Gundam AGE Renounces the Devil and All His Empty Promises (a.k.a. Gundam 00)

Gundam 00 was one of the most vile and despicable shows to come out of Japan in recent years. I see Gundam AGE as a response to and a renunciation of the ideas in Gundam 00. Let’s put aside for a moment my blinding hatred of Setsuna F. Seiei and the fact that Gundam 00 simply sucked, and look at the main themes of Gundam 00 and how Gundam AGE renounces each.

Social Darwinism and Eugenics

A common theme of all Gundam shows since the UC era has been the idea of newtypes. In Gundam 00, they are called innovators: people who have surpassed ordinary humanity with extraordinary capabilities to live and to fight in space. They can fly among the stars, while the oldtypes are doomed to crawl on the surface of the Earth.

Newtypes are always tempted to think that they are superior to the oldtypes. They have the best piloting skills, after all. But the UC series thoroughly debunked this theory and spat on the newtypes’ pride. Take Amuro Ray the prototypical newtype. Despite his acumen at piloting, he is an utterly broken person. He is cowardly, foolish, combative, and generally makes a fool and ass of himself. By the end of the show, he learns a little humility.

Gundam 00 explores the same issue: newtypes that believe they are superior to oldtypes. But instead of casting down the Newtypes from their pride, Gundam 00 confirms their superiority. After all, it is only the innovators who can glow pink, float naked in space, and truly understand one another. Some of humanity will evolve and move into space. Some won’t, and those who can’t will be left behind on Earth to crawl on the ground and die. Setsuna F. Seiei is truly a superhuman who is genuinely superior to the rest of the human race. Especially in the movie when he becomes an alien. We have a name for this sort of theory, where certain humans are inherently superior to others and more worthy of life: social darwinism.

Social darwinists believe that the strong should overcome the weak. Those who don’t adapt are unfit for survival. The poor, the hungry, the sick and the weak? They should go die so that humanity can evolve and better itself. This is the thrust of the Aeolia plan and Celestial Being’s ultimate agenda: to leave humanity behind and develop a superior race to spread its seed throughout the stars.

Gundam AGE calls out this ideal for the hideous monstrosity it is. Lord Ezelcant’s plan is identical to Aeolia’s in many respects: he has carefully selected (as in, natural selection) a superior people in order to bring an end to war.

But all of Ezelcant’s plans are worthless, and deep down, he knows it. The reason he wanted to create Eden is for his son, who died of the Mars death rays. His son was not selected. He would have been left behind to fulfill Ezelcant’s vision. And in order to build Eden, Ezelcant has killed countless more like him, both Vagan and Terran.

Unlike Ezelcant, Kio realizes and accepts the futility of building Eden through meeting Lu. In the vision of Eden Ezelcant sends to Kio, Lu is sitting there with her brother. But Kio knows that Lu could never reach Eden. She was poor, meek, sick and hungry. She was not chosen. And Kio knows that a heaven which excludes Lu can only be a hell.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

— Matthew 5:3-6

Gundam AGE’s second strong rejection of social darwinism comes for Asemu. Asemu is not a newtype. His father believes he will never amount to a great pilot since he has not inherited his father’s trans-human capabilities.

But Asemu does it. With nothing but hard work and perseverance, he becomes a superpilot. As a mere human, he kicks all the newtypes’ asses. Asemu doesn’t let himself be defined by the circumstances of his birth. The newtypes rage in stunned disbelief as a mere human brings the mighty to their knees.

“Enlightened” Authoritarianism

Our next moral fallacy follows directly from the previous one. If a superior race exists, it clearly follows that the members of the master race can and should guide their lessers to a brighter future. Hence Gundam 00’s enthusiastic embrace of authoritarianism.

In fact, some people are so vastly superior to the rest of humanity that they can continue to guide the human race hundreds of years after their death. In Gundam 00, Aeolia Schernberg and Celestial Being’s pivotal role in guiding humanity is seen as a Good Thing. They are the only ones who can see where humanity is headed, and know what’s best for everyone else. An enlightened despot will lead humanity to the brightest future, and is humanity’s only hope for survival.

