Ever since the original Gundam and its relatively stark look at war, the idea of the “average soldier” has been a prominent part of the franchise. Here, the lowly soldier with a photo of his loved ones back home getting stabbed through the cockpit as he screams his girlfriend’s name is a recurring image, but in reality such figures are rarely given a spotlight. Even the “everyday grunts” that comprise the titular “08th MS Team” often seem above-average. In Gundam AGE though, two characters in particular have made “averageness” a joy to watch.
The first is Largan Drace, the man who was originally meant to pilot the Gundam, but who ends up in a regular ol’ robot when Flit takes the Gundam as his own. With actual military training but no notable reputation, Largan is pretty much “just another soldier,” but the fact that he is aware of his skill level while being both humble/confident about it actually causes him to shine through at a fair level which says “I’m a side character, but I’m also important in my own way.” He’s even the person who, upon injury, suggests Flit take the Gundam in his stead in the first place. While Largan has no special abilities to speak of, nor any exceptional talents, his behavior and integrity make him an excellent representative of the average soldier.
The second is Adams Tinel, who sits in the bridge of the Diva as Navigation Officer. Loyal to the Federation and thus torn by the fact that the Diva’s captain, Grodek Ainoa, is very much a rogue and a man willing to use almost any means to achieve his goals, Adams has shown his character in contrast to Grodek on a few occasions now. From this, we know that if given a path of light or a path of darkness, he will always choose the former, such as when he informs the Federation of the Diva’s situation in fighting the enemy despite fact that Grodek is a man wanted for treason. However, his goal in doing so is not to tattle, or to show his loyalty, but because he honestly believed that trying to get the Federation’s support was the best course of action. Adams plays by the book and does so without being a wet blanket, and in a series full of characters so fully intent on achieving their goals, his sense of restraint is notable and admirable.
A common complaint with many anime characters is that they are too average and therefore too boring. Largan and Adams show however that playing by the rules and doing okay does not disqualify a character from being interesting. Instead, they show that there is a big difference between average and bland, and when it comes to both main and side characters, the approaches taken for them are valuable lessons.