Core Anime: Gundam Wing (“The god of death is back from hell!”)
Welcome to my dirty little secret. Gundam Wing was my first Gundam series, it was my second serious anime after Dragonball Z. By serious, I mean I followed it religiously to the end. And you know what? I loved this show! For a time anyways. Welcome to my second entry in my core anime series, New Mobile Report Gundam Wing!
I was still in my Toonami phase. Didn’t really know much about anime above Dragonball Z and the stuff that was slowly coming out on American television (mainly just Cartoon Network). No torrents, no DVD’s, no websites to get torrents or DVD’s. Hell, I didn’t even have any video tapes aside from the Dragonball Z episodes I recorded. I don’t know exactly what got me started on Gundam Wing. Maybe it was the awesome promos (Cartoon Network could do some amazing trailers back then, I know those who watched then still fondly remember the Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star ones). Or maybe it was those first few episodes where I just saw the Gundams show up wreck shop like gods. All I know is that they were big, overpowered and gave me a tingly feeling in my yet developed GAR gland (it’s a fictional gland tittilated by acts of extreme, manly awesomeness). I was in love.
And the machine I was most in love with was the Deathscythe. The stealth bomber of Gundams. It’s why I took a liking to Gundam SEED‘s Blitz Gundam later (Nicol watch out! NOOOO! He only wanted to play the piano!). Everything good I remembered about that mobile suit involved its pilot Duo Maxwell stalking its opponent unseen only to reveal itself at the moment of violence (“I-It’s a GUNDAAAAAAM!”). God I loved it! The Deathscythe Hell Custom (from the following OVA) was my first Gundam model.
But this post isn’t about my love of the sexy and glorious fictional machine that was the Deathscythe. It’s about the love of the series it came from, and my way of somewhat putting my overall thought on the series to rest. It ushered in a new era for me in terms of media consumption. And may have been the first and truest step towards me becoming a “real” anime fan. Not someone who watched one anime, or one kind of anime and did care for anything else or the medium itself. Gundam Wing was also the first time I really paid attention to, or enjoyed an anime’s original soundtrack. I suppose the jPop was a little cheesy, but I didn’t care because it fit the show so perfectly and got me pumped up for the action. And the music did tie in heavily to one of my favorite scenes from the anime. Episode 41 “Crossfire at Barge” (thanks MAHQ.net), where the massive space fortress Barge is taken down finally after a long battle by one of my other all-time fave mecha designs, the Epyon.
My opinion of the show itself has fluctuated wildly over the years as I’ve rewatched it. It started out extremely positive as I watched it initially as a anime novice. At that phase, I was basically excited just to see giant robots square off. I was perfectly in sync with the show, as it’s only goal seemed to be to give giant robots and excuse to fight each other and kill. My opinion dipped later however as I read reviews and watched other better series. Basically, under deeper inspection stuff didn’t add up. I found decisions made by characters in the show to be idiotic. I found some characters moronic (Heero and his consistent inability to kill people he actually says he’s going to kill). And some were just infuriatingly stupid, such as Relena Peacecraft. And surprisingly, my overall opinion of the show has evened out as of my last rewatch three years ago. From love, to hate, to a tepid respect for a show that for better or worse did push the Gundam metaverse farther and was financially successful by any stretch. Even my opinion of the odious Relena Peacecraft, one of the first, if not THE first character that I really hated has even out. There are far more annoying and useless Gundam women out there. And should I ever cover SEED or Victory Gunadm, then you’ll know.
To help sum up my feelings on this show I’m gonna use various scenes from the show (favorites and duds) to help illustrate its good and very bad points.
Heero Yuy is a moron
There are plenty of Gundam characters I loathe more than Heero Yuy. But few who I thought were as socially inept, militarily incompetent as Heero. And that’s a pretty bad thing to say in this series. Throughout the show, he’s portrayed as this “human” war machine. I’m tempted to say hume-ON, because he’s seems more like an alien to me. He’s a character who takes no pleasure in killing, but will have a hearty chuckle at completing a mission if the opponent is incompetent enough. He’s quite imbalanced. Though the real word for him is inconsistent.
