Gundam AGE: A Preliminary Consideration

First off, let me state that I received all of my information about this series from Gundam Guy. Many props to the man for his excellent coverage of the announcement, leaks, and subsequent releases by Bandai. If you haven't already please check out his extensive post on AGE. In fact, I'd prefer you do that ahead of time so you can form an opinion (if you haven't already) without my corrupting influence.

 

So, anyhow...

For sometime now Bandai has been teasing the news of a new Gundam series before millions of egar fans. A few weeks back they stirred the pot once more by releasing a small shadow silhouette shot of the new main suit and announcing a conference and full disclosure, come June 13th. A lot of information leaked last week and sent fans into dizzy. I decided to wait until the official announcement before commenting on the upcoming project. It's allowed for a cooler head to prevail, though the increased information may not have swayed my initial opinion.

 

While you should check out GG's post for full details on the series here's a start...

 

 

The new series will have three generations of "father, child, and descendant" as the lead characters. The main characters pilot the Gundam unit to fight against an unknown attacking enemy (UE) and save Earth in a "One Hundred Year War" — an apparent homage to the One Year War of the first Gundam series. The first main character is Furitto Asuno, who developed the Gundam AGE-1 mobile suit (humanoid mobile weapon) equipped with the AGE System (a self-adapting computer). The second main character is Asemu Asuno, Furitto's child. The third main character is Kio Asuno, Furitto's descendant who inherits the Gundam. The Gundam AGE-1 can be augmented as the Gundam AGE-1 Titus for more power, or as the Gundam AGE-1 Sparrow for more speed. Other characters include Emily, Furitto's friend since he was 7. Guruudekku is a Commander in the Earth Federation Forces and the captain of the battleship Diva. Mireesu is a Lieutenant (junior grade) in the Federation Forces aboard the Diva.

 

The Premise

Mysterious enemy issues aside (discussed in greater depth in the next section) the premise sounds pretty good. A multi-generational family working together is a new twist considering that the family members of most Gundam protagonists tend to suffer from Chronic Death Disorder. I'm just not sure how they're going to implement the concept. See, at this point we have names for the three generational characters, the age of the first, and character designs for all three. The thing is that everyone looks the same age (see the character designs section for a picture). I'm probably missing something here, but I know I'm not the only one. How this is all going to work seems to remain unclear. Will there be time jumps in the series? Are they planning on seasons 2 and 3 already? We do know that there will be two other AGE Gundams, Gundam AGE-2 and Gundam AGE-3. As they are said to evolve overtime it's likely time travel is not going to happen. *whew*

 

There's also a new component, somewhat related to Veda from Gundam 00, The AGE Device and AGE System. The AGE system, as it is understood, is able to research "the evolution of living beings by digitizing the mysteries surrounding it." In other words, it is able to learn from the world around it and evolve as it takes in knowledge. The AGE Device itself is the small, cellphone like contraption, pictured above. It is a component of the AGE System and it used in piloting the Gundam. The extent of it's functionality while doing so remains unknown.

Between the character designs, the concept of evolution, and a small handheld device, many are making a comparison between Gundam AGE and Digimon. I can certainly see how the connection is made but I doubt that the series is going to add more to the list.

 

The Enemy

 

An unknown, mysterious enemy who you've been at war with for over a century? Sounds cool, I you've caught my attention. A space dragon of indeterminate mechanical or biological origin? Now you're starting to stretch it.

I fear that the Gundam 00 movie may have opened up the floodgates more than we realized. Gundam has always revolved around human conflict. The Federation v. Zeon, ZAFT v. Natural, country v. country. This defining characteristic has allowed the series to focus on both sides of a conflict and walk a very ambiguous line with regard to which faction is truly good or evil. The second Gundam starts including mysterious space aliens the mutli-sided prospective is lost. Sure the whole 'last remnants of a society traveling to avoid extermination at the hands of a mysterious enemy' is just as ad-nauseum as Gundam plot lines have become, but it's a slap in the face to a defining element.

