You can relax! Mostly, I liked it. I can therefore still be your friend.
I will largely be staying away from the fandom, except for the Simon/Nia parts of it, which mostly seem to just go, "Yeah, it's cute and Nia is awesome." I don't think I could take that level of idealization of the series. Like I said, I liked it. But I thought it had its flaws, and that seems to be pretty much taboo in the fandom. D:
To get them out of the way, here are the things I didn't like so much:
--The first few episodes, up to around episode 7. (Basically, when we started getting more information about the beastmen.) It felt like the series was trying too hard to be Awesome and Manly and hadn't quite gotten the hang of combining that with plot and character development yet. Especially since the fanservice seemed even more cranked up here than in the rest of the show (not that it ever went away). On that note...
--The blatant sexism. Mentioning this seems to be unacceptable to fans, which makes me sad; I'd like to have some people who can sympathize with me over the sexism without rejecting the show entirely. In particular, it bugs me how often Yoko is reduced to a fanservice cipher; her appearance post-timeskip is unadulterated awesome, but prior to that (especially in the first few episodes), the series seems to forgo character development and personality in favor of TITS TITS TITS a lot. Similarly, while I adore Nia's character design and confused, dorky sweetness, I really wish she'd been given a more active role in the plot at least a few times. Reite is cool, but it would have been nice if she'd had a larger role, perhaps comparable to Leeron. And don't get me started on the way that Kittan's sisters basically exist to be love interests (with the exception of Kiyal). I mean, I ship Rossiu/Kinon anyway, but...yeah. It bugs me. To the point where I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying the show. But whatever--it's still a fun show. I just wish they'd been less inclined to treat the girls like crap. This is supposed to be an epic show about all of humanity--why does it mostly wind up being an epic show about guys?
Reasons I kept watching anyway:
--The character designs. I know this is a matter of preference, but I thought they were awesome. Nia's in particular makes me go ♥_♥. They're like...all the cool things that you're not supposed to toss together in a character because that would make them an over-the-top Mary Sue, but this show has no shame and does it anyway. ♥
--Related to the above: I found the show very visually appealing. The mecha were really creative; the way the characters moved drew the eye. Shallow? Yup. But this show encourages that sort of thing.
--Yeah, I mentioned the "over-the-top" thing? That. I love how ridiculously, illogically big everything is, how totally wild they go with their concepts. It's good to not have to worry about how much sense the story's making for once, to be invited to go along on a joyful, self-indulgent ride.
--The thematic patterns were done really well--the repetition of fights and sacrifices--although let's be honest, I wasn't really focusing on that, I was focusing on the shiny visuals. Still, I found some of the overall themes touching. Not so much the "rah rah you can do anything if you just believe you can!" theme that so much of the fandom seems to obsess over, but the idea that it's our faith in each other that makes people strong, and that it costs dearly but it's worth it all the same.
--Nearly everyone got to be awesome! Yay for Crowning Moments Of Awesome!
Some parts of the story I loved:
--The battle surrounding Kamina's death, but more than that, the little ways he interacted with Simon and Yoko beforehand. I hadn't really cared for Kamina/Yoko before that--I found the heavy-handed fanservice and Kamina's general obnoxiousness made it difficult for me to get into pairings--but the sweetness of their kiss won me over.
--The way Nia managed to cheer Simon up just by virtue of being herself when he was devastated from Kamina's death. I don't freaking care how stupid and Mary Sue-ish it was (and for the record, I think Kamina and Nia are almost equally Sue-ish, with Kamina coming out a bit more so--that is to say, rather a lot, but in the context of this crazy show, not enough to make them bad characters). It made me happy, dammit.
--The revelation of Kamina's angst and need for Simon; it dovetailed perfectly with how I'd seen him previously and made him a lot better as a character.
--Viral's constant epic fail. He's such a tough, determined badass, but pre-timeskip he failed at pretty much everything, and post-timeskip his awesome and badass was built on his own personal tragedy. There's so much about him left unanswered--what will happen to him now? How long will he be able to cope with his immortality? Will he ever find family, even for a little while? What gives him the strength to go on? And all that just makes him more awesome.
