Gundam Wing Anime Review
Shin Kidou Senki Gandamu W
New Mobile Military History Gundam W
US Release By
49 25-minute episodes
1995-04-07 - 1996-03-29
The year is After Colony 195, Operation Meteor. Five 15-year-old boys, pilots of mobile suits (mecha) called Gundams, are sent to the earth by rebel colonies of space to wage war against the oppressive organization known as the Alliance. Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Winner, and Chang Wufei make allies and enemies as they struggle to follow their orders, to fight inner conflicts, and to keep semi-sane while committing mass murder on innocents.
From the way I see it, this very shounen anime is known for its fandom more than anything else. Take an anime, give it angst, give it plot, and give it gorgeous men, and what else is going to happen? Granted, there are other anime series out there with these elements, but Gundam Wing has something going for it with the extensive, crazy, out-of-control fandom that has wormed its way through the Net, and that isn't going away any time soon, not if the nutty fangirls (and boys) can help it.
The one thing that gets me every time about Gundam Wing is the animation. Aside from the OVA, Endless Waltz, the animation is crap. Really. The art is par, sometimes sub-par, sometimes above par, but the animation... yuck. Sometimes it'll look like a character's hair was colored in on Microsoft Paint -- mono-color! I've only seen that once before, and that was in a fairly bad episode of Sailor Moon, which I can excuse.
Character development is average. The series focuses on the very-main-character, 15-year-old suicidal nutcase extraordinaire: just call him Heero Yuy. To my chagrin, the other four Gundam pilots are used as chess pieces to mess with Heero's psyche, and his life. Really. Duo's the, quote, optimist whom Heero, quote, just can't forget, Trowa is Heero's brother in arms and mind, Quatre is Heero's self-appointed guardian of sorts, and Wufei is Heero's rival in mind and philosophy.
The manga pre-series, Episode Zero, gives a brief glimpse into the past lives of each of the pilots. Heero was trained to use a gun and kill with it while he was still in his bib and his little blue booties, more or less. Duo was a street kid who lost everything he loved, ending up selling his body and part of his soul just to stay alive. Trowa was the shrimp of a mercenary corp, having seen his family killed in a freak wagon fire when he was a baby. Quatre was a nearly unwanted child of a very famous, very wealthy family of the colonies, rivaled in affection with his twenty-nine sisters, believing himself to be a test tube baby like his sisters were. Wufei was a member of a Chinese clan who married at fourteen and lost his wife the same year.
Of course, none of this is covered or looked into during the series. We don't see Duo's inner pain about losing his pseudo-family, or regrets about the life he lived on the street. We don't see Trowa's thoughts about his family, nor his reaction when he finds his long-lost sister who survived the fire. We see Quatre's very scary ire when his father is killed, but beyond that, Quatre's thoughts aren't fed into. We see Wufei's rage when his clan is killed off, but we don't see the core of the rage; just the surface of it.
Nope. It's all Heero. It's HEERO'S struggle with himself. It's HEERO'S pain about the lives he's taken. It's HEERO'S doing when the war is ended; though he did do the final act that ended it all, he could never have made it that far, nor could he have struck the last blow, without his comrades in arms. Heero's the sung hero of the war, Heero's the wonderful one, let's all grovel at Heero's feet for being... well, Heero.
Not to say that I dislike Heero, because personally, not professionally as a reviewer should be, I love him to death. It's just that every other character in the series is so underplayed and underappreciated.
As for the so-called villains, there are quite a few. We have Zechs Merquise, aka Milliardo Peacecraft, son of the fallen pacifist family, the Peacecrafts of the Sanc Kingdom. Then there's Lucretzia Noin (if I were named Lucretzia, I'd kill myself, but then again, she's the one in the cowgirl outfit), commander of OZ troops, expert mobile suit pilot trainer. She's devoted to Zechs. Go figure.
For the big guy in the proverbial bad suit, meet Treize Khushrenada, an unusually serene bad guy who likes bubble baths, roses, and Shakespearean garb. He's the brainwork behind the Alliance and OZ, Zechs' commander-in-chief. His left hand, unless he's a lefty which makes this person his right hand, is Lady Une. Damned if I know if she's got another name, but that's all she has. Lady Une on her better days, Colonel Une on her PMS days. Multiple personality disorder does that to you, I guess. Like Noin, whom she really doesn't like, she's devoted to her Treize. (But of course, stupid! She's a woman! She can't be independent...)
Then there was an addition that was supposed to add love interest to the story for the poor Gundam pilots. An addition that went horribly, horribly wrong, and I think the creators realized that after creating the first episode. Her name is Relena Darlian, but her last name is really Peacecraft, making her Milliardo's (Zechs') younger sister. She found Heero collapsed on a beach and called an ambulance. He proceeded to knock out the medics and hijack the ambulance. She then proceeded to greet the air, holding out a hand and introducing herself to a long-gone Heero Yuy. (Smart one, he just drove away really, really fast! He's GONE. As in not here.)
The oblivious-to-her-fate princess then takes up a new hobby: Heero-stalking! In her Pepto-Bismol limousine, she can find him anywhere he hides. I kid you not. It's really quite scary. But my personal opinion aside (*cough*) for once, she isn't that bad. She finds out her true heritage at her father's deathbed, going on to become an ultimate pacifist, a figurehead of hope for a galaxy torn by war. Her biggest flaw, really, is her obsession with Heero. People who threaten to kill you on a regular basis are not the best love interests, Relena darling. If you can get over her shrills of his name from the tops of cliffs and buildings, her voice gets tolerable. I promise.
