Note: The author of this review is by ExpiredSushi, a friend of our Team GG Falldog, the man behind the DarkHistoryDatabase. This review can also be read at Team GG Falldog's OtakuRevolution.com.
First off, I am only going to review the Plot and Characters. I am not picky about animation or music so I feel that it would be pointless for me to try and review those aspects. Second, I'm going to review each "Generation" separately and than the show as a whole. Each generation was different and had its own pros and cons and can be almost considered their own shows. Note: It may have been a while since I've seen some of these episodes so don't expect complete accuracy.
This review contains spoilers!
Generation 1: Flit Asuno
Plot: Generation one started off pretty solid with the mysterious UE attacking Nora and Flit using the AGE-1 to defend Nora. However, the Fardain arc was pretty pathetic. It was a pretty drastic shift from UE killing everyone to essentially two clown gangs fighting each other for no reason. Almost everything about Fardain was unnecessary and too out of place. After Fardain, we jumped pretty much back into "War" and the Battle of Ambat. The battle itself was nothing special, with exception to Flit (back to that later). The ending could have been better, a simple epilogue by Millais didn't do it justice. Overall, the plot was ok overall, but Fardain really dragged down this generation.
Characters: Unfortunately, Flit's generation saw very few strong characters. Flit and Grodeck are the only two characters I can consider developed. Flit's transformation as a result of Ambat was Phenomenal and pretty well done. He went from a plucky, smart kid to a heartless, on-edge murderer. Grodeck, a vengeful man because of the murder of his wife and child at the hands of the UE, was also a great character because he was portrayed as resourceful with a no-bullshit attitude. His choice to take all the responsibility for his actions at the end was amazing and only added to his awesomeness. After that, the rest of the cast are incredibly poor. The Diva's crew had little to no personality, Emily and Dique were incredibly annoying, the Zalam and Euba groups were jokes. The only "moderate" characters were Woolf and Desil. Woolf started off as the pretentious Ace pilot but developed into an almost big-brother to Flit. Desil was an insane brat, but he was pretty well-portrayed with spot-on voice acting.
Conclusion: Generation One was acceptable, maybe if it had been a full series by itself and many of the characters got more development it could have been better. Too much wasted time in Fardain and lackluster characters (that don't even carry on to later seasons) definitely brought down G1 to a mediocre status.
Generation 2: Asemu Asuno
Plot: G2 started off on a lighter tone with a focus on Asemu before he really joined the war effort. It was overall just build-up for why Asemu enlisted, to defeat his friend Zeheart. The rest of the season is mostly built around Asemu trying to become better in order to defeat Zeheart and its done pretty well. The conclusion with Asemu finally figuring out his own beliefs was a solid ending. There were no questionable arcs like Fardain and the season stood on its own accomplishments.
Characters: G2 featured a large amount of new faces, as well as a few returning ones. Asemu was a good new character, an impressionable boy learning to discover himself and becoming a man. A lot of his mistakes are the result of his development and I had no problems with it. Zeheart was ok, he was supposed to portray the Vagans as real people; however, fanaticism for the Vagan cause threw some of that out the window. It was hard to like Zeheart when he always seemed so calm and distant. As for the rest of the new cast, I could care less about 80% of the Federation, the few exceptions being Obright and Romi. Likewise for the Vagan, the Magicians 8 had very little character because they were killed off soon after introduction and the rest of the new Vagans seemed as emotionless as ever.
As for the returning cast, some of were great, some pointless. Flit as an adult was amazing, he was still murderous, but he was also calm and methodical. He had his moments where you could see his hatred appearing but it was always kept subtle. Woolf's return as Asemu's mentor and father-figure was also great. From my perspective, he was that cool, older brother you always wanted. Unfortunately, besides those two, the rest of the returning cast was lackluster or downright useless. Grodeck was unceremoniously killed off, Emily is even more useless than she was in G1, Dique is still a joke, Millais has no personality, and Desil was just psychotic without any of the appeal he had in G1.
Conclusion: G2 overall was an improvement over G1. A more consistent plot and a couple strong characters really helped the show find solid ground. There wasn't as much wasted time as G1, but again, many of G2's characters were unlikable and poorly done. If there was more time to help develop the supporting cast, than G2 could have been an outstanding series (Hm, sounds familar).
Generation 3: Kio Asuno
Plot: Ok, this is where things get out of control and I think the writers forgot what they were doing. There are many parts in the plot that feel like rather than working in an event into the story in a good way, the writers simply shoe-horned them in and hoped they weren't awful. First example is Shanalua, a character that is built up 2-3 episodes prior to her inglorious death, a death that had little to no impact on viewers. Back to the beginning, Asemu's random disappearance after his character finally clicked was questionable. It became ridiculous when he returned out of nowhere as a space pirate and a different set of beliefs (I'll come back to this). Than came the introduction of the EXA-DB, something that was never even mentioned until now and is supposedly the most important thing to ever exist. After that was the Second Moon arc..., dear god that arc was almost as bad as Fardain. Here is where the writers shoe-horned another character, Lu, killed her off in less than 2 episodes and hoped would have an impact on viewers. Again, it failed. Not only that but they threw out all chances of Vagans being acceptable when they turned Ezlecant into a comic book villian (again, I'll come back). Kio than took all of his experiences and his new gundam and went the pacifist route, which was expected. This than carried into the Battle of Luna where there was another shoe-horned character who gets killed off in 2 episodes, Girard Spriggan, another failure. Finally, the Battle of La Gramis. This is where G3 both excelled and fell short. Many members of the support cast get their time to shine and don't disappoint (Seric and Obright). However, what could have been an amazing final battle is ruined by the fact that they try to tie up too many loose ends in too short of time. Some characters who have been built up for a while (Zeheart and Zanald), are just killed off without any real effect. The final episode was even more chaotic with the way Flit changed his mind so easily and Zera Gins and Shido being defeated pretty effortlessly. The epilogue itself seemed like a last minute addition. It stated/showed very little and felt pretty empty. G3 was such a chaotic season that its very hard to praise outside of a handful of moments.
