Just Communication; Rewatching Gundam Wing

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Let’s be honest, here: I rewatched Gundam Wing these past couple of weeks because A Day Without Me was posting hilarious screencaps on twitter, and listening to Just Communication a grand total of once convinced me it was a good idea. When Gundam Wing aired on Canadian TV, in the early 00’s, I paid it no more than passing attention. I was, after all, starting a decade-long love affair with Inuyasha; I was a busy girl. All I knew from its original North American run is that you were supposed to ship Heero/Duo and that Relena was the worst and no one in their right minds would like her. And for 15 years, this is how I remembered Gundam Wing.

As a viewer there’s something attractive about how detached the cast is in Gundam Wing. The series feels more like a collection of stories about individuals than it does about an ensemble. Where any other show might have the pilots cooperate from the moment they meet, the pilots (save Quatre) have an unnatural wariness about them – unsure of how to deal with an existence that isn’t a known quantity but also not an enemy. They repel like magnets, unable to destroy people so similar to themselves and thus scattering to their respective hiding places after each mission. This attitude is probably better encapsulated by a conversation with Natasha on the subject:

 

While Gundam Wing doesn’t state it outright, the pilots – Heero, Duo, Wufei, Trowa and Quatre – are a set of terrorists. They are sent from the space colonies to Earth with the mission to destroy OZ, a military faction within the Earth Alliance that seeks to rule the entire world, thus ending all wars. Mission data is sent directly to their machines, and how to proceed on their missions in destroying OZ targets is left wholly to the young, teenage pilots. It’s a particularly individualist attitude for a highly collectivist country like Japan.

Naturally, it all runs amok within the first 10 minutes of the show. Heero, after a crash landing, crawls from his submerged Gundam onto shore… only to be confronted by one Relena Darlian. Within a moment he flickers from lost boy to taciturn soldier; covering his face, demanding in a suspicious voice: “did you see?” Instead of a cherry-blossom filled gust of wind as Romeo meets Juliet, we receive a jumpy, abrasive kid who knocks out two ambulance drivers in his attempt to escape and maintain anonymity.

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Ostensibly, Gundam Wing is a romance between Heero and Relena as much as it is about giant robots fighting each other, but you’d be hard pressed to see Heero’s displays of love as such. As Natasha pointed out to me in another conversation, Relena propels the relationship forward, extending an emotional bridge in Heero’s direction. Heero, meanwhile, wavers between pointing a gun at her, and stopping his trigger finger in admiration at her force of will.

Speaking of Relena, she spends roughly 2 episodes being the teary-eyed damsel she got such a bad rap for with the fangirls. The rest of the time she’s too busy being a stone cold motherfucker. In comparison to many of Sunrise’s later efforts, Gundam series and otherwise, the women of Gundam Wing are a wholly smart, capable and likeable bunch. In general, the five Gundam pilots (plus Zechs and Trieze) are too busy battling their own neuroses to provide a proper moral compass for the show. They switch sides, get confused, get nigh-on brainwashed by a couple of demonic mobile suits in the series’ endgame – they’re wholly inconsistent and at the whims of their emotions. The ladies in the show are a different matter. Relena comes into her inheritance of the Sanc Kingdom and its total pacifism by becoming the single most steadfast character in the show. Noin is unwavering in her role to support the kingdom, just as Lady Une is determined to make Treize’s dreams a reality – regardless of what side he chooses to fight for.

When I set out to write a post on Gundam Wing, I promised A Day Without Me I’d use a certain shot as the cover image. I didn’t deliver, because I’m a try-hard who cares about appearances, but I will include that image in my post, so here you go, folks. Catatonic, frozen-upright-in-fetal-position amnesiac clown Trowa Barton!

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Now, this isn’t just a throwaway image inclusion. Above all, it’s been fun to rewatch Gundam Wing. It’s fun to chat with the ladies on twitter about it. There are parts of it which are just plain stupid (I mean really – who the hell thought making Trowa a clown would be a good decision?) There are parts of it which are laughable. But Gundam Wing was a fixture in the early part of my journey as an anime fan, so more than anything it’s been a nostalgic experience.

