Gundam Wing – Revisiting Old Favourites and the Nostalgia Filter
So recently I, following the lead of a number of others on Twitter, decided to rewatch Gundam Wing yet again. Yes, I’ve just completed my seventh rewatch of my favourite and gateway Gundam show, although this is my first in the last 5 years or so – it’s been an interesting experience to see it again in a new light. Gundam Wing gets a lot of flack, but it’s actually a pretty solid show, albeit with stupid elements….lots of stupid elements, but it is a Gundam show.
I usually watch Gundam Wing dubbed because that’s how I first experienced the show and the pull of nostalgia is strong, but I have watched it subbed before and this time elected to switch between the two tracks depending on my mood. I ended up watching most of it subbed, the acting is just much better and the some of the main characters aren’t as annoying in Japanese……mostly the women. I’m actually shocked by how much switching audio tracks improved some characters to be honest. I remember hating Relena with a passion back when I was a teenager, because she came across as whiney and irritating thanks to her grating dub voice. In Japanese Relena is composed, intense and a damn good character – amazing the difference a different actress can make.
In general the Japanese voice acting is better, but lacks that nostalgic cheesiness that I loved about the English dub track. So I switched tracks depending on my mood – if I wanted a giggle I’d listen to the English track, if I wanted to get a better grasp on the character nuances, I’d switch to Japanese. Worked pretty well for me!
The thing that struck me most with this rewatch though is that the women in Gundam Wing are probably among the strongest of any Gundam series. They are power players who aren’t content to sit back and let the male characters do all the work. Certainly they play more of a support role for the most part, but they are key players in the politics and events of the series. This is seen most clearly with Relena, Lady Une, Sally Po and Noin. These four ladies are fantastically strong characters who deserve attention, and yet I know the girls in Gundam Wing are often ignored by the fandom or painted as weak and overshadowed by the male characters. It is such a terrible shame, because we don’t really get very many admirable women in mecha series and these women certainly aren’t in the show purely for fanservice.
Wing often has the reputation of being a bit of a sausage fest, mainly because the rather massive fujoshi following the series has tend to completely ignore the girls in the show. However Wing gives nearly all its male characters a female counterpart – it is surprisingly balanced!
- Heero – Relena
- Duo – Hilde
- Trowa – Catherine
- Quatre – Dorothy
- Wufei – Sally Po
- Zechs – Noin
- Treize – Lady Une
Relena is a central figure in the show’s politics providing a strong figurehead and clear-cut ideas of pacifism for the other characters to fight and aim for. She has some naïve ideas and is often sheltered from the realities of war, but she is just 15! Not many people can shoulder the burden of being the leader of the entire world the way Relena did.
Lady Une is an excellent military leader who makes very decisive decisions (even if some of them are a touch extreme or misguided) and follows them through to the end. Her split personality born of Treize’s confusing orders to her strangely didn’t make her seem like a complete basket-case, but rather a woman who tried extremely hard to follow through on conflicting instructions. Separating her personality into two facets may have been extreme but it helped Une cope. And then there is the fact she is just pure badass – this is a woman who can wake up from a coma, hijack a Gundam and fly it into space to save the man she loves.
Sally Po is a military doctor by training, but she isn’t content to sit back and play a supporting role. Instead Sally gets right into the action, leading a rebel force, piloting mecha, shooting rocket launchers, reuniting captured Gundams with their pilots and basically just being fecking awesome.
Noin has more moments of doubt than the other three, being caught between the two Peacecraft siblings most of the time. Noin loves Zechs, but can’t bring herself to agree with his extreme actions as leader of the White Fang. She instead gravitates more to Relena’s ideals as a pacifist leader and she is more than willing to fight on the front lines for those ideals, even if her Taurus mobile suit can’t keep up with the Gundams. I admire how Noin stays true to her feelings right to the end.
I don’t feel as strongly about the other three women. Dorothy, Catherine and Hilde all have their moments, but they pale in comparison to the other four women. All have pretty strong wills and are certainly no wilting damsels, but they don’t make as much of an impression me. But yes – the strong women in Gundam Wing sort of surprised me on this rewatch, I never really took note of them before being much more caught up in all the angsty bishies!
Okay so let’s be honest here, the main reason I love Gundam Wing so much is because of all the fantastically angsty bishies the series provides us with – in a whole variety of different flavours! That is certainly something that hasn’t changed since the first time I saw this series way back when I was 16. There is also a wealth of shipping opportunities in the series – slash and het….although obviously this being me; I enjoy the slash shipping more. But going into that is going to push this post into a ridiculous length, so I’ll cover that separately another time. I’ll just say that my favourite ships among the Gundam pilots are 1×2, 3×1, 2×5, 3×4 and 1×5. And yeah, I do like Wufei – he’s an absolute prick, but of the five pilots he’s the one who wavers least when it comes to knowing who his enemy is. I kind of admire how driven he is…….even if he is a complete dick most of the time.
Better wrap things up for this post – basically, yes, for me Gundam Wing has withstood the test of time and multiple rewatches, it is still a solid favourite and I don’t expect that to change. I think that is mainly due to the fact that Gundam Wing actually is a very entertaining, well put together series. I’m pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to whack the nostalgia filter up to 11 to enjoy the show, I was definitely very invested in the characters and plot by the end – I actually put off watching the final few episodes because I didn’t want this rewatch to end, despite knowing by heart how things play out!
Of course Wing has a special place in my heart, it was one of the very first anime I ever watched and was responsible for kindling my passion for these strange foreign cartoons in the first instance. However it is a pretty good show even without all the trappings of nostalgia. Riddled with flaws and laced with ridiculous politics and mecha designs, it is hardly high art, but Wing is very honest about what it is as a piece of entertainment and doesn’t fail to deliver a fun ride on that level. I was somewhat worried that now that I am much older and have thousands of shows under my belt, Gundam Wing wouldn’t appeal to me as much, so I cannot tell you how happy I am that I found new things to love about this gateway drug. Sometimes it is really worth taking time out to revisit old favourites.