FEATURE: GUNDAM Reconguista in G
|GUNDAM RECONGUISTA IN G
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Gundam franchise, original creator Yoshiyuki Tomino was brought back to do a new series 15 years after Turn A Gundam. It was also the first time that two Gundam series were being shown at the same time, this along with Gundam Build Fighters Try. Yoshiyuki Tomino has been developing this project since 2007 with early concepts revolving around space elevators. During that time, the story wasn’t meant to be directly connected to any Gundam-related work, though that has changed upon its reveal as a 35th anniversary project. As such, expectations were high coming into the series. Besides the fact that Yoshiyuki Tomino is directly penning the story, the premise is also connected to the Universal Century timeline, the original setting for the initial Gundam works. However, the series became very polarizing that by the time it ended, mentioning it in various outlets would lead to quite the discussion in one way or another. So the question now is, how come GUNDAM Reconguista in G ended to become one of the more disappointing entries in the franchise? Has Yoshiyuki Tomino lost the storytelling prowess that he used in Mobile Suit Gundam which made it the landmark series that it is today?
PLOT & PREMISE
The term “reconguista” was a derivative from the Spanish word “reconquista”, which basically means to reconquest. Yoshiyuki Tomino decided to place the “G” to make it sound much stronger. Reconguista in G was set in the year 1014 of the Reguild Century (R.C.) calendar. A lot of time has passed since the Universal Century era where humanity almost destroyed itself in the endless cycles of war and conflict. And just before humanity totally collapses, a new era of peace ushered in — the Reguild Century. Humanity has learned its lesson from the previous generations and is committed to preventing the past mistakes from happening again. Technology has regressed to allow the world to heal, though not as drastic as the Pre-Industrial Revolution levels of Turn A Gundam. Photon Batteries are now the main source of energy, and is distributed throughout the world via the Capital Tower. It is in this time of peace that the mysterious mobile suit, G-Self, appears. Bearing similarities with war machines of the past, how will this mobile suit shake the foundation of these peaceful times?
The plot of Reconguista in G is very promising. With its connections to the Universal Century, seasoned veterans of the Gundam franchise will be very interested to see what happened during those times and how it transitioned to what it is today. Despite being thousand years in the future, Minovsky Particles are still doing its business of jamming communications. Probably one of the more mentioned traces from the past era are the Kuntala, a group of humans who were apparently bred as cattle during the final days of the Universal Century. There were no abundance of space colonies as well, just a remaining few. In terms of world-building, Reconguista in G has done a good job in setting up the current state of the Earth Sphere. This sets up a great premise of allowing long-time Gundam followers to know what happened to the original Gundam universe they were exposed to. It was also a great way to get the franchise veterans hooked to the series while the fresh environment was very welcoming to those watching Gundam for the very first time. Did it succeed in what it promised to deliver?
ANIMATION & MECHANICS
The animation for Reconguista in G was produced by the same Sunrise studio that did the animation for Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn so having a television budget wasn’t much of a hindrance and the quality was very good. However, they took it one step further. Despite being a very new series, they’ve made a deliberate choice to animate the show as if it was still hand drawn. This meant that the visuals aren’t as clean and polished as with most series nowadays but it definitely gives this unique aesthetic that was very much appreciated. And while the animation somewhat looked retro, the quality is very up to par with current standards. Camera work is typical Yoshiyuki Tomino with establishing shots with lots of pans and close ups. In contrast to the dark and gritty nature of other Gundam series, Reconguista in G is filled with pastel colors and bright visuals. It helped set the tone for a light and fun series to watch, at least in concept. If there’s one knock against the animation, that would be the apparent laziness of the opening sequences. For a series that didn’t use cold openings, these sequences are the first that will be seen each episode and can totally use great animation. Instead, they chose to reuse scenes from the first five episodes. Not really sure why they did that since the ending sequence did use dedicated animation. Some may find these to be nitpicking but they could have handled those better.
As far as the mechanics go, well, Yoshiyuki Tomino isn’t really known to be a proponent of using mid-season upgrades just to sell more model kits as evidently seen in Turn A Gundam. However, it seemed to be a different case for Reconguista in G as there were a lot of mobile suits introduced here. For starters, the G-Self uses concepts similar to the Variable Phase Shift Armor from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY as it uses various packs that allow the main mobile suit to change colors accordingly — allowing more merchandising options. The actual mobile suit designs themselves are great, some would take getting used to, but not as jarring or repulsive as those from Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. These were possible evidences of what Yoshiyuki Tomino was trying to do with Reconguista in G, that being a loose deconstruction of the franchise. One great example is the G-Lucifer, a Gundam-type unit that was introduced in the latter part of the series. It didn’t have any feature that would be normally seen in a Gundam, and in fact, had a traditional Zeon-like monoeye. Then there’s the Gaeon which totally looks like a Gundam despite not having the name.
