Mobile Suit Gundam could be considered one of the most influential anime of all time. It spawned the real robot genre, introduced serious social topics such as politics and war to its audience, and inspired an endless lineup of spin-offs and model kits that one will have to wait four to six weeks to ship to one's house from Hobby Link Japan. Out of this metaseries, Gundam fans have born witness to the critically acclaimed Zeta Gundam, and wished they never had to endure Sunrise vomiting out SEED Destiny. And now, after a plethora of hit-or-miss alternate universe spin-offs and mountains of model kits, we now see, on the heels of the thirtieth anniversary of the original anime, the debut Mobile Suit Gundam AGE.
And I have not met a damn soul who is happy about this.
Is this the end of Gundam as we know it? Find out, after the break.
When the Corocoro Comic released the first images of this upcoming Gundam series onto the Internet, the reactions were negative. From 4chan to YouTube, the Western fanbase cringed at the character designs, reminded of Digimon or possibly even Pokemon: Best Wishes. There was even a rumor circulating that the Gundams were controlled remotely by cell phones, provoking a fan uproar. The old guard ain't happy, and like Jerid watching every one of his love interests die at the hands of Kamille Bidan, they cannot do anything about it.
However, this might not be the death of Gundam as we know it.
For one, the "kiddie anime" many people claim Gundam AGE to be has an intriguing storyline, not to mention a dose of Gundam-trademarked civilian war casualties to spice everything up. Spanning three generations of a "father, child, and a descendant" and a century-long war, this may not be the next Pokemon like so many believe it to be. In 101 A.G., several hundred years after humanity has moved from the planet Earth into the all-too-familiar O'Neill Cylinder space colonies, the united Earth Federation suffers the first military strike by an army of saurian space-mobile suits known only as "UE" (Unknown Enemy, perhaps the most creative name I've heard since Kyon's alias, "John Smith.") Seven years later, our main character Frit Asuno experiences one of these raids, where he watches his mother die under the rubble of their house and the shadow of a UE.. Flashing another seven years later, Frit Asuno, now 14 years old, completes his construction of the first Gundam, the White Savior, just as the Unknown Enemy begins to attack the Nora Space Colony. Gundam AGE may have the art style of a modern day Astro-Boy, but it has not abandoned the franchise's affinity for a high body count.
There's also those nasty little rumors that spread around. In the absence of information, people assume the worst, and plenty of that occured when the Gundam fanbase only had those leaked magazine pictures to stare at scathingly. But even now, stories spread like Minovsky particles; most notably, one rumor claims that that the Gundam will be either be summoned, controlled or activated by a cell phone. Now, when I first heard this, I really hoped that the cell phone would at least be serviced by Verizon, because if it's AT&T exclusive Frit is plum out of luck. But upon further inspection of the internal systems of the "White Savior" in the trailer, that rumor turned out to be a load of crap, much like Char's complete 180 in the movie that bears his name. Instead of the Gundam's car key being a cell phone or, even worse, a god damned USB flash drive, it's some kind of weird block that looks like a Digivice. Wipe the foam away from the sides of your mouth, Gundam fans, this show isn't as stupid as you thought.
But while it can be said that Gundam AGE isn't the stupid, happy-go-lucky story many believe it to be, it can also be said there's much to be angry about. I've never wanted to drive a beam saber through the chest of anyone more than the original character designer Takuzo Nagano (of Inazuma Eleven GO fame). Hell, I've never been so pissed off at an art designer that I would want to go out of my way to look up his name just so I know who had earned my ire. The presence of aliens are also a little off-putting in any Gundam anime. Gundam 00's attempt to introduce extraterrestrials was not well-recieved. Extraterrestrial warfare belongs to the Macross franchise, not to Gundam. It also can't be said that this probably won't be aimed at a younger audience. Yes, there will be fire and death, but the original Gundam had that too, and that anime was aimed at an audience of children in 1979. While AGE may still have Gundam's trademark anti-war messages, violence and death, it will probably be watered down for the children's sake.
But while I bask in my hatred of Takuzo Nagano, raise an eyebrow towards the "Unknown Enemy" and whoever thought it was a good idea to call them that, and sigh at the age of Frit Asuno (14 when he pilots, 7 when he starts building the damn Gundam), I can always enjoy Gundam Unicorn, an extension of the Universal Century timeline. I can also take solace in the fact that Sunrise will announce yet another Gundam anime in the next week! Life may look depressing at the moment for Gundam fans, but hey, chin up! AGE may not be as bad as previously imagined. And if it is, there's always the next Gundam anime. And even if those are all horrible atrocities, it's great to know we can always watch Gundam Unicorn. So chin up, whistle, and always look on the bright side of life!