Arriving back on Earth, Bellri and the Megafauna find themselves caught between the Amerian and Capital Army. Between the various factions and the G-IT Corps in hot pursuit, it seems global war is inevitable. Determined to bring an end to the fighting once and for all, Bellri sets out one last time to prove he can bring peace to the world. Gee, Iro, and Marlin share their thoughts about Tomino’s heartfelt, but ultimately bizarre and incomprehensible entry in the storied franchise.
Say what you will, Tomino sure knows how to make a finale memorable. G-Reco brings out all the stops in an absolutely wacky finale that I struggled to keep up with. It felt like three episode’s worth of content shoved into the span of 22 minutes. I suppose that sums up G-Reco as a whole. It’s constantly been a show struggling to fit in as much as possible into too short a span of time. With the Amerians launching a surprise attack on the Capital Tower, it seems that G-Reco harkens to age old Gundam theme that at the end of the day, no matter how good the intentions are of various individuals, politicians and warmongers will always seek to exploit those intentions for their own personal gain.
Of course, unlike other Gundams, where our protagonist often are forced to accept these realities, Bellri happens to have what is quite possibly one of the strongest Gundams in the franchise’s entire canon. With only the Turn A and maybe the Burning/God coming close, Bellri has a fair bit going for him. And in a weird sense, the main thematic element of G-Reco has been privilege, more specifically, Bellri’s privilege as the pilot of the G-Self. Throughout the entire battle, nay the entire series, Bellri has taken the higher road, focusing on the preservation of lives and utilizing nonlethal techniques on his opponents. Meanwhile his allies, including the likes of Raraiya and Klim Nick, have literally the blood of dozens on their hands. They simply don’t have suits as ridiculously overpowered as Bellri (though Raraiya does whip out the freaking Moonlight Butterfly, of all things) and can’t afford to take the high road because at the end of the day, it’s live or die. Some might call Klim cold blooded, but I find it wholly refreshing to have a character portrayed as an ally despite his willingness to take the pragmatic option.
And as a result, while I can’t really support Mask’s manic ravings, I wholly sympathize with him. He’s a guy who’s had to work his ass off to get where he is. Enduring hardship and racial discrimination, he’s a man who completely earned his place in society, against all odds. When confronted with someone like Bellri, who merely lucks into his position of privilege and power, barely even acknowledging the hardships of his peers, it’s truly maddening. Everything Mask nearly kills himself over, Bellri gets without breaking a sweat. So while Mask’s accusation of Bellri’s corruption by power are totally off the mark, they aren’t unfounded. As a whole, it turns his character from just a clown into a sad clown. He’s so goofy and ridiculous we can’t help but laugh, but at the same time, we pity him as well.
I must give Tomino credit for finally giving Mask his time in the spotlight. Sure Bellri wasn’t fighting to kill, but you got to give it to Mask, he successfully disabled the G-Self, a feat unmatched by most. While I wouldn’t go as far as say that Mask is a better pilot than Bellri, it was nice to finally see someone give our invincible main character a run for his money. Helps the Kabakali is one of the best looking suits in the series, and if nothing else, G-Reco has some really good designs.
In the end, the battle serves to conveniently kill the leadership of every militant faction. It all funnels back to G-Reco’s theme that it’s not people as a whole who are violent, but often their misguided or selfish leaders who seek to further their own aims. With every faction’s leadership in tatters, the battle ends and global war is averted. With only a few minutes left to expand on things, it seems Bellri has finally ensured the peace of his time, Mask/Luin can finally put his demons to rest, Klim continues to prove he is the coldest killer in the G-Reco universe, Aida continues to be useless, and the world moves on.
Gee’s Final Thoughts
As a guy who is somewhat familiar with Yoshiyuki Tomino’s quirks but not particularly experienced with them, I can’t say I was totally unprepared for what G-Reco was going to be. That said, I don’t think any of us could have predicted exactly what kind of insane spectacle it actually became. And make no mistake, G-Reco is a spectacle. There is nothing about it that is bland or uninspired. From start to finish, it’s a wild ride, filled with a lot of unique ideas and fun characters, all against the backdrop of a fantastically well-realized setting. Additionally, Akira Yasuda and Ippei Gyōbu’s mechanical designs are excellent, and their work ensured that G-Reco always felt like its own distinct part in the wider Gundam universe.
The problem is…well, almost everything else. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those assholes complaining about G-Reco’s plot because he can’t pay basic attention, but regardless of how you feel about the show, you can’t deny that Tomino’s writing and directing style make it a difficult show to follow. When it’s just one narrative thread over the course of 40+ episodes, Tomino has proved multiple times he knows how to craft an interesting narrative. In fact, there are tons of hallmarks of Tomino’s directing style that should be commended. G-Reco is razorsharp, completely devoid of bloat to the point of appearing somewhat anorexic. The characters drop names and talk to each other as if they were fellow inhabitants of the same universe. There’s no exposition and no 3rd party explanation for the sake of the audience. Tomino’s characters wholly inhabit the universes they exist in, and we as the viewer are treated merely as onlookers in a grander tale. The problem with G-Reco is that it seems to have just about every single idea Tomino has had over the past 20 years clumsily shoved into a single 26 episode series.
