Gundam Reconguista in G released in 2014 to a, well, mostly confused audience. Although it would be praised for its beautiful animation and wonderful character designs, it would be quickly critiqued for its pacing and its own continuity.
Not helping was the hype that fans built for the series before it released, mostly thanks to being helmed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, the creator of the Gundam series. The end product is one that has split most of the fanbase, but it is more commonly seen on the ‘worse’ end of the spectrum.
How It Fits With the Gundam Series
As popular as the Gundam series is, it can be an intimidating franchise to get into. It’s been going on for 40 years strong and features fourteen main entries, alongside a bevy of side series, films, mangas, novels, and of course the famous Gunpla models themselves.
What makes it less (or perhaps more) intimidating is that the Gundam series doesn’t fall into one universe or ‘timeline’, as there are 10+ timelines that the series falls into. Some series are set within the same continuity, while others are considered a separate universe/story altogether.
Within the various timelines of the Gundam series, none is more celebrated and loved by its fans than the ‘Universal Century’ timeline. This timeline began with the very first entry in the series in 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam. It also has had the most works taking place in it, with many sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. There are also two timelines that are considered being directly related to it: the ‘Correct Century’ and the ‘Reguild Century’.
The Correct Century is the timeline that involves the famous 1999 series Turn A Gundam. This series was remarkable for having a much different setting than previous entries in the series (events in this timeline basically resorted to Earth’s technology being comparable to the 1900’s).
It would also be Tomino’s last work on a major Gundam series until his return 15 years later with Gundam Reconguista in G, which is what makes it so important. Not only was it a TV series for the 35th anniversary of Gundam with Tomino returning, but it was taking place in the new Reguild Century, which was based 1000 years after the Universal Century.
The hype people had was incredible, and there were many that saw this as the perfect pieces coming together to make another masterpiece for the mecha genre.
Another major factor that led to people building up hype was due to the previous entries into the Gundam series. Mobile Suit Gundam AGE released in 2011 and was panned by many fans who believed the series was trying to capture a much younger demographic with its younger cast of characters.
Similarly, while the 2013 release of Gundam Build Fighters would be praised by parts of the fanbase, many questioned when a more mature series would come back. The announcement of Tomino working on Gundam Reconguista in G was a major selling point for fans who wanted a series that evoked the important themes of older series and included scenes of tragedy (there’s a reason fans like to call him ‘Kill ‘Em All Tomino’).
This begs the question: what went wrong? How could a work that undeniably was made with love and passion drive a portion of its audience away, and leave those that watched it feeling split? I’m hoping to compile the general reasons for what happened with this series.
How to Watch Gundam Reconguista in G
There’s bound to be spoilers throughout, so for those that are interested in seeing the show themselves, you’ll need to know that as of this moment there isn’t any way to stream it. The only way to watch the original series is to watch it on the Blu-ray release, which you can buy on Rightstuf.
They also have listings for the first entry in the compilation film series, with the second entry available as a pre-order.
With that out of the way, I’m going to briefly go over some of the characters. There’s a LOT of characters in the series, with multiple factions and such, but I’ll be focusing on some of the major ones to know.
Bellri Zenam: The main protagonist of the series, he’s a smart and upbeat boy who entered the Capital Guard Academy as a cadet. After a series of events at the Capital Tower, he finds himself as the pilot of the Gundam G-Self and fights against the Capital Guard.
Aida Surugan: The adopted daughter of Gusion Surugan, the leader of the Amerian Army. She is caught by the Capital Guard when she attempts to help a pirate corps steal photon batteries with the G-Self. She is captured by Bellri after battling him in a civilian mobile suit. She is initially unaware, as is he, that they are brother and sister.
Noredo Nug: A friend of Bellri Zenam, whom she cares for deeply. Although she at times seems jealous of Bellri’s interest in Aida, she supports both of them. She later comes to pilot the Gundam G-Lucifer alongside Raraiya Akuparl, whom she had been tasked with protecting and taking care of for most of the series.
Raraiya Monday/Raraiya Akyparl: An amnesiac captured by the Capital Guard who is looked after by Noredo. She seems to have panic attacks whenever she’s near the Gundam G-Self. As the series progresses, she comes to remember who she is and is capable of piloting the Gundam G-Lucifer along with Noredo near the end.
Luin Lee: A cadet at the Capital Guard alongside Bellri. He works hard to prove himself, especially due to the racism he faces as a Kuntala. As Captain Mask, he leads a team of fellow Kuntalas and pilots the Elf Bullock and later the Kabakali.
An Extreme Lack of Exposition
One of the biggest barriers to the series would prove to be the exposition or lack thereof. Viewers were dropped into this brand new Reguild Century with no explanation, and the characters didn’t make time to explain anything to anybody.
While some appreciated that the show didn’t drop out-of-place history lessons or exposition to its audience, there were also those who felt like the show was throwing far too much at them. For the latter group, this feeling would only become worse.
I definitely felt myself to be in that latter group as I was watching. When a piece of media leaves out key information, it can be to heighten the tension and uncertainty for a character (and perhaps the audience) or to provide a startling revelation later on. That rarely feels to be the case in this series.
