Friday, April 17, 2015

Mechanime: Gundam Wing

This anime passes just shy of flying colors. Get it? Wings? Flying?
...I'll be quiet now.
Original Run: 1995-1996
Number of Episodes: 49
Average Episode Length: 21-22 minutes
Subgenres: War
Dub?: Yes

What is up, my lovely people? Today I’ll be reviewing my first Gundam anime. As per usual, this is not a review of the entire anime, but just the first group of episodes. Let’s get started!


The opening of Gundam Wing, titled “Just Communication”, is probably one of the most average openings I’ve listened to. Its not the worse song, but it didn’t catch my interest at all. Quite frankly, I found the song to be boring and droning, which is something you don’t want your song to be. The worst part is that its probably the weakest part of an otherwise great soundtrack. Rather than being the show’s magnum opus or even the show’s hook, the opening is just there.

Our heroes. Or as much as heroes child soldiers can be.
In the distant future, mankind has set up orbital colonies around Earth. However, the United Earth Sphere Alliance, an alliance set up to prevent armed conflict, begin seizing control of these colonies in the name of peace. The year is After Colony 195, and colonist rebels send five advance mobile suits (known as “Gundams” after the material they are named after) to Earth in hopes of winning their independence. Their target is the Organization of the Zodiac (referred to as OZ), a part of the Alliance military that have ambitious plans for the Earth and its colonies…

These people are the villains. Proving once again that evil is the more attractive side.
The story of this show is actually really good. It has several elements of political intrigue that kept me interested in the story. Its tale of a new order fighting the old guard, as well as the many battles fought in the name in peace is a great one, and is quite well told. Its a bit heavy handed with its antiwar message, and even though a lot is done in each episode, it feels like very little actually happens. While on the slow side, the story of Gundam Wing is probably the best reason to watch the show.

So we’re back to having ginormous casts again. Get a piece of paper ready. Ready?

The Gundam pilots. From left to right: Quatre, Trowa, Heero, Duo, and Wufei.
The rebels include Heero, a stoic killer trained since childhood, Duo, an upbeat  soldier, Trowa, a stoic and strategic marksman, Quatre, a rich and peace-loving boy, and Wufei, a young warrior. They use their Gundams to fight against OZ, led by Treize, a brilliant schemer. Serving him are Colonel Zechs, your obligatory masked character (seriously, every Gundam anime has one), Lieutenant Noin, a pilot trainer, and Lady Une, the right hand (wo)man to Treize. There’s also Relena, a girl that has a fascination with Heero.

Treize, the main villain of the series. His name means "thirteen," which is actually quite fitting.
The cast of Gundam Wing is pretty damn big, and unfortunately, a good deal with them are just plain uninteresting. Sure, Duo is pretty entertaining, and I really like Quatre, but Heero is far more boring than badass, Wufei is more insufferable than sympathetic, and Trowa is just there. Relena is completely pointless, and could easily be written out after the first few episodes. Fortunately the villains make up for it, and are easily more interesting than any of the rebels. Overall, I thought the cast was lackluster, and I couldn’t get into the characters as I did the story.

The writing of Gundam Wing is pretty mixed. For the most part, it tells its story well, and it at least tries to develop its characters. Its biggest weakness is how it tries to handle its anti-war message. While it does depict how war can have unintended consequences, it's also morally simplistic; the bad guys are clearly bad and the good guys are clearly good. While I have to give it some credit for tackling subjects live regional autonomy and freedom vs security, the way its written isn’t exactly stellar.

Not the most jaw dropping of fights, but I appreciate how the robots were animated.
For a 90s anime, this is very well animated. Sure, it recycles its animation occasionally, and its a bit explosion heavy, but its the right mix of colorful and drab, and the characters move enough to avoid looking choppy. I also have to give it major points for having its giant robots move like giant robots; the movements are slow and deliberate, and their mobility is actually pretty limited. Its not the greatest piece of animation, but its still a great looking anime.

Mecha and Fight Scenes
The grunt mobile suit for OZ, the Leo. The OZ suits look practical without looking boring.

The mecha of the Gundam series are referred to as “mobile suits,” but not all mobile suits are Gundams. In Gundam Wing, the Gundams are all made of a special alloy called gundanium, which can only be made in space-like conditions. In either case, the mech design in this anime is excellent. The non-Gundam mobile suits look pragmatic without looking boring, and the Gundams look very colorful and appealing without going overboard (well, for the most part).

Gundam Heavyarms is best Gundam.
The fights are not so much “fights” as they are “battles.” Each battle is either between OZ and the forces that oppose them, or between the Gundams (often just one or two) and OZ. Either way, most suits don’t last long at all, as grunt suits are blown to smithereens by incoming fire (you know, like an actual mas produce weapon would). The Gundams easily plow through OZ suits, and its always fun to watch them do so. Even though I feel that these battles are great, they work to undermine the whole anti-war message. Still, the battles of this show are the other big reason to watch this anime.

Gundam Wing definitely has its shortcomings. Its characters are pretty weak, and its too heavy handed in its pro-pacifist/anti-war message. However, its balanced out by great villains, an intriguing story, and great battles. This is definitely worth a watch if you like giant robots.

7.5/10 - Really Good

Note: I know content has been coming out at a trickle, but school is taking priority right now. The good news is that I’m almost done with my “to-do” slate and ready for new shows! Best thing you can do is be patient (and maybe leave a comment, that always helps).

J-Decker is up next. Pull over!

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