Monday, April 30, 2012

Gundam AGE - 29

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Nothing makes a Grandfather more proud that teaching his grandson how to kill before his 14th birthday…

OP3: "Real" by ViVid
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The final arc begins with a rousing, action-packed episode that introduces the third-generation hero and his surrounding cast.  I’m pretty much working under the assumption that the series is going to end with the Spring season, which would give them about 9-10 episodes to wrap things up.  That hasn’t officially been announced, but it seems most likely at this point as BD/DVD sales have certainly not been what Sunrise was hoping for.  This has been a pretty good show most of the time, nothing spectacular, but it was probably doomed by the negative fan reaction before the first episode ever aired.

They certainly didn’t want any time with the plot developments, giving Asemu not one but two massive death flags (“We’ll be together forever” to his newborn son, and “I’m going on my last mission”) and then announcing that he went missing on that mission and hasn’t been heard from since.  Cue 13 years later, and we meet 13 year-old Kio (Yamamoto Kazutomil, most recently Mochizuki in Another).  In true Gundam fashion we also meet his love interest immediately, the electric yellow-haired Wendy Hertz (Ise Mariya) and Mobile Suit Commander Selic Abis (Takemoto Eiji, very, very good as usual) who lends a dignified gravity to his short scenes.  There are a couple of friends in Kio’s peer group who don’t really make an impression as of yet.

In plot terms this is pretty much a continuation of the last arc, as we pick up the story just as the Vagan, secretly hidden on Earth since the end of the Asemu arc, finally launch Ezelcant’s master plan under the direction of the newly awakened Zaeheart – with mobile suits that have evolved into something like little Mechagodzillas.  Kio for his part seems like a fairly confident, kind-hearted lad (though he dresses like an Italian lawyer on his night off for some reason) and his grandfather Flit has seemingly been much more of a presence in his life than he was in his own son’s (though he was of course absent at Kio’s birth).  Yamamoto seems like a good fit for the role, bringing convincing fragility to the 13 year-old budding soldier.

I think Flit’s role here is certainly going to split the viewership.  For my part, I think there’s something a little sinister in the way he seemingly played the loving Grandpa, giving his Grandson a flight simulator as a gift, spinning tales of the Gundam – then pounced when his chance came, and thrust Kio into the middle of the battle.  I don’t rejoice in seeing a seemingly kind 13 year-old boy killing people, even in combat, and it would be a stretch to say he’s really in this by choice considering the way it played out. To some extent this could be argued to be one of the most important recurring themes in Gundam – the story of kids too young to be killing people forced to go to war and do just that.  And by making the hero of this arc their youngest ever (tied with one other) Sunrise have opened the series up to very interesting debate.

One problem I have with AGE is that there really isn’t anyone to root for.  Asesmu was a nice kid and so is Kio – heck, so was Flit until the whole Yurin tragedy – but in the larger battle, I dislike both sides.  The Vagans are victims initially, but think nothing of mass murder and certainly started this fight.  The Earth Federation is corrupt and idiotic, and Flit has openly stated that he desires the genocide of the Vagan people.  Poor Kio – Flit probably had no choice but to hide the Gundam close by knowing the Vagan would come looking some day, and the Vagan invaded his peaceful home.  But now he’s 13 and in the middle of a war, and his revenge-driven Grandpa’s genocidal secret weapon pointed at the heart of the Vagan race.  Like all of the protagonists in this series, he deserves better than way fate has given him – but maybe that’s the point.

I confess I’m not at all sure where this series is going to end up, nine remaining eps or not.  I sincerely hope we’re not building up to a vindication of everything Flit has done and everything he believes, but the Vagan and their Dear Leader don’t seem at all interested in a peaceful settlement.  Despite its reputation Gundam isn’t a purely an anti-war franchise, but traditionally it does at least indirectly ponder the question of children at war – not with the incisive and pitiless hand of an Evangelion or Ender’s Game, but at least it asks the questions.  Still, I can’t believe a vindication of Flit is consistent with Gundam’s 33-year track record, and that makes me wonder if we’re headed for some sort of Deux ex Asemu ending.  At the very least I expect to see him again (“missing” almost surely means “alive”) and he’s stated his desire to see his son grow up in a world free of war.  So does Flit, but their means of getting there are very different – and I’ve long speculated that we might end up with Asemu at one philosophical extreme and Flit the other, with Kio forced to choose.  I believe that possibility is still very much in the cards.

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ED3: "WHITE justice" by faylan
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13 comments:

  1. they are going to pull a mu la flaga move on this one i can see it ...

