Gundam Wing – Fun with Shipping and Angsty Bishies
So this is my other post on Gundam Wing, where in I messily attempt to explain just why the show appeals to me so much. Basically it’s in the title of this post – fair warning for show spoilers, rambling fangirling and fabulous official artwork!
Where do I even start? I suppose to really understand my love of the terribly flawed characters of Gundam Wing I will have to attempt to explain my fascination with characters that have deep seated psychological issues. Happy, well adjusted individuals are just dull in comparison! I think it is because troubled characters are just much more interesting to watch, and after all I’m watching anime to be entertained, to see something different, to escape the mundane reality of daily life (one of the main reasons why I don’t get on with most s’life shows). Characters with extraordinary abilities, deeply flawed personalities or traumatic back stories give you so much more to chew on – they make their shows interesting and that’s why I find myself drawn to them (incidentally this is also why a fecking love CLAMP – those women really excel at these characters). Gundam Wing has the distinction of being absolutely stuffed full of such characters – an entire selection box of problem children. It really isn’t surprising that I love it so much. (Please be reassured that I don’t gravitate to basket-cases in real life – well adjusted humans are just fine for dealing with on a day-to-day basis!)
All of the characters have issues to some degree – some hide it better than others, but they’re all pretty troubled people. Just looking at the core cast of five you’ve got the anti-social Perfect Soldier Heero, the death fixated Duo, the extremely stoic, borderline mute Trowa, the guilt-riddled Quatre and the obsessive, misogynistic Wufei. And then when you start pairing such damaged characters off together…..well, that’s where most of the fun lies!
1×2 (or Heero x Duo if you’re not up on your shorthand) is the most popular pairing in the fandom, although rather amusingly there is very little actual canon support for this ship. Heero and Duo are the first Gundam pilots to meet, but don’t actually get on in the slightest. Duo being his usual sociable self does make an attempt to at least cooperate with Heero, but our favourite Perfect Solider spends the majority of his time either ripping Duo off, threatening to kill him or just plain ignoring the other pilot. Not really much ground for a relationship there……but hey fujoshi are nothing if not imaginative and 1×2 is pretty visually appealing (official art seems to agree given how often they’re grouped together). I like this pairing myself, but then again I like pairing Duo off with everyone because he’s my favourite character and his easy-going nature works with nearly anyone.
Unlike a sizeable proportion of the English speaking fandom, I have absolutely no problem with 1xR (Heero x Relena), and indeed think it is an excellent pairing. As far as teenage romances go, you couldn’t really ask for anything more – Heero and Relena are thoroughly obsessed with each other, and that’s perfectly fine for a pair of 15 year olds. Relena is a very strong, solid character who gives Heero a solid foundation to rely on – she shouldered the weight of the world, so I think she can also handle Heero’s many personality problems. For once I have zero issues with a canon ship!
The next most common pairing is 3×4 (Trowa x Quatre) and there is support for this in canon. Trowa and Quatre get on quite well from the outset (hello random bonding session over classical music), but it all becomes rather more solid after Quatre goes batshit from the Zero system, wipes out a colony and Trowa’s suit. The only thing that successfully pulls Quatre out his insane rampage is Trowa’s sacrifice and apparent death. Quatre’s subsequent obsession with finding Trowa again, and the way Trowa comes to rescue an injured Quatre on Libra at the end, only adds fuel. There is also the fact that the female counterparts for Trowa and Quatre aren’t all that tempting to ship them with. It is more or less confirmed in canon that Catherine really is Trowa’s sister (and his real name is Triton Bloom), and Dorothy x Quatre is just ewww given how the most time they spent together is when Dorothy stabbed Quatre on Libra and he and Trowa just left her there to figure her own way out! While I like Trowa and Quatre together, I find the pairing mostly boring since it is so easy – not enough conflict!
I generally prefer 3×1 (Trowa x Heero) to 1×3 (Heero x Trowa) but both are fine. While this is hardly the most talkative of pairings there is plenty of chemistry between the two – Trowa spends months with Heero, nursing him back to health after the self-detonation incident and then traipsing around the world with him while Heero attempts to get pacifists to shoot him. Trowa even lets Heero borrow his Heavyarms for the fight against Zechs in Antarctica without any fuss – there is a lot of mutual respect and trust between these two. Trowa and Heero don’t really need to talk much, they seem to understand each other’s thought processes – most clearly seem when Trowa is under cover as an OZ solider – Heero easily works within the parameters of Trowa’s plans (Duo does not and ends up being knocked out or used as a punch bag repeatedly). I’d imagine this is because they both have similar backgrounds as child soldiers – training robbing them both of the more expressive parts of their personalities. Heero is more anti-social and independent because his training was mostly one-to-one. In contrast Trowa learned to blend into a group and act however people wanted him to – changing names and roles like masks. I find this pairing quite interesting since both Heero and Trowa have a lot of work to do to rehabilitate from their training.
2×4 (Duo x Quatre) is a more upbeat ship – they’re both psychologically scarred, but definitely hide it better than the others. Duo and Quatre get on fantastically well from their first meeting, being the most sociable of the Gundam pilots and most willing to work together – theirs is an easy relationship (if you ignore the fact Quatre is more interested in running after Trowa the majority of the time). If I want fun and fluff, 2×4 is pretty much the best you can ask for.
