Management: Yeah, I’m aware episode 3 is out. This is the writeup I wrote just in case G Reco got picked up for streaming – but the preview guide’s over now, so I figured you guys might appreciate my thoughts anyway. Complete with ANN scoring and everything!
I have very, very strange feelings about these first two episodes. On paper, they did a bunch of the standard things mecha shows like this tend to. We started off with an upbeat, overachieving protagonist, Bellri, out on a space elevator ride when a space pirate attacks. Bellri uses his training suit to defeat the pirate, his superiors capture her familiar-looking mobile suit, and Bellri is immediately starstruck by the dashing pirate lady. Then in the second episode, the ostensible pirate’s teammates attempt to free her from Bellri’s academy-slash-military-base, and Bellri this time ends up using her mobile suit to fight off the attackers. Throw in a mysterious amnesiac girl, a few school buddies, some scattered adults, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a standard mecha drama. But it’s really the way those pieces came together, or didn’t, that both intrigued and distanced me here.
First of all, it’s impossible to watch this series and not see it as some kind of strange, future-flung time capsule. Written and directed by Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, the show’s pacing and fight scenes have a distinct style to them that sets them apart from most recent productions. There’s a “floatiness” to the movements, and exchanges feel alternately choppy and drawn out. In the first episode, the big battle between Bellri and the pirate Aida was pretty much impossible to parse visually – the relationship of the mobile suits in space was vague, and though the characters often announced what they were doing, this didn’t really translate into a coherent dramatic exchange.
Characters announcing things that didn’t make sense, or that had too little context, was actually kind of a theme in these episodes. Beyond the unclarified technical terms, the relationships between the characters was often vague, along with even what “sides” they were on. And the choppiness present in the combat also carried over to the show’s storytelling – the transitions between scenes was often either harshly abrupt or seemingly randomly chosen. To give one example, the transition from Bellri accidentally killing Aida’s captain to Aida breaking down and demanding he bring the captain back took less than five seconds – though both of these were standard scenes, the lack of distant separating them made it feel almost like I was watched a cliffnotes version of the story. And cliffnotes rarely contain the emotional weight of their source material.
That also seems very negative, but there was actually a lot I liked here! For one thing, I actually was engaged with the story being presented – I just didn’t think it was being presented very well. For another, the show’s color palette is wonderful, and I love the world it’s setting up in the background. Although I think the show withholds some information the audience actually needs, its general tendency to simply let the world do the talking is commendable, and the characters felt like they existed in a living place. There was also a great visual expressiveness to the characters’ bodies and faces – the animation itself is very choppy, but it’s being used in service of very well-chosen key frames. Overall, this show feels like a bunch of solid ideas that are somewhat struggling to actually be coherently conveyed – but I like the base ingredients, and I’m hopeful the show will sort itself out.