Aida and Bellri being revealed as siblings is a piece of information that was saved for later because it was intended to be a revelation. General knowledge of the world and character motivations can be kept secret to add more importance to key events and situations, but that’s rarely the case for the series.
There is no satisfying moment of ‘oh so that’s why that happened!’ because some things aren’t explained or it is but fails to retroactively add anything.
To explain further, early on there’s plenty of times where you can be confused about what motivates certain characters to perform their actions.
It’s easy to be confused as to why characters are fighting or why so many of the characters seem to switch sides depending on the weather. If these motivations are explained, it doesn’t add to their character development or fuel the drama, it just feels like you’re finally being told missing information.
As a sequel to the Universal Century and possibly to the Correct Century (Tomino apparently disagrees with the timeline set by Bandai Namco), there are wonderful connections to previous series through certain technologies and even the presence of a space elevator. But they’re never really explored and are basically treated more as callbacks than something important.
It goes over the heads of newcomers to the series and may leave them feeling a little bit more confused, while fans will be annoyed that they have to fill in more holes of an already patchy exposition.
There’s a deep, rich world in this series with characters that could be (arguably) inferred as deep, but there’s rarely a satisfying revelation for the holes left behind. It certainly feels intentional, so I’m honestly not sure if certain things were being left out to provide mystery or because they were constrained by the 26-episode limit.
The Break-Neck Pacing
The absolute biggest issue is pacing. While some shows may suffer from slow-pacing or from holding the hand of its audience too much, this suffers from the opposite problem. It starts off strong and drags you across the ground as you struggle to keep up. Worst of all is that this makes every other flaw with the show exponentially worse.
Even though the latter half of the series features more space battles and enjoyable action pieces, that doesn’t mean the first half is slow by any means. There is always something going on, and something else immediately supersedes the previous event and leaves the viewer no time to breathe.
Scenes of characters mulling over and questioning what they’re doing are quickly passed through in comparison to other Gundam series.
The problem with exposition is made even worse since your own lack of understanding becomes hard to keep track of. Characters, factions, the actions and reasonings of both, and made-up terms that you don’t know the meaning for are thrown at you and then glossed over as the plot keeps moving forward to the next story beat.
I’d be impressed if you didn’t pause and rewind in hopes that you missed something (I certainly did).
Although everything feels like it comes together in the end, there’s still room for confusion. The final fight perhaps best exemplifies that. There are multiple factions all fighting each other, and nearly every one of them is confused by the addition of each faction and fleet that joins. It’s meant to feel like an epic and distraught battle, but it only succeeds in feeling rushed.
The death toll rises near the end (to the delight of those ‘Kill ‘Em All Tomino’ fans), but there’s no lasting impact on the characters. Some of the fanbase’s favorite characters throughout Gundam’s history are those who realize the tragic impact of their own actions and find themselves questioning and confronting the need for their role.
Most importantly, the characters change a lot from the beginning to the end.
This isn’t the case for some of the characters in the series, most especially Bellri. He’s upbeat to the end and even though he faces tough battles and considerable tragedy, it doesn’t feel like he’s changed that much.
He has a happy enough ending (which isn’t to be said for all of its characters) and seems satisfied to start traveling the world and not have to fight, but it’s a stark contrast to everything he’s been through and seen.
Where It Shines
I’m not a fan of the entry and as you can see, it has its problems. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be praised about it. I’d say the strengths are so strong they make the show more disappointing in a way; this isn’t a show filled with problems, but one with a great potential that’s squandered away by a few major issues.
First off, it looks incredible. From the character and mech designs to the fluid animation of the fight scenes, this is an anime that’s a joy to look at. Even the settings they fight in are all interesting and help each fight stand out.
It’s a fun anime to listen to as well. I don’t just mean that from its poppy sounding openings, but from the actual music composition. Yugo Kanno is known for his works on Psycho-Pass and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and he proves himself again in this series with the perfect accompaniment tracks.
One of my favorite aspects of the series is the inclusion of brief and unnecessary character interactions are great. Even the smallest addition of details such as a character tripping or hitting their head, or accidentally touching someone is so unique.
It rarely feels that these moments are purely meant for comedic relief, as they’re not immediately mentioned or pointed out. They’re just small details that add realism and character.
A Five-Part Compilation Film Series?
To the surprise of absolutely everyone, it was announced that among the plans for the franchise’s 40th anniversary would be a theatrical version of Gundam Reconguista in G.
A month before its release in August 2019, it was announced that the film would be only part one in a series of five. Considering that previous Gundam series have had compilation series with fewer films covering much higher episode counts, it’s unknown how it will all look by the final film.
I can’t deny that I’m a bit excited about these films, but I’m also very hesitant. I felt bored quite often while watching the series and confused enough that I chose to drop it before returning to finish it a while ago.
It’s my hope that the issues of pacing are fixed and that the added scenes give the viewers a clearer understanding of this world. There’s a unique world here that wasn’t properly told the first time, and five films might just be crazy enough of an idea to portray it in the way it deserves.