Monday, February 20, 2012

On Robots, Part Two

Part two, of my mumblings on two recent Gundam properties which I've recently watched/played. You can see part one over here:

Now, Gundam Age is the TV show I'm watching. I've watched a few series and movies of Gundam, though  I've watched a few Gundams my exposure to the available franchise is far from exhaustive. The quality of them varies and they are clearly made for different audiences. This series, Gundam Age, is from what I can tell, targeted at kids. It's a kids show. I don't often watch kids shows, as usually, they're made for kids. Though occasionally you'll come across a kids show where the writing is clever in a way that suggests that either the writers were writing it partly for themselves, or that they realise that their audience might be wider than just kids.

Gundam Age seems to have taken a few story pointers from the original series and its sequels. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a remake, because it's not. It has its own story, its own characters and settings. It does, however, have many thematic callbacks to some of the original series. This and the structure, which I'll elaborate on in a moment, makes me wonder if this is being pitched as a gateway for a new generation to fall in love with the old series of Gundam.

Even in the mobile suit design the traits of the three original series can be seen clearly. The AGE-1 Gundam itself seems to have been designed based largely on the original RX-78-2 Gundam, while the AGE-2 Gundam and AGE-3 Gundam taking design elements from the MSZ-006 Zeta Gundam and the MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam. Specifically with the AGE-2 and Zeta being variable-flight type mobile suits while the AGE-3 and Double-Zeta are more heavily armed and armoured units.

Gundam Age like a lot of series, starts off on a space colony, which comes under attack by an enemy. The twist in this one is that the teenage lead, named Flit Asuno, doesn't randomly fall into the cockpit of the experimental high performance mobile suit and get left there. Flit designed and built the AGE-1 Gundam himself. He knows it better than any other potential pilot, so when the so called "Unknown Enemy" attack, he jumps straight in the cockpit and takes the fight to them.

In order to keep things interesting for the kids, the show has been written in a fashion that keeps the plot moving along very quickly, with big changes happening every couple of episodes. Firstly is the show's primary contrivance; the AGE device. The AGE device functions as a sort of Universal Constructor. Every other episode it springs into action. Based on the battle data, the AGE device automatically invents and then manufactures new weapons and components for both the Gundam and the battleship the Gundam is based from. Thanks to the AGE device, we get treated to new toys for the characters to use to crush the enemy every number of episodes. Of course, this is exactly the kind of thing that can help keep a show interested.

The second tool that the show uses to keep the audience hooked is alluded to in the title. The series is broken up into different 'Ages.' Similar to the separate parts of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, these are self contained stories with timeskips in between them. In this case, they are of course connected by the Gundams and the common enemy. Also, as with Jojo's, the protagonists are related. At least so far, the pilot of AGE-2 being the son of the AGE-1 pilot. In this way, we get full plot arcs played out in a relatively small number of episodes, with a larger plot stringing the stories into one.

As I said before, this is a kids show. Not only is this apparent in the structure and devices used to maintain interest, it's also pretty apparent through the writing and character design. Everything is very simple, bright colours and clean lines. The lead characters, while ostensibly 14 look closer to about 9 or 10. The enemies are clearly identified and, at least at first, are not identified as human or made out to be in any way sympathetic. Loyalties are for the most part, clear cut. Though there are a number of details which are a little surprising for a kids show. For example, in the opening episodes a colony is torn apart due to torsional stress after its outer shell is breached. This realistic result that even the most hard nosed military Gundam series didn't have. Though the best thing about this show so far? Grodek Ainoa.

Lieutenant Colonel Grodek Ainoa is the leader of the Federation force stationed on the colony where the show begins. By the end of the second episode, Grodek has tied up the captain and bridge crew of a battleship moored at the colony and dumped them in a storeroom at the spacedock, presumably to die? He then takes the liberty of hacking the ships records and erasing the crew manifest, instating himself as Captain and his squad as the new crew. Two episodes in, and he's stolen a top of the line Battleship and left the original crew for dead. When a Federation official comes to arrest Captain Ainoa for a court martial, the good Captain blackmails the official and takes off with the battleship, crew and the AGE-1 Gundam to lead the cast on his own personal mission for revenge. He only gets better from here.

Next time, I'll ramble some more on projects I've been working on, or talk about another TV show I saw recently.

Captain Grodek Ainoa lays it down.


  1. I dunno about the AGE keeping things interesting. I think it's more likely to result in Voltaire writing a sequel to "The USS Make Shit Up".

  2. Well, it is intended for children. They like shiny new things cropping up every episode.