 

(Click to enlarge)

Google Image Search is useless for finding a decent picture or Escaflowne in flight mode or a Vajra

 

The designs are alright, though sort of bland and uninteresting. It's not very unique either. You got your Escaflowne in my Yu-Gi-Oh! You got your Esaca-Gi-Oh! in my Macross Frontier! Meanwhile, the UE suit, in human form, looks alright. It reminds me of the Spearhead from Eureka Seven with a bit of Zone of the Ender's Egyptian influence.

 

The Suit Designs

(click to enlarge)

 

Okay, having focused a bit on the UE designs in the previous section let's take a look at our main man, Gundam AGE. Fairly typical Gundam design elements all around. It is, though, a plethora of angles. There are very few curves and the head looks somewhat over sized in some shots. It also suffers from Gundam00S2itis, best known as Small Feet Syndrome. The airplane-esk v-fin... I must admit, I sort of like it. I even like the large A on the chest. As for my thoughts on the rest of the suit on as a whole, depends what picture I'm looking at. The early promotional posters look skinny and lack any detail (less detail = easier to animate). Some of the models look great others a bit durp. I may hate the series and everything about it but I'm completely in for the 1/48 kit. Then again... not sold on that awful wing of a spoiler there...

 

(click to enlarge)

 

What makes AGE unique is that it has two other armor options which can be swapped out depending on the task at hand. There's a heavy hitter version (Titus), stacked with beefy legs, arms, shoulder pads, and giant hands. There's also a high speed version (Sparrow) where everything is slimmed down for quick movement. I'm not a fan of either of these forms. When I first heard about the armor options I was hoping Sparrow would be awesome, it sounded like my kind of kit. Unfortunately it just looks as though they fitted the Gundam with chicken legs. Titus reminds me a bit of Gundam Maxter or Bolt (boy, those illustrations are awful (yes I know MAHQ didn't do them)). I wonder if they're going to have an outfitting sequence like the one in Zoids Zero.

 

(Click to enlarge)

 

As for the Genoace, the GM of the group, I hate it. Looks like the deformed product of a drunken threesome between a Tieren, a GN Archer and an unsuspecting ASIMO.

 

Merchandising First!

I'm pretty sure this violates Japanese obscenity laws

 

It's common knowledge that Bandai operates around the premise of hocking merchandise but the extent to which they're moving forward with Gundam AGE is just shameful. They did everything in their power not to lead the reveal with their new products. And oh boy, are there a lot of products...

  • GB 1/100 Gundam AGE figure(?) line with 7 releases queued for October
  • AG 1/144 Gundam AGE model line with 5 released coming out between October and December
  • HG 1/144 Gundam AGE coming out in September
  • MG 1/100 Gundam AGE in development
  • Mega Size 1/48 Gundam AGE
  • GAGE-ing Battle Base
  • AGE Device Toy
  • Gage-ing Haro
  • Card based arcade game

And that's just to start! Imagine what else they'll throw out when the Christmas season hits. Imagine what all will come out during 2012! Bandai has completely out done themselves. Despite what you might think about Gundam AGE but Bandai did it all for the $$$.

 

A Gundam For Kids

The idea that the new Gundam is geared toward kids has irked a lot of fans. For Bandai it's a strategic move to ensure profits and the length of the franchise. Unfortunately both arguments are just as valid.

A vast majority of Gundam fans grew up with with it, either while it was airing in Japan or more recently during it's admirable run on Cartoon Network's Toonami. The aging community is longing for a more mature Gundam with a rich story, strong action, and multi-dimensional characters. We still wax nostalgic about 08th MS Team and 0080 like there's no tomorrow. Neither Gundam SEED or Gundam 00 have fulfilled that need which perhaps explains why Gundam Unicorn is perceived so strongly. There's no indication at this point that AGE is going to develop a storyline for the ages (I'm sure you'll see that pun quite a bit over the next few years).

