Gundam: Reconguista in G is the sixth and presumably final Gundam series to be directed by Gundam creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino after previously ‘retiring’ from the franchise 15 years prior. Supposedly, 73 year old Tomino had more creative control over G-Reco than any other of his previous Gundam series, and perhaps as a result reception regarding it has been fairly divided.
While intended to be watched as a standalone series, technically G-Reco is tied to previous Gundam series in that it is set some thousands of years after the original Gundam takes place. Within that unspecified allotment of time, humanity has regressed from constant warring and is therefore trying to prevent this from happening again through the use of a fairly complex power distribution and religious taboo system involving at least three different celestial bodies. Not that the audience will know this going in, as G-Reco’s most interesting strength, as well as its most glaring flaw, is the way in which it presents its story.
The story itself is fine; boy meets Gundam, war ensues because reasons and he comes out the other side with a new perspective of the world. Obviously, the ‘war ensues’ part is a lot more complex than that and overall I found the power struggle between the four different factions to be pretty interesting, focusing more on skirmishes over a tangible energy source rather than the ideologically driven wars of previous Gundam series.
The problem comes from the execution. It is crystal clear that whoever designed the world G-Reco takes place in put a decent chunk of thought into it. The whole world operates through a religious system known as SU-Cordism, which revolves around an orbital elevator known as the Space Umbilical Cord, the one means through which people on Earth receive power in the form of Photon Batteries, delivered by the Crescent Ship from the people of the Venus Globe, who are protected by the Ten Police, and so on and so forth. There’re even explanations for how to use a mobile suit’s toilet and an entire race of humans who were once in the past used as a food source for other humans. While this may sound like a plot point waiting to happen, it’s actually brought up maybe once or twice and very briefly at that. There’s so much detail poured into the creation of this world that there simply isn’t enough time to show it all, I’m not even entirely sure if the cannibalism is explicitly mentioned in the series itself or only in pre-release articles.
I personally think G-Reco’s approach to storytelling is admirable, especially for anime, in that it pretty much just drops the viewer into this world and lets them figure it out as it progresses instead of through frequent expository dumps. However, when there are a million different silly Gundam names and terms being thrown about all at once with little explanation it becomes a little hard to follow for someone not equipped with a comprehensive G-Reco glossary. Adding to the confusion is the breakneck pacing, likely caused by the series’ relatively short length at 26 episodes, with events and dialogues going by so quick that if you don’t fully comprehend each plot point as it happens you’re gonna be lost five minutes later. All of this adds up to a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ watching experience that is frankly rather exhausting, as far as sitting on your ass and watching something goes. It’s not impossible to follow by any means, but I’m sure it could’ve been handled more elegantly.
Audio Visual 8/10
G-Reco is quite outstanding visually. The settings, characters and mobile suits are all bright and colourful and it really gives the show an energetic feel to it. Character designs by Kenichi Yoshida (Eureka Seven, King Gainer) are all unique and plenty are surprisingly memorable, considering two or three pop up and get added to the ridiculously large cast almost every episode.
Another aspect that has a ridiculously large amount of designs are the mobile suits. G-Reco provides a venerable plethora of mobile suit designs, with plenty of grunt suits showing up for one or two episodes before being destroyed and never seen again. The sheer amount of suits packed into the 26 episodes is shocking in a good way, as they don’t require characterisation or personality and generally don’t affect the plot that much, just serve as more mechanical eye candy. In terms of the designs themselves, I liked them a lot. They’re refreshing, being generally rounder and softer than a lot of Gundam series and there’s a broad range of styles, a lot of which harken back to earlier series and a lot of which are completely new and unique. Hell, one of them is just a giant pyramid flying through space, which is pretty rad actually.
G-Reco also features some really impressive visual effects, most notably the glittery effect they apply to beams and thrusters, which makes anything involving beams, sparks, explosions or boosters a spectacle. It also makes good use of a render that digitally 'roughens' the linework, imitating 70s and 80s cel animation which I thought was a good way to evoke the series' lineage without bending over too far backwards to appeal to older fans. The combination of the visual effects, fantastic 2D mechanical animation (an unfortunate rarity in 2014), high quality choreography and some very explosive and punchy sound effects make the battles very satisfying and enjoyable to watch.
G-Reco has almost everything it needs to be a good show, except for one apparently critical aspect: time. Unfortunately, what could've been a fun adventure through a unique and intricate post-apocalyptic solar system becomes just a mad dash from plot point to plot point, with the 'unique and intricate post-apocalyptic solar system' feeling almost like an afterthought. While some will claim that the director intended it to be confusing as a means to force the audience to pay attention in an act of social criticism, others will insist that the director is simply senile and doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore.
Since it's airing, Tomino himself has claimed that he simply didn't feel like he could handle a 50 episode series at his age, which is a shame since that is exactly what this series needed.