Friday 3 October 2014

First Impressions: Gundam Reconguista in G

Gundam Reconguista in G

2014 marks the 35th anniversary of the Mobile Suit Gundam, and as you can probably imagine one of (if not the) most iconic mecha franchises in the history of anime knows exactly how to throw a party. If the brilliant Gundam Build Fighters wasn't enough, we also have a second season of that, comedy shorts Gundam-san, Gundam: The Origin OVAs and (arguably the most important of them all) the long-awaited release of S.H. Figuarts Master Asia to enjoy/look forward to. But the main event is of course the brand new series, that goes by the rather wordy title of Gundam Reconguista in G, or simply G-Reco for short. But simply being made for the anniversary isn't the only big deal about this show, it's also the first one to be written and directed by franchise creator Yoshiyuki Tomino since Turn A Gundam back in 1999. THAT is a pretty big deal.

Premiering with a one-hour special of the first two episodes, G-Reco takes place in the Reguild Century - a timeline that follows on after the franchise's main Universal Century. The year is R.C. 1014, and young pilot cadet Bellri Zenam is a member of the Capital Guard - an organisation that protects the orbital elevator known as the Capital Tower. While protecting the Tower from a space pirate, Bellri faces off against an advanced mobile suit named the G-Self. When its pilot Aida Surugan is taken into custody, Bellri discovers he has the ability to pilot the suit - something no-one else other than Aida seemed to achieve. However the mysteries behind the G-Self are much deeper, as prior to this encounter is was seen ejecting a mysterious girl who then fell to Earth and subsequently lost her memories upon rescue.

As the opening titles of the first episode start rolling, it's immediately clear that the animation and art style is going to be one of G-Reco's biggest strength. Bringing on Eureka Seven veteran Kenichi Yoshida to handle character design, the end result is a blend of both his instantly-recognisable style with that iconic Gundam look. What makes that even better is the obviously retro style Sunrise have gone for in putting it all together, which includes sketchy character outlines and dramatic closeups for reactions with accompanying speed-lines or sparkles (depending on the situation of course). Combined with the much crisper quality modern animation can achieve, G-Reco looks like an 80s classic thats had the best kind of HD remastering. Only it's MADE in HD to begin with so it's even better.

As a currently casual Gundam fan, one of the issues I have with the various iterations of the franchise over the years is how same-y the main Gundams always seem to look. Sure up close they're all unique but break down the add-ons and in the end they're all just a spin on the original - right down to the predominately blue and white colour scheme. Of course G-Reco is no exception to this, but again the way it just seems to go about it makes it stand out all the more. It isn't the first series to do away with staple parts you see on most Gundams or opt for a more rounded frame, but in the here and now it'll help set this new show apart from its peers and hopefully draw more people over to its ever-growing fan base.

My one real complaint about this first set of episodes was just how fast it seemed to throw everything at the audience. Our first proper introduction to the main characters also accompanies an explanation of both the setting and the sciences behind the mecha and Capital Tower, so as you can imagine that's a hell of a lot to take in in such a short space of time. Veterans to the Gundam franchise or Tomino's other works might have an easier time with this, but for newcomers this is already proving to be a show you need to have some patience with. It looks as though we're going to see who the main characters are and how they react to things rather than just be told about it, and as the main story progresses I'm certain the science aspect to it will become a little clearer. Or of course Tomino could end up killing half the characters that showed up in these episodes next week, you can never tell with these things.

So while it isn't a show I'm ready to gush over quite yet I am rather excited to see more of G-Reco. As my first foray into the "proper" world of Gundam, these episodes have offered up a suitably rich setting that is rife with potential. Gundam may be reaching a pretty ripe age, but it looks like it isn't running out of steam just yet.

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