Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Great Character Moments, Good Intent…Not Enough Loss or Focus

msgwE6    I’ve been reviewing “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing” for a few months now, and overall I was impressed it. I get why one of my closest friends recommended the series to me and there is a lot to like about this series and a lot I did like about this series. In this I’m going to go into what worked and didn’t work about “Gundam Wing.”

The things that were strongest about this series were the animation, music, characters and theme.

The animation is absolutely beautiful in “Gundam Wing.” Character and Gundam designs are detailed and solid and the fight scenes flow as well as presenting a lot going on with very little on the screen. This gave a lot to the action scenes and the character moments as it was really good at making a single character the point of focus in a scene and giving us that perspective. “Mobile Suit Gundam” had a better story, but “Gundam Wing” had much more beautiful animation. The Gundams all have beautiful designs. From Shenlong Gundam’s dragon hands, to the black Gundam Deathscythe, to Sandrock’s simple design or Epyon and Gundam Wing’s deadlyness. So much work was put into making the Gundams look unique and amazing.

The soundtrack was also beautiful as well. It had a sci. fi. 80’s feel at times, but other times got instrumental…in all cases the music beautifully complimented what was going on in the scenes.

The characters were the strongest part of this series, without a doubt. Whether it was the Gundam Pilots who each had very distinct personalities: Trowa – disconnected and trouble feeling, Heero as the empathetic leader, Quatre as the glue of the group who had the most compassion or Duo as the jokester who was always ready be courageous…each had depth beyond their base character traits. This also applied to the antagonists as well. Treize remembered every person who had died in the wars he started, Lady Une had a bipolar personality, Noin cared deeply for her soldiers and the Pilots and Zechs cared but was afraid of his own feelings and vulnerability. All these characters, including the main character Relena were what drove this series and made it interesting.

The theme of the series is that there would always be reasons to fight and that factions and hatred brought about more factions. We saw this with the United Earth Alliance losing to OZ as the Colonies fought for independence and how within OZ arose the Romafeller Foundation who was controlling it, the Treize Faction loyal to Treize who had resigned and that their actions brought about the White Fang in space, a faction of Colonials with an OZ mentality reacting to OZ, Romafeller and Alliance oppression. Throughout the series factions were always changing and characters joined different factions as their own left them. At one point the Colonies abandon the Gundams and join OZ who is ruling through soft power and later on they are working with Treize against White Fang and the Colonies. This theme is fantastic and shows that even within history, even if a faction is destroyed the philosophy behind it will still live on.

The theme of the broken soldier was also prevalent too. For many of the Pilots (who were just children) the conflict breaks them and they have to find themselves again and heal. They start out alone and eventually come together as victims of the war just trying ot make their own path and stop the fighting. It is a beautiful arc in how they realize this theme and come together at the end. They are the child soldiers of the Colonies, forsaken when it was convenient and used by those around them until they were able to make their own path.

The greatest problems with the series were lack of focus, especially at the end…and lack of loss, which was surprising given the sheer amount of war that goes on in this series.

“Gundam Wing’s” biggest problem is lack of focus. We see it early on in how the Alliance is forgotten about, even though an Alliance colony in space is rescued at one point…we don’t see what the world thinks of Treize being under house arrest or how he started building Epyon or the reasons why. The ending just kind ties everything together nicely without showing us how the Colonial and Earth leaders were able to reach a peace accord, or their reasons for doing so. It completely ignores all reasons for hatred that have been building up this entire team, leading to the Great War in space. This lack of focus is also shown in how we don’t see the Gundam Pilots at the end, except Heero…how the Gundam Scientists ended up on Libra and how they knew Quinze or why Zechs was so insecure. His reasons for not admitting his weakness made no sense, but were just a bigger problem of the lack of focus that there was throughout. “Gundam Wing” didn’t have this problem. Zeon was the threat, Zeon put White Base 7 through huge losses and the victory at the end, as well as Char’s change meant something. Not so for “Gundam Wing” in many cases.

The final problem was lack of loss. Relena’s father dies and the Gundam Scientists and the Romafeller leaders do…but the only loss that is really felt is Treize’s death and we kind of saw that coming when Wufei remembered his rematch. This could have been changed by Trowa dying and that death changing Quatre, as it looked like it had, Zechs actually dying at the end or resolving his weakness issues and Lady Une dying to establish the Romafeller’s as a threat. “Mobile Suit Gundam” was not afraid to kill off named characters who we were given the chance to grow attached to, not so for “Gundam Wing.” Most characters who look as if they die, actually don’t…and it just cheapens their sacrifice or the threat of whomever did the act.