To give it some perspective. In the course of 26 episodes, Bellri defects from the military, joins up with a bunch of false-flag space pirates because he’s attracted to a girl, accidentally kills his teacher, fights multiple times against his best friend, suffers an existential crisis, goes to the Vatican (in space!), finds out the girl he likes is his sister, goes to the moon, gets into a bunch of fights, cleans up space trash, begins to uncover the hidden secrets of the Black History, fights other space pirates, discovers the true power of the G-Self, and stops a global war from breaking out.
In the course of 26 episodes, Amuro Ray steals a Gundam, kills dozens of Zakus, fights a weird guy in a mask with a penchant for pink robots, runs away from home, runs back home, beats up a blue Zaku, and fights a single large scale battle.
To say G-Reco could use another season is an understatement. And I think at it’s core, that’s what hurts G-Reco. There are a ton of interesting ideas in it, and I would love to see any one of them pursued further, but Tomino just doesn’t give any single plot thread the screentime it deserves. With G-Reco standing in that weird span of time between the Late-UC and Turn A, it was the perfect chance to connect the two to each other. So many of G-Reco’s plot points even allude to it, such as the nature of the Spacenoids, the mysteries of the Venus Globe, the age of the space pirates, the return of the exiled Newtypes, etc. There are so many things that G-Reco alludes to and references, but never makes good on, and that’s the biggest crime of all. G-Reco got me truly invested and interested in its universe, and then never does enough with it to make the payoff worth it.
In many ways, this is the nature of audience expectations versus creator intentions. It’s clear that G-Reco was never meant to be some all-encompassing address of the mysteries of the Late-UC. It was never going to be a wide-spanning epic in the way that the original Mobile Suit Gundam distinguished itself as. G-Reco, in all of its insanity and bizarre storytelling, is a deeply grounded and personal story of a few individuals caught up in a crazy situation. The underlying problem is that Tomino spends too much time focusing on those crazy situations at the expense of the character building it’s so clear he wants to do.
Overall, it makes recommending G-Reco difficult. Tomino does a lot of things surprisingly well, and there are hints and gleams of the man who pioneered an entire subgenre of mecha anime. Characters like Mask and Raraiya, who go from goofy comic relief into some of the most compelling characters of the entire series, are a testament to the man’s ability to subvert expectations. The world those characters inhabit is genuinely fascinating and I would love to see something else take place in the world of the Regild Century. I’m just not sure if I’d want Tomino at the helm again. He’s laid down a fantastic groundwork, but perhaps another director can help clear things up for everyone else.
Iro’s Final Thoughts
G-Reco was like riding a roller coaster in a dark room: there was no way of knowing what was coming next, or exactly what was going on; I could only react in real time to the madness around me, with occasional glimpses of the greater whole. The result is something wild and fun to watch, while remaining incomprehensible. Surely there’s at least one person out there who actually understood the show, but the problem is that I’m relatively certain that one person is Yoshiyuki Tomino himself.
Good ideas exist within G-Reco, visible if one manages to sort through the craziness: a space elevator declared a holy site and used as a front by spacenoids to monopolize advanced technology, Mask’s fears as a member of an oppressed racial minority, political friction between space factions who may or may not want to retake Earth… They’re just nearly impossible to sort out in a single viewing. I don’t doubt that everything connects and makes sense (well, I do a little), but the way the show is presented with a minimum of exposition is bizarre and hard to follow.
Basically, this probably shouldn’t have been one of the first official TV Gundam shows I watched. I imagine that if I had more experience with Tomino’s older works and watched G-Reco a second time, I’d be able to understand it better, but for now I’m content with looking back on the past 26 episodes as a wild, rainbow-colored blur of “what did I just watch?”.
This show made no sense. I would say that over and over again, and yet somehow I would keep coming back to watch it week in, week out. It was this wild sense that everything was so deliberately unhinged that made G-Reco so fascinating. In any other type of show you could just chock this kind of thing up to bad writing, but here, everything is given the appearance of purpose, even if it never amounts to anything.
Part of the method to its madness was a cast of characters that never even try to make sense of their inane world. It’s as if this world just works on such different rules that trying to understand it from an outside perspective is futile. Initially things seem like just Bellri following his boner after Aida, but then we just get this rollercoaster ride of character after character that only further to needlessly complicate the plot. It takes some kind of mad genius to take a girl like Raraiya and move her from mentally handicapped flight risk to hyper competent badass, and easily the most likable character by show’s end. Only G-Reco could have a man blow a hole in his own space colony and then plug it with a giant mech and get treated as some unfortunate casualty instead of a straight up idiot. Not everything was madness though, some of it was just straight up misogyny. Every woman except for Raraiya cries while fighting and is demonstrably inferior to their male counterparts or love interests. Aida, ostensibly a main character, spends every single fight either doing jack shit or getting saved from doing jack shit. It’s just nuts and I can’t believe that it was written like this in any way other than completely intentional, and the madness just keeps going from there.
People are detained and then become assimilated, or are left roaming around in their captor’s quarters. Supposed bombs are revealed to be party hats. Gundams use weapons of mass destruction and then blame their aggressors for not getting out of the way. The entire first arc includes enough wildlife to stock an entire David Attenborough special and yet we end up going into space, fighting in colonies, and then going back, to all places, the frickin’ Guiana Highlands. I would never call G-Reco a good show. Good Lord, it is not a good show. However, the fact that it even exists is an oddity that could only come about through the medium of anime. Years from now people will ask about the inevitable new Gundam series, and can’t imagine the first words out of someone’s mouth being anything other than “Was it weird like G-Reco?”