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    1. that would surely give the DVD a needed boost
      :)

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  2. Well I wonder what's with that mobile suit with the pirate flag in the background during the OP (the mechanical skull with the crossbones... err rather cross wrenches lol). Is that supposed to be a third faction? If so, I'm going to prematurely speculate that Asemu will be part of the faction (assuming he's alive).

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. Let's go ahead and delete that, just in case. I know I wish I hadn't seen it, though it doesn't come as any kind of surprise, if true.

      Snipyro sez, there's a big potential spoiler in the Gundam wiki if you want to see it!

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  3. I think that both sides will end up destroying each other and their precious EARTH... they need to come to an agreement... Hopefully Kio will become an ambasador of peace... On another note I can't help but think that Wendy (Kio's friend) and the lilac-haired vagan girl look a lot like Yuurin... Maybe that's because I still mourn her loss U___U

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  4. AGE will run its full course, the rumor that it is cut short is already debunked by the producer.

    Also Gundam don't rely on DVD/BD sales - it's the Gunpla, games, trading cards and toys which rakes in the moneys. Sunrise don't and can't make the calls when they are merely a subsidiary of Bandai.

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  5. And all of those subsidiaries are tanking in sales too, unfortunately. But if it runs the full 50(ish) eps, great - though that certainly means Asemu's arc was written to be quite short.

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    1. While the bargain bin prices of AGE kits are some indication, you don't know the sales until the quarterly report comes out, and even then Bandai's reports would just group them all under "Gundam franchise" so it's anyone's guess how good it is. As long as the bottom line is padded up nicely by the other products and they aren't making a lost overall AGE would see it's full course. They've stated they are in this for the long haul anyway so I think the budget is more than accounted for.

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  6. This would have been a great first episode for some super-robot show. And I love the AGE-3's design (Gundam ZZ!), but ugh, so much about this show just holds it back.

    Can we try to have some decent female characters this time? Please?

    (BTW, anyone else think it might have been interesting to have Kio be a girl? Just for the sake of the unexpectedness of it, if nothing else. Hell, you'd barely have to change the design, he looks almost exactly like his mother anyway)

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  7. I was honestly doubting my thoughts on Flit a bit when first watching. He seemed to be much kinder and less of a "Genocide Flit" when we first saw him. Thought maybe Asemu's disappearance had taught him some lessons. But might be wrong at the same time. He did give the kid a battle simulator as really young kid and has been raising him to fight. Think he learned from his own past and applied it here. In his arc didn't have any training and was slow to develop into a good pilot. Asemu didn't have much training though his path was guided. Still his development was largely thanks to him having very good natural skills for a pilot. Here Kio avoids the landmines of Flit's arc and thus can fight like a vet in the first episode.

    If one wants a really dark theory here it is. Asemu was going to quit. So Flit was going to lose an Asuno to fight in wars for him (though if this happened he probably would have stepped up). But at the same time Asemu might have wanted Kio to avoid the Gundam and thus avoid all the suffering he went through. Asemu conveniently going MIA lets Flit move in and mold the kid as he sees fit since Romary isn't likely to put her foot down. Of course I don't think Flit would intentionally do anything to Asemu, but kind of fun to speculate what he might do for the sake of annihilating the Vagans.

    I expect we're getting the full course and Kio will get the most episodes of any Asuno to date. With Kio now introduced they can really spent 20 episodes or so playing out this conflict.

    Think you might be right about Asemu playing a key role. Despite my belief that the series just loves him suffering he could offer a different route for Kio to follow. Asemu wants to protect people who matter to him and Zeheart counts as one of them, so a war like this doesn't suit him.

    In the end both sides are utterly frustrating. Vagans start as victims, but have made others victims. The Federation did a lot of stupid things and we can't know how much of Flit's desire to annihilate them remains in Federation leadership.

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  8. Kio having X-Rounder powers.
    That AGE-3 looking so similar to ZZ Gundam.
    Flit still living strong and still out for some Vagan butt plus raising his grandson to fight.
    Asemu being MIA(doubt he's dead with him being in the ED and all).
    I'm guessing there will be a 3-way conflict between the 3 pilots.
    In any case, it's off to a good start, the last generation.
    How long will this last seeing as Asemu's arc seemingly cut off is the problem now.

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  9. I would put money on Asemu being alive. From their track record you have to actually see a person die in a Gundam franchise for them to be dead and sometimes they still come back to life. If they still are doing 50 eps they could do it in the form of a shorter Kio arc around the same length as Asemu then use the rest of the series as a more 3 way arc with all Asunos being major players and focusing on that instead of just 1 Asuno.

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