Gundam Wing: Halfway Review

I can’t help it. I wanted to reserve my comments on Gundam Wing until I’d finished the series and the film, but I’m too weak; the compulsion to speak my mind on the subject became too strong.

Or rather, I can’t figure out why it is so universally LOVED by the anime community. Like… it actually makes no sense. The plot, which could be believable, is completely rendered not so by the blank-faced automatons that pass for characters.

The following conversations have recently taken place between Quatre and Hereo:

Q: “Is kindness necessary in a war?”
H: “No, it isn’t. Not while you’re fighting, at least. But kindness is probably something you need the rest of the time. This isn’t the time to be fighting now.”
*Quatre begins playing with the nearby dogs, running and laughing*

Q: “Heero, where should we head to now?”
H: “There isn’t really any place that I want to go to now.”
Q: “There are lots of kind people right here on the Earth, but we’d be causing them all kinds of trouble, by doing nothing more than just meeting them. There is no place for us to go, is there?”
H: “Quatre, it’s because you’re trying to forget the battle. As long as Earth’s a warzone, I’m gonna fight. You have no choice but to fight either. That’s because we’re both Gundam pilots. The battlefield is the only place we’re allowed to live; for us I guess the meaning of life lies in surviving battles.”
*Heero walks away*

…The above is symptomatic of how INSANELY poorly written this program is. Granted, maybe I’m losing something in the dubbed version, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve been uniformly forgiving of dubs, from Shinji’s nasal whine, to Tenchi’s befuddled stupor, to… well I don’t think there’s much to complain about on the Bebop dub… anyways: I normally am not the SUBS ONLY guy. Even if it’s an issue in translation, unless Bandai/Sunrise completely rewrote the script, this show had the most terrible dialog writers I’ve ever seen in an anime.

I should be keeping a running log of all the stupid crap that gets said, and I’ll try to do so for my conclusion of the review, but that’ll just have to be shining gem (above) for now. I can understand that maybe some things are awkward. For instance, Quatre is the friendly one, and so you over-do it a little bit, and he comes off as being vaguely homosexual when I don’t believe that was the intent; I can get over that. It’s Heero in particular that I find unacceptable.

As with the above, notice the excellent bit of circuitous logic he employs:

I am going to fight as long as there is fighting.
I am a Gundam pilot.
Gundam pilots can only live by surviving battles (fighting).
Ergo, I must continue to perpetuate fighting.

Are you for real? I’m supposed to buy that? Quatre fights to help people, Duo seems to think it’s the right thing to do as well. Trowa and Heero, however, are beyond me. Their motivations are entirely unclear. Which leads me to the principle issue with Wing: sloppy story-telling. I can see some merit in keeping the driving forces behind a character’s actions a secret.

Pertinent example (also spoiler): Schwartz Bruder from G Gundam did what he did to protect Domon in the tournament because he was actually an android created by Domon’s mind-controlled evil brother in his own image, programmed to keep Domon safe. The android Schwartz fights to his own robotic death in order to protect his ‘brother’. And this is all only slowly revealed to us throughout G Gundam, bit by bit, until you understand it all at the end.

In Gundam Wing, however, no one has any reason to fight. All the of pilots seem to have “woken up” upon landing on earth. Little reference to their pasts is ever given; in fact they themselves seem ignorant of it. So without a reason to fight, one could simply attribute it to their duty. Except their missions never seem to have any desired outcome except disrupting OZ. I’ll even go that far with you.

But when the tables turn, and OZ is no longer their enemy, having aligned with the colonies, the pilots are understandably confused. Their actions that follow, however, are entirely without merit. They seem to just act in whatever fashion HAPPENS to land them in a gigantic mobile suit battle against a million Leos… With their reasons for fighting so unclear, it’s hard for you to root for them. You don’t even really know what they want, because as near as I can tell, the writers don’t either.

