A look back at the series that bought Gundam to the West.
The year was 2000, and the Western anime audience welcomed a new breed of anime that revolutionized Western anime viewing and helped introduce thousands of new viewers into the colorful world that is the Gundam franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.
Originally airing in Japan from April 1995 to March 1996, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, or Gundam Wing, introduced a new format of Gundam storytelling which focused on mobile suit teams with multiple protagonists each having their own unique backgrounds and near-hostile differences but are united by a common cause. Following the same space opera format where the Gundam franchise is largely known for but at the same time bringing in new elements, Gundam Wing was initially a moderate success in Japan, receiving par ratings, but became a very huge hit with the Western Audience, and has perhaps one of the major drivers of the Gundam franchise’s booming popularity up until this day.
Save the Angsty Teen, save the world
Gundam Wing’s anime series details the uprising of the Space Colonies against the oppressive rule of the United Earth Sphere Alliance and the planned dictatorial regime of the OZ and its backer the Romefeller foundation. The story revolves around the Gundam team, lead by Heero Yuy and her love-hate relationship with Relena Darlian, which was later revealed to be one of the heirs of one of the Earth sphere’s most influential families, the Peacecrafs.
Together with Heero and Relena, is the rest of the Gundam team each hailing from various colonies like the wisecracking Duo Maxwell, appointed leader Quatre Raberba Winner, the hotheaded Chang Wufei, and the mysterious nameless soldier Trowa Barton. Together, the team fights the United Earth Sphere Alliance, OZ, and the Romefeller Foundation, while facing titular antagonists like Lady Une, Relena’s brother Milliardo Peacecraft who hides behind the name Zechs Marquise, and, perhaps the best Gundam antagonist ever, Treize Khushrenada. While the start of the series gives a whole lot of focus on the G-team’s fight for the freedom of the colonies, the latter part of the series put the spotlight on Relena, as she was made to play the character that will be responsible for uniting the Earth sphere and the colonies.
Conflicts and redefining character motivations
While it is true that the overall plot of the anime series may not be the best that Sunrise was ever to churn out, one of the things that Gundam Wing did best was to show the different sides of war and the clearly present and redefine character motivations. For instance, while Treize Khushrenada may be the series’ central antagonist it is quite easy for fans to like him for his leadership charisma, and his dedication towards his soldiers, carrying the guilt of every death that OZ has suffered and even memorizing the names of every soldier that has died under his name.
Inner conflicts within and in-between characters were rather common through Gundam Wing as nearly all of the main characters questioned their motivations, such as Wufei who was swayed by Treize’s ideals, Quatre who blew up a colony after Wing’s system made him question what he was fighting for, and even Earth Sphere soldiers, Zechs Marquise and Lucrezia Noin who latter teamed up with the G-Team.
Gundam Wing had a generous serving of mecha variations, from Gundams to other mobile suits, like the titular XXXG-01W Wing Gundam, XXXG-01D Gundam Deathscythe, XXXG-01H Gundam Heavyarms, XXXG-01SR Gundam Sandrock, and the XXXG-01S Shenlong Gundam, all of which receiving upgrades during the latter parts of the series and receiving further variations in design in the subsequent OVAs such as Endless Waltz.
But it’s not just the protagonists mobile suits that have variety, but also enemy mobile suits which include the OZ-00MS Tallgeese, and OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon, and as well as the grunts, the OZ-06MS Leo, OZ-07AMS Aries, and the OZ-12SMS Taurus. Other enemy mobile suit variations also include the OZ-13MSX1 Vayeate and the OZ-13MSX2 Mercurius both of which were piloted by Trowa Barton and Heero Yuy respectively.
Despite it’sshare of critics and being constantly shunned upon by modern Gundam fans, Gundam Wing still continues to be one of the most important shows in the Gundam franchise with its very legacy being bringing the influence of Sunrise most titular mecha series to the Western audience. The show’s North American launch may even perhaps led the new wave of Gunpla popularity, with its reach expanding towards areas like Merchandise which include apparel, trading cards, action figures, and even, check this, school supplies.
But you know what, while everyone may debate about what truly makes Gundam Wing a classic, and, to some extent, a national treasure, everyone will definitely agree that Gundam Wing’s very legacy is its kick-ass soundtrack.
Gundam Wing is available for free viewing at the official Gundam YouTube channel.