In Gundam AGE, Flit Asuno and Lord Ezelcant are both authoritarian. Flit teaches Kio to hate the Vagan, and believes the democratically elected government is weak and corrupt. He should be in charge. Lord Ezelcant is in charge, and leads the Vagan who follow him with unwavering loyalty.

Yet Gundam AGE exposes the “ideas” of Gundam 00 for what they are (crap) because neither leader is enlightened. Flit is filled with a blinding hatred for the Vagan. Ezelcant commits untold atrocities against his own people. Authoritarianism was never all it was cooked up to be.

Just War 

This final idea follows from the previous two. If a superior race authoritatively leads humanity, than they can engage in just wars for good causes. Celestial Being, for example, fights a war with the stated goal to “end war.”

This idea is so stupid on its face that it barely even deserves comment.

But Gundam AGE once again steps up to the plate and renounces it for the vile filth it is. Both Flit and Ezelcant, members of the master race, fight a war that they believe is just. Flit wants to exterminate the Vagan. That his war is not just, but despicable, doesn’t require explanation. Ezelcant, like Celestial Being, fights a war to end war. But he does so by sacrificing people like Lu and murdering countless innocents. If it means Lu has to die, than peace isn’t worth fighting for.

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.
— Mark 9:43-47

tl;dr Setsuna F. Seiei is Hitler, Kio is Jesus

33 thoughts on “Gundam AGE Renounces the Devil and All His Empty Promises (a.k.a. Gundam 00)

  1. You might be right, except for one thing
    You do not need to be born as an innovator. You simply need to be exposed to high levels of GN particles.

    If you choose not to, its your choice. However all choices has their cost and benefits. Don’t complain when your choice makes you feel like you can’t keep up with the Jones.

    1. You only get exposed to GN particles through Trans-Am right? To have the opportunity to do that, you need to be one of the world’s elite mecha pilots. The chances of this are slimmer than being selected as an astronaut in our current world. It’s not a choice, it’s a privilege.

      But let’s assume the Trans-Am technology is more widely available. Even then, the poor will likely not be able to afford either the time spent away from their job to get naked or the GN particle machine itself. What about the sick, like Lu? Medical conditions may prevent some from being exposed to GN particles. And do GN particles work on everyone? It’s not clear from Gundam 00.

      Let’s take a real world example which is similar: AIDs. You do not need to be born with AIDs. You simply need to have sex.

      All those people in Africa with AIDs? Well, they chose to have sex. If they’re left behind to die they shouldn’t complain, because it was their choice.

  2. I don’t wanna read your post because of potential spoilers, so I just wanna know if it is good enough to watch or not ?

  3. Interesting stuff. I just wish I could be as confident as you that AGE is rejecting Flit’s worldview, because that’s the series I very much want it to be. But I still sense uncertainty on this point.

    1. I’m optimistic that now that Kio and Asemu have both come to know the Vagan, they’ll be able to win Flit over. Kio would never be able to accept Flit’s view to destroy the Vagan any longer.

  4. Social Darwinism is a bastardization of the theory of evolution in which it is believed that certain cultural aspects allow various groups (mostly Europeans and Americans) give those groups a natural advantage. Natural selection isn’t a part of the social theory, at least not at the individual level. Besides that, it’s not right to say that someone picking a person or group for survival is natural selection, unless you’re saying that the allegory here is that Ezelcant represents nature. However, if you say that he represents nature then it destroys the theory that this is Social Darwinism, because nature played no part in that theory.

    Not saying I disagree with you on any sort of entirety (I cannot, because I’ve not watched either series). However, I think one should be careful not to confuse evolutionary theory with Social Darwinism. An easy way to remember the difference is to note that Darwin himself had absolutely nothing to do with Social Darwinism and the two theories are only tenuously linked.

    1. I realize that social darwinism is a gross misapplication of the idea of evolution. However, it does misappropriate its terms from evolution. That’s the only reason I pointed out the language Ezelcant uses— selected— because it ties in his ideal with social darwinism, which borrows the terminology of natural selection. I don’t think I mentioned evolution otherwise?

  5. You know, I don’t really like Gundam AGE and I enjoyed Gundam 00 a bit, but I agree that Gundam AGE themes are vastly superior to Gundam 00 themes.