For Bandai the argument is simple. Gundam AGE is about marketing and products, which are better geared toward children. A maturing Gundam fan base is less likely to spend the same amount on Gunpla, DVD sets, and various other forms of merchandise. From an economic prospective it only makes sense that a company is going to target the group most likely to generate revenue.

It can also be argued that every now and then a long franchise needs to be reset to draw in new viewers. It worked to an extent with Gundam Wing and SEED. By going young Bandai hopes to nurture a whole new generation of kids drawn to Gundam robots (and their reasonably priced figures).

 

On a side note, it's worth pointing out that age has never been related to maturity when it comes to anime. If we're to judge based on the preliminary information, without any understanding of the story or knowledge of character development, that Gundam AGE age will be immature and simple then we must remind ourselves the ages of Amuro, Kamile, etc. I do, however, think it reasonable to make that assumption based on the character designs. Maybe it's just as an invalid perception, but one that's certainly understandable.

 

The Character Designs

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Frite (or Gullit) Asuno, Emily, Groudeck, Millais, Asem Asuno, Kio Asuno

 

I don't have much to say with regard to the character designs. They're certainly not the best the franchise has seen but they're far from the worst. It seems to me that they decided on simple design for the sake of an easier animation process. They're also, obviously, geared toward children. The trouble is that it's impossible to gauge their personalities from the designs. That and everyone either looks either old or young. There's no range of in-betweens like the fantastic designs from Eureka Seven. A good series needs a diverse cast. I'm sure we'll see that in the future but it's hard to get excited while lacking those details.

It's certainly a fresh approach for Gundam. Oh, and then there's this....

 

Maybe we'll get a special episode drawn by Leiji Matsumoto

 

Just be glad the designs were not done by Hisashi Hira. *shutter*

 

The Community Reaction

The general reaction to Gundam AGE has been less than pleasant. Lots of bickering from every side of the fan base about every little detail. I suppose that's nothing new though, is it?

Maybe it's just because the crowd I generally swing though is older but the vast majority of comments have been very negative. When information was first leaked folks were extremely angry and attacked the show and Bandai for their decisions. Since then, along with the official release, a lot of that anger has dissipated, but moods have not improved.

Comments with regard to the age of the protagonist seem the most prevalent, despite the wiser pointing out the youth of most Gundam leads and supporting characters. Attitudes toward the suit designs are mainly of moderate disapproval. They do seem to have a higher appreciation of the UE designs than I. I have also seen others complain about the aliens angle.

At best, those looking forward to the series seem to be making their comments through clenched teeth. They seem sort of empty, without any supporting arguments, in contrast to the wordy and aggressive haters. There are those with rational heads who are willing to give the series a try before making a final judgement. Granted, even those vehemently against the new concept will likely watch the first few episodes, if only to complain in detail.

Remember, they say beggars can't be choosers. Not that I always agree...

 

In Conclusion

Only time will tell where this series ranks among the great pantheon that is the Gundam franchise. Personally, based only on the information provided thus far, I think we're looking at a sub-par addition to the franchise. It will likely do well from a financial standpoint but not rank among the best in terms of production value or plot. Until October I will keep my fingers crossed and hope to be proven wrong, in a good way.

My own opinion...

Personally, I like what I've seen. I like the premise. I like the mecha designs. I even kind of like the kiddish character designs. I think this is what Gundam needs right now, something a tad experimental. This could go very wrong, I'm sure, but that doesn't mean it will. I'm cautiously optimstic. I'm sort of surprised I'm having this reaction.

Personally I like a lot of

Personally I like a lot of things about the series. The beautiful people look that Gundam Wing brought in is gone. I like the 60's look that Gundam Age has with several of it's characters since it predates Gundam (and people who like Gundam Unicorn have nothing to complain about since it's characters all have 80's designs)

As has been pointed out several times, the youngest protagonist is the same age as V Gundam's Uso, so I don't think older fans have anything to yell about. Most gundam protagonist are underage (16 being a popular age)

Most of the complaints I see are that, "its not Gundam 00" which is ridiculous. Gundam is a 30 year old franchise why the hell would I want to see a franchise repeat itself for 30 years. In the previous decade we got a bunch of series that while carefully planned, was more concerned with being popular and had a hit or miss execution.