Nostalgia is a powerful force for me. I have adventuresome tendencies, but the only reason I have the willpower and energy to carry through with those adventures is that in my downtime I love nothing more than to trod familiar pathways. I’ve been buying the same brand of nylon stockings for at least 5 years. I plan to replace a favorite pair of loafers with the exact same ones in a few months’ time. And, above all, I am the queen of the marathon rewatch. It was fun to revisit a fixture in my past. Too often in this anime blogging game we get caught up in the details – what’s airing this season, or who’s directing, even who’s animating what sequences. It detracts from the value of anime as entertainment.  It’s fun to watch something just for the fun of it, and that’s what this rewatch has been for m.

6 thoughts on “Just Communication; Rewatching Gundam Wing”

  1. Your post puts my most recent post to shame since its basically just me blathering for 2k+ words about having crushes on all the women in Gundam Wing >_>

    On the matter of female characters and Gundam, I really do think that the Gundam TV series of the alternate timelines in the 90’s just totally outclass any of the more recent Gundam iterations when it comes to women. The women in G Gundam aren’t as obviously badass as the Wing ladies, but Rain is pretty fucking fantastic – she’s a doctor and a mechanic, AND she can competently pilot Gundams if the need arises! Turn A just has a wealth of top-notch female characters, and while X lags a good bit in comparison, it does have pretty competent women in the mix, and, wow, its sad how much that puts it ahead of some of the other ilk in the franchise.

    …so, lol, of course these are the Gundam series deemed unworthy of one’s time…!

    1. okay but your recent post is
      a) hilarious (i have NO SENSE OF HUMOR WHATSOEVER i’m actually a ridiculously serious person and it’s a bit of a bridge burner, it’s also hard for me to write humorously)

      b) The second post you’ve done in 2 weeks? HAVE YOU SEEN MY TRACK RECORD i post like once every 4-6 months

      YES. God the more recent Gundams have been truly horrid on the female character front. I remember watching SeeD (don’t judge) with my sister (DON’T JUDGE) and actually pausing the episode to cheer out loud when Fllay or w/e the redhead’s name was died. Because she was just that irritating an existence. The franchise seemed to have a good run of strong female characters there in the 90’s, and then something went horribly wrong in the mid 00’s and we haven’t recovered since.

      Thankfully, some of Sunrise’s other recent properties (most notably I’m thinking Valvrave) have fantastic non-irritating females, but there always seems to be the one token ‘weak’ girl, which is just irritating. I can’t name a single girl in Wing who i’d classify as weak or not having agency. Everyone is a stone cold badass in their own way (ESPECIALLY CATHERINE TBH)

      1. I’m glad you liked my post! I’m glad you found it entertaining, too, since it was really just me blathering for many, many paragraphs about having crushes on 2D women in a giant robot cartoon from the mid-90’s!

        I heard AGE was really horrific when it came to female characters (not that I know from personal experience, because the last Gundam I had watched prior to that that involved pilots under the age of fifteen was Victory Gundam and LOL WOW FUCK THAT).

        Wracking my brain, the only Wing lady who doesn’t demonstrate much agency is Relena’s mother, but we don’t see much of her, either, so maybe off-screen she is being a total badass. That’ll have to be my next fanfiction! Mrs. Darlian joining up with some rebellion and turning out to be a total ace with grenades or something. She could be a recurring character in that twelve episode OVA about Sally Po and Noin.

        Actually, speaking of the women of Wing, Sylvia Noventa – her telling Heero he’s taking the easy way out by offering her a gun to shoot him with and pretty much telling him to grow the fuck up. Thumbs up.

        Oh, Sunrise. I’d complain about the women in Buddy Complex except that might imply the male characters are half-decent themselves and, uh, whoops, nope.

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