Not to mention Relena’s lightswitch transition from bratty rich kid to international peace broker… As if. Let’s take a second to talk about her brother, Zechs/Milliardo. He’s the one person who seems like a legitimately interesting character, and he just disappears for episodes on end! I don’t CARE that Quatre’s crying over his dad, or that Trowa doesn’t like the circus: give me more Zechs. I could barely contain my excitement to see him without the damn mask on, and his dual personality thing, while kindof stupid, is the exact type of stupid thing I’ll watch an anime for. The dude lost his country, created a splinter cell within the organization that took it from him, and helped stage a coup!

He also has a pretty sweet, old-and-busted mobile suit, which I greatly approve of. He has trouble flying it, and learns to overcome its weaknesses in TIME. Unlike the other guys, who somehow are totally awesome at piloting any mobile suit ever invented, and also extremely knowledgeable tacticians and ultimately the most perfect soldiers.

NOT THAT YOU’D KNOW IT, BECAUSE ALL THE DO IS SHOW UP IN THE MOBILE SUITS. No stealth missions, no interesting plans that require… I don’t know… teamwork?! It’s just, “Oh, hey. I’m here at this OZ base. I suppose I should start killing things. Hey look! Other dudes like me with Gundams are also here… ALSO TO KILL THINGS. What a coincidence.” And it’s always this awkward thing too; you’ve got to commit. Either they’re all goddamn lone wolves who don’t care, or some of them want to work as a unit. Instead, behold a typical battle/episode (the two words mean about the same thing…):

Pilot 1: I am here. I will FIGHT YOU, OZ!
Pilot 2: Hey, what are you doing here?
Pilot 1: I am here SO I CAN FIGHT OZ!
Pilot 2: I am ALSO here for the purpose of FIGHTING OZ!

OZ Commander: GUNDAMS!! Send out the crappiest mobile suits we have, in tiny packs, one at a time, so we can use our resources in the least efficient way possible! Before that, though, be sure to notify Treize, as we can not deploy mobile suits, nor use the restroom, without speaking with THE TOP RANKING OFFICER CONSTANTLY.

Pilot 1: Do not get in my way, Pilot 2. I came TO FIGHT OZ, and I will destroy you if you get in my way.
Pilot 2: I too will also do so for a similar, nondescript reason. Nevermind this talking, I will now FIGHT WITH OZ!!!
Pilot 1: I said GET OUT OF MY WAY!
[Both Gundams have remained stationary for the duration of this discourse]

Back At the Ranch:
OZ Underling: Commander! We are out of troops, despite the Gundams’ actions consisting entirely of bickering with one another.
OZ Commander: Let’s use our final defense weapon that is guaranteed to work! That will get them.
OZ Underling: Would it not have benefited our base and soldiers to have done so from the outset?
OZ Commander: Attention, Gundams! We are going to do a thing you may find unpleasant! We are canceling your favorite TV program. WE ARE CANCELING IT RIGHT NOW!

Gundam Pilots: (In Unison) We surrender from a mutual moral conflict!
[Here, all pilots attempt to destroy their suits, fail to do so, and fall from the cockpits to the ground.]

Seriously. That is about how much goes on in a given episode. It’s not quite that same thing every time, such that I would call it formulaic, but that about sums up most everything you’d see in an episode. Now granted, the Wing line of Mobile suits is cool. Trowa infiltrating OZ is cool. The ZERO system making Quatre go crazy (forcing us to endure torturous dialog as Quatre and the writers wrestle for a reason he’s being a headcase) is cool. Treize and Zechs giving OZ the finger is cool.

The show is not without its cool parts. But the Gundams (Sandrock, Shenlong specifically) lack any real distinctive characteristics, other then they get blown up and lost a lot. All of this in the frame of a constantly changing world (I mean like, every episode there is a new group in control of the Earth, and by the next one they have factions, and by the third a new character has arrived to tell everyone how it’s going to go). The story is just a vehicle by which to deliver robot battles, and I mean that as an insult.

G Gundam is aruably the most brazen instance of such a ploy. They have a tournament every few years to decide who will rule the earth. Every country makes a stupid mobile suit based on their naiton’s stereotypes, and away we go. Yet somehow, with as terrible of a premise as that was, the writers made it work, and work WELL. Gundam Wing, on the other hand, started with a much cooler idea, and still managed to fumble the ball.

For shame. More on that later.

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