Everything about him is inconsistent. He’s a good pilot with the best mad scientist enabled military training and equipment (short of that crazy computer system that turns its pilots into psychotic warmongering mass murderers). But he consistently makes dumb military decisions and blows up his own mobile suit. He claims Relena Peacecraft knows too much, and threatens to kill her several times. Does he kill her? Of course not! Of team players, he may be one of the worst, aside from Wufei. That kid is a whole other level of “not right”.
The designs for the Gundam-class mecha are some of the best in the metaverse
I don’t hate, or even dislike any of the Gundam-class mecha designs in this series. By that, I mean the super machines not only including the five Gundams sent from the colonies, but also macabre Epyon and the majestic Tallgeese. Even that overpowered, often as hated as loved beast, the Wing Zero was in my good graces. While the original Wing Gundam was a machine I would describe as appealing and cute. It’s successor, the Wing Zero is probably a legendary design. It’s beefy and beautiful at the same time. It’s looks pretty nice in bird mode. And it sports a gun that has been used in as many debates over power, as Babe Ruth has been used in “best player ever” baseball debates. The twin buster rifle. People loved to point out how that weapon could take out a colony in a single shot. Though I think the Gundam X series’ Gundam Double X would like a word in edgewise.
Then of course, there’s my personal favorite which I’ve already talked about a bit, the Gundam Deathscythe (like the original Wing, cute and appealing) and its much improved sexy grim reaper version, the Gundam Deathscythe Hell. The version displayed in the Endless Waltz OVA being the version I wish to marry. Even the ridiculous Heavyarms, a machine known for having almost infinite ammo and then running out of ammo is appealing to me. It’s hard to describe to someone who isn’t into this aspect of the genre, the mechanical sexiness of the machines. But for many a core mecha fan, this is the appeal of the show.
Pacifism can eat a big fat —!
Pacifism, oh how I loathe thee! I found you less useful and more idealistic than anarchism. And in an action show, you are not welcome!
I don’t know if this was the first time pacifism reared its ugly head, but it has to be the first time it was such a central theme in the show. And I hate the whole idea of it in this context. Sure people can talk about it all they want, but in a show whose best assets are action, such poorly thought out philosophy really grates me. To me, the show used pacifism as a way to give Gundam Wing the illusion of depth and thought. But I found Relena Peacecraft’s dogged pacifism a sign of a vapid, air-headed girl who lacked the skills to grasp the responsibility her position was burdened with. Eventually, I learned to separate the character from the pacifism itself in the show. Honestly, she was just a little girl doing her damnedest to stick to what she believed and lead her poor withered country. This was a central reason why my overall opinion of the show varied as much as it did over subsequent viewings. All the talk about war and the pacifism that was thrown beside it as some sort of simple alternative is what grated me.
There was a lot of critical jabs thrown at the show for its almost hilariously pointless fights. But I can forgive that because that’s the reason I watch these shows at their core. I watch them to see giant robots beat each other to DEATH, or at least pieces. If it didn’t include those things then my enjoyment would be far and between all the bad political intrigue that permeated this series. The fact that I had to sit through all that and the loathsome preaching about the virtues of pacifism are where most of my bitterness originates.
As I do these Core Anime posts, you’ll see that I have some consistent man-crushes in them. Treize was probably the first. And in a way, he’s the show’s mascot. He represents so much of what was good and bad about the show.
Gundam Wing somewhat had two masked men. And I’d like to think of Treize as a more subtle version of that trope. Unlike Milliardo Peacecraft, his mask wasn’t physical. It was the illusion of loyalty to anyone other than himself and his unwavering ideals. Sure he was a warmonger, but I think he indulged in it with the least amount of pleasure possible. He measured his situations and men carefully. And he seemed to have a respect for the lives of the men he lost and killed, and he knew the weight their losses would carry on those that they knew. He worshiped the warriors life, and the war around it. Which is why is pained him so badly when the infamous mobile dolls started to dominate the battlefield near the end of the series.
The annoyance was two-fold. First, mobile dolls were predictable machines that posed no challenge to a superior pilot and warrior like himself. But more importantly, they sapped souls, human life and emotion from the battlefield. They ruined his romantic view of war. If the goddess of war were to be an actual, corporeal being, I’m sure Treize would worship her, marry her and go out everyday and win a battle for her. But concurrently, if she were such a being, the mobile dolls would be something that cheapened and sullied her.