For all the problems with the series I have though, it does hold up. I want to see “Endless Waltz” to see what it adds and if it answers any more questions and in regards to the theme, the message was good…it just made peace to simple. The people of Earth and the Colonies were given no reason to care about their fight…Hell Earth probably would have wanted Heero to win since Zechs was trying to commit genocide upon the Earth until he changes his mind and the Gundam Pilots prevent him from succeeding in his plan. This is ignored to bring about an easy solution to peace between Earth and Space and the narrator says it is successful too, unlike “Mobile Suit Gundam” where there is peace but also a question of how long it will last.

Would I recommend this series? Without a doubt. It is a favorite anime and will remain so, even if “Endless Waltz” ends up being terrible. “Endless Waltz” is the film that is a sequel to the series that I plan on checking out later. Good character arcs and the theme of change in politics were both really well executed overall. If you are looking for a good anime that is a classic in it’s own right, check out “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.” It may not have dealt with the consequences of war as well as “Mobile Suit Gundam” but the political intrigue at times make it feel like an anime “Game of Thrones,” and the character relationships and arcs are reason enough to judge this anime as great.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Season 1, Episode 36 – “Sanc Kingdom’s Collapse” – Relena’s Lost Dream

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The Romafeller Foundation has complete control as of the end of this episode. Their enemies are fractured, they are building a super weapon, the symbol of resistance has been caught and the Pilots are fractured. Where we go from here makes me excited to watch on.

The episode was directed by Nobuyoshi Nishimura and Yasunao Aoki and written by Katsuhiko Chiba.

The episode begins with production of the Cruiser by Romafeller alienating their allies in space as on the ground the Romafeller Foundation prepares to invade the Sanc Kingdom for taking in refugees from the kingdoms they have conquered. Around the same time Duo discovers Trowa after he leaves the revolutionaries telling them they need to plan for what they’ll do after Romafeller’s defeated. These are the main stories that unfold with the main focus on Relena and how to save her people.

The Pros: Romafeller Strength – The Romafellers actually feel like a threat and have done a good job taking advantage of everyone to the point that no one can do anything to stop them anymore. They have overwhelming numbers and their enemies aren’t’ united so that now they can walk over a peaceful country (The Sanc Kingdom) and face no consequences.

The Broken Pilots – Duo is smart and sees the bigger picture, he is also worried about Trowa as he has discovered a Trowa who is broken and afraid. Quatre meets up with his allies in the Middle East but lets Relena go when she surrenders and joins Noin in space, Heero has lost in Epyon and is the lone soldier still fighting and Zechs is going to arrive to find his kingdom destroyed once again and his sister captured by his enemies. We also see a depressed Treize and Noin who feel like any hope has been crushed in that moment of surrender.

Dorothy – Dorothy respects Relena for her integrity in surrendering and promises to protect her. Could she be the one good Romafeller? That remains to be seen.

Relena – Relena makes the hard choice of surrendering in order to protect her people and the soldiers still fighting as the Romafeller Foundation has such larger numbers. She fears for her people and regrets having to make the decision in the first place, but knows she must to keep integrity.

This was a great episode and at least for the moment, the loss of Relena’s and Zechs’s dream of a nation living through pacifism as a counter to militarism. It does establish the Romafellers to be no better than the Zeons though, so at least when the final battle comes they won’t be missed. Definitly feeling for Relena and all the Pilots after this episode.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Season 1, Episode 35 – “The Return of Wufei” – Factions of Resistance

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This was another episode with a lot of potential, that was better than the last episode but still fell short. There was a lot of setup in this episode without as much payoff, especially in regards to Zechs’s attempts to get more Pilots as allies to take on the Romafellers. We do get to know Wufei a bit more at least, though he’s still the least compelling of the Gundam Pilots.

“The Return of Wufei” was directed by Kunihiro Mori, Shinichi Sakuma and Hitoshi Waraya and written by Katsuyuki Sumizawa.

The episode begins with Wufei on Colony L5 where he is from doing martial arts with his Clan. It is than Master Long tells him that his true strength comes from within and that is how he will know he is ready. Romafeller also knows he’s on the Colony attacks. After the attack and actions taken by the Colony Zechs makes his way over to try and recruit Wufei to team up with him against the Romafeller Foundation. On Earth Noin trains the former Treize Faction and Alliance soldiers for the coming attack by the Romafeller Foundation on the Sanc Kingdom as Heero is back to not caring.

