The magic never dies, episodes eighteen to forty-one.
So, the wild and joyous journey of Gundam Wing re-watching has gone onwards and upwards, and I sit now at the threshold of the 42nd episode, dismayed because I doubt I’ll be able to finish it before going on a trip. But now is as good a time as any to express thoughts, feelings, etc. on the stretch of episodes I’vew plowed through since I did my initial re-watch post.
One of the things I’ve really had to make an effort to get over is the show’s penchant for mixing military ranks up – we are told that characters like Noin and Zechs are lieutenant colonels (which is rather laughable given their ages, but it’s easy enough to just let that slide), and then characters turn around and call them “lieutenant”. While this is obviously a fictitious military we’re dealing with, this is just flat-out wrong – when referring to people with ranks that are, essentially, modifications of other ranks, one always must use the rank being modified, so lieutenant colonels are “colonel”. (Other examples – a sergeant first class is “sergeant”, a second lieutenant is “lieutenant”, a senior airman is “airman”, a lieutenant junior grade is “lieutenant”.) Of course, Gundam Wing is hardly the first piece of fiction to screw this up (a particularly odious piece of End Times fiction I read once had the gall to mix up sergeant major and major), it just happens to do it frequently enough over the course of an episode to be fairly irritating.
As long as we’re talking about things that are irritating, I find Treize, Zechs, and Wufei very irritating. Actually, with Wufei it isn’t exactly annoyance he inspires; I just flat-out dislike him. I also wonder what his purpose even is within the show, as he is the Gundam pilot with the least screentime, AND in a group of guys who aren’t all that hot on socializing he stands out as particularly against the whole thing. Wufei also has very little that anchors him to the overall plot – I know he’ll eventually do what Heero didn’t and kill off Treize, but other than making angstface for part of an episode early on about how Treize beat him in a duel, there isn’t much build-up on screen of why it has to be Wufei who does that. Quite frankly, Wufei’s purpose in the show seems only to be so that we don’t end up having a Gundam series that doesn’t have any misogyny, and so someone does eventually croak Treize. Maybe the other is to meet the quota for crappy Chinese characters – G Gundam, after all, had Sai Saici (that little shit), as well as Yunfat Wong, who managed to be one of the more racist depictions in a show full of stuff like the Tequila Gundam and a sneaky Dutch pilot who just hid all year to avoid any fights so he could make the tournament.
Treize, however, is really obnoxious. While I agree to unease regarding use of unmanned war machines (in Wing, the Mobile Dolls), Treize’s unease reflects a very snobby, idiotic view of war and human conflict – he simply doesn’t think it “noble” to use Mobile Dolls since it doesn’t have the conflict of person versus person! Treize does do a bit of fighting himself, but let’s face it: Treize isn’t a common soldier, and he isn’t one of these poor souls getting mowed down in their crappy Leos when a Gundam suddenly attacks during night duty. It’s all fine and dandy to feel that, personally, it is better that *you* are involved in battle and not some mannequin proxy, but to have that sentiment when it is by that that you consign thousands of soldiers to die? That’s simply short-sighted and cruel.
We may as well cross over here to the fact that Gundam Wing raises a slight specter of a debate that has come to fruition in America regarding the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, better known to all as “drones”. Wing doesn’t get too gritty about it since it at least presents itself as agreeing with the spirit of Treize’s objection, and also because the upgraded Gundams, as well as the Tallgeese and the Epyon, outclass the Mobile Dolls so much that those tossing them into battle against them just look like they’re foolish and out of options. I’m a little wary of getting into drones at all since it is so contentious, but there’s a piece that always seems to be missing from the discourse surrounding them.
“Why have drones gotten so popular?” Why, indeed? There’s honestly a pretty easy answer here, but I’ve only rarely heard it mentioned – drones have gotten so popular because they’ve been presented as a magic bullet to military leaders and decision makers. If you’re a commander, and you could either send a platoon in to attempt to capture or kill a targeted person, or you could send a drone to, what do you do? One of these involves the potential deaths and injuries to your soldiers, the other doesn’t. So, I ask you, is it really so shocking that leadership has gotten so on drones, especially after over a decade of watching soldiers get blown sky high? And that really is a matter of “watching” as given that length of time a lot of the folks now making decisions higher up are those who ten years ago were actually out on the ground with troops – they WERE part of the troops. And, yes, we all know that drone strikes have killed a good number of folks who were innocent bystanders or just plain innocent people uninvolved at all, but theoretical innocents don’t really hold a candle to how military leaders feel about soldiers who ultimately end up representing all the soldiers they’ve already known who either died or ended up grievously injured during combat operations.
