I’ve got a sometimes-poor record on listening.
I wish to note that between when I started writing this post and now I’ve managed to convince roughly seven people to re-watch Gundam Wing, so you may as well join in, too!
So, here I am, seventeen episodes deep into a Gundam Wing re-watch, and the most obvious thing is that Gundam Wing isn’t nearly as bad as its vocal detractors would have you believe. I was told countless times to never even consider re-watching this particular entry into the franchise, as it could only disappoint me, and told that any affection I felt toward the show was pure nostalgia. In fact, so strong has the message been that Wing is a travesty that I went in with the full expectation that I was going to find it tedious at best. And, quite frankly, it hasn’t been at all; to the contrary, I’ve found it to be a ton of fun.
Mind you, while it isn’t the horror show some folks claim it to be, it isn’t nearly as deep and meaningful as its most avid fans would claim it to be. While I am actually mildly impressed with the complexity of the politics in a cartoon that was targeted to teenagers, it sure as hell isn’t Battlestar Galactica. As long as you pay decent attention, the politics are fairly easy to follow, even if trying to explain it all would make it sound like a complete stew – I suppose it helps that through the first seventeen episodes a good chunk of the political players are blown to bits with relatively little fanfare, so the stage isn’t terribly crowded.
The only real bone I have to pick with the entire thing is that the Gundams themselves are obscenely overpowered right out of the gate. For the most part, the battles aren’t even truly battles, it’s just watching the Gundams slice, dice, shoot, and stab their way through nameless hordes in mobile suits that may as well be constructed of aluminum foil. There’s only one other mobile suit that can actually go fully toe-to-toe with any of the Gundams, and that’s the Tallgeese that doesn’t surface until about ten episodes in, and doesn’t see any combat until episode twelve. It’s not terribly interesting to watch, and it doesn’t really help to facilitate the show’s development. Knowing that the things end up getting upgrades further along (something which brings most strongly to mind the lieks of Sailor Moon, honestly) only makes me leerier about their strength relative to the strength of the other combatants in the show.
It also ends up resulting in getting some contrived-feeling restrictions to the use of the Gundams. Wufei sits out a major battle because he decides he isn’t worthy and that a better use of his time is staring at a waterfall while sulking. The Gundam Heavyarms uses gatling guns as its primary armament and runs out of ammo pretty rapidly every time its trotted out (yeah, gatling guns are cool, but there’s a reason they aren’t used in warfare anymore). Zechs decides to reconstruct the mostly-destroyed Gundam Wing just so he can have a one-on-one with Heero on equal terms after Heero is forced to surrender to protect the colonies during an earlier meeting.
But I guess if you only give five fifteen year olds Gundams, and want them to be plopped onto Earth with no connection with each other yet with the ability to start causing major damage immediately, you kind of have to give them over-powered mechs. That doesn’t make it any less silly to watch, though.
While some of the pilots, too, are rather ridiculous, I find myself better able to just go with it, sticking to heavy eyerolling and expressions of amused disbelief on Twitter while watching. I talked a little bit about this in my most recent Week in Review post, but I don’t mind covering the same ground a little here. The pilots are pretty chuunibyou for the most part, with Heero and Wufei the worst by far. Heero gets a bit more screentime, so he ends up being a little bit worse on this front than Wufei even if Wufei is a huge asshole. Heero is absolutely the sort of character you would get if you asked a few fifteen year old guys to come up with a hero for a mech show – he’s great with fire-arms, he’s got a Gundam, he’s wholly able to ignore most pain, he’s seemingly emotionless… at one point he jumps out of a tall building, doesn’t engage his parachute until it’s too late, and manages to basically rebound himself off of rocks and only has a couple broken bones from the ordeal. And, oh yeah, while American fandom wasn’t too big on Relena, Heero also has a pretty girl chasing after him.
As for Wufei… well, Wufei is Heero with more hang-ups and a large dose of misogyny. When Heero is jerk-y, it comes off more as to do with him being not so great with social skills; when Wufei is, it’s pretty blatantly that he’s a natural asshole and socialization skills training probably wouldn’t do much to help his case. I sometimes wonder if Wufei was a sort of joking construction of Tomino from the Victory Gundam era as he’s so disdainful about and hateful toward women that he could pretty much be Victory Gundam: The Character. Wufei sucks. I hate you, Wufei.
Trowa comes in behind Heero and Wufei; he does the unemotional shtick and he’s fearless when knives are being chucked at him. But he doesn’t have the hang-ups about honor Wufei has, and he doesn’t routinely do the over-the-top stuff Heero does, so he quietly settles at second on the chuunibyou rankings. Duo would rank higher if it weren’t for how laid back his attitude is – Heero might be cool with re-setting his own broken bones and continuing on, but Duo was in mildly disgusted disbelief when he did that. If Heero is the guy teenagers picture themselves as if they got a mech, Duo is much closer to what they’d actually probably be like. And then there’s Quatre, of course, and I have serious doubts that any teenager looked at Gundam Wing and said, “I wanna be Quatre!”. I quite like Quatre (in large part because he isn’t totally demented like most of them are), but its easy to see that his characterization isn’t really the sort of thing viewed as cool by most teenagers – he’s totally okay with popping out of cockpits to meet the other pilots with barely a second thought, he’s fairly bothered by the destruction he wreaks, and he wears a purple vest. I liked Quatre a lot as a teenager myself, but he wasn’t the character I wanted to be.
Speaking about the cast more generally, a lot of the characters are pretty absurd. Zechs is basically Fabio but with a helmet and a tragic backstory. Treize was apparently encased in amber in 1805 and cracked open again for the mobile suit era. Lady Une has a personality shift triggered by change in hair style and lack of glasses. Trowa’s angry circus boss gets pissed at him for showing up at the last moment for performances but apparently doesn’t feel concerned about his own safety when Trowa also kills off a ton of OZ soldiers during a circus event specifically held for them. Relena is a fifteen year old civilian who is instantly great with handguns. If you tried to take a lot of it seriously, you’d end up being irritated with how a lot of the characters shake out.
I’m a big G Gundam fan, though, so of course I don’t mind having characters that are a bit goofy when one steps back for a moment, nor do I mind having the show be a bit goofy when one steps back a bit. In fact, I quite like those sorts of characters! (Although, wow, Wufei, fuck, no.) Heero might make me roll my eyes so hard they nearly go careening out of my skull, but I don’t hate him. I might snicker whenever Treize is being dramatic, but I don’t hate him, either. And I quite frankly love Relena – she smuggles a gun into a formal ball in the bow on her dress and doesn’t hesitate to yank it out and fire when confronted with the person responsible for her father’s death! How the hell could I hate that?!
I think the TL;DR version of this is – Gundam Wing has a lot of ridiculous stuff but I like the cast and its got solid pacing, and I’m really enjoying it. If anything, I rue that I didn’t get myself to re-watch it sooner, as maybe watching this immediately after Victory Gundam would’ve washed away my hostilities from that show a lot more quickly. Expect to see me writing a decent number more posts on the show in the coming weeks, as I haven’t even touched on a few things I’d like to at some point yet (um, shipping anyone?) (also: Gundam Wing was the big break for Gundam in America, Gundam Wing stars a bunch of terrorists… intriguing).
Oh, and before I forget, let me make my joke that intersects with Macross – if Gundam Wing were a Macross entry, it would’ve been “My Boyfriend’s a Terrorist” as the hit song.