I’m probably the least knowledgeable person you’ll meet in regards to anime. The depths of my ignorance are truly unfathomable. Outside of multiple viewings of Ninja Scroll and Akira, along with a limited amount of Dragonball Z and the original Robotech series, I just don’t know much. But despite the obvious limitations of my knowledge, I adamantly love Gundam Wing.
Set in the future where conflict has broken out between the organization OZ, hiding itself inside the Earth Sphere Alliance Military and the deep space colonies established by Earth. Scientists from the colonies send to Earth five Gundams – building-sized robots possessing incredible destructive power – as a part of Operation Meteor. The show focuses on the efforts of the five Gundam pilots Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Winner, and Chang Wufei to defeat OZ lead by Treize Khushrenada aided by Lady Une and Zech’s Merquise.
Gundam Wing really is an ensemble show; and the characters (besides the Gundams themselves) might be the show’s strongest point. The five Gundam pilots are as distinctive as their respective machines, but the most compelling is Hero Yuy – the mysterious pilot of Wing Zero. While the character is referred to as Hero, over the course of the series his true identity (and his name) is never revealed. While capable of being absolutely ruthless, he is at the same time selflessly willing to sacrifice himself to protect the colonies and Relena Peacecraft (which is a big shift from how he relates to her at the beginning of the series).
Zech Merquise serves as one of the primary antagonists over the course of the series, but to be honest he could have supported an separate stand alone series. Concealing his true identity as Milliardo Peacecraft, the surviving prince of the pacifist Sanc kingdom. Honorable and protective of those who fight with him and his sister Relena he’s frequently an scene stealer.
The philosophical battles between pacifism and the necessity of war, the use of unmanned weapons systems and artificial intelligence, and other issues influence the show over the course of its 49 episodes. Class is an issue as well with most of the antagonists being of royal birth and the Gundam pilots often being orphans, with the exception of Quatre Winner who gives up his fortunate to fight.
While the visuals are pretty impressive and hold up well for a 23 year old series, what makes Gundam Wing compelling for me is ultimately the honor of the individual characters. The Gundam pilots and their adversaries are essentially samurai, and are unwilling to achieve victory without honor. Zechs allows Trowa to escape with an injured Heero when the Gundam pilots are forced to cease fighting to avoid retaliation against the colonies. Similarly, Wufei opts not to kill Treize with his Gundam when they first meet, and instead opts to fight him in an individual duel. Having grown up reading the Book of Five Rings and the Hagakure, it’s a joy to see the characters bring some of these ideas to life.
Gundam Wing is available on Hulu, and while I don’t know much about anime, I know that you shouldn’t miss this series.