SPOILERS FOR GUNDAM AGE EPS. 1-15
Gundam AGE takes a lot of steps to try to combine the old image of Gundam with a more appealing aesthetic to children. While trying to bring kids into the Gundam fold isn’t a totally new approach for the franchise, attempting to grab both young and old audiences at the same time in the same main show can be hard to serve up. This is most difficult because of its ardent fans and long history, as opposed to working on something completely new.
Gundam AGE makes great efforts of this balancing act in the first arc of its multi-generational story.
I think it is very important to note that Gundam AGE was originally supposed to be a Gundam video game by Level-5 until Bandai decided to green light the story to be a full anime series. Everything was originally written out to be for a younger video game audience with the pacing, characters, and story structure of said players in mind.
I think the main disconnect between the traditional Gundam fan base and the anime is that they kept much of that same scenario in mind when they created Gundam AGE. With a younger audience turning more toward video games for their entertainment it makes sense on a certain level to try to court that audience with the same vibe of storytelling they seem to prefer.
How well this is going to work has yet to be seen but there is a method to the madness. It all comes down to how well they adapt this game into an anime now that they have chosen that as their medium.
There is still quite a bit about AGE that feels like a video game. The AGE System is clearly how you were supposed to level-up your suit in the original game. The nature of the upgrades and even the method in which they are implemented seem relatively untouched from original blueprint. The enemy suits even have classes they are beaten with certain upgrades Flit unlocks by fighting enough of a certain type of enemy.A very classic video game structure of progression.
Also the whole story on Fardain seems more like a video game plot than an anime plot. Flit befriending Iwark Briar and his daughter and how the crew of the Diva gets involved with the conflict between the Zalam and Euba have the pacing and story mechanics more suited for an RPG.
Most people I have talked to seem to think that part of the story drags the most. I think if you were fighting while leveling up none of the section would have been as slow and unwieldy. But as a passive observer the your notice the chinks in the armor of the plot a bit more.
Something basic like the design of the characters immediately makes Gundam AGE feel younger. But as the story proceeds, those aesthetics seem to work as a grounding contrast to the story. Almost as if by creating these colorful characters they can present children with a darker story.
The tropes of Gundam, like the price of war on civilians is still there but there is a bit more kiddie wish fulfilment in the earlier parts especially in terms or alliances as well. Flit acts as a an intermediary for people with long-standing feuds and inspires all those he meets. Emily even seems to forget she is a young girl or perhaps it is because of her youthful spirit that she confronts Grodek, on her own, about what she believes to be nefarious plot.
The enemies that Grodek and soon all our leads are trying to defeat remain faceless, aliens for a long while which gives emotional distance but as a viewer you can read the writing on the wall. Decil is a very single-note villain who is pure evil vs. Flit the savior; black and white. Decil even cuts down his comrade Yurin without a second or remorseful thought (instead of say, having Flit accidentally do it which we be so Gundam of them).
This comes off simplistic without the rest of the story being looked at. That anger that Flit has been fighting against since the beginning boils to the surface. Flit’s reaction pushes him to do attempt something he might have regretted, but he’ll never know since Grodek takes on the burden instead.
There are some parts of the first Gundam AGE arc that are more like the Gundam we are familiar with.
It seemed to me that when Don Boyage died it was major turning point in which the story really started to put away a lot of its childish story telling. There has been deaths among both military personnel and civilians including Hendrick Bruzar but Don Boyage’s death seem to raise the stakes. The deaths seem more personal and more constant.
Most importantly Grodek gets absolutely nothing for being totally right and not only discovering the truth behind the Unknown Enemy and dealing them a decisive blow that set back their plans for years. Nothing else sealed the corrupt nature of the Earth Federation Forces like sacrificing a hero for the sake of dirty politics while taking credit for his success.
Also Grodek executes Yark Dole with no remorse. When we first meet Grodek he merely knocks out the some Federation officers with a stun gun. But at Ambat he murders Yark Dole so that Flit does not become a murderer.
The story grows, the consequences of war become a vital issue, and the grayness of fighting people each with a point of view and grudge is central. Bringing children in and then aging the characters up as the arcs continue might be a brilliant plan to get them interested in mature characters. One will just have to see how things play out. Onward to more Gundam AGE!
It is a hard line to toe in between appealing to old fans while trying to court new fans. Hardcore fans tend to resist change no matter how much they ask for it and nothing says changes will actually increase your audience.
Gundam AGE has been an interesting experiment so far. I can’t say that it has fully succeed.
The Gundam fan base just seems angry. But that is their default state. The anime fandom outside of Gundam otaku has not seemed to embrace the show as well.
But the show so far has matured. I think they are moving in the right direction with slowly upping the ante and the maturity of the story. The story has a good deal of potential to keep this new-found maturity while making sure they don’t alienate their younger viewers.
I wonder if this is a show that will have an audience that slowly warms to its methods or will it only be appreciated for what it is doing years from now like many of the other more experimental Gundam iterations?