Gundam fans need to be challenged, they need to be taken out of the box they put themselves in. G Gundam and Turn A Gundam did this, and it looks like Gundam Age will do the same.

"Gundam fans need to be

"Gundam fans need to be challenged, they need to be taken out of the box they put themselves in. G Gundam and Turn A Gundam did this, and it looks like Gundam Age will do the same."

Exactly. It won't kill Gundam fans to have a little more variety.

I don't see how Gundam AGE is

I don't see how Gundam AGE is challenging anything, other than the defining aspect of inter-human conflicts, which Gundam 00 already did. Time will tell of course, but it doesn't seem to be full of off kilter bits like Turn A was.

I'm glad to see I am not the

I'm glad to see I am not the only one who thought the UE Mobile Suit looks like a Blue-Eyes White Dragon. I made a little joke on Gundam Guy's cbox where I claimed to be Seto Kaiba and that I bribed Sunrise/Bandai to make the baddie MS based on a Blue-Eyes White Dragon. But I digress. I really do not like the mech designs for this series, and this is after having seen gunpla, official art, and anime clips. Normally what happens with me is that I see new official art, think it sucks, and then be proven wrong later once I see gunpla, anime clips, or both. However, this hasn't happened. Fortunately, the mech designs are the only part I can effectively judge right now, and that means that, as long as I don't go into it wanting to hate it, I might actually like the story. And really, I'd rather have a good story and bad mecha design than the other way around (*cough* SEED Destiny *cough*)

"...I'd rather have a good

"...I'd rather have a good story and bad mecha design than the other way around (*cough* SEED Destiny *cough*)..."

My sentiments exactly!

x2

x2

Concur x3.

Concur x3.

I'm pretty sure that by this

I'm pretty sure that by this point every comparison that could be made has. I'm glad someone else agrees, thought I was sort of stretching it there lol

What's weird is that I can't stand behind AGE-1 as a whole, whereas I love the look of the 1/48 but hate the HG version and animated version. I'm hoping for some great refinement for AGE-2 and maybe a larger cast of supporting mecha.

I'll watch it anyway...

Falldog, I agree with most of what you're saying. Admittedly I wasn't too happy when the announcement was first made simply because the series is aimed towards a younger audience. However, I've accepted that not every Gundam series will cater to my preferences & now I'm certain there'll be something in Gundam AGE that I will eventually come to appreciate. And yes, the premise of a 100-year war spanning across three generations & a Gundam that "evolves" with time do intrigue me.

MS-wise, the AGE-1's design is OK for me since I already expected its design to pay homage to RX-78-2 one way or another. It's not exactly eye candy but I think it has potential. I'm already making plans to get the MG once it is out. Not a fan of the Titus & Sparrow forms, though.

So yeah, I will watch Gundam AGE when it comes out & hope for the best.

ive said this before, but ill

ive said this before, but ill say it here again. i think this is something of an interim project they are doing to space out their usual break between two major gundam series. usually they have a 2-3 year break in between. but right now, we've just had a movie, sd sangokuden, and a major OVA that's still ongoing. that kind of puts things somewhere between having a break and in the middle of a series. so i think they are using this chance to re-enter their usual cycle by compensating having a semi-break by stretching it longer with this show. so in the end, we are getting the same dosage of gundam on average campared to the usual 2-3 year gap and then a series. what this means is, im expecting this semi-break phase to be dragged on for at least 3 years before we get are real and mature gundam show. the three years would be starting from the supposed gap starting from the end of 00 s2, so we've already had about 2 years of this disturbed break time from a real series. AGE will probably take us through the rest of the wait, followed by at least few months of break, and that will leave us at about 3+ years, after that, we should be back to real gundam.
TL;DR
in conclusion, as gundam fans, i think we should be happy that we are getting our dose of gundam during our wait for the usual gundam for big kids at the cost of just an extra few months of waiting.
=D

I dunno... three years of

I dunno... three years of Gundam doesn't exactly sound like a break ;)

I'm definitely expecting AGE to last longer than a you're thinking. They wouldn't have rolled out so any product lines if they weren't anticipating a lasting impact. If it was going to be short they would've just used the HGUC line like they did with Gundam Builders.

