After the unconventional, failed gambit of Gundam AGE’s OP1, OP2 is a return to form, exhibiting a more adolescent tone while including some nifty mobile suit action.
I’d rather not try to divine authorial intent, but I find it interesting that Susumu Yamaguchi (Gundam AGE’s director) storyboarded both OP1 and OP2, as well as OP4. OP1 and OP2 are like night and day when it comes to overall feel–it looks to me that OP2 is a response to the dwindling ratings of AGE, where the staff employs tried-and-tested formulas to hook in viewers, focusing especially on longtime Gundam fans. All pretense of pandering to a children’s demographic is thrown out of the window. The new main characters look fully in their teens, and they have teenage motivations in the story proper.
So, what does OP2 have that OP1 doesn’t?
The enemy gets shot down.
Prior to this arc, it’s been revealed that the UE are human beings as well. Zoinks! Asemu and his comrades shoot them down with no hesitation. They’re soldiers, it can’t be helped. Despite under the tutelage of an ace pilot, Asemu and co. remain vulnerable, with every battle a desperate struggle for survival.
In the OP, we are treated to Asemu’s teammates’ terrified looks inside the cockpit–they have no time to philosophize about the horrors of war, they are living it. This is a far more effective way of showing such horrors than the disastrous fourth arc of AGE. It doesn’t blueball or preach to the viewer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?
You know what, the action is really, really good.
I love how the Gundam “ascends” from its killing spree, giving off an angelic appearance, minus the gay feathers.
The choreography of the Woolf squad fight is excellent, down to the G-Bouncer parting the pink smoke as it rushes the camera.
This is a Gundam OP staple: mobile suit(s) flying outward to space, strafed by a curtain of laser fire. In this case, there looks to be only one mobile suit shooting at the Gundam, which leads later into Asemu and Zeheart clashing. Continuity!
The AGE-1 variations to AGE-2 is a little misleading, though. It implies that the AGE-2 is an upgrade to the AGE-1, which I did believe, but it turns out to be an entirely new mech. I actually wonder what the staff were planning from the beginning. Personally, I would’ve liked it more if there was only one Gundam, passed down to the Asuno family’s descendants. It would be more in line with the generational theme, with Asemu and Kio using the Gundam in ways their predecessors would never have envisioned. But that would also mean cutting the awesomeness of adult Flit in the cockpit. Oh well.
The placement of Double Bullet is rather untimely. It clouds the consistency of the OP by being placed right before Asemu and Zeheart’s mobile suit clash, in which Asemu is still using the AGE-2 Normal. It looks serviceable on its own, but it’s also a glaring toy advertisement.
On Zeheart: The OP sets this scene up early. Asemu and Zeheart, crossing paths on the street, and walking past each other. I think there is really subtle foreshadowing here that’s only clear after I’ve finished the show. Before I explain, let’s examine how differently could this scene have played out:
- A&Z could’ve had a fistfight right there and then (like Amuro and Char!). That would mean resolution, and someone dies.
- A&Z could’ve ignored each other. That would mean they threw away their friendship completely, and there would be no more reconciliation.
- A&Z could’ve stopped, and walked together. That would mean permanently setting aside their differences and
shacking upallying together.
But A&Z give each other a look. No matter how Zeheart denies it, Asemu being on the other side of the battlefield troubles him greatly. Asemu holds a part of his humanity, that part of him who peacefully lived among friends for years. Walking away from each other means that their conflict isn’t resolved in this arc. At the same time, they part as equals at the end, which fits in with the second arc’s ending. Whew! I must secretly be a fujoshi.
Now, about the song. People have expressed their puzzlement at OP2’s song choice (sharp# by negoto). It’s a solid rock piece with sharp guitars, but its unconventional sound gives off the initial impression of “is this really a Gundam OP?” It’s unabashedly a teenage song slotted into a kids’ show. sharp# quickly grew on me after a few loops, but I can’t speak for anyone else.
So how does this OP fare? It’s a lot more enjoyable and sets expectations that its respective story arc succeeds to meet. Often either the OP or the story doesn’t hold up to the other, but OP2 is a rare case of both succeeding. It doesn’t really break any new ground, but it manages to excite the viewer with the meat of each episode.
Also notable is how Flit only appears at the end of the OP. I wouldn’t say the OP is misleading us, because Flit plays a big role and even has his own subplot, but this isn’t his story. It’s Asemu’s, with a smattering of Zeheart (*u*) thrown in.
The next post in this series will be about OP3 (Real by ViViD). Until next time!