And I guess that’s what ended him. In the middle of war, he fell out of love with it. And he has a strange over-the-top reaction to this realization, he just kinda lets go of the battle and falls into the arms of the only warrior that understands him. It’s just too bad that warrior’s a moron.
I believe Treize is the true “spirit” of Gundam Wing. Not Heero. Not Milliardo, who spent so much time trying to find himself that he ended up being a complete parody of what his family stood for. Not Relena who was mostly a puppet, or when she did stand up for herself, a convenient flag for allies to rally around. Treize interacted with and affected the world more than anyone. His ideals were naive, twisted and stangely noble at the same time. It’s very much how like how the show tries to give its own naive answers to the problems of war and the overall human condition. For Heero to solve his issue of lacking value in his own life, he merely has to attach his feelings to someone enough to care about the world he and she occupy. Though the fact that he’s an emotionally empty murderous child soldier, who has killed possibly hundreds of thousands isn’t more than played with here. The overall show sees war as something to be defeated through disarmament and understanding. But things like cultural differences and a lack of resources aren’t tackled in anything more than the most superficial ways.
And that’s why I use Treize as a way to give focus to my opinion and views of this series as a whole. Like the show, Treize was too in love with himself and the ideas he represented to make much sense. He had a deep love and respect for people, but it was shown by throwing them to the war they created, and that devours them. He was just a little too flawed to be a great character, but he was one I loved to watch nonetheless.
In my house of anime (metaphorically speaking of course), Gundam Wing is a classic and not just a core series for me. Outside of the Gundam metaverse though, it’s not that influential towards all the other series I’ve watched. I would say that Zeta Gundam and G Gundam have had a stronger influence on my tastes and perceptions of other anime. And G Gundam isn’t even one of my core series. Sadly, I tend to use Gundam Wing as a barometer for vapid, or badly planned Gundam series. The series I think its most affected my perceptions of is Gundam 00. People get pissed when I compare the two, but I see some similarities. And don’t get the wrong idea. Though I’ve looked down on Wing for its quality at times, hardcore Gundam fans will probably agree with me that it’s no where near the worst of what Gundam has to offer.
When it comes to Gundam Wing’s memorability, the series did have some long lasting moments, but almost as many of those are for bad things as good. Like the rather horrible dub work of some of the background and side characters. And the plot and overly complicated (though not at all hard to follow) political “intrigue” and faction building. The show basically boiled down to one subfactions upending the organiztion it was within in a series of coups. Though I will say that this show has a surprise memorable moment for me.
The death of Treize is one of my top Gundam moments. I shed a tear for that man because he was so f*cking awesome and rocked that Tallgeese II like a boss. That bumps up the series memorability considerably.
Gundam Wing over time will probably be most remembered for its popularity. Popularity of its mecha designs. Popularity of its pilots. It’s a blockbuster action flick of a series. A series that excelled generally at being pretty (in pilots and mecha) and enthralled with its own bumbling messages on the value of life, and the conundrums of war and peace. And the Gundams themselves will live on as demigods of the world they occupied, unchallenged by all except a few.
And despite all its flaws I’m gonna miss the show. I don’t really intend to rewatch it any more. And I have already had more than enough discussions on the subject. So this will be my goodbye post of sorts to the series. There were good times, there were bad times. There were good episodes and there were some really horrible ones. But in the end it was the series that got me into Gundam. And for that I’m grateful.
Entertainment Value: C+ (B at its height)
Favorite Episode: 48 “Takeoff into Confusion”
Favorite Moment: Death of Treize
Spiritual Successors: Mobile Suit Gundam 00 series
Anime Influences: Gundam SEED, Gundam 00, Gundam X
- Favorite Mecha: Gundam Deathscythe Hell
- Favorite Character: Duo Maxwell/Treize
- Best Pilot: Miliardo (Zechs) Peacecraft
- Most Hated Character: Relena Peacecraft
As a final note, I’d like to give thanks to MAHQ.net for all the information and hard work on their site. They’ve been a big influence of my love of all things Gundam. And their work has been invaluable to me over the years.