What would I do in that situation? I’d like to say “I don’t know.”, but I’m inclined to think that my actual answer would be, “I’d use a drone.” It’s not an answer I’m totally proud of, but I can tell you I care a hell of a lot about my soldiers, and to me they’re not an abstract whereas potential innocent victims are. This probably sounds cruel, but if I said otherwise I’d be lying, and I’d rather be truthful about this.
Now, I would like to say that I absolutely think the U.S. uses drones way too much. Another issue is that the operators themselves don’t get as much training as they should be, largely because UAVs were originally utilized, and envisioned as being utilized, for surveillance purposes. I don’t think I need to point out that there’s a big difference between operating a UAV to surveill and operating one on a lethal mission. Too many people have been killed “wrongly” by UAVs, which I consider bad because a. I don’t like innocent people being killed*, and b. overuse of UAVs in warfare is just making the jobs of soldiers harder because it makes people angry and it also serves as an excellent recruiting tool for violent organizations… and this in turn just leads to more dead soldiers, which itself leads to more use of UAVs, and we’ve got more dead bystanders and it all cycles again and again.
Ahem. That ended up being more of a tangent than I was looking to do, and I’ll admit nervousness since I don’t really feel like debating American UAV policy as I’ve said all that I have to say on it – you aren’t going to get anything else from me since there isn’t anything else (and I mean that fairly literally – I’m not going to respond to comments trying to hash over American military policy so you probably don’t want to waste your time). So let’s get back to a show in which Fabio shows up in love with helmets.
ZECHSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. I kind of hate Zechs! Zechs is all, “Oh, no, I can’t let my sister ever be around me, nor will I ever communicate with her directly, because I am tainted! So I’m going to angst out in space and give her problems by doing what I want to do while pretending that my brilliant disguise is fooling anyone.” I suppose the sad thing is that initially only one person is able to suss out that Milliardo Peacecraft is Zechs Merquise, although after that the dominoes fall steadily, leaving no one in the slightest bit of doubt as to the true identity of the man. And then when an evillll Gundam shows him a future that seems like a really bad idea to any sane person he’s all, “Sounds cool, bro, let’s do it!”
Ugh. Fucking Zechs.
Then there’s the fact that Noin, bless her, has the hots for him. Dammit, Noin, you are too cool for this doofus! Aughhhhhh. Wait for Relena to age three years and you can date her, ok? This is another strike against Zechs, by the way, since if he didn’t exist, well, Noin wouldn’t have a crush on him! It really is that easy!
I didn’t hate Zechs through the first seventeen episodes, it’s a hatred that has slowly gained steam over time… even with Treize it took about ten episodes for me to realize a distaste for him. Wufei? Right off the bat! I bring this up because amnesiac Trowa I like a lot more than regular Trowa. I didn’t dislike regular Trowa, he’s just, well, boring – he only becomes of any interest in moments when he’s interacting with others, primarily Heero and Quatre. It’s funny to realize, but there’s a lot more fodder for 3×1 than there is for either 1×2 or even 3×4 prior to Quatre’s freak-out; Trowa nurses a comatose Heero back to health for a month, after willingly taking responsibility for him when Heero self-detonates! And the pair spend a lot of time together, and they get along fairly well, well enough for the generally taciturn Heero to give Trowa advice when Trowa’s hemming and hawing a bit about something. In comparison, Duo and Heero’s interactions more or less consist of Duo bugging Heero and Heero not communicating with him, and while Quatre seems a bit enamored of Trowa, there is little evidence of a possibility of the sentiment being returned until Trowa let’s himself get blasted by a Quatre who is under the influence of the Wing Zero.
Trowa’s fairly vanilla as far as characters go, though, otherwise. He’s tough, quiet, and a bit distant… and that describes Heero and partly describes Wufei. I’ve always felt that Wing has one too many distant types in the mix; there’s more variety amongst the outgoing Gundam pilots even though there’s only two of them! But, hey, then we get amnesiac Trowa, and, uh, can you say MOE? SUPER MOE. He’s all like this:
I’m covering episodes eighteen through forty-one in this post. Does it seem like I’ve said enough to have covered such a chunk of a TV series? Because I don’t wanna talk shipping, noo, not yet, that gets its own post to protect the innocent. I was going to discuss whether the Gundam boys are terrorists or not, but let’s leave that for next time (my short version is: “sometimes”, or “toki doki” if you prefer weebing out on this front).
One last thing, then – evilllll mechs. Or, maybe more appropriately, mechs that aren’t just passive machines. I’m curious, do any of you know of earlier examples than this? I just would be very surprised were it to be the case that this is the first we see of mecha that are themselves a bit sinister (more recently we’ve had the mechs in Valvrave vamping folks; the mechs in Idolm@ster Xenoglossia sometimes didn’t get along with their pilots, although that was implied to be the pilot’s issue, not a matter of the mech being malicious). Is there some sort of searchable index out there that could clear up this question? ‘Cause, I don’t know about you, but KINNINARIMASU.