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Saturday, October 1, 2011

The New Gundam AGE is Dawning...

The first decade of the 21st Century was a little rough for the Gundam franchise. Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino's Turn A Gundam finished up it's run, which had begun in 1999, in 2000 and the fans in Japan eagerly awaited what the next project would be. Turn A had been successful but also controversial due to mecha designs by American Syd Mead (famous for designing the look of the movie Blade Runner), Jules Vernian overtones and serious unmarketability (a fact which Bandai might have thought was Tomino giving them the One-Fingered Salute).

Across the pond in America, Gundam did enjoy a brief surge of popularity when the 1995 series Gundam Wing was aired in the summer of 2000. I can't remember when I first saw GW exactly but I think it might have been in early 2001. Unfortunately, after the popularity that Wing generated, Sunrise/Bandai insisted that the series be followed up by the original MS Gundam... which had been made in 1979. Not that First Gundam is bad in any way, it just looks dated and still has a lot of dumb 70s Super Robot cliches. Gundam's popularity in the US immediately took a nosedive, especially with the 9/11 terror attacks and not even airing series like G Gundam or 08th MS Team could save it.
In 2002 the first series of the new decade was launched, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. Unfortunately SEED was not necessarily the best Gundam evar. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy SEED and its characters (particularly Cagalli)
but I really wish it had not followed the storyline of First Gundam so much. Also, it took fanservice, clip shows and stock footage to a new level and had the first bonafide sex scene in a Gundam show (not that you actually see much but its pretty obvious that Kira and Flay are naked and doing it.) Other than that though, it was a pretty good series. It's sequel series, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny however... well that's a story for another time. Suffice to say that Destiny is to Gundam what Revenge of the Fallen is to Transformers: A load of bull honkey. There was a VERY short OVA Destiny side-story called STARGAZER released in 2006 and then Gundam 00 (pronounced double-oh) premiered in 2007, took a break in 2008 and finished in 2009.  So it was pretty much like any decade of a franchise, it had ups and downs but more downs than ups I think.
The new decade was started off with the Gundam Unicorn OVA premiering in March 2010, Gunpla Builders in August of that year and also the Gundam 00 movie A Wakening of the Trailblazer (no that is not a typo). These three things are all made of epic amounts of WIN, so this new decade is starting off strong. And now, in a little more than a week, we will be getting the first new Gundam series of this decade, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. Now this series has been getting a lot of buzz on the internet, and a lot of it is not good. Fortunately though, this bad press is being generated by trolls. What do I mean by troll? Well according to Wikipedia: In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. In other words, they're internet douchebags.
Why do I mention this? Bcause the announcement of Gundam AGE, has caused a storm of nerd rage on the internetz that would make the Trekkies, Warsies or Sonic fans blush with shame. Based on a few magazine scans (some of which have been faked), a couple of two-minute trailers and the offcial reveal by Sunrise, many so-caled "fans" of Gundam have said things such as "this is Gundam for the Naruto crowd!" or "Gundam has sold out and become commercialized!"
Samuel J. Houston on a bicycle, these people are seriously deluded. Now, I'm not going to pick apart the troll arguments here, others like Chris Guanche of MAHQ.net have already done that, I just mention it to point out that condemning something before you've even seen the first episode is completely stupid. It's the equivalent of a five-year-old refusing to eat his broccoli because "I've never had that before and it looks yucky."

Anywho, what's the deal with Gundam AGE? Well wether or not it is intened to be a kids show is irrelevant. I wouldn't be at all surprised because that's what SEED was supposed to do back in 2002, bring in a new audience. And even if it is intended for kids, who cares? Quality can be independant of demographic. I still enjoy cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series, Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) and The Real Ghostbusters. Even though they did have some truly stupid episodees, they also had very mature ones. One of the best lines I ever heard came from the Batman: TAS episode 'Heart of Ice.' (Think of it Batman: To never again walk on a summer's day with a hot wind in your face and a warm hand to hold. Oh yes... I'd KILL for that.") The point is to cut loose and have fun, something the internet generation is sorely lacking.
Back to Gundam AGE, we've got a couple of firsts here. Over the last thirty years, Sunrise has kept Gundam in house, but on this project they're collaborating with game studio Level 5, responsible for games like Dragon Quest VIII and the Professor Layton series. They have a pretty good track record and Sunrise must have liked the concept or they'd have NEVER agreed to let these guys come near the Golden Gundam Goose. The story of AGE takes place in another alternate universe, the Advanced Generation timeline. It's going to feature a multi-generational story that takes place over 100 years and three Gundam pilot protagonists that are father, son and grandson respectively. For now we're assuming that one part of the story focuses on the father Frit or Flit or however his damn name is pronounced and then will transition to when his son was a Gundam pilot and so forth. The title Gundam mobile suit itself, the AGE-1 will eventually evolve into the AGE-2 and AGE-3 (I think). It's a very interesting premise and we'll have to see where it goes. Now, that all being said, I'm not really hot on the character designs or the design of the show or on the desing of the Gundam AGE-1. I do honestly think that the mechanical designer took the original RX-78-2 Gundam and slapped on some 00 Raiser motifs. Hopefuly it will look better as it evolves into the AGE-2 and so forth.
Original RX-78-2 Gundam mobile suit from
Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)
AGE-01 Gundam AGE-1 from 
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE (2011)
So there we go. Now since this series is new and will be airing once a week, I'll actually be doing episode-by-episode reviews, something new for me. Below I'll be posting some links to information about the series and some YouTube videos about how to kill Gundam Trolls! Here's to the new series: Excelsior! (I hope).
Gundam AGE: Addressing the Stupidity, Part 1
Gundam AGE: Addressing the Stupidity, Part 2

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