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If you watched the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Reconguista in G without having seen any other Universal Century Gundam shows in the past, you probably walked away kind of confused and wondering if you need to watch something else first. But rest assured, it’s not just you–the show is just really fucking confusing. And with that in mind, it might be hard to understand why I, and other people, are excited about this show after the first two episodes, so here I’ll be explaining my strange reasonings.
If you want a more detailed introduction to the history of Mobile Suit Gundam and its impact on the world of giant robot shows, head over to my Random Drunk Anime History video on the subject. For now I’ll just explain that Mobile Suit Gundam was a franchise created by director Yoshiyuki Tomino in the late 70s, and was unfathomably influential to the production and culture of anime from then until now. Tomino served as lead director on each Gundam series up until the early 90s, when he grew to hate the franchise and left after the unbelievably macabre Victory Gundam series.
After Tomino left Gundam, he went on to become a strange and unpredictable director. At the turn of the century, he came back to Gundam with its most bizarre and upbeat entry yet, Turn A Gundam, and then spent the early 2000s making equally bizarre shows such as Overman King Gainer. After years of relative silence, Yoshiyuki Tomino has now returned to the franchise once more to direct Gundam G-Reco, and it was abundantly clear within seconds of starting up the show that this is treading the path of Turn A and Gainer pretty firmly.
It’s hard for me to say with a straight face that Turn A Gundam or Overman King Gainer are GOOD shows. Tomino’s shows seem to operate with a sense of pacing and flow that is totally alien to anything I’ve ever experienced. Things tend to happen so fast, with so little explanation, and so little apparent relevance, that trying to follow what’s going on is mentally taxing. However, Turn A Gundam is a show where a giant robot has a moustache, seems to be semi-sentient, and is used for farm tasks in one episode–while also being a show where every so often, important characters are horrifically murdered on the fields of war. King Gainer is a show wherein serious battles are fought by a robot with dreadlocks and a chainsaw gun, and wherein the opening video has all the characters doing the monkey.
These shows are just plain fucking WEIRD. And in a lot of ways, that makes them hard to watch, because it’s hard to care about any of the characters when you can’t always grasp what they’re doing, or to follow the plot when it seems so random and haphazard. Yet somehow, on the moment-to-moment level, Tomino creates these memorable sensations and interactions that stick out in all the madness as gripping and even sometimes emotional.
The second episode of G-Reco is like the perfect amalgam of everything that makes Tomino shows what they are. Take for instance this kind of tense and unique scene where the main characters are trying to find their way around a building that’s under attack in search of this girl, and their dialog is layered over other people who are searching the building who are yelling things to one-another. It’s a tonally thick and intriguing scene, but then there’s a moment where the main guy runs up a flight of stairs straight into a wall, and is knocked FLYING back down out of nowhere. He remarks that it seems like they were trying to build a maze in here, and then they continue moving. Moments like this are so fucking baffling that I have to wonder what anyone was thinking when writing them into the show, yet at the same time it feels so different from anything that I’m used to in anime that I kind of love it.
In a lot of ways, Tomino’s approach reminds me of the way George Lucas approached the Star Wars prequels. I mean that in how it’s so dense, every single image has so many things going on. One minute there’s some kind of military training session going on, and then suddenly a line of cheerleaders burst into the room, and then these cheerleaders who weren’t supposed to be here are just now along for the ride in the story. Robots are like performing wrestling moves on one-another over really old-sounding dramatic music, and there’s all these weird little moments that give the situations a bizarre energy apropos of nothing. The whole thing would seem like a farce, but then there’s stunningly dramatic moments like at the end of episode two, when the main girl is begging the main dude to bring back the commander he just murdered, and that shit really kinda stings.
Now, I don’t necessarily mean to defend any of this madness, because it really is hard to watch at times, but I do think that all of it’s being done for a reason. The main theme which has always been prevalent in Tomino’s work, especially in the Gundam series, is that war is a terrifying, chaotic mess. Especially in Turn A Gundam, it was clear that a lot of why the series felt so all over the place is because many of the plot events would happen when one character or another got mad over something, or had a dramatic misunderstanding, and ended up inciting a larger incident, perpetuating a cycle of fighting that those striving for peace could never get a handle on.
It seems to me that the feeling of events happening at random is not just a quirk of Tomino’s directing, but a theme he might be trying to explore. After all, the reality of our world is that for the most part, things don’t happen in a clear line where one dramatic event leads to the next. Most of our lives are a series of random encounters and occurrences which are totally unpredictable, and this could never be more true than it is in a chaotic scenario like war.
However, while this is what I want to believe, I also know that Yoshiyuki Tomino directed the most legendarily awful anime OVA of all time, Garzey’s Wing, which was so bafflingly random and insane that it couldn’t possibly have been intentional. Even Tomino has expressed confusion and regret over how that series came to be. G-Reco feels strange even on the level of its shot composition and the way that scenes flow into one-another, and uses lots of weirdly dated film techniques which haven’t been common in anime since… well, since the last time Tomino directed a series. It feels like some strange relic of Tomino’s long-gone past, given a fresh coat of paint and displayed next to modern shows like it’s just normal for it to be there.
After the first two episodes, I have no idea of G-Reco is going to be any good whatsoever. However, after watching the fucking bizarre opening and ending sequences, and after all those memorable moments in episode two, I’m curious enough about where this train is going that I’ve gotta stay aboard, even if it turns into a complete wreck.