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Mobile Suit Gundam AGE Collection 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

It’s an age of war in the world of Gundam.

What They Say:
Hundreds of years have passed since the space colonies were settled and the space age began. The wars that were once fought for control of the Earth Sphere had ended, and it seemed that an era of peace had arrived. But this fleeting peace has now collapsed. In the year A.G. (Advanced Generation) 101, the space colony Angel is attacked and destroyed by a mysterious “UE (Unknown Enemy)” that suddenly appears. This disaster, which produces many casualties, is later known as “The Day Angel Fell.” The UE will continue to threaten the people of the Earth Sphere for many years to come.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as does the English language mix, both of which are done up in uncompressed PCM. The series works the forward soundstage the way most Gundam shows do with some good placement and a sense of movement during the action sequences and more straightforward designs during the dialogue side. That area gets a little more from time to time when the characters float across the screen or amid the action as they move about, but that’s not all that strong overall. In general, it’s a solid forward soundstage design that plays as you’d expect from a TV series with no surprises. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011 and 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-eight episodes are spread across four discs with seven episodes per disc. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a good look go it though I’m less sold on the character designs. In terms of mecha there’s plenty to like as we get something that feels like it’s adhering to the traditional concepts but bringing in a few at that time new modern concepts with how the screens would work and the like. There’s that sense of the familiar with minor changes so that it doesn’t stray from what works. It’s the characters that are a bit simpler in their design, particularly the hair, and it comes across as a little more kid-friendly to some degree. The encoding for this is definitely well done as colors are rich and vibrant where they need to be and more earthy in those areas. Details hold up very well with no problems and the more fluid action sequences definitely stand out well. All the space-based scenes look great with solid backgrounds that don’t show anything in the way of noise or breakup.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the four discs across the hinges within. The front cover gives us a mix of characters from the two arcs with the Gundam in the background and it’s bright and colorful, showing what a good part of the show is like both in the look of it but the age of the characters. The back cover works a darker background with a few small shots from the show included. There’s some good mecha material along the bottom but the UE mecha blends a little too much into the darker background and the purple elements. The premise is covered decently without giving away too much and it has a solid breakdown of the extras included. While there are no inserts included with the release there is a nice show of the Gundam on the reverse side against a blue sky that spans both panels while the left one also breaks down the episodes by name and title.

Menu:
The menu design for this series is pretty nice as we get some good combination mecha/character stills across it that reflects the episodes that each disc contains. There’s some good technical framing to it and I like the colors used as well as the block style tabbing system along the bottom that’s for display. With the backdrop of Mars underneath it all there’s a good science fiction feel here without it feeling like it’s over the top or too forced with what it’s doing. The navigation is simple and straightforward with easy to use selections and a pop-up menu that has some nice elements that are fun when playing over the show during playback itself. Everything works smoothly and without problems making it a fun and straightforward experience.

Extras:
The extras for this release are minimal but very welcome ones as we get the two clean versions of the opening and closing sequences that are pretty well animated with some nice design work. We also get a small collection of original promos and TV commercials for the series that I like seeing in how the show was marketed.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having long been a Gundam fan since the original UC days, noting my first exposure with it in 0080: War in the Pocket while watching Gundam Build Fighters, there’s certainly been a number of interpretations over the years. Gundam AGE marks the twelfth iteration of the property when it came out in 2011 and ran for forty-nine episodes. The series is one that’s a little off-putting at first because it feels a bit like a kid-oriented show in a way but grows into something else as it moves along its arcs. Like most Gundam series, this one sets up for a significant war, one that’s come after a lengthy period of relative peace in the Earthsphere. Interestingly, it notes in the opening about how this sets the stage for a war that would last a hundred years, which gives it a good bit of scale.

The show introduces us to the young character of Flit, a wild-haired young lad that has had a hard time in the past, having lost his family when an unknown enemy (a UE) attacked the colony he was one. We see that loss early on with his mother and how he managed to find his way from there because of the family heritage of the Asuno family. In a distant past, his family was heavily involved in the creation of Mobile Suits and there’s a lengthy smithing history to it. That has Flit feeling very connected to the Gundam machines and what they can offer, though he’s distant from them at the moment. Through the early part of the episode, we get some decent past and present material that highlights the UE aspect, Flit’s life and the kinds of friends he has on the colony. And we also get that Flit is very much an outlier when it comes to understanding the threat of the UE.

Not surprisingly, the UE has ended up making their way to the colony he’s on, which he had tried to warn people to no avail, and now we get to see the way they work in a big scale. It’s pretty simple but nicely done as the dark and demonic-like mobile suits spread out across the city and cause a lot of death and damage. While a lot of the mobile suits that the colony has have a hard time actually getting out to fight for a variety of unpreparedness reasons, Flit is able to use his connections to some of those that work inside the facility so he can grab a suit for himself and try and do something since everyone else seems so incapable.