    The new bred of humans are the only ones capable of truly understanding each other? A war to end all wars (the only “just” war!)? Imposing an “enlightened” dictatorship ruled by the superior humans and a three hundred yeaor old supercomputer? No, thanks.

      1. Yeah.

        The problem with Gundam 00 is that the “heroes” never doubt that their cause is the most rightful, pure and just of all. No moral ambiguity from their part.

        I watched Gundam 00 thinking of the protagonists as the villains. It’s truly hilarious that they became outraged in season 2 when their foes, the A-Laws, used the same tactics as them. Oh, and the expanded universe gave Celestial Being other merciful inventions like “a remotely-detonatable explosive” to keep pilots forced to work for them under control. True heroes, indeed.

        1. Yes, exactly! Celestial Being are the villains. How is anyone supposed to sympathize with them?

          Oh, and the expanded universe gave Celestial Being other merciful inventions like “a remotely-detonatable explosive” to keep pilots forced to work for them under control.

          Holy cow. Things like this kind of lead me to wonder if all of the creators are on board with the “Celestial Being are the good guys” idea. I can imagine them getting together and saying, “Hey, I wonder if we can make an anime that tricks hordes of teenage boys to support eugenics and terrorism without them realizing it!”

          1. I think they wanted to repeat the success they had with Code Geass. But you know, the protagonist of Code Geass was well aware that he was using evil means, and his enemy was an authoritarian empire based on Social Darwinism (what a coincidence!).

            If you want to know more of Celestial Being’s dirty secrets, check the gundam wikia for words such as Fereshte and Veda itself. Not that the open atrocities weren’t any better; I think I was going to puke in season1 when Allelujah attacked the super soldier facility and killed a lot of children. In the words of another blogger; “Now as bad as altering kids is, how come CB gets to kill kids and still look like heroes?”.

          2. As you said, if they were trying to imitate Code Geass then they lack any self-awareness. Lelouch was fully aware that what he was doing was evil.

            My goodness, I’d forgotten most of the details of Gundam 00. But they were even worse than I remembered…

  6. It kinda makes me sick how I can agree with someone whom I philosophically completely disagree and despise… But you’re right Gundam AGE is like a “reversal” of Gundam 00, I already knew that… And it also kinda reminds me of Megaman ZXA because the final boss of that game “Master Albert” has a goal that is similar to “Lord Ezelcant” and of course similar to “Aeolia Schenberg” to “Reset” the world… So Megaman ZXA and Gundam AGE are clearly against post-human eugenic ideas of resetting the world because the main antagonist is someone who thinks that “This World needs to be reset!”… While Gundam 00 presents a character who thinks that the world needs to be reset as someone who the protagonists follow and of course as something “right”… Also… This whole thing reminds me of Jacob Hargreave from Crysis 2 he’s just like an “Aeolia Schenberg” and the Nanosuit is just like a Gundam… A one man army kind of idea… While the Gundam is an army of mobile suits of a single suit… However in Crysis 2 Jakob Hargreave first appears as someone who guides you but then betrays you (actually he was planning to reclaim the Nanosuit 2 since the beginning) which is something that makes Jakob Hargreave like a fusion between Reborns Almark and Aeolia Schenberg… Jakob Hargreave even says things like “I turned you into post human warriors! You’re a soldier! Think about it as a necessary sacrifice!” Not to mention that there are aliens on Crysis 2, they’re nowhere as powerful as the ELS from Gundam 00 but since a Nanosuit is nowhere as powerful as a gundam… You know… Even though Crysis 2 and Gundam 00 are very similar… Jakob Hargreave is the antagonist… Also I agree that Gundam 00 was lame but for the same reason as you… For lots of reasons Gundam 00 was lame and even if it wasn’t a pro eugenics/terrorism whatever show… It would still be lame…

    1. Never played Crisis 2, but it sounds quite similar. The idea of resetting the world shows up in many places— but usually the person who wants to do so is the villain. The world is a messed up place, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to fix it— but doing so by force is wrong.

      And regardless of its themes, Gundam 00 was quite lame. Setsuna F. Seiei has got to be the worst character ever made.