--The insanely adorable little ways Simon and Nia interact. Yes, they are hopelessly OTP for me. I even signed up to write their essay for ship_manifesto--I am that weak. Pretty much every time they did anything together, I wibbled.
--More than that, the way Nia helped out in the final battle against Lord Genome. I would have preferred her to be able to take a more active role, yeah, but her determination to believe in Simon was still touching--as was the fact that this belief was exactly what he needed. Guh. They are so freaking perfect.
--Rossiu's angst and complexity in dealing with the Anti-Spirals. He was so easy to sympathize with, and it was awesome to see him finally reconcile reason with determination in the end.
--The way Yoko came back after the timeskip. I felt that the show didn't really give her enough development beyond "hurr boobies" earlier, but after the timeskip she totally came into her own. I also adored her interaction with Kittan.
--Speaking of which: yeah, Kittan. He always struck me as a dorkier, less tragically broken, more believable (not that believability is this show's strong suit) version of Kamina, and in the end he managed to be all that and more. I choked up during his last scene with Yoko, dammit, and I almost never do that.
--Simon and Nia being awesome and hot and badass and tragic and world-saving together after the timeskip. Did I mention they are OTP? Because they are totally OTP.
tobineko -- Kamina/Simon, Simon/Nia, and gen in a beautiful light, clean, airy style reminiscent of a more delicate version of the official art.
PAINGUMI -- Kamina/Yoko and Simon/Nia in a variety of cute and often busy styles.
uta -- Absolutely gorgeous Simon/Nia and a bit gen in a very elaborately shoujo style. Also includes some Shinn/Stellar and Gundam 00 stuff.
AND OVER -- Cute, prettily colored Simon/Nia and a lot of gen.
満月一丁目 (Mangetsu ichi choume) -- Simon, Nia, and the two of them together. The art isn't perfect, but its frequent utter cuteness makes up for that.
AuroraVision -- Simon/Nia and gen. I find this site's style somewhat similar to Tobineko, but finer and more delicate, and a little more sketchy. It's just as adorable, though, and often beautiful.
A wild tulip -- Simon/Nia. The style here is more cartoony than usual, I find, which only makes it more ridiculously cute. Be prepared for lots of semi-chibi Simon/Nia lurking in wait to slay you with the cute.
多宇研 (tauken) -- Simon/Nia, Rossiu, various gen. This site has a lot of sketchy stuff, line art, and character studies, but it's all worth a look, and every so often it'll bust out something stunning. Plus, as is to be expected, there's lots of cute.
Ligne -- Simon and Simon/Nia, in a variety of styles, some sketchy, some rather artsy.
-- Awesome Viral arts, some cracky, some gorgeous. Tends towards the yaoi side, though.
ボニカ’82 (BONIKA'82) -- Gen with a lot of Viral. The style is often rather sketchy, but there's some very pretty stuff here.
-- Rossiu/Kinon and related gen. It's mostly in black and white and sometimes sketchy (not to mention occasionally cracky), but I find it pretty touching all the same, possibly because it's hard to find decent Rossiu/Kinon art. Or any at all, really.
Caracoro -- Simon/Nia and general cuteness, in a variety of styles.
針穴 (Hari ana) -- Simon/Nia and a lot of general cuteness and silliness.
-- Mostly Simon-related gen, with some others and a hint of Simon/Nia here and there. Cute, if somewhat sketchy, style. Also has a fair amount of Gundam 00 arts.
That's just a sample of the better arts I've found while poking around for stuff relevant to my interests (mostly Simon/Nia, Kittan/Yoko, gen for Viral and Rossiu, and Rossiu/Kinon). As you can see, some of that's a lot easier to find than others; I also haven't gotten really into the hunt for Viral arts yet, as that will lead me to a lot of yaoi, which I do not particularly care for in this fandom.
So, uh...with that done, the question is: what now? Well, other than actual RL stuff. I'm thinking Gundam 00--I've already watched the first episode, I just need to get back to it now.