We finally take our first dip into the varied waters that is “Alternate Universe Gundam”, or in other words, shows that aren’t part of the Universal Century timeline. While Mobile Fighter G Gundam came out first, it’s fitting that we’re starting with Wing because it’s most people’s first exposure to Gundam as a whole, including myself. This is my third time watching it, but first time watching it uncensored (as I watched on TV, then on the original DVD releases previously) but I’m also still watching it dubbed for maximum nostalgia. So how does the series hold up in light of all the other Gundam shows and films I’ve watched since? Let’s find out!
In the year After Colony 195, after decades of oppression from the United Earth Sphere Alliance and its secret weapons organization, OZ, a group of rebels in the space colonies send down five mobile suits known as “Gundams” to overthrow the militaristic regime. Four of the Gundams successfully make it to Earth, but the fifth is intercepted during its descent by OZ’s Lieutenant Zechs Merquise and crashes into the Pacific Ocean…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s the Wing Gundam transformed! You know, the fact it’s the only one of the five that can transform is never really mentioned in the series…
Gundam Wing certainly has a different set up from the UC shows, featuring not one but five Gundams and five central characters, even if Heero Yuy and his Wing Gundam are clearly at the centre of the show. Heero is your classic emotionless all-business type who slowly starts to uncover some humanity as the show progresses, Duo Maxwell (pilot of the way too obviously “cool” Gundma Deathscythe) is a sarcastic jokey type, Trowa Barton (pilot of the guns-overload Gundam Heavyarms) is the emo type, Quartre Raberba Winner (pilot of the comparatively forgettable Gundam Sandrock) is the naïve nice one, and Chang Wufei (pilot of the G Gundam look-a-like Shenlong Gundam) is the arrogant fighter who will learn to become humble… eventually. Maybe? So they’re all a bunch of cliché caricatures but they’re all fun to see slowly come together and interact. They’ve all been given key targets to attack and destroy, but they soon start to see patterns that their missions may not have been as separate as they first thought…
Then we get the fun selection of villains, like Zechs Merquise, who only a few episodes in is revealed to be Millardo Peacecraft, the near-last member of a ruling family of pacifists who led the country known as the “Sanc Kingdom”, a land that fell to the tyranny of the United Earth Sphere Alliance. He’s blonde with a helmet on and rivals the lead character, so very much the Char-copy of the series (they pretty much all have one!), but he removes his mask eight or so episodes in when he recaptures the Sanc Kingdom and talks to a painting of his father, but puts the helmet back on as his hands were “too bloody to continue the ways of the Peacecraft’s pacifism”. This all happens way earlier than I remembered, but does add several layers to the character, especially when you factor in scenes where he becomes angry when his fellow Oz soldiers attack UESA troops that had already surrendered. He also has a close relationship with fellow Oz soldier and current instructor Lieutenant Lucrezia Noin, who while is easily frustrated with the idea of not being taken seriously is also far from a bad person.
“Hey Zechs, Char Aznable much?” “… What?”
Even the lead villain, Colonel Treize Khushrenada, isn’t even all bad. He’s got the air of arrogance about him in the way he dresses and the state of his home, but after he defeats Wufei in a sword fight he lets him leave, respecting his foe’s abilities and hoping to see him again, even though Wufei and his Gundam had already killed a bunch of his men. The basic storyline of the first 13 episodes is that Treize leads an elite group of soldiers called Oz within the United Earth Sphere Alliance, but Treize isn’t happy with how the UESA handle things, so he uses the Gundam pilots attacking as a reason for an emergency meeting, and then manipulates the Gundam pilots to attack the meeting and wipe out the top-brass, allowing him and Oz to take full control of the entire Earth Sphere. His exact reasons aren’t fully revealed at this point of the series, other than him seemingly being against making peace with the colonies. He has a second by the name of Lady Une, but sadly she’s the only recurring character who’s just evil for the sake of it, with very little depth at all.
The five Gundam pilots don’t take the manipulation well, even less so when Oz threatens the colonies as a means to make them stop their attacks. Eventually Heero faces off with Zechs, who’s piloting a prototype mobile suit called the Tallgeese, but their duel is interrupted when Heero’s master Doctor J agrees to surrender to save the colonies, but refuses to hand over the Gundam, a moment Heero takes as a command to self-destruct, which he does. Zechs takes the Gundam back to repair it and honour the brave choice of “that young Gundam pilot”, while Trowa recovers Heero’s unconscious body. It’s here where Heero shows a little personality, as later Trowa says about potentially copying his feat of self-destruction, leading to the normally stoic Heero to reply with the advice/warning that it “hurts like hell”. Trowa doesn’t go through with it due to a woman he met while working in the circus (look, a lot happens in these 13 episodes, I haven’t got all day to type about them!) and at the same time Duo and Quatre have just left the Middle East, where the latter’s guerrilla resistance group stayed behind to cover their escape, and Wufei … is starting to come out of his latest strop. Maybe. So basically, going into the next bunch of episodes, the Gundam pilots are starting to pick themselves back up after Oz used them to get their way.
I feel the need to mention the background OST, which is fantastic, lots of really catchy and exciting tunes when needed. I’ll also mention the Ocean dub, which… well, if I’m honest, beyond the core classic group of Brian Drummond, Brad Swaile, Scott McNeil, Kirby Morrow, and Ted Cole, plus Heero’s voice actor Mark Hildreth and Treize’s voice actor David Kaye, the voice is work isn’t great, and some of the lesser characters are either clearly one of the above doing a slightly different voice, or are flat-out terrible, but damn it: nostalgia overcomes all. Seriously though, I’m sure the original Japanese version is better, but hey-ho…
The Deathscythe and the Sandrock Gundams, a.k.a. everyone’s favourite and least favourite!
So… my memory must have cheated me here, because I remember Relena being not all that bad a character, but I found her completely unsympathetic this time round. She’s the spoiled rich girl who finds out her important diplomat father from the colonies isn’t her father and she’s instead apart of the Peacecraft family, but ignores this (and pretty much ignores the assassination of said father figure) because she falls for the dangerous Heero after the pilot goes undercover at her school… despite the fact Heero declares he’s going to kill her during their first meeting, infamously (and he actually says it in this version, rather than “I’m going to destroy you!” like he did in the old censored version!) Instead of love or anything it comes across like she doesn’t like not getting what she wants, and it all happens so quickly. Maybe it gets better as it goes along and that’s what clouded my memory, but as of right now she’s a real turn off whenever she appears on screen.
Wufei is pretty much entirely unlikable as well, but then I actually remember that much. Arrogant (and not in the “cool laid back arrogant” way) and very … against women, the idea we’re supposed to route for this guy is laughable. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t get much better either, but hey, one out of five central protagonists being unlikeable isn’t too bad of a hit ratio!
“Never mind about how well-toned my calves are, get me out of here!”
Gundam Wing gets off to a good start, managing to introduce five separate protagonists and develop them just enough that it’s beginning to feel like the show has some forward momentum, especially combined with the Oz takeover of the UESA. Zechs probably has the best character arc so far, and is definitely the most well developed, which again is something I remember from past watch-throughs. Now our “heroes” have been knocked down, it’s time to see what happens when they get back up again…