What’s this – is it Saturday morning, and am I 14 years old again?
OP: “Asu e” (明日へ; “To Tomorrow”) by Galileo Galilei
That’s the way the premiere of Gundam AGE made me feel, and there’s something to be said for that transformative ability. Preface: I know as little about the “Gundam” mythos as it’s possible for someone who’s been an anime fan for a decade to know. It’s proto-mecha – Paleo-mecha, really – and that makes it historically important. I’ve tried to watch a few of the countless incarnations over the years and none of them clicked for me. I know it’s typically about young men, usually bishounen, piloting mecha through wars of all types. It often seems to have vaguely homoerotic overtones, and from what I hear can be surprisingly violent. But beyond that – and half of that’s probably wrong anyway – I’m out of the loop. So why in the world am I watching this show now?
To be honest, it was the character designs by Nagano Takuzo that drew me in. They remind me so much of Leiji Matsumoto, especially Galaxy Express 999, with a strong hint of Ishinomori Shotaro. There’s retro and there’s retro, but this look is really all-in retro, and that appealed to me. I also thought it was about time to give the property one more chance and see if I can make it through an entire series. This is Sunrise’s flagship property on top of everything else, and I owe it that much.
So with all that said, I enjoyed the first episode. Quite a bit, actually. It’s extremely retro not just in character design, but storytelling as well. I get the feeling that this is somewhat less dark and more shounen than the typical “Gundam” (though I’m no expert) but I enjoyed the fact that the whole package looked and felt like a rousing boys’ adventure yarn from the 70’s. You have 14 year-old boy hero Flit (the always excellent Toyonaga Toshiyuki) who comes complete with a tragic family history. He’s trying to reclaim the family legacy his dying mother passed on to him by building the Gundam, and to save the world in the process. You have the adoring blonde girl who loves him, Emily (Enzo Aya) and even the wild-haired tech genius Grandpa, Vargas (Bandou Naoki). When the dreaded UE (Unknown Enemy) that destroyed his home and killed Mama come to his colony world, little Flit has no choice but to take the helm of the Gundam he’s been building and fight them off.
Gundam AGE will win no points for subtlety or originality, that’s for sure. But that’s also sort of beside the point, at least for me. This strikes me a series you can enjoy without thinking too much, a rousing hero story with a protagonist who’s a paragon of boyish enthusiasm and idealism and never spent an emo moment in his life. Thing will blow up, Emily will cry and gaze adoringly at Flit, Grandpa Vargas will cackle and act silly. It’s all good fun, and that’s all it seems to be attempting to be. In that sense it’s nothing akin to the likes of Galaxy Express 999, of course, but that’s not a fair standard. Full credit for the outstanding OP by Galileo Galilei, too. I don’t know yet if this is the sort of show I’ll blog, but for now anyway it’s certainly one I’ll watch.
ED: “Kimi no Naka no Eiyū” (君の中の英雄; “The Hero Within You”) by Minami Kuribayashi