While Gundam Wing wasn’t the first in the line of Gundam series to be dubbed, it was the first to be aired on TV in the US. A week after its premiere, Gundam Wing was the highest rated show on the Toonami Block and the highest rated show in the teen demographic on Cartoon Network as a whole. What made Gundam Wing such a huge success to American audiences? Read and explore the wonder that is, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.
Now, not for nothing, I fangirl this show like you wouldn’t believe. I was a fan right from the beginning in March of 2000 when it first aired on Toonami. Was it the amazing storyline, the in depth psychological portrayal of war vs. peace on an epic scale, or was it the characters and their secretive back grounds that drew me in? I’m not afraid to say that it was six teenage boys all mysterious and brooding that drew me in like the teenaged fangirl I was, and still can be.
However, rewatching the series as an adult allowed me to see past the surface and really watch and appreciate the show. I tried not to think about any of the character prejudices I had the first time around and really immersed myself into the characters and the story.
I’m going to warn you right now that I will be spoiling the show AND the movie Endless Waltz for those that haven’t seen it and will also touch on the manga Episode Zero. So if you really want to watch it, I suggest you do so now. You won’t regret it, and I’ll wait patiently for you to get back.
All back with us now? Good. So first of all, the Earth is in a dictator like peace, united under the United Earth Sphere Alliance. The Alliance uses its military might to basically scare and over power anyone that attempts to fight back. Its military arm is the Organization of the Zodiac, or OZ. The time line of the show starts in After Colony 195, but the real story starts 20 years before that.
The colonies in space are tired of the oppression, and a colonial peace leader named Heero Yuy speaks out against the earth, and for peace within the colonies. Well of course, like most dictatorships, The Alliance and OZ get pretty annoyed, and finally assassinate Yuy. Five scientists, pissed off with what’s happening and how things are being run, desert OZ and go their separate ways, only to be singled out to build new mobile suits for an attack on earth.
Forward to AC 195 where the final plan is implemented and Operation Meteor proceeds and the start of the anime begins.
Now, as I said, I really had to put aside a lot of prejudices, I had for certain characters. When I first watched the series, I absolutely HATED Relena Darlain/Peacecraft and Hilde Schbeiker, so I really wanted to watch the series and hope that it was just teenage angst that had me hating them.
While I learned to like Hilde, though I still get annoyed at her for basically taking Duo’s ideals of doing things for yourself, and starts doing things for Duo instead of for OZ, she does at least think before she acts. She actually reminds me of a saner Lady Une in a way. Relena on the other hand, it took me until the last ten minutes of Endless Waltz to like her as a character, because it’s at that point that she wakes up and sees that total and true pacifism doesn’t work unless the people stand up and fight for it. She sees that her idea of total peace would force people to basically go from one leader to another, with no fight and while they may care what the next dictator will do, they care more about not fighting to actually stand up for what they truly believe.
Granted it comes both at the best of times, and also just too little too late. In Endless Waltz, it’s finally up to Dorothy Catalonia to push the people into action and force them to realize just how stupid they had been. Dorothy as a character was the anti-Relena. Loving war and fighting just to love war and fighting, she too believed in peace, but the peace of dictatorship. She does eventually mellow out after being defeated by the Gundam Pilots and seeing first hand when her childhood friends are killed around her, but because she fought in the Eve Wars she realizes quicker than Relena that neither true war, nor true peace will ever win.
Many of the characters have a tendency to also have split personalities, or go through such a traumatic event that it changes them drastically. Relena’s father is murdered, and on his death bed tells her that she’s actually adopted. This causes her to take to her true nature in such a way that actual thought seems to not be part of the equation. Relena is only about 15 (according to the intarweb sources). And at that age, as many of you probably know, everyone thinks they’re correct in all they do. At 15, if the father you have known your whole life is about 5 minutes away from death, and suddenly says, oh you’re adopted and the reason why is because your real family was assassinated…this is going to mess with someone. This person is going to attempt to find where she truly belongs, and she goes to her original home in the Sanc Kingdom and totally and fully embraces the ways to pacifism. We know she wasn’t fully a pacifist before because not only does she attempt to shoot Lady Une, she has the skill necessary to shoot only the flower that happens to be at her chest. She also fully encourages Heero to kill Zechs, before learning that Zechs is her brother. It is shortly after that (months later in the anime time line) where she goes peace crazy. Before that she was just the stalker in the pink limo that followed Heero everywhere as if a pink limo wasn’t going to stand out on his stealth missions. Again an indication that 15 year olds don’t think. Granted at the same time, at least it was only her limo that was pink. Dorothy’s limo, space ship, and later in the movie, her transfer truck are all gold. She doesn’t have a complex at all!
Another person that changes drastically during the series is Wufei Chang. For those that have read the Episode Zero manga, it is canon. It was actually story line that was supposed to make it into the anime, but due to crappy production schedules kept getting pushed back until ultimately, it was given its own manga. Wufei was not the original pilot of Gundam Shenlong/Altron. Wufei was actually a pretty mellow kid. He was a thinker, and not a fighter. His wife however modeled her life and being on the God Nataku and found Wufei to be weak. She was killed in a fight protecting the colony and their people, and greaving for his wife, he took up the mantel as a Gundam pilot and decided that he would allow no one to be as weak as he was, thus his hatred of the weak willed and those that misused justice. He called Shenlong and later Altron, Nataku, after his wife. In the anime he had his own rules and by the end saw that the peace that was achieved was a weak peace with no honor. Thus he sided with The Barton Foundation and helped to try and recreate the original and true Operation Meteor. It wasn’t until the people of earth finally stood up for themselves that he saw that they were no longer weak, and fought for them. Wufei really has the most growth in the series, but you have to see everything to understand it.
The other person that really has the most drastic change is Lady Une. Une, a Colonel under OZ, is the right hand of its leader, Treize Khushrenada. She is obsessed with following Treize’s orders, so much so that at one point, when he tells her she should be more lady like, she creates a split personality. The personality of Colonel Une is ruthless in her battle plans, and doesn’t take failure at all as evidenced by threatening to destroy a whole colony if the Gundam Pilots don’t surrender. At the same time, Lady Une is peaceful and believes that Treize wants her to peacefully find a way to unite the colonies and earth. After she is shot setting the scientists and the Gundam pilots free, she ends up in a coma, only to finally awake with both personalities meshed together to form a thought process that allows strict leadership, but also has a heart.
The series can be both simple and very complex depending on how you wish to view it. There are tons of conspiracy theories by people that over think everything about the anime and pull it apart. It really is all depending on how you view it. As a simple anime, the show is excellent. It is character driven, relatively simple concepts, and the characters are such that you can relate to at least one of them. On the other hand, the concepts can become complex when you start trying to analyze good vs. evil, especially when people start changing sides mid war. The psychology of the show is amazing and allows you to view what goes on with people in war. While it’s over romanticized in certain instances, it can also allow for over analyzing of the inner workings of the story.
Pro: It’s a series that can be enjoyed by any age and any gender.
Con: Some characters are extremely annoying and you may want to strangle them.
Overall: Just watch it. Seriously the series is excellent; simple and complex, serious and humorous. It’s a series that withstands time.