on analysing how he plans to achieve that. Turns out that all the random attacks were supposed to allow only the most intelligent and adaptive humans to survive, while all the rest would perish. He even did the same thing to his own people. And beats me how the survivors of such a plan will be the best pacifists if they are all veteran killers who survived by being merciless and not trusting anyone. I mean how can someone be a survivalist if he doesn’t trample others in order to get food or reach to safety in time? All these people will be heartless thugs who wouldn’t think twice to rip out the heart of the guy next to them if it feels like a proper thing to do. And let’s just imagine that by some miracle this ludicrous plan works. How will people appreciate peace without war? It is in our nature to appreciate something only if it’s fragile and ephemeral. An everlasting peace will only result in losing its importance! So the people won’t be happy; they will be uncaring. HIS PLAN FAKIN SUCKS!
And then the last battle begins and we get Earth and Vagan fighting with all they got. And I have no bloody idea how the Earthlings managed to be on equal footing when their whole planet was taken over and are fighting an army with far more sophisticated weaponry than they do. And we get more character deaths nobody would care for more than two seconds about, since THEY ARE NOT GUNDAM PILOTS!
And here comes the ending, which is as shitty as shit can get. The protagonist throws out a friendship speech, and everybody makes up and dance cumbaya around the camp fire. THAT’S IT! What is this bullshit? How did centuries of mayhem end like a fairy tale?
Not only that but the epilogue is completely dried up. We barely get two minutes of what followed after the war and then THE END! Anti-climactic on top of lame.
The third arc is completely childish and far worse than the second. Most new characters are now nothing but comic reliefs and the sneaky backstabbing adults now perform only ridiculous straightforward ambushes that never seem to work. The anime went completely retarded here.
In all, I felt Bandai made this show just so to cash in a younger audience, and create future fans without having to spend a lot of money in quality. It is an insult to the franchise and no sane viewer should defend it or recommend it. That it all, now go flame those Smurfs that are supposed to be Gundam pilots.