We’re heading into a new anime season, and this time around one of the most buzzed about anime is Gundam Reconguista in G, aka G Reco. Gundam shows are always greatly anticipated simply by virtue of being part of a legendary 35 year old franchise, but G Reco is also notable because of its writer and director, Yoshiyuki Tomino, the original Mobile Suit Gundam‘s co-creator and director.
One thing I should make clear from the beginning: I’ve never been a Tomino fan. The man is a legend of the industry who deserves recognition for impact alone, but when it comes to his work itself I’ve found it to be at best frustrating, and more often than that to be inscrutable and unwatchable. His famously terrible OVA Garzey’s Wing is still a well-known punchline among anime fans, and its rambling dialogue and haphazard plotting aren’t an anomaly in his catalogue so much as they are a slightly more extreme demonstration of all the faults his work has had for decades. Tomino’s defining characteristic in my mind will always be dialogue made almost entirely of exposition that fails to explain much of anything, punctuated with the sudden blurting of confounding philosophical non sequiturs. It doesn’t help that his characters are usually stiff and unlikable, and that his casts are overloaded with prickly, antisocial men and jealous, bitchy women.
This is the way Tomino has written consistently for decades, and it seems clear that that G Reco will be no different. The first scene of episode 2 is two characters expositing back and forth about incidents that have already taken place, and still failing to clearly convey to the audience what the hell it is they’re talking about. For nearly the entire half of the episode, characters toss around names, locations, events, and undefined jargon with abandon, and yet for all the details the dialogue goes into it leaves only a muddled, vague impression of what’s going on. The second half of the episode then has the requisite scene where nearly ever Gundam series kicks off, with an enemy attack, the intrepid boy hero laying claim to a Special Robot to fight off the invaders, and lots of frantic running around and character introductions in between.
In other words, G Reco is a Tomino Gundam show through and through. There’s the prickly boy lead. The jealous female friend. The enemy pilot shouting about his emotions and beliefs before being quickly dispatched with a laser sword. Characters saying and doing inexplicable and strange things, like threatening to shoot strangers in the butt with rocks and shouting about how the Earth should be covered in solar panels. G Reco is a haphazard mess, in a way that’s completely predictable. As expected, I found it to be incredibly frustrating.
And yet, there was still something appealing about G Reco. Part of it was amusement that Tomino has changed so little, decades after evolving styles and maturing tastes have made his once cutting edge game plan a relic. But G Reco‘s real strength was just how energetic it was. As confounding as the characters were and as confusing as the dialogue was, they didn’t stop the show from bouncing along at a brisk pace that made it pleasant and easy enough to watch even when it wasn’t clear what the hell was going on. When they’re combined with this kind of sillier, more lighthearted tone, the Tominoisms feel goofy and charming, rather than turgid and unjustifiably self-serious like they do in more somber stories like Z Gundam and Char’s Counterattack.
As familiar in format and execution as G Reco might feel, that fun energy sets it apart from not only most Gundam (Tomino-helmed or not) but most recent mecha anime. Compared to recent shows like Argevollen and Aldnoah Zero, G Reco avoids somberness entirely and, if anything, overplays its characters’ emotions in every given scene. It’s bright, lighthearted, and doesn’t seem to be taking itself too seriously; despite being a war story that has already had casualties, the closing credits feature the cast enthusiastically dancing together in a kick-line. It also stands apart in its round-edged, colorful production design, which gives the show a warm look that compliments the enthusiastic energy.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I liked the first two episodes. The scripting was too rough and the characters were too unformed to create any real connection. In a way, though, I did enjoy the act of watching them. There were confusing, anachronistic, and the show has the potential to go nowhere fast, but it so far isn’t unpleasant to watch. After the initial feelings of confusion and frustration passed, I was actually looking forward to seeing the next episode. It’s a long shot it will be enjoyable, but so far it’s at least been interesting.