Let the Mobile Suit meister take you under his Gundam Wing.
Here’s a series that I’ve been long familiar with. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was one of the Gundam installments of the 90s, and the first one I was actively aware of as an anime fan. This is, of course, thanks to Toonami. But Gundam series usually run pretty long — almost always in the area of 50 episodes, so chances of me actually seeing each episode as they aired were pretty slim back then. Inability to really follow the plot relegated the series to little more than ambient noise as I did other things, but a few key moments stuck with me. Fresh off the high of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, I decided to dive back into this relic from my highschool days.
In the future, humanity has extended its reach to space, establishing colonies in fixed positions between the Earth and Moon. Though striving to live in peace, the colonies find themselves under the oppression of the wary United Earth Sphere Alliance, headquartered on mankind’s home planet. Hiiro Yui, a charismatic figure in colonial society, begins to rally the colonies together under a banner of pacifism and peaceful resolution, but is assassinated; the Alliance is considered accountable. Years later, a strange Mobile Suit appears in Earth’s skies, composed of the rare element, Gundanium. The Organization of the Zodiac (OZ), an elite branch of the Alliance military, intercepts the suit on its descent to Earth. Unable to destroy the target, but managing to force a crash landing in the ocean, OZ retreats, leaving the Gundam pilot, a teenage boy named Hiiro Yui, to his fate.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing dives right into the action from the get-go. It practically opens the series with a free-falling mecha fight in the skies. Hiiro is immediately pitted against Zechs Merquise, Wing’s incarnation of the Gundam tradition’s ‘masked, blond-haired rival military officer.’ As Hiiro’s Gundam is disabled near the start of the series, the first few episodes spend their time introducing the four other Gundam pilots: Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Winner and Chang Wufei. These teenage pilots, Hiiro included, each hail from one of the different colonies with the common agenda of liberating colonial space from the oppressive clutches of Earth. But just because they have the same primary goal doesn’t necessarily mean their agendas coincide amicably; many of them are brutally independent, trusting only in themselves or their Gundams. What results is a (mostly) disorganized rebellion until the pilots realize that they must band together to complete their objectives. They are reluctant comrades-in-arms, and certain characters work better with each other, but the interactions between the pilots push the narrative forward.
But it’s not all war and mecha; Relena Peacecraft, a young girl who encounters Hiiro early in the series, provides the evolving civilian perspective of the war. Her priviliged upbringing is constantly put to the test as the war progresses, and as a respected member of Earth’s upper-class, the ramifications of her many choices as a politician on Earth reverberate throughout space. Her struggle between trying to force action while remaining a devout pacifist is a conflict all its own, showing that you don’t have to be seated in the cockpit of a mobile death suit to be swept into the horrors of war.
While a series like Yugioh banks on sappy feelings of friendship to draw its cast of protagonists together, Gundam Wing has a more symbolic figure: Gundam Wing ZERO. As the series’ namesake, it is one of the most powerful and technologically advance suits in the series, and by the end of the series, each of the Gundam pilots will have used it at least once. Considering that it’s both an amalgamation of colonial hopes and mankind’s unified technology, I couldn’t think of a better entity to represent the Gundam fellowship.
True to the Gundam formula, Wing is ripe with political commentary and machinations. It’s a little difficult to follow due to the independent nature of the Gundam pilots; they often find themselves on missions with different objectives, forcing episodes to hop back and forth from pilot to pilot to advance the plot. The climax, however, is when the branches begin to fold back in, resulting in explosive battles at breakneck speed.
The only thing about this series that took me aback was the art and animation. I’m not sure on the production values of the series — but it originally aired in 1995 through 1996. Sunrise’s next release, immediately after Gundam Wing finished airing, was The Vision of Escaflowne. I can say, without a doubt, that Escaflowne is a significant leap in visual quality. I still view Escaflowne in a positive light by today’s standards in terms of art direction and animation, so I was a bit disappointed to see that Wing hadn’t aged quite as well.
By Gundam and Sunrise standards, Wing is a bit underwhelming, especially considering contemporary work at the time. But as a series in general, it’s entertaining and most likely will evoke a deep-rooted sense of nostalgia for many viewers who, like myself, remember Gundam Wing as fresh, well-received entry on the Toonami schedule.
Character Ranking – Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
- Trowa Barton
- Relena Peacecraft
- Lady Une
- Treize Khushrenada
- Hiiro Yui
- Lucrezia Noin
- Chang Wufei
- Zechs Merquise
- Duo Maxwell
- Quatre Winner