      1. Gundam 00 was lame… But the main reason why you hate it is something I do not share with you… You see… I don’t even want to fix this world… When I see it getting worse… My tendency is to desire the end of the world… Not a resetting… And there’s no need for me to interfere…

  7. While I appreciate the social commentary on the obvious eventual challenges arising from genetic engineering and the like, your dislike of Gundam 00 seems entirely based on a Christian premise, quoting the Bible as if that is some authoritative source on the subject. It is not. The Bible is a collection of stories orally passed down for centuries, then written and rewritten numerous times, centering on the perceived relationship between an all-knowing (and for then some unexplained reason all-loving) deity, his avatar, and the challenges caused by the god’s desire to provide free will while desperately desiring worship. To attempt to glean from the Bible some modicum of commentary on this subject is to similarly attempt to say that a senile old man, exiled, starving, and ranting, could have had communion with a divine presence and then choose to write down the prophecy in the most obscure, deranged, and psychedelic of verse…wait, that’s what Christians do believe. Oh well, if you’re going to look into clouds and think that they have meaning unto themselves without you giving it to them, go right ahead. I’d prefer to base my opinions on a world-view that was not shared with goat herders who though that dirt on their skin protected them from the Devil.

    1. You clearly didn’t even read what I wrote, since I a) didn’t mention genetic engineering, and b) didn’t even mention the passages you are quoting in the text of the article.

      Dude, I liked a book you didn’t, grow up.

      1. I guess then I can’t read English, despite my Masters degree, draggle.

        Firstly, the process by which the newtypes are created would be through genetic manipulation, even if the means are less chemical than through mere random survival. To completely miss that point of the commentary–aka Gattica–is to miss a fundamental aspect of the storyline, underpinning the eventual conflicts that arise from such efforts.

        Secondly, I did read your commentary. That’s how I could see that you’ve quoted Matthew 5:3-6 and Mark 9:43-47. So, here, your claim is completely false.

        Lastly, your commentary is very biased against some of the ideas themselves. Consider your statement: “Gundam AGE calls out this ideal for the hideous monstrosity it is.” Really? Social darwinism is a hideous monstrosity? Thank you for your value judgment, but I do not believe you have the qualification to make such an unsupported assertion. Rather, someone who’s actually written more than simple high-school level commentary would have restructured the statement, removing their obvious bias and letting the work stand on its own. “Contrary to the support of social darwinism supported by many of the characters in Gundam 00, the story of Gundam AGE pushes an alternative approach, showcasing the failure of the newtypes against Setsuna.” In fact, you actually made some of these observations in the sentences before it, but then you climbed up onto your own moralistic prejudices. These type of claims are where your review degrades into self-important drivel.

        In conclusion, it seems clear to me there’s no real subject here to discuss any more. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your apparent bias, even if your response was less than correct and insightful. I hope that through your continued reading and contemplation, you encounter the rich expanse that is available.

        1. It wouldn’t be an honest review if he didn’t include his honest opinion of the implications of the work. The work provokes people to think about social issues, and rightly or wrongly, he doesn’t like Social Darwinism. You, Darrin, do not seem to particularly like the Judeo-Christian framework of morality that has influenced Western society, and someone could also say you’re bringing that into your comment.

          All that said, I do have to add that the idea that some people are worth more than others has been part of society for far longer than Darwin’s theories have been around. Feudalism is pretty ancient. So putting the focus on Social Darwinism might be a little misleading, but if it’s what it means to Draggle, then he should write about that.

          I mean, it is his blog.

          1. Indeed. I have found the lens of Judeo-Christian thought to have very, very poor optics in trying to understand the main themes of Eastern-originated anime. The cultural context fits like a mumu on an athlete’s body; it hides nuances and often apparently contradictory positions behind the gross vestments of “Thou Shalt Not’s”. Let’s consider one of the 10 Commandments vs. one of the 5 Grave Precepts. The command “Thou shalt not kill” is an absolute statement, without apparent wiggle room. Conversely, the precept translates to “honor life; do not kill”. However, within the affirmative statement, we find that it is absolutely necessary to kill. Live cannot exist without killing. Nearly all living things consume death, and those that do not are akin to viruses and bacteria. Thus, the Eastern precept strives to force the person to consider the ramifications of the life being taken, to continually question if, by taking this life, you are honoring not just your life but the life you take. In ikebana, you bury the flowers when they have wilted. They are not thrown away. Thus, you honor them.