The Pros: Zechs – Zechs can see the bigger picture as seen by his attempt to recruit Wufei. He isn’t successful as Wufei doesn’t trust him since he used to be OZ. They fight and Zechs experiences the loss of control Quatre and Heero felt in Wing and even attacks Peacemillion. After he calms down he is able to relate to what drives the Gundam Pilots more as the scientist tells him what the Wing does to it’s pilots in trying to make them the perfect killing machines.

Wufei – We see Wufei’s clan and he’s actually given a bit of personality. From honoring his Master Long and continuing to train at his old home. He sadly loses it though when his Clan destroys their Colony to resist Romafeller control, this loss of control makes it so he cannot talk with Zechs and sees him as one of his enemies in space. This loss of control and loss is a major theme among the Gundam Pilots.

Noin – Noin sees the big picture and cares about Relena’s vision. She’s also calm and collected throughout it all, it’s a shame Heero can’t see past himself and see that she sees the bigger picture towards a path to peace. Heero is as blind as Wufei.

Quatre – Quatre is seeking Sandrock and his allies in the Middle East. We see him escape a Romafeller ship and escape into the desert after he talks to Noin. He is the only pilot who sees the big picture so far.

Romafeller Foundation – They are constructing a giant cruiser to enforce their will in space. I got a feeling it’s going to be in the final battle and that all the Gundams will be needed to defeat it. At this point the Romafeller Foundation is triumphant.

Okay: Trowa – He is back with the circus and has amnesia. Not much more to say there. We still don’t know who saved him in space.

This episode was good overall, though I felt Wufei could have been explored more and that Zechs should be collecting more allies besides Gundam Pilots the way Relena is in the Sanc Kingdom. It was great seeing the Romafellers raising the stakes with a super weapon (par for the course in Space Operas) and I want Zechs’s plan to work. The Pilots should work together as it is the only way to stop the Romafeller Foundation.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Season 1, Episode 3 – “Five Gundams Confirmed” – The Pilots Make Contact

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“Five Gundams Confirmed” is the episode where the pilots outside of Duo and Heero begin meeting each other and we see what this means in relation to their relationships and the UESA and OZ react to these new threats. It’s a good character episode that does a great job showing rather than telling.

The episode was directed by Yumekichi Minatoya and Nobuyoshi Nishimura and written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa.

The episode picks up with the pilots continuing their missions and Heero in an Alliance hospital. Relena goes to try and help break him out, but Duo is already on it. From here the story unfolds as Trowa attacks the base with Heavyarms where Zechs discovers Tallgeese and Quatre makes contact with Trowa in Sandrock and his forces. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Major Sally – Major Sally shows us that not all members of the Alliance are incompetent or manipulators as we see her resist using truth serum on Heero since he’s a kid. She’s ethical and driven to find the truth. I’m hoping she survives as she made a good first impression as a character.

The Specials – We learn in this episode the Specials are an elite military force that doesn’t need military oversight to act. Zechs is a member of the specials and Treize is their leader as he is nobility and is a the leader also of the mysterious Romafeller Foundation as well as the organization of OZ.

Zechs and Treize – Treize is good at using Zechs’s curiosity and passion to his advantage as they change tactics to see what the Gundams can do and to account for all of them. It’s a great scene and you can tell that Treize is almost like an older brother to Zechs in how he acts around him.

Zechs – Zechs is a special and always looking towards the future. This is what motivates the soldiers he talks to in their battle against Trowa and Heavyarms as they know that what is discovered during the battle will create better soldiers to defeat the Gundams later.

Heero and Duo – Duo is a cool guy who is really laid back compared to Heero’s seriousness. Duo also loves living and is having fun in the mission. He is undercover as a farmer too and clearly enjoys his undercover job. Heero is miserable and at one point almost kills himself and doesn’t pull his parachute. Whatever happened to him in the past mus have been pretty horrific.

Trowa and Quatre – Trowa is the overly serious guy who doesn’t want help, even though if Quatre hadn’t arrived with Sandrock he would have been killed by Alliance and OZ forces. He respects Quatre’s strength though and recognizes they are on the same side in the final scene between them.

Okay: Relena – Her dialogue is still stilted and it doesn’t feel like her character is fully formed. Her drive is entirely Heero at this point which is messed up given how he threatened and tried to kill her.

This is a great episode and shows that it really is the character dynamics that drive this show, since at this point there isn’t the political depth of “Mobile Suit Gundam,” that has yet to come. Still does a great job at letting us know all of the Pilots in different ways and seeing Zechs and Treize interact.

