Anime - Another take


If you ever get a chance, mention the word “Gundam” to any self-respecting Otaku and watch their reaction. Mobile Suit Gundam or any of its myriad spin-offs will undoubtedly be among their earliest memories.

Since 1979 the Gundam Franchise has been a ubiquitous presence in Japan, being the ultimate in Giant Robot Mecha shows. The original 13 movies (available finally on video) gave way to countless TV series and OAVs continuing, updating and paralleling those original stories. Gundam Wing is the latest chapter in the series.

In the Gundam Wing universe the Earth is governed by an organization called the United Earth Sphere Alliance. After uniting all the countries on the planet, the Alliance began the habitation of space by the construction of space stations called ‘colonies’.

Over time the once noble goals of the Alliance had become corrupted and soon those in power began a forced takeover of the colonies as their way of promoting their skewed idea of ‘peace’. This was achieved by the repression of individual countries and the outright destruction of those that stood in opposition. The Alliance accomplished this by the use of giant Robot Mecha called Mobile Suits.

In the year AC (After Colony) 195 some of the colonies had had enough of this tyranny and hatched a plan for independence. “Operation Meteor” called for the construction of 5 special Mobile Suits made from the super alloy “Gundanium”. All five suits and their pilots were sent to Earth disguised as shooting stars to do battle with the Alliance and gain liberation for their respective colonies. The pilots are five young boys trained in fighting and in the use of their Gundams, each unaware of the existence and mission of the others.

In the first episode we are introduced to the pilots. They are Heero Yoy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Chang Wu Fei and Quatre Bebala Winner. Their Mobile Suits are named Wing, Death Scythe, Heavy Arms, Shen-Long and Sand Rock, respectively. Each Gundam has its own special armament and is uniquely suited to its pilot.

In the first episode we are also introduced to Relena Darlian, a young girl whose pampered life takes a bizarre turn and is changed forever when she unexpectedly comes into contact with Heero. The relationship that grows out of this chance meeting has repercussions that echo through the rest of the series.

We also meet Treize Kushrenada, the enigmatic leader of OZ, another military organization. OZ, or the “Order of the Zodiac”, is affiliated with the Romafeller Foundation and both organizations are dedicated to bringing down the United Earth Sphere Alliance. If you think that objective would put OZ and the Gundams on the same path, you’d be wrong. By destroying the UESA, OZ and Romafeller can then become the absolute rulers of Earth and the colonies themselves.
From the beginning the politics of Gundam Wing are complex– this is not a series for the casual viewer. Things happen so quickly that missing more than one episode at a time will totally confuse you.

The characters in Gundam Wing are well thought out and what they have to say about the nature of war and the concepts of pacifism are thought provoking. Many of the characters’ beliefs are challenged and the changes they go through are natural and believable.
Despite everything, all the switchbacks and turnarounds (you’ll find yourself wondering sometimes exactly who are the good guys and the bad guys), and gains and losses the series leads to a multi-episode final battle and a satisfying, if bittersweet conclusion.

As of today the 50 episodes of Gundam Wing are on their fourth set of repeats on cable’s Cartoon Network as part of the wildly popular “Toonami” program. The episodes that appear during this show are the ‘G’ rated versions (mostly for language and very rare instances of blood) but at midnight the episode is repeated in its uncut version.

For those of you without the benefit of cable, Bandai Entertainment has begun releasing the entire series (in edited and unedited versions) on video and DVD.
If you like your anime politically charged, your heroes cute but angst-ridden young boys and your Mecha giants heavily armed, give Gundam Wing a try.