There are other women in the series, but they have little or no character, spending too much time clinging to the arms of their beloved men. There's Hilde Schbeiker, an ex-OZ soldier who owns a junkyard that Duo works at on his off-time. It's stated in the series that he sees her as a little sister and she sees him as a big brother, but she's so dependent on him, it's enough to make you sick. Ah well. At least Duo has a friend outside the circle of the five Gundam pilots, unlike most of the others.
Trowa's a clown on his off time. (Oh my GOD! It's a clown with a gun! RUN! RUN!) Ah... *cough* Anyway. He found his long-lost older sister at the circus he applied at, Cathrine Bloom. She's a knife-thrower with deadly aim, and loves Trowa more than anything. (As a brother, you fools! You want incest, you go see Angel Sanctuary!) The problem with her, though, is that if someone comes to the circus to get Trowa for war, she flips out. Overly possessive much?
Dorothy Catalonia... a very strange character indeed. Personally, I like her, but most people don't. She loves war, seeing it as a very beautiful thing for its human interaction and emotion. This means that she's opposed to mobile dolls, automatic mobile suits without pilots, because this takes the humanity out of war in her eyes. (Which it does, you can't argue that.) She is fascinated with Heero's strength in fighting, but is most obviously drawn to Relena more than anyone. I'm tempted to say that Dorothy loves messing with Relena's mind, seeing the pacifist as an easy target for her mind games. This is only implied, though, but the connection between the two girls is quite obvious: tension. War-lover versus war-hater.
The only truly independent woman in the series is Sally Po, a rebel soldier who runs her only small force. She is also a doctor, and is the one who rescued Heero from Duo and Relena's stupidity near the beginning of the series; he was drowning while they stood on the docks, staring at him and thinking about how nuts he was. We never see her clinging to anyone; she makes friends with Duo and tries to pry Wufei out of his shell, but besides that, she's a lone wolf.
On to mecha. With many we-like-to-kill-things-and-watch-them-die guys (and girls), Gundam Wing is perfect. Gratuitous violence and death -- yay! Gundam fights mobile suit. Cool battle ensues. Mobile suit explodes and Gundam pilot cackles evilly. La fin. The mecha action is great for what the animation is worth (not much, but hey), and if the choppiness of the battles and the lack of fluidity that a graceful mobile suit should have is ignored and blamed on crap animation, I see nothing wrong with the mecha battles.
So where did the fandom come from, you ask? It's an anime with five guys carrying bad pasts, five women who rest mostly on their side, two "bad" guys, and two "bad" gals. Bad animation, fairly simple plot; what's the big deal? I'll tell you what the big deal is. A rare jewel in the realm of anime, Gundam Wing is an anime where there are absolutely no established couples. None. The otakus took one look at that and pounced.
Any couple you can think of is plausible. Relena is considered canon for Heero, but just because he protects her (and kisses her in the Blind Target manga once, I believe) does not mean that they're a couple. Really. I protect my friends and I kiss my friends and I'm definitely not in love with them. Maybe that's just me?
Nobody ever gets married, sans Wufei, but he was married a year ago in the series, and his wife is dead now, so he's single too, really. As I said before: get some gorgeous guys, stack a lot of angst on their minds and pasts, and you've got enough fandom material to sink legions of ships.
That's the real reason everyone's heard of Gundam Wing, I think. If the creators had gone ahead and made Heero marry Relena, or made Heero marry Duo (my personal unbiased opinion... ahem), the fandom would exist, but wouldn't be so dominating.
I was introduced to Gundam Wing through the fandom. The anime is mediocre, though still enjoyable to watch. I'll admit: the fandom is why I'm still a fan. Bless its heart.
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Notes and Trivia
If you like shounen mecha anime with good characters and a more-than-decent plot, Gundam Wing's great. If you're going to get into the fandom, I warn you now: There, there be yaoi. This means m/m relationships, often graphic. Don't be surprised like I was. "Hmm, a Gundam Wing fanfic. Oh, how nice. Oh, look, Duo's taking Heero's clothes off, and -- WAIT A SECOND!" *grin* Just forewarning you. It's not all like that, but... still. Trust me. Oh, and don't watch the dub if you can help it. It makes my ears hurt. Just watch the Japanese and be happy with Heero's wonderfully wonderful voice. (Same as Tamahome from Fushigi Yuugi.)
Although part of the long-running Gundam franchise, Gundam Wing is not connected to any of the other series; it takes place in its own alternate timeline.
In a bit of trivia, most of the main characters apparently have names based on numbers; Heero, for example, is based on the Japanese "hitotsu" ("one"), Duo is obvious, Trowa would be a reference to three, and Quatre, four.
US DVD Review
Available on 10 individual DVDs from Bandai; they are uncut with stereo soundtracks in both English and Japanese, with English subtitles, but don't boast of any extras. There are also two "Anime Legends" box sets that collect the first and second half of the series into one inexpensive, fat box each.
About 13-up on account of moderately serious violence.
Violence: 3 - I'd say more like a 2.5.
Nudity: 1 - Skimpy clothes rating merely for Heero's hip-hugging spandex. I promise, that's it.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Nope. None. See why in the review. And why we love that.
Language: 1 - Do 'crap' and 'hell' count? Oh, that and references to the God of Death, Shinigami... -_-.
Available in North America from Bandai on unedited bilingual DVD; your choice of 10 individual volumes, a box set of the works, or two budget-priced "Anime Legends" box sets, with the first and second half of the series.