The combination of great mechanical (and character) designs together with crisp animation allowed for excellent looking battle scenes, making them more exciting to watch. Now if only these battles helped better understand the story more…
Remember how the previous sections of this article always ended in a question or a hanging note? Well that’s because GUNDAM Reconguista in G was quite a polarizing series both from a Gundam aficionado and a casual viewer standpoint. Now giving credit where credit is due, the series did have great visuals and sharp animation. Most of the problems however lied with the execution. Many were left confused and asking “what the hell is going on?” every time an episode ends. So the most important question now is, what happened? The following statements are just the personal opinion of this collector and might not be the same for the rest. In other words, mileage may vary.
Ever since Yoshiyuki Tomino got out of his depression during the late 90s, his characters are often lively and optimistic — that’s also the case for Bellri Zenam. He doesn’t have the angst that plagued most Gundam protagonists, though he did have a couple of spells thrown in for character development. His motivation is really to find out what’s happening, especially after he’s been dragged into this mess and being able to pilot the G-Self when apparently he shouldn’t. He might not be the best protagonist but he’s definitely okay as far as Gundam goes. Then there’s his supposed love interest-turned sister Aida Surugan. Yoshiyuki Tomino has this tendency to create strong female characters and give them more roles other than being damsels in distress, except for Aida. She was introduced as this figurehead for the pirates and was the initial pilot of the G-Self. Afterwards, she slowly drifted into uselessness and everyone basically had to save her. Completing this triumvirate is Raraiya Monday/Ackuparl. Her character doesn’t make any sense at first, given her memory loss and inability to communicate. However, she’s essentially a metaphor of everyone’s idea of what’s happening outside the Earth. This is very apparent by the time the crew of the Megafauna reaches Towasanga and she’s able to regain her memories. At the same time, the plot has revealed at that point that plans of a “Reconguista” (i.e. conquering Earth) is very much in motion and something had to be done. Quite a clever way to use the character but those without patience would easily delegate her as an annoyance more than anything.
For the other characters, only a few stand out. Klim Nick is the stereotypical overconfident big mouth who fortunately has the skills to backup his attitude. Watching him do his antics is actually fun. As far as motivated characters go, those would definitely be the two Kuntalas — Captain Mask (Luin Lee) and Manny Ambassada. Both were discriminated because of the origins and were eager to prove their worth through the Capital Army. Unfortunately, the former didn’t really pose a threat to Bellri and was essentially a loser villain while the latter was the lover that would do everything for her commander. It was fortunate that both didn’t die in the end. However, the character that has probably the most wasted potential was Colonel Cumpa Rusita. He was introduced as this manipulative head of the Capital Guard’s Intelligence Division and had the potential to be the main villain for the series, made more complicated by his Towasangan origin. Unfortunately, he didn’t went the route of a manipulative controller and was given the borderline insulting death in the final episode.
To those who didn’t know, Yoshiyuki Tomino was essentially running a one-man show with Reconguista in G, quite similar to what George Lucas did in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Aside from being the overall director of the show, he’s also the writer and had total creative control of the direction the series would’ve taken. This means that the execution of the narrative and the actual story are both his. Those who’ve watched his previous works are likely familiar with his style of directing, lots of panning shots and dialog thrown everywhere. The dialog can range from totally random ramblings to stuff relevant to the plot and it’s up to the viewer to know which of these are the latter. But probably the biggest offender for this series is the inconsistent pacing. Yoshiyuki Tomino has worked with lengthy shows for the longest time but has a couple of shorter 26-episode ones. That said, it seemed like he got the pacing mixed up for Reconguista in G. The first episodes felt slow as if nothing much was happening but once they got up into space, things were happening so suddenly that the impact of some reveals and events didn’t have that punch because of the pacing. It also didn’t help that the dialog are confusing at times. Characters may be often be saying random ramblings at one moment, then they’re having a very important conversation on another. These causes episodes to be very incohesive and understanding what’s going on would require another pass at watching the same episode.
In the end, GUNDAM Reconguista in G turned out to be one of the most disappointing entries in the Gundam franchise. It had the potential of bridging the gap between the Universal Century and the far-flung future of Turn A Gundam’s Correct Century to an extent but instead became more of a filler series. Concepts on the final days of the Universal Century were opened but much more were desired than what was given. Sure the battles and the visuals were amazing but those weren’t enough to carry a series where expectations were high, especially given that this is an anniversary production. The narrative isn’t clear and there were a lot of distractions to the plot. Would the series have benefited if given 50 episodes? Probably, but they could have easily spent the 26 episodes well if they knew the details that needed focus and development. Overall, there were a lot of missed opportunities in this series for both the story and characters. After this, it is safe to ask whether it’s still worth it to bring back Yoshiyuki Tomino for another anniversary series in the future.
Contributors: Elise Cruz