The gap between Destiny and 00 was only two years. When AGE starts in October it would have been just over two years since the end of 00.

seed and destiny are direct

seed and destiny are direct sequals so it makes sense the break was short, there were other cases of 2 year breaks, which is why i said 2-3years.

i didnt mean AGE would be short, i mean that its canonical(i think im making up works) status compared to other series would be a bit lower. i think AGE has equivalent status of SD sangokuden, kind of like a second tier project. so not exactly their main project. once AGE's run is over, it will probably at least be over 3 years, probably with some real break of a few months, so at around 4 years after 00s2, we will go back to the usual serious gundam cycle with a first tier project.

Bandai is obviously treating

Bandai is obviously treating this as a first tier project. Level-5 is an insanely successful video game company, and they are putting a ton of money into merchandise, like the various games that are coming out (the models, the Level-5 RPG, the card game arcade machine). This is something more like G Gundam, which while aimed at a younger audience was still considered a major Gundam release.

I'd never even heard of

I'd never even heard of Level-5 before this.

Dark Cloud? Dragon Quest 8?

Dark Cloud? Dragon Quest 8? Professor Layton series? Level 5 developed all of those games. Dragon Quest 8 did very well in America, while Professor Layton was a huge success worldwide. In Japan Inazuma Eleven was a huge hit, that was never brought over here due to the fact that it is a soccer game.

I've heard of the Professor

I've heard of the Professor Layton series. I know of the Dragon Quest series, as Akira Toriyama has done character designs for it. Never heard of Dark Cloud or Inazuma Eleven.

So wait, a video game company is producing the new Gundam series? Is this like Sega's involvement in Evangelion and Square Enix's in FMA?

Akihiro Hino, who is the head

Akihiro Hino, who is the head of Level-5 is in charge of the story for Gundam Age, so it's different from Square-Enix publishing Fullmetal Alchemist.

It will be interesting to

It will be interesting to have someone outside of Bandai writing the story.

I'm waiting, altough I'm not putting any hopes up.

I am yet to have a good reason to hate the series, but the crazy merchandising before the series even started did put a frown on my face, and I thought releasing HG 00 and (especially) 00 Qan[T] before the series/movie started was bad :(.

The mecha designs... well they are geared toward children, so I shouldn't really complain much. Though I will say that they're trying a bit too hard on referencing the RX-78-2 color scheme, and that the spoiler on the back is quite weird.
At first I kinda like the alien designs (after letting the fact that it's an alien sinks in), until they then pulled out a machine gun. ;=_=
The Genoace... rather than looking weak (if that what's they're aiming for this grunt unit), it looked more like a civilian unit that shouldn't even be on a battlefield. Oh, and it's pink, quite a way to demotivate your troops there. ;^^

To be honest, this show still can turn me into a believer, especially since the PV left me with a better view on the anime (although as you say, it's not enough to win me over), and there have been some cases where an anime that's looked down upon/ignored at the beginning turns into a favorite.
Then again, I'm not a big fan of either SEED nor 00, so I guess it's best not to put my hopes up :(.

Anyway, nice article :).

Thumbs up on the crazy

Thumbs up on the crazy merchandising bit. Hopefully it doesn't turn into 00 S2 where every other episode featured either a new unit or a variant of a pre-existing one, only to kill it off by the end of said episode (Sergei's Tieren Taozi, Gadess etc)

It's funny because it's true.

It's funny because it's true.

Your Gundam Age Mobile Suit Design Review...

Really? are you serious? you didn't even discuss the ridiculous spoiler attached to it's back...

last time I checked, Gundams aren't fucking cars...

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