Gundam Reconguista in G

Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2014-2015
Date of Review: May 18, 2015

The Universal Century is far in the past, and people living in this new Reguild Century are quite different from their ancestors. Technological progress is strictly regulated, and Earth is supplied with power batteries via a space elevator. When a mysterious mobile suit with an amnesiac pilot falls to Earth, cadet Bellri Zenam climbs into the cockpit to investigate the mystery, and a new saga begins.

Gundam Reconguista in G (often dubbed “G-Reco” for short) was Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino’s first series project since 1999’s Turn A Gundam. As you might expect, hopes were ridiculously high, given the quality of Tomino’s previous works. There’s a lesson to be learned in setting one’s expectations too high, though, and another lesson in that nobody’s perfect. Unfortunately, G-Reco came crashing down much like its central mobile suit, resulting in a muddied mess of a series.

Before I really start grumbling and complaining, let me get the few good things about G-Reco out of the way first, as the show did have some bright points shining through the flaws. First and foremost are the absolutely stunning visuals. The gorgeous, detailed hand-drawn art and smooth animation is nothing short of incredible, and it sets a bold new standard for future Gundam shows. Even OVAs don’t look this good! Seriously, I can’t gush enough about how amazing G-Reco looks. It’s almost worth watching just for the art. Almost.

In tandem with that are the unique new mobile suit designs. The G-Self is notable for being one of the few Gundams without a trademark V-fin; it’s got “horns” instead. As for just about every other mobile suit, the designs vary from the merely strange to the way-out-there. G-Reco could easily pass as a different mecha show entirely if it weren’t for the few Gundams in it (which are rarely called that) and the constant references to the Universal Century. The designers really let their creativity take flight with some truly interesting mecha, and just about every single one falls into the “you’ll love it or hate it” category. It’s a shame that some mobile suits weren’t realized to their full potential — like the G-Arcane — but that’s often due to pilot error. (I’ll get into that later, don’t worry.) At any rate, these unique designs mixed with the excellent animation made the mobile suit battles in G-Reco a wondrous sight to behold. Even when you couldn’t understand what the hell was going on, it sure looked amazing. The music fit the onscreen action well, too, but nothing really stood out except for a recurrent accordion leitmotif.

Aside from the visuals, the series was at its best when it showcased little slice-of-life moments. From characters working out in space to keep up muscle tone, to learning how mobile suit pilots go to the bathroom while in flight, to a captain looking at bikini pictures of an enemy commander when he’s supposed to be paying attention a briefing, these little touches really made G-Reco stand out. Yes, even more than the glorious mobile suit battles!

Well, that was the good stuff. Now I have to rip G-Reco apart, and delineate why it was such a turd. Its biggest flaw can be summed up thusly: G-Reco made nearly no sense whatsoever, and this was completely due to very poor pacing and storytelling. In his defense, Tomino has always believed in the “show, don’t tell” approach; for example, instead of having a character show up and explain who they are and what they’re doing, we’ll see that character appear and learn about them as the story progresses along with the rest of the cast. That’s all well and good…except that in G-Reco‘s case, proper nouns were thrown about seemingly with impunity, and they might get an explanation maybe ten episodes later. Or worse, they’d be quickly mentioned without any elaboration, and if you didn’t pick up on it immediately…you’re left scratching your head. Every episode feels as thought you somehow missed one before it, and sometimes, this happens in the middle of episodes.

G-Reco‘s main characters are pretty good, but none of them really make a strong impression. Our hero Bellri is another great optimistic protagonist, which is always a nice change of pace when compared to the sullen and unwilling mobile suit pilots we’re often given. Seeing him come to terms with just who he is makes Bellri’s journey a memorable one, but the confusing story waters it down. By the end, Bellri is pulling mobile suit attacks and weapons out of his ass, just like everyone else. All you can really say is, “huh?!” And…broken record time…his ending makes no sense. Surprise!

One of the biggest missed opportunities of the entire show was with Aida Rayhunton. Right out of the gate, she seemed like a badass pirate who’d be an awesome female lead for the show…and she ended up being worthless. She just really didn’t do much. Worse yet, her skills as a mobile suit pilot were ridiculously lacking, yet the powers-that-be gave her a powerful suit like the G-Arcane. I can’t even remember if she ever successfully hit anyone in combat! What a waste. Secondary lead Raraiya Monday fares a bit better, at least in the second half of the series. At first, she’s got severe amnesia, but then she…well, gets better. With no logical explanation, of course. At least she turned out to be a decent pilot.

Supporting characters ended up being just as confusing as the plot. As with any Gundam show, there’s a ton of them, but their motivations change too rapidly and they often just pop in and out of episodes, with the viewer left wondering what they were doing there in the first place. (Or how they got there all of a sudden!) Again, G-Reco suffers from a constant feeling that you missed something.

Finally, the whole Kuntala subplot is mind-bogglingly stupid. The Kuntala were a race of humans who were bred and raised to be used as food for other humans at the dark end of the UC. Yeah, you read that right. Institutionalized cannibalism! Nowadays, the Kuntala are no longer eaten, just subject to racial prejudice, and often fight for honor and respect. That last part’s fine, as it’s a clear parallel to real-world human history. The problem is the whole “food for other humans” part, because you need to expend much more energy to keep a human alive than you could ever extract from one! (It’s the same problem that undermines the concept of the Machines’ power plants in The Matrix.) Those late UC folks didn’t need to raise other people to eat; they could’ve used that food to feed themselves! Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Perhaps the story flows better if you marathon the entire series, but I watched G-Reco on a weekly basis like everyone else, as it was originally presented. If a show can’t stand on its own that way, that’s a problem. Despite its ambitious promise and the gorgeous art and animation, G-Reco ended up being a huge mess and a colossal disappointment. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one at all, even if you’ve enjoyed other Gundam series.

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