Final Score: 9 / 10. It was a solidly great episode.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1 – “The Shooting Star She Saw” – Setting the Stage

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We kick off our reviews of “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing” with “The Shooting Star She Saw.” The script was written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa and directed by Yasunao Aoki and Nobuyoshi Nishimura. It is this episode that introduces the first major players and sets up this universe.

“The Shooting Star She Saw” is the pilot to “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.” It introduces the world where the United Earth Sphere Alliance has taken control of the space colonies surrounding. The colonies rebel and are put down but plot a way to get freedom which leads to Operation Meteor, where Five Gundam Pilots and their Gundams are sent down to different areas of the world to take out strategic facilities of the UESA and begin the revolution while being able to claim deniability. From here the story unfolds as we are introduced to the factions in play and the Gundam pilots who drive the story.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is a vast improvement over “Mobile Suit Gundam.” The characters aren’t blocky, the colors are clear and not faded and the fight scenes flow together and are able to incorporate a lot of action into scenes without cluttering them.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack during the episodes has an intense tech. feel to it which does a good job of adding tension to the scenes and reflecting the minds of the characters. Ko Otani did a great job.

The World – It’s great seeing Earth as the clear villain who has grown complacent allowing for other factions to rise and for the Gundams to reek havoc. This is different and allows for more focus on characters rather than having a single character like Amuro dominate the narrative.

The Gundam Pilots and their Gundams – We are introduced to the Gundam Pilots and their awesome. They are pros even though some have only very small introductory scenes. I’ll explain why soon.

Duo Maxwell – Duo Maxwell is the cocky American Gundam pilot who pilots Deathscythe one of the coolest designed Gundams as it fights with a giant scythe and is quick and sneaky making it a deadly foe. He has battle lust and we see him reveling in the conflict showing just how broken most of our pilots are.

Trowa Barton – Owns the ranged gundam Heavyarms and destroys the space port. His has the highest body count and his character is very calm and deadly and repressed. In this way he is the biggest mystery.

Quatre – Quatre is the most peaceful of the pilots and only kills those who don’t surrender. He doesn’t love fighting and is the most apparent commander as he is with a troop of Gundams when he attacks. His gundam is Sandrock, a close range Gundam.

Wufei Chang – Wufei is the calm soldier who is doing what needs to be done to win the war. He doesn’t revel in it as some of the other pilots do and is all about the job. His Gundam has flamethrowers and is known as the Shenlong Gundam.

Heero – Heero is the character we follow as we are introduced to the man who will be his rival Zechs who is tracking his descent. He manages to kill two of the Gundams that are set him before Zechs’s Gundam overpowers him and forces him to fall into the ocean. It is here he is washed up on shore and meets Relana, the Vice Foreign Minister’s daughter of the UESA. He runs from her and later threatens her at school. He is the hardest and most broken of the pilots and there is no reason to like this guy currently. He does make an intriguing protagonist though as he is coming from a place of desperate survival. His Gundam he loses is the most powerful and is Gundam Wing, it’s design is similar to Amuro’s Gundam.

Lt. Zechs Marquise – Zechs works for OZ and is friends with OZ’s leader Treize. Through OZ he works for the UESA but plans to overthrow them. He wears a mask and is definitely a Char analogue but he is colder than Char and crueler as well as smarter as he only acts when he knows he has the upper hand. Can’t wait to see this guy in action.

Treize – Treize is the leader of OZ and is planning to overthrow the UESA as he sees how complacent they have become and ignorant of their vulnerability (given how successful Operation Meteor is just in the first episode). He is calm and collected and you get why he leads OZ.

Okay – Relena – Is the person who isn’t broken or plotting but is connected to power via her dad being the Vice Foriegn Minister’s daughter. She’s kind as she gets help for Heero which she exploits but she holds her own too and doesn’t flinch when Heero threatens her. She’s a bit bland at this point though but I’m curious what role she’ll play in all of this.

The Cons: The UESA Leaders – These guys are boring and refuse to listen to Zechs or his boss Treize who heads OZ which shows them to be falling. This was a shame as they were the original threat of the colonies. I hope we meet some good or smart UESA characters. Loud abrasive generals are boring.

This episode is a good introduction to everyone and the world, while still giving us enough of a mystery for the next 48 episodes to explore the characters, build relationships and resolve the conflict…if it’s done right. I’m excited to see how they handle this as it does a very good job setting up the stage and giving us the players.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10. Really good and nearly great.