Monday, May 7, 2012

Mobile Suit Gundam AGE - 30

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I confess I’m quite baffled as to where Gundam AGE is headed with this final arc.

Gundam has, over the years, mostly earned a reputation as an anti-war franchise.  In my personal view that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s more or less correct most of the time (how’s that for non-committal?).  But with this arc, well – I’m just not sure.  I’m still not finding anyone to root for – certainly not Flit, though he does continue to do the heavy lifting to keep the utterly incompetent Earth Federation from being decimated by the nearly as incompetent Vegan.  And certainly not the Vagan, who think nothing of murdering countless civilians in the pursuit of Ezelcant’s goals.

I’m sure I can’t have been the only one horrified when Kio blew up a ship full of Vagan and then grinned like he was opening a present on Christmas morning – but the thing is, I’m just not sure I was supposed to.  Maybe it’s because Kio is so much younger than the first two protagonists of AGE (again, he’s the youngest ever in Gundam along with Uso Ewin of Mobile Suit Victory Gundam) or maybe it’s because Flit is hanging around him like a vampire, but the whole conflict in this chapter seems grotesque to me.  Again, maybe that’s the point and I’m not giving the show enough credit – but it just seems to me that there’s a desperate need for someone to be whispering in Kio’s other ear, an Obi-wan to Flit’s Palpatine.  It’s not as though Kio had any choice about defending his planet – but someone needs to tell him that killing dozens or hundreds of people is something to be mourned, not celebrated – necessary or not.  He certainly became annoying at times, but AGE has never needed Asemu more than now.  I hope he flies that pirate Gundam back home as fast as possible.

As for the nominal heads of the armies themselves, “pathetic” is the word that comes to mind.  Can there have been a more preposterously terrible military commander than Zaeheart?  Seriously, he’s awful – how many battles has he lost?  As for the “good guys” we have a military-industrial complex so corrupt and clueless than it takes a retired hate-monger and a pubescent in a leisure suit to save their home world, and even then they still almost manage to screw it up by sending  the aged Diva out under the most useless crew ever (apart from Rody Madorna, thank goodness for Kio).  It’s a team of seeming misfits and malcontents, under  the command of “Captain” Einus Natola (Satou Rina) who only got the call because of nepotism.  I feel terrible for some of the characters here – first a “Yurin”, and now “Einus”?  You’d think for a language with so many words borrowed from English, certain pronunciations would have set off a red flag in the writers room…

A breath of fresh air in all this is Seric Abis, the mobile suit commander we met last week.  As played by Takemoto Eiji he brings a much-needed sensible competence to all his scenes.  Maybe he’ll even be enough to get Einus through her complete lack of confidence and competence as the ship’s captain.  With Big Ring apparently destroyed, I suppose it’s time for yet another shakeup in the Earth Federation hierarchy and new incompetents to screw up the war, while the same incompetent Vagan will still be screwing up theirs.  My assumption is that Kio will be joining the Diva crew, and hopefully without Flit – he needs a chance to hear some different perspectives, even if they are from the unlikeliest crew in the Federation. 

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12 comments:

  1. The Kenosha KidMay 7, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    As far as Gundam as an anti-war franchise goes, my understanding (though I haven't watched much) is that it tends to portray war as a thing that makes both sides of a given conflict equally hateful and spiteful. Rather cynical, eh?

    So I suspect your reaction is the intended one.

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  2. I do think that the grotesqueness was intended, to an extent.

    The show obviously used this episode to vilify the Vagans in the minds of the characters, specifically Kio (in the minds of the viewers too, but that's not important to the narrative itself). There are a couple possible reasons for this.

    1) Since this is a more "kid-friendly" Gundam series (I've always thought of this as the series that's trying to reel in new, younger fans), it could simply be further distinguishing the line between "good" and "evil," using both Kio's and Flit's enjoyment of the Vagan warship's demise as a means to say "we are right, so we are happy."

    Although, this doesn't mesh so well with the events of the 2nd arc under the perspective that it tried to establish a more human side to the Vagan (through Zeaheart's character, his relationship with Asemu, and short-lived their team up at the end; along with the child seeking revenge from the end of the 1st arc).

    Of course, one could also take the perspective that the 2nd arc's purpose was to show the last remaining "human" qualities that the Vagan had, which have now been expunged in this 3rd arc. This would support the first possibility, but assuming that's not the case:

    2) They are using this pair of episodes in the 3rd arc (and likely later episodes as well) to buildup to the anti-war message which will be made apparent in the finale. By showing war at its worst, with both sides want total annihilation of the other (represented by how Flit passed on his hatred of the Vagan to Kio, who now expresses joy in killing the Vagan, as he no longer views them as human beings worth feeling sorry for). So, this mutual desire for massacre will, through the following events, bring the characters to their lowest points (from a moral standpoint, at the very least, but likely in other ways as well) and use this to fuel the anti-war message to be revealed in the endgame.

    I personally hope it's the latter (or, you know, some variation of it), as that would make for a stronger story from a narrative standpoint. Though, given the audience, I wouldn't put it past them to go for the former.

    And yeah, Zeaheart really sucks at this whole "commanding" thing. I mean, I can forgive the inexperienced crew on the Diva (though not the idiot who decided to send that crew in a war-zone just to make a point), but Zeaheart's only strategy so far has been... well... frontal assault, lol

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  3. For all the different Gundams I've watched, I never really took the Gundam's anti-war messages seriously. Its pretty much a double standard, trying to espouse anti-war while the anime is essentially a marketing vehicle for Plastic Models of highly destructive robots.