It’s typical youth wish fulfillment, but it at least works a little bit in the context of his family and history and what he’s shown to others before. It’s all given the expected due here as he takes out the Gundam for the first time with the buildup for it, but we also get him to understand the devastation, which he knows in the back of his mind due to his past encounter with the UE. While the level of skill he has here does make you roll your eyes a bit, it fits in with what they’re trying to do and potentially can explain a bit better later as he settles into regular use of the machine. That said, having watched so many Gundam shows with suddenly gifted pilots, it’s not something I can really get all up in arms about.

Gundam AGE kicks off as any number of the previous incarnations do, though it obviously skews a bit younger with our lead character. But not so much that it feels out of place with what has come before. There’s an odd balance trying to be struck here with the almost old-school style designs and the simplistic animation with the darker tones that the story takes with the destruction and devastation that hits the colony. Flit isn’t the most engaging of characters at this point, but nothing he does makes me revile him like some other pilots have done in the past. The show is one that like any Gundam show has plenty of potential, but it’s also one where I know it can take half its run before it can really exercise it.

Over the course of the first half of this set we do get a fairly traditional show like we’ve seen with Gundam series before. This being the twelfth series for the property means there’s a fair bit of experience with how Gundam franchises roll and it’s been stronger in seeing it in the last few years with everything coming out and being able to burn through it in marathon form. Where Gundam Age shakes things up, however, is that around the halfway mark here where we get the big battle and setting the tone for what’s to come, it introduces something I don’t believe we’ve seen before. A time jump. And not a small time jump but rather a twenty-five-year time jump. That moves Flit from a fifteen-year-old to a forty year old that is now a commander in the Federation forces and is manning the Big Ring that is protecting Earth from what the UE was discovered to be.

That in itself was an interesting way to close out the younger Flit’s story before this as we saw how the UE are lost humans that were abandoned and discarded as part of a Martian settlement effort that went wrong. They’re now almost like an overpowered cult in wanting to come back and have spent years fighting against the earthsphere all while knowing that when they die their spirits migrate back to earth anyway, so in the end they win on a personal level. In the time between the two periods, Flit has climbed the ranks and has been pretty squarely focused on eliminating the UE, or Vagan, encampments that they find and obliterating them in order to protect the earthsphere and his family. It’s become his main mission and one he does well. Frankly, the show would have been strong to follow him at this point and explore his life at this age, but that’s not what a Gundam TV series does. A Gundam TV series is about boys.

And that means our focus is on Flit’s son, Asemu, who is working his way through training but struggling with not being the same kind of person his father was. There’s something to be said for exploring that next generation issue more closely than previous properties has but it’s only going to go so far here. While Flit gets some time here and there, most of our focus is on Asemu and his journey which definitely is fun to follow, particularly since he was the target of some Vagan forces that inserted themselves into his life to try and find and destroy the Gundam. The main leader with the was a young man named Zeheart that Asemu became good friends with, and that Zeheart genuinely seemed to like, that turns into a larger rivalry in the stars. Asemu’s path is a little more direct than Flit’s was just because of him having parents and some guidance whereas Flit was a bit more lost from the start with the loss of his own parents.

The show works a pretty good series of events overall as the two sides unfold, though part of what bothers me is that there’s very little to the UE side beyond revenge. It’s kept as simple as possible for the younger audiences so it’s not steeped in any real ideology or anything as it’s more character/cult of personality-driven with what it’s doing. And while Flit does have some key moments across it, its focus on Asemu means that he, like Zeheart, will pay only small lip service to the big picture and the details and mostly just go against each other until the inevitable moment where they have to work together. They do handle it pretty nicely overall and the end result provides for some good closer to this part of the AGE era, giving us just a one-year time leap forward for the moment to show some good epilogue material with a couple of intriguing twists.

In Summary:
I had seen the first twelve or so episodes streaming years ago but had missed out on the rest as they were cycled out. Revisiting in full here is certainly interesting since I had stopped just before the time leap. I normally like these kinds of events and there are some interesting aspects to it here, but I would have preferred sticking to Flit as the primary and exploring some real ideological aspects of this war, particularly once we got more of the background on it. This release is pretty damn solid with a great looking encoding, a tight and weighty package, the inclusion of a dub for the run, and some engaging storytelling that doesn’t play like most other Gundam series do in many ways. The end result is a fun if flawed show that has me really curious to see where the next time leap will take us.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings, Promos, Commercials

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment / Sunrise
Release Date: May 1st, 2018
MSRP: $74.99
Running Time: 700 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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