Characters: Simply put, a lot of awkward characters. Many of the new characters lacked any spotlight or development unless they were to be killed off the next episode, thereby nullifying their development (Shanalua, Lu, Girard). A portion of the other characters received nothing (Bisidians, Diva's "problem" crew, Leil, Wendy, Zera). Another part got some development but resulted in nothing of value (Zanald, Anis, Wootbit). Thankfully, some characters like Fram, Seric, and Obright got plenty of character development and were rewarded with amazing and memorable scenes.
Onto the "Main" cast. Kio was overall a decent character. Many of his decisions are questionable and many viewers seem to dislike him; however, I think his character was acceptable. His pacifist personality was still a bit preachy, but it was portrayed pretty well. His fighting style wasn't ridiculous like Kira's in the freedom, and he wasn't a hypocrite like Kira. Kio chose not to kill and he never betrayed that decision. He was still a pretty flawed character, but I found him to be acceptable.
Asemu's return as a space pirate was way out of left field. He ended his generation as a proud man with a firm understanding of who he was. To suddenly become a pirate with a whole new set of beliefs was ridiculous and completely uncalled for. This sudden change drops some of Asemu's appeal and damaged his character.
Flit's return as a cranky, genocidal grandpa was to be expected. Overall, it was maintained pretty well. He continued to be determined to wipe Vagans out of the universe up until the last ten minutes of the show.... All it took was his grandson begging and a brief dream of those he lost to convince him to turn completely 180. It would have been much better if it wasn't so sudden and drastic. The whole "becoming a savior of all" thing did help redeem it a bit in my eyes.
Ezlecant...., I had hopes that Ezlecant was finally going to make the Vagans likeable, but the fact that they made him into a genocidal utopian turned that hope into dust. How can anyone like the Vagans when they've only been portrayed as mindless, ruthless zealots.
Zeheart...., now this is where an ok character went to absolutely absurd. Zeheart was an acceptable character in G2, and started off decently in G3. He was played up as a caring commander who genuinely took care of his subordinates. That all flew out the window when he conformed to Ezlecant's plan. He threw away all of his beliefs, which had been built up for ten or so episodes, like it was nothing. Another complete 180 of a character for no good reason. I can't find anything redeeming about Zeheart's character at this point.
Almost all the characters of G3 were flawed in some way, either they were under developed, developed and did nothing, or developed in the completely wrong direction. I have no idea what the writers were thinking when they ruined so many potentially good characters.
Conclusion: This was very depressing. G1 and G2 had their problems but were pretty solid overall, they had promise that was only ruined by G3. The horrible pacing, weak characters, and all around chaos leaves G3 as the worst of the 3 generations. Its flaws definitely outweigh its good moments. Everything felt wrong, wasted, or unfinished. Once again, if the show had been given more time to develop its plot/characters, maybe it wouldn't have been the mess it is.
Gundam AGE: Overall
Plot: AGE started off pretty rocky but eventually found some solid ground at the end of G1. G2 managed to keep this going throughout its season and ended on a pretty good note. G3 had it going at the start, but that quickly disappeared. I believe most Gundam series are defined by their last 10 or so episodes. Unfortunately, AGE's last 10 were pretty pitiful. So much potential was wasted on pointless arcs and time wasted on weak characters that could have been spent building and reinforcing existing plot points and characters.
Characters: Across three generations we received a flood of pointless, unlikable characters. Many characters were also very poorly handled and robbed of all potential. If time had been managed better or if each season was longer, we wouldn't have had so many pointless characters and weak, potentially good characters.
The Asuno family itself was pretty good. In my eyes, Flit was the main character of all three generations. The show essentially followed his descent into madness at the hands of the Vagan. He is a phenomenally strong character that I genuinely enjoyed following. Asemu was also a great character, only his sudden shift between seasons keeps him from being an overall solid character. Finally, Kio wasn't terrible, but he was definitely weak. Many of his actions and decisions cause his character to suffer. It also doesn't help that his season was overall poorly written. Perhaps if his season was done better, than his flaws wouldn't appear so significant.
Conclusion: The idea of having a cross-generation Gundam series had incredible potential and was interesting. Unfortunately, it didn't work out like it could have. Squandered time and characters all culminated in a poorly handled series. AGE does have some moments where it shined, but overall it was a very poor attempt at something new. With that said, I still enjoyed watching it on a week to week basis. Will I re-watch anytime in the near future? Definitely not. Do I think its the worst series? No, some of its better moments help keep it relatively afloat in my eyes. I'll probably go back and watch some of its better moments from time to time and try to ignore its massive flaws. Gundam AGE is most definitely not a "must-watch," but I wouldn't say its a "skip." Watch it if you want, but take it with a grain of salt and don't be too disappointed if you're not a fan.
Final Rating: 6.5/10
Thank you for reading my review of Gundam AGE! Sorry if its a bit wordy and chaotic, I'm a rather poor writer. Also, please understand that this is my opinion. If you don't agree, than you don't have to listen to me.
Article can also be read at OtakuRevolution.com