"Surviving battle to battle is a way of life for me and my kind.”
Going back to the things that made your childhood great and haven’t checked out in a long time is a dangerous game; it can totally change your perception of something you once enjoyed tremendously or it can make you watch it from a totally different perspective while still enjoying it. So when I decided to go back to one of the first anime shows that defined my childhood, 1995’s Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, I was wary that my view was going to be very different. After all, I’m a different guy to when I was a kid.
The Gundam franchise is obviously extremely familiar to a lot of people, becoming throughout the years one of the most known elements of anime culture and quite likely establishing the best mecha stories of all time, spawning tons of manga, anime, books, and videogames. But Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (just Gundam Wing for the rest of the article) is set in a different universe, so if you’re someone that is very familiar with the Gundam universe, that information is very likely not going to serve you. On the other hand, if you don’t know much about Gundam, then this anime could be a fun entry point for you.
The plot goes something like this: set in the distant future, humankind has managed to establish colonies in different parts of the galaxy and there is now a war going on between the original earthlings and the ones that were born in the colonies. Five Gundam pilots, each from a different colony are sent to dismantle Earth’s military; these are our five main characters (Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Raberba Winner, and Chang Wufei).
The plot of Gundam Wing starts a little slow and convoluted, complemented with a lot of action that puts you in the mecha mood from the get-go. You are not going to get a lot of exposition about the over-arching plot, but you’re going to get a little grasp of what makes the main characters tick, especially the protagonist, Heero, who is fully dedicated to his mission and he is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goal. We also get to see Relena, a young woman that is the heir to the Sanc Kingdom, who gets involved in the political conflicts of the series and ends up becoming a major figure in the history of the story and to Heero.
Gundam Wing is an interesting anime to look back on as a young adult (I’m 25 now) because it gives you a very fascinating and unique perspective on the concepts of war, loyalty and the reasoning behind these conflicts. This is particularly true when compared to Western entertainment when war is often depicted in much simpler terms. I would go as far as saying that there isn’t anyone inherently evil in this story; every side has its own logical reason to do things and their agencies feel genuine.
It’s also very fun to look at the five main characters because they all have their own distinctive personalities and reasons to do what they do, which is very likely to place you in the corner of one of these guys after a couple of episodes. Heero is the fully committed soldier that is willing to go the distance to achieve his goal and he is often extremely unemotional and detached from the rest; Chang wants to test his own abilities and challenge the best of the best in war; Quatre is a pacifist of sorts and the one that doesn’t take pleasure in war (and the one which the conflict takes the biggest toll on, psychologically) and Trowa is the quiet one, often analyzing the situation and trying to view everything objectively.
My absolute favorite, though, is Duo Maxwell and mainly because he is a walking dichotomy that simply works so well in a story that treats war in such a serious and thoughtful manner. He is the funny guy of the group, always having the most uplifting view on things, while piloting a Gundam called Deathscythe, which has, fittingly enough, a giant laser scythe resembling the Grim Reaper–that combination of light and darkness is one that I find very appealing and compelling in this character.
Now, I’m not going to come here and pretend that this is The Godfather of anime because it’s not, obviously. But I will say that this story has the right balance of action with thoughtful commentary to not be overly dramatic or overly action-based; you have the right amount of story and action to enjoy yourself through the episodes and not get bored as you keep watching. And the more you watch, the more everything starts to make sense because I’m well aware that the beginning can be a bit challenging in terms of understanding.
Another personal favorite of mine that withstood the test of time is the OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon, which was first owned by Heero and was later switched to one of the biggest antagonists in the entire series, Zechs Merquise, who is one of the finest pilots in the entire galaxy. Zechs’ battles with Heero are the stuff of legends and one of the highest points in the entire series, as far as I’m concerned.
The animation is very decent and still looks the part. After all, it was done in 1995, so it’s not like everything is going to be perfect, but me personally I prefer this old school style–probably because I grew up watching it. Regardless, there’s not much I can say about this because I think it gets the job done, as far as animation is concerned.
And it’s just fun. That’s the biggest goal of an action-based anime, especially the Gundam franchise, and does it very well while commenting on very important issues that have become even more prominent these days, such as loyalty, the sometimes necessary virtue of conflict, the human capacity of going the distance and the brotherhood that can be developed during a war.
I think Gundam Wing holds up really well after years of not revisiting it and while I didn’t tell you a lot of spoilers, because I want you to watch it yourself, it’s a really good story and I think you’re going to enjoy a lot.
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