Now one of my favourite ships is 2×5 (Duo x Wufei) which isn’t exactly popular in the fandom (Wufei in general isn’t popular because he is a massive prat), but I like it because it is a challenge to make the two them work. Duo is fairly accommodating if you give him any reason to care, but Wufei is horrendously stubborn and does his best to avoid the majority of the other characters – apart from those he’s actively attempting to kill. The only real time of any note that the two spend together is when they’re slowly suffocating to death on the Lunar Base and the time on Peacemillion, and even then Wufei actively ignores everyone unless it is to offer some nugget of arseholery. So yeah, not really any canon support there, but I still enjoy the combination of Wufei’s abrasive honesty with Duo’s easy going sarcasm.
I also enjoy 1×5 (Heero x Wufei) since they’re fairly similar in a lot of ways – I can imagine that a lot of the crap Wufei comes out with is stuff Heero is quietly thinking, but feels no real need to say. They both prefer to operate on their own, although Heero is more likely to team up with the others if it leads to a higher chance of completing a mission. Wufei will only work with the others if it is a last option since he isn’t quite as logical and acts on his emotions and pride more. But there is a quiet mutual respect between the two on a professional level – Wufei is more likely to listen to Heero than any of the other pilots. But yeah this is a very difficult ship to make work since neither is all that interested in each other beyond their capabilities in a mobile suit.
Most people tend to pair Wufei off with Treize (13×5) because neither are particularly liked and Wufei’s obsession with (killing) Treize gives plenty of fuel. Personally I hate this ship, because EWWW TREIZE! Not even Wufei deserves that. I also dislike pairing Wufei off with Sally because Sally is more of an older sister character to Wufei…..and Sally is awesome and deserves better.
Actually I should probably take a moment to attempt to explain why I quite like Wufei because I’m sure it is something that mystifies most people…..and to be perfectly honest it mostly baffles me too! Wufei can be a perfectly horrible person on the best of days – unsociable, obsessive, misogynistic, pretentious and egotistical. True he has a rather traumatic past full of crushing familial responsibilities and a dead wife, and then he watches his colony self detonate to protect him during the actual series, plus there is the fact Treize manipulates Wufei into killing him off…..Wufei does have plenty of reasons for being troubled. But I kind of like that Wufei is an abrasive arsehole who doesn’t give two shits if he offends you, because he has a mission and is determined to accomplish it. I kind of have to admire him for how committed Wufei is to his ideals and own sense of justice…..even if it does cause him to make some pretty terrible decisions.
Wufei mostly gets sidelined in the main series – he prefers working alone so he’s off doing his own thing the majority of the time and we only get to see him when he’s having a crisis or trying to murder Treize. He has more of a role to play in Endless Waltz were he chooses the wrong side out of a strange feeling of guilt towards killing Trieze. Wufei’s insecurities also come out when he reveals his fear of becoming obsolete in the new peaceful world – it goes some way to making him seem a bit more sympathetic in my eyes. Yes he has a terrible personality, but a lot of that is just bravado to cover a huge inferiority complex, and that makes him a very interesting character to me. Urgh…..I’m struggling to properly explain it. Basically I feel sorry for Wufei because he’s so disliked and I’m contrary, and that I think there are a lot of unappreciated facets to his character that make him interesting to think about……..plus I generally seem to like characters who are unrepentant bastards. Okay Wufei tangent over!
God this post is going on forever and I’ve only really covered the Gundam pilots, although I don’t really actively get into any of the other potential ships in the wider cast. I’m generally fine with the canon Noin x Zechs ship (although Noin is waaaay too good for Zechs), and if Lady Une really wants Treize then I’m happy for her (although Une is also waaaay too awesome for Treize). I can totally see Treize x Zechs too given how obsessed they are with each other, but since I hate Treize and Zechs’ weird personality transplant towards the end of the show confused the fuck out of me, I don’t really care much about shipping them.
Essentially what makes the shipping in Gundam Wing so much fun for me is that the characters are all broken in different ways, which makes them all very interesting. Heero’s gradually thawing emotions and his struggle to reconcile his training with his innately kind-hearted nature, lead to interesting potential scenarios. Duo’s rather morbid fascination with death motifs, the belief that he brings death to anyone that gets close to him juxtaposed with the bright, cheerful manner he defaults to make him a challenge to try to puzzle out. Trowa’s struggle with his lack of a real name or past, his strangely fluid sense of self and his attempts to create a true identity for himself lead to some great introspection. Quatre’s desire to take a proactive role in the new peace, while also trying to shoulder his family’s legacy give an appreciation for his intelligence and guilt complex. Wufei’s decision to join the Preventers highlights his inability to completely give up the fight and his insecurity at having no other skill or place to go. Pair any combination up and you get all these fascinating sparks as conflicting issues arise – it isn’t surprising that the Gundam Wing archive on ff.net is one of the largest on the site!
I’ve been a fan of this show since I was 16 and have yet to get tired of it, the characters are one of the main reasons for this. They aren’t exhaustively explored in the canon which leaves a lot of scope for the fandom to speculate on their individual quirks, issues and potential futures, and I for one certainly enjoy this aspect a lot. To sum up – Wing is full of the angsty, psychologically scarred bishies Cara is so fond of, of course it is a firm favourite!