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    Replies
    1. For what it's worth, Tomino (at least) always seemed to be rather uncomfortable with what other people did with the franchise. I don't know whether or not that extended to the merchandising, though.

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    2. Gundam has always been a market-driven franchise even during the Tomino Era. I'm fine with that though since I watch Gundam for the mecha. Its just that it's anti-war messages always comes off as preachy and pretentious.

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  4. I have to say this last arc of Gundam Age is starting off rather weak. I pretty much agree with everything you said about Flit and Kio, and I think Kio REALLY needs someone a bit more human to teach him. Zeheart is starting to look really pathetic now, and I honestly wish he had a lot more Char-like moments where he actually shows competence as a military commander.

    I never thought Age stood out as a Gundam series, but I can see why it's getting low sales - it's just not something I'd really want to watch again considering how tons of the battles just don't make much sense.

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  5. I'm guessing the computer games of this time have vegans as the enemy. Instead of games in a ww2 setting that we play nowadays they play vegan war games. Kip has been trained from young who the baddy is. Who killed daddy. And now he sees it first hand.
    Dv

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  6. Pilot: I'm in charge of the Gundam now.
    Flit: I'm Flit Asuno!
    Pilot: But you're retired.

    I like this new guy.

    Looks like Flit is raising himself the perfect weapon for his revenge and Kio seems to be going in this mindset. Gundam is pretty much about the two sides of the war and that no one is really correct. But really, most just watch for the mecha. I certainly like both aspects but with this one, really hard to root for a side.
    The new Diva crew is so laughable. But there seems to be some good seiyuus in them. I think I heard Paku Romi in that pink girl who talked to Kio. Plus Satou Rina as the captain. Sunrise sure has the budget to get these top seiyuus.
    Well, let's just say I'm liking this arc more than the previous ones.
    Let's just hope the AGE system gets used more often now. I even forgot it existed.

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    Replies
    1. I like the new guy, too. He gives me hope that common sense will at least have one voice in this arc.

      And yes, Gundam is amazing for seiyuu. One big name after another.

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    2. Edward!

      (Though to be fair, this show hasn't really used the seiyuu hadn't been used all that effectively ... Romary and the Bridge Bunnies anyone?)

      I really liked the one scene where she spoke to Kio and told him not to break formation next time. It reminded me of the scene where Flit ended up saving Ract in episode 13 when he was seeking a death equal to Don's, and Flit told him the same advice here. ''Don't throw your life away''

      Different situations, sure, but it's still a good reminder of the better parts of Flit's personality.

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  7. While I agree with your point that Flit's hatred of Vagans had grown to an unhealthy level, and even if I think that the analogies you are using are a bit extreme (Vampire and Palpatine?) I do think it's scary just how far Flit is willing to go to get back at the Vagans by even making his own Grandson into a super soldier, I still think that you might be painting Flit as being more dangerous than he's being portrayed.

    Do recall that since his childhood till now, the Vagan's had given Flit nothing but grief. They killed his mother, destroyed his home colony twice, killed people he cared about (Bruzer and Don Boyage come to mind) and to top it all off, took the 14 year old civilian girl (who like him, lost all her immediate family thanks to the Vagans) who he had fallen in love with, put her in a weapon against her will to be used as a human shield against him before killing her right in front of his eyes. Afterwards, they kept on attacking everyone refusing every offer of a peace treat the Federation gave them. Yes, Flit's constant refusal to accept the Vagan's as humans is seriously unsettling with how much hatred there is in him, but so far, the Vagan's had done everything to deserve the limitless hate and the accusation of being demons that Flit has projected towards them.

    As for the scene where Kio is happy he brought down that Vagan ship (ship, not people. As far as he is seeing from his perspective, Kio isn't thinking ''I'm killing another human being'' but rather is just shooting at machines and stopping them) I didn't feel terrified as opposed to relived when that ship that we had scene not moments ago (and in detail) kill countless innocent civilians for no practical reason other than genocide for the sake of a pure earth had been brought to a stop. Seriously, it's hard for me to not be happy with Kio when he had effectively saved any more of Olivertwon's residents from being killed pointlessly ...

    ''Can there have been a more preposterously terrible military commander than Zaeheart? Seriously, he’s awful – how many battles has he lost? ''

    The correct question here is ''How many battles had Zeheart won?'' and you just realize how absurdly retarded the entire Vagan's master plan really is ...

    '' I feel terrible for some of the characters here – first a “Yurin”, and now “Einus”? You’d think for a language with so many words borrowed from English, certain pronunciations would have set off a red flag in the writers room…''

    This is more of a Gundam Tradition (TM). After all, this is the franchise that gave us names such as Full Frontal and Quattro Vagina ...

    Oh the so not subtle innuendo ...

    ''My assumption is that Kio will be joining the Diva crew, and hopefully without Flit''

    I hope not. Flit is the best character in the entire show, even if I find some parts of him disturbing, there is no denying he is carrying AGE on his shoulders and moving it along.

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    Replies
    1. There certainly is - I'm denying it.

      Flit was tiresome by the middle of Asemu's arc. His deal is pretty much clear at this point - the only competent guy in the Federation, wants to exterminate the Vagan race. A man of moral contrasts, blah blah blah. Let's move on. If there's anything interesting in this series at this point (and there is) it's the battle for Kio's soul and the question of whether decency can survive in this world in any form. Flit only interests me as he relates to those questions.

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