I first watched Gundam Wing when it aired on Cartoon Network in the spring of 2000. It was perhaps the third anime I ever saw, and has always been a favorite. Last year I watched Gundam Wing in Japanese with English subtitles, and the experience was very different from when I was a young teen, but no less satisfying.
A later post will be about the plot and characters, but this week I’m going to talk about the design. First, it’s animated pretty well. You’ve got the re-used sequences, especially in battle sequences, but that’s par for the course in anime. Its sequel Endless Waltz, being a film/OVA, is absolutely gorgeous.
Having not watched any other mecha anime, I don’t know if this is a common thing or not, but in GW the fighting often involves beam sabers – basically light sabers – which makes for often riveting scenes. There’s a very 1700s and early 1800s vibe to this kind of fighting, which meshes with many of the settings, characters’ noble titles, and clothes.
The music is pretty good, too, although it’s from 1995, so it can be dated at times. Some of it sounds like it’s played by an orchestra. It definitely doesn’t intrude or annoy, though.
Unlike in the sequel (in book form) Frozen Teardrop, which I complained about earlier, Gundam Wing has a decent variety of characters that look different and come from different places. Their mecha are also distinct, and the storyline takes us to many different locales – pretty much every climate zone on the planet, including Antarctica. Antarctica, you say? Yes, Antarctica.
These are the five main characters, young men who pilot Gundams. From top to bottom, we have Quatre Raberba Winner (Arabic – yes), Chang Wu-fei (Chinese), Trowa Barton (French? often described as “Latin”), Duo Maxwell (white American), Heero Yuy (Japanese).
And close-ups, just so you can see their eye colors and shapes. Honestly, I think the designers could have better distinguished Heero and Duo. I want to point out that, as far as I can tell, Yun and Yang from Street Fighter III are based on Duo and Trowa – GW broadcast in 1995, and Street Fighter III came out in 1997.
Here are the female characters that are often paired with the five pilots: Sally Po (Chinese), Hilde Schbeiker (German), Relena Peacecraft (European of some sort), Catherine Bloom (“Latin”), and Dorothy Catalonia (European of some sort). The Hilde-Duo and Relena-Heero couples are usually viewed as canon.
And lastly, the four characters from OZ (Order of the Zodiac), Zechs Merquise/Milliardo Peacecraft (European of some sort), Lucrezia Noin (Italian), Treize Khushrenada (German?), Lady Une (German). Despite the yaoi desires of fangirls, Zechs and Noin are officially canon, having married prior to Frozen Teardrop, and Treize and Une are also a canon couple.
Of course, Zechs and Noin’s designs are based off of Char and Garma from the original Gundam series. (Here’s a neat pic of Char with his clones/expies/expedited characters.)
Onto the mecha, which are awesome. (Please visit Mecha and Anime Headquarters for detailed info and images on all the mecha that appears in the series.) Each of the Gundams is distinct-looking and, in some cases more than others, reflects the personality of the pilot. In Endless Waltz, the designs are pumped up to the max. Gundam Zero even gets wings, which I think are gorgeous. My favorite Gundams are the Epyon and Deathscythe Hell- they are too badass.
The Gundams aren’t perfect, though, and the series often highlights this – the Gundams need to be repaired or rebuilt, some mobile suits need to be altered to move in space or on Earth, etc. Their limitations are especially obvious when the pilots swap suits.
Aaaand, although I don’t have a complete list of locales, from the top of my head I can think of the Lake Victoria Base in Africa, Antarctica, the Cinq Kingdom (in Europe somewhere), and where-ever in the Middle East the Maganac Corps live.
And you know, space. The space colonies. And the moon.
Join me soon for the second part of my review, about the plot and characters, which I guarantee will be twice as long as this post! Whoo hoo!