I’ve been wanting to rewatch all of Gundam Wing, an anime first released in 1995, for quite a while now. This show had a big impact on me when it aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block. In fact, I wrote copious amounts of fanfiction about it. Almost two decades have passed since I first saw it and my friends and I still talk about it. It’s my OTF: One True Fandom.
So, I’m going to watch a few episodes at a time and write up my thoughts on everything from production values to characters to the meaning of life. Strap in. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
WTF is Gundam Wing?
It’s an anime (and manga, and a novelization…) series. It was made in Japan in 1995, part of the larger Gundam franchise. The multiple series are united by themes of war and peace, and giant robots. Robots you can ride in. They’re called mobile suits.
What makes Gundam Wing special?
Besides the fact that it aired at just the right time for me? I dunno, man. It was my intro to Gundam. I had never watched ‘boys’ shows’ before, so all that action in an appealing form was fascinating.
Also, it’s about five teenage boys fighting for survival. It’s a total chick magnet. No, really. It has a terrible reputation in part because the fangirls are so… so. I’ll be talking about GW fan culture a lot, too.
Ok, what do I need to know going into this? What’s the story?
It’s some point in the future, when humanity has a) built floating space colonies around the Earth, and b) formed one world government called the Alliance. The opening narration does a decent job explaining that the Alliance, which was supposed to only govern Earth, has extended its reach to the colonies by force. The colonies deeply resent this “tyranny” and a plan is made to overthrow the Alliance.
This plan is called “Operation Meteor.” The exact nature of the plan has changed along the way, as the creators were separated. Five individuals have each built a special mobile suit, a gundam (gundanium being a rare metal alloy that is very strong), with the intention of sending the suits to Earth to wreak havoc. Each gundam is piloted by fifteen year old boy, because why not? (Supplemental materials show that while each boy is highly talented, their training has differed vastly.)
The series opens with the five gundams coming to Earth, “disguised as shooting stars.” Naturally, the Alliance spots them right away.
Also important, OZ is a military faction within the Alliance, made up of its most elite fighters. They’re the ones sent after the gundams.
Who are the main characters?
Heero Yuy, code name Pilot 01 — An orphaned youth of Japanese descent, raised on Colony cluster L1. He’s… intense. He isn’t afraid to die for his mission, and
almost welcomes it. He’s the one with the wild hair who’s always wearing a green tank top and spandex bike shorts. (The fandom makes fun of this a lot.) His gundam is red, white and blue.
Trowa Barton, code name Pilot 03 — Another orphan (How do you find pilots for suicide missions? Kids nobody’s gonna miss!), this time from L3. Trowa’s specialty is standing in one place and volleying a crap-ton of shots at the enemy. Oh, and he’s an acrobat who can make his gundam do neat tricks. Did I mention his cover is hiding out in a circus? He’s “the one with the hair” aka a really bad comb-over. His gundam is orange.
Quatre Winner, code name Pilot 04 — Quatre actually has a family. A LOT of family–40 sisters, thanks to the magic of test tubes. He’s the only son, and his father is a total pacifist who doesn’t approve of Quatre joining the fight. Quatre is the most compassionate pilot, but he is also the best strategist. He has the loyalty of the Maguanac Corp, who back him up in their own custom mobile suits (not gundams). Quatre is the blond in pink. You may want to pinch his cheeks. His gundam is purple and has two round blades.
Chang Wufei, code name Pilot 05 — Wufei also had a family, but, um, things didn’t go so well. He fights for his own reasons: honor, revenge, justice. He is of Chinese descent, from colony L5. His gundam is the one with the dragon head that shoots flames.
Zechs Merquise (aka 06) — Zechs is the blond wearing a mask. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but he’s the best pilot the Alliance has, and thus a bigshot in OZ. He’s besties with Treize, OZ’s commander. He’s the boss before the big boss. He pilots a variety of ‘standard issue’ model mobile suits until he finds things he likes better.
Treize Kushrenada (aka 13) — Treize is the commander of the OZ military unit, which makes him powerful enough to sass the other leaders and pretty much do what he wants. He is a magnificent bastard, who spends his downtime at he opera and tending to his roses. A gentleman’s gentleman. Aside from that wanting to crush the rebellion thing.
Relena Dorlian — Relena is a civilian, also 15 years old, and she takes a great interest in the gundams. Much more than is wise. The fans either love, tolerate, or HATE HER WITH A FIERY PASSION (because she’s the only girl among the boys, duh). I happen to like her, so you won’t be subjected to any of that. Relena is a diplomat’s daughter, raised in the lap of luxury, but she’s lonely and wants more out of life. She has the most costume changes of any character.
ALSO, a bunch of women who are secondary but important but not important enough for the patriarchy. Boo, patriarchy. They include: Lady Une (Treize’s second in command, wear glasses and pigtail buns), and Lucrezia Noin (Zechs’ second). You’ll meet the rest as we go along.
Everyone else is pretty much a red shirt.
Anything else I should know?
Learn those code numbers. Everybody has a number and the fans use them as shorthand.
There is, officially, no romance in Gundam Wing. I believe this is what makes the fans absolutely insane. Despite there being no romance, there are a lot of hints at romance, or things that can be construed to be hints, and the fans go nuts trying to argue their favorite pairings. Is good times.