            That subtly is lost in the current analysis. Consider the commentary: “Celestial Being, for example, fights a war with the stated goal to ‘end war.’ […] This idea is so stupid on its face that it barely even deserves comment. […] But Gundam AGE once again steps up to the plate and renounces it for the vile filth it is.” Again, the subjectivity of the statement lacks basis in the anime itself. The very story of Christianity plays itself out to have Jesus return, a victor over Satan, and then end all war. Yet here, Draggle contends that this idea is vile filth. (!?) The perspective used here does not align with that subjective assessment. It’s intellectually discordant.

            Look, I’m not trying to be a jerk. I found the analysis of the story to be interesting. In fact, in the end, I was disappointed. Because, while there is much of the commentary here is right on point, introducing the “Devil”, his vile filth, etc. exposes the underlying viewpoint of Draggle as opposed to Gundam AGE vs. Gundam 00. When you compare two works of art, you don’t introduce your own perspectives; you let the commentary of one work speak of the other work. The flippant remarks detract from the real message of the anime. That’s why I was disappointed. I’ll leave it at that. It may be his blog, but then again, he’s not really commenting about AGE’s comments on 00; he’s commenting on his own feelings, and then cherry-picking AGE for the fruit to support his ideas. If it had been billed as that sort of rant, I would have avoided it. I guess I just expected something different. Oh well. Thanks for your insights. I appreciate them. I wish both Draggle and you well and good watching.

          2. You know, I’m much more amenable to what you’re saying when you aren’t just calling me deranged and insulting me. 🙂

            I’ll completely agree that Judeo-Christian thought is not the best way to look at anime if you’re trying to get at how the author or intended audience see it. But I’m approaching it as I see the work: through the cultural context I live in. A Japanese reader would likely not approach Les Miserables through a Judeo-Christian context, either. But would that make their interpretation any less valid or meaningful?

            Regarding your example of “Thou shalt not kill,” it’s actually not quite as straightforward as it seems. To quote Luther’s explanation in the small catechism,

            We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need [in every need and danger of life and body].

            Traditionally this commandment is seen in both a negative (not hurt nor harm) and an affirmative sense (help and befriend). Also it only applies to humans (other translations use “murder”) and there were exceptions, i.e. war. My only point is that it isn’t as absolutist and lacking nuance as it seems when put in context.

            As for the war to end war, my viewing of it as silly doesn’t really come from anything in the Bible so much as from my own viewing of history. Don’t most of the people in any war fight to end the war? The only way to end war is not to start one. Sure, my opinion of war lacks a basis in Gundam 00. That’s exactly my issue with it, that it glorifies war. Regarding Jesus’ war in Revelations, it’s figurative, imo a metaphor for the ressurection.

            When you compare two works of art, you don’t introduce your own perspectives; you let the commentary of one work speak of the other work.

            How can you not introduce your own perspectives? I’m not sure that’s even possible. Regardless, this is my own interpretation, and I’m not making any effort to hide that.

            Thanks for commenting, this did make me think. I honestly thought from your first reply that you were just trolling, so sorry for my rudeness.

        2. Oh, I had thought that by genetic engineering, you meant actually going in and engineering people’s DNA. I see what you mean now.

          I quoted the passages, but didn’t directly discuss them. A small distinction, I suppose.

          If having moral values is a crime, then I guess I’m guilty.

          1. That particular example you bring up is lo tirtzach, which is “thou shalt do no murder.” “Thou shalt not kill” is, as far as I have seen it explained, a well-known mistranslation. (See: http://www.ou.org/about/judaism/a.htm for an explanation based on the original Hebrew.)

            I agree that certain themes in the Bible (or any other religious text) can seem quite contradictory, but that one, at least, appears to be just up to translator error hundreds of years ago.

            In any case, I’m not sure there is a way to get at the meaning of art without hopelessly intertwining personal meaning and symbolism in the matter. But on the other hand, that is what enables art to appeal to so many different people – it can be interpreted differently by them.

  8. Reading this review of Gundam 00 and AGE changed my view of them instantly. I wish you could be more detailed with your reviews on Gundam though. I wanna hear them.^^

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