Sunday 29 March 2015

Anime REVIEW: Gundam Reconguista in G

Gundam Reconguista in G

With last year heralding the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise's 35th anniversary, it's shouldn't be any surprise that Bandai and Sunrise had plenty of projects in store to celebrate. Gundam Build Fighters returned with a brand new sequel series (signalling a range of new custom model kits), and popular manga series Gundam: The Origin is also in process of being adapted into a series of OVA releases. But perhaps the biggest news for longtime fans was the arrival of a brand new series entitled Gundam: RecoNguista in G - written and directed by Gundam creator himself Yoshyuki Tomino. His first Gundam project since Turn A Gundam back in 1999, G-Reco returns fans to the main Gundam universe in a timeline that follows on from the original Universal Century.

Bellri Zenam
The face of confusion

In year 1014 of the Reguild Century, mankind has put behind it the atrocities of the Universal Century and ushered a new age of peace and prosperity. However one day a mysterious mobile suit is pursued by both the Capital Guard and a group of space pirates. The pirates manage to capture the suit, while it's evacuating pilot (an amnesiac known only as Raraiya Monday) is taken in by the Capital Guard. A week later a group of Capital Guard cadets are riding up the Capital Tower orbital elevator (which they are sworn to protect) when the pirates attack using this mobile suit. One of the cadets, Bellri Zenam, is able to fight off the pirates and capture the mysterious suit's pilot - a young girl named Aida Surugan.

When the pirates return to take back Aida, Bellri discovers he is the only one able to pilot this suit (the G-Self) and engages them in battle. One thing leads to another, and Bellri is eventually taken to the pirate's ship - the Megafauna. Here he learns the plight of the Amerians on board, and how the prosperity on Earth doesn't reach out to the rest of humanity out in space. Joining the crew of the Megafauna, Bellri sets out on a mission which brings him up against the Capital Army as well as a number of other factions with their own goals.

Aida Surugan
A better main character, but still not enough.

At least that's what I assume the plot of G-Reco, because as each episode went by what exactly is going on becomes less and less clear. Reconguista in G features franchise's usual brand of space politics, but things are told in such a convoluted manner that it's incredibly easy to lose sight of which faction is which and what they are fighting for. It has absolutely no hesitation in bombarding the viewer with an onslaught of names and places without any sort of context or clarification - some of which won't even make sense to the longstanding Gundam fans. Tomino isn't stupid when it comes to writing, and will often draw upon real-life politics climates for inspiration. G-Reco is no exception to this, but is a perfect example as to complicated situations like this don't make for good television. Unless you have the insight to properly follow it all, it's just boring. Basically when your next episode previews are more telling of what's going on than the content itself, you have a real problem. And given the my wiki searches for plot summaries came up fruitless, it's fair to say I wasn't the only completely baffled by this show either.

And continuing to add insult to injury, the series' conclusion leaves numerous plot threads unresolved and has all the main players seemingly getting along despite having just been embroiled in a huge mobile suit battle for the majority of the episode. Despite there being so much left unsaid, the ending is fairly inconclusive and seemingly rules out the chance for any further adventures of Bellri and co - choosing to just straight out show the bizarre resolution they came to rather than address how unlikely it is that they'd have come to that.

Raraiya & Noredo
Smile all you want Noredo, you still didn't do anything

Numerous factions also means numerous characters, although to it's credit G-Reco only really hones in on Bellri's crew for any real amount of focus. Of course the other factions have their respective key characters, but for the most part the actual groups are just names and faces. Bellri is about as dull a protagonist as you can get, but are his own personal harem any better? Not really no. Aida is great, but Raraiya and Noredo Nug leave a lot to be desired. Amnesiac Raraiya is nothing short of annoying, eventually regaining her memories halfway through to mainly spout exposition whenever it is needed. Noredo meanwhile does nothing throughout the entire show. Characters like Amerian 'genius' plot Klim Nick and the (completely unmysterious) Mask are far more interesting, but even they are simply pale imitations of character archetypes that the Gundam franchise has churned out dozens of times before. But hey, at least there's a space Pope to make everything better right?

Captain Mask
Treading into unfamiliar territory here Gundam...

The one aspect of G-Reco that is worthy of praise is the art direction, and even that has proven to be rather divisive among fans. The character designs were handled by Kenichi Yoshida of Eureka Seven fame, giving them a rather distinct look that doesn't quite fit with Gundam's usual aesthetic. On the surface the show feels like it's trying to evoke the idea of a classic 70s/80s mecha series brought into modern times - characters have rather sketchy outlines, dramatic closeups with coloured backgrounds, "speed lines", and most importantly, the mecha are animated in 2D rather than the usual CGI you see in mecha productions (the same can't be said for some of the larger ships however). That isn't to say things are always simplified though - some of the backdrops are absolutely gorgeous. Like it or hate it, the uniqueness in art certainly makes for more positive discussion than the shortcomings of the story.

What lets things down here though are the mecha themselves, with new suits constantly being introduced each episode in what seems like a poorly-veiled attempt to distract fans from the poorly executed storyline. There are a handful of good designs (the G-Self is a nice twist on the standard Gundam design, while Aida's G-Arcane hits all the notes a good Gundam suit should), but the majority just vary from forgettable to downright hideous. The G-Self suffers from being far too overpowered, not only waltzing through every fight it has but also getting a new power-up pack seemingly every other episode to add it its already overblown abilities. As far as fight sequences go there are a few memorable ones at the tail end of the series, but considering everything that needs to be sifted through to get there it's nothing particularly standout.

One of the G-Self's various power ups
Backpack of the week

With Tomino at the helm almost everyone had high hopes for Reconguista in G, but those hopes were progressively dashed each episode as it became evidently clear how much of a mess this series is. The classic-inspired art style is commendable, but even if you're a fan that is nowhere near enough to make up for the ridiculously confusing and convoluted plot, uninteresting characters and ugly mobile suit designs. What should have been a triumphant anniversary will more likely be remembered as a sour note in the franchise, and a reminder that just because the original creator is involved again it doesn't mean that the end product is instantly going to be a success.


Anonymous said...

While I haven't seen the show yet, all I'm going to say is this. Prepare for backlash. Trust me the arguments between those who like and dislike this show can go on for very long. Those who dislike it(such as you) say the plot is complete and utterly convoluted, whereas those who like the show says everyone who can't understand it are complete idiots. Just putting that warning for you.

Omega Xi said...

I just finished watching this show tonight and I agree with everything you mentioned about the story, it's way too difficult to keep up with all the different people on different sides of the conflict and after a while you just stop caring. The ending is beyond awful too.

The visuals are fantastic though and I didn't mind the mecha designs too much. The Yggdrasill being basically just a red pyramid was a little disappointing however. Really it's quite a shame that so much talent was wasted on such a poor story.

bryanmerel said...

Still waiting for backlash?