Mobile Suit Gundam Wing isn’t the first series in the legendary Gundam franchise, which has spanned numerous TV series, movies and mangas, nor is it the last, but for many, it transcended what previous Gundam shows had done, and became the bar by which all future Gundam series (if not all future anime series) were measured.
Though it was a modest success in Japan when it premiered in 1995, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing truly broke ground in the United States when it aired on the Cartoon Network in 2000. The series capitalized on the popularity of anime imports like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z to introduce American audiences to the genre of “mecha-anime” – basically, giant robots (in this case, “Gundams”) fighting each other. With the mecha and kaiju-inspired Pacific Rim finally getting the big-budget sequel that fans have been clamoring for, it’s a good time to take a look at this inspirational series from the drama.
The uninitiated in Gundam might not understand what makes this series so special, so here are the 13 Things You Need To Know About Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.
13. Epic Fights Aplenty
It’s important to point out just how amazing the action sequence were in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. All of these sequences featured different Gundams, with different weapons and abilities, thus adding unique moves and variety to each mech-battle. In fact, the seven main Gundam were all unique from one another, with no two giant robots moving or acting the same way, and that’s not saying anything about the pilots themselves, who all had different personalities and philosophies when it came to doing battle.
As the series went on, these action scenes just got better, with duels and massive fights that just seemed to boggle the mind. To this day, many remember the duels between Heero Yuy and Zechs Marquis, as they were the best of the Gundam pilots, and their rivalry almost transcended the series itself.
12. The Entire Story Starts With An Assassination
When it comes to a self-contained story, like Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, the starting point is crucial. In this case, it all begins with the assassination of a pacifist by the name Heero Yuy, a name fans of the series know very well.
In fact, every action taken in Gundam Wing can be traced back to this singular event. Mainly because, at the time, Yuy was trying to organize peace between two factions of the futuristic world of Gundam Wing. Many were supporting his thoughts, and thus he was killed. Because of this, the people of the space colonies decided to look for “other” paths to peace. And thus, Gundam Wing began.
11. Earth Itself Is The Villain
In the A.C. era of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, the people of Earth, now called the United Earth Sphere Alliance, oppress the colonies that have formed in space. Desiring freedom, the colonies try to peacefully remove themselves from the thumb of the Alliance, but when that fails and Yuy is assassinated, these oppressed colonies decide to go to war.
It’s rare that Earth itself is the villain, yet here we see them as Imperialist oppressors. Not only are they a military regime of sorts, but there are numerous secret societies within their government and military that seek even more power for the Alliance. The Organization of the Zodiac, in fact, was the society that helped create mobile suit fighters, and caused the Gundam project to be created.
10. The Five Gundam Pilots Are Basically Child Soldiers
No doubt lost on the many viewers, the true five protagonists of Gundam Wing are in fact teenagers, with the oldest being 16. Despite this, one of the pilots, Wufei, had a wife, who was killed during his desire to fight for the freedom of the colonies.
While it may seem odd for such young people to pilot massive machines of destruction, each of them have a significant reason for doing so. Some out of love, some out of peace, some of just need to do something. It also made a perfect cover for the pilots, as noone would suspect such young people to pilot the Gundams. One key scene sees one of the villains say, “he’s just a boy” as a pilot exits his Gundam.
9. Four of the Main Characters Aren’t Who They Claim To Be
Surprisingly, three of the main Gundam fighters, along with Zechs Marquise, don’t use their real names. For the Gundam pilots, it’s because they’re choosing to honor someone, such as Heero taking the name of the fallen pacifist. For Zechs, he’s hiding the fact that he is the heir to the Peacecraft name and throne. He wished to avenge the loss of his family, and thus began his quest under the name Zechs Marquise.
Then there’s Duo, who modeled both his appearance and name after those he had lost during the war that was going on as a child, and also the people he lost during a massacre at a church he was being protected at. Trowa also hid his name, and did it to honor a young boy who refused to go through with the Gundam project.
8. The Story Is Deep
What might get lost in the epic Gundam battles is the fact that this series has a lot of narrative depth. Maybe even too much narrative depth. Even the writers of the show admitted this as they made it, but they still created a long, complex, serialized plot for the series, and allowed it unfold over the course of 49 episodes. Call it the True Detective of anime, but this was rare for Japanese animation at the time.
This was a multi-layered show that featured numerous stories from various characters. It also embraced philosophical questions over the challenges of colonialism, the merits of pacifism versues armed resistance, and the toll of war on those who fight and suffer from it.
7. The Events That Transpire Are Dark
Another thing that can get lost in discussing an anime series with cool suits is just how dark Mobile Suit Gundam Wing could be at times. In fact, one could argue that this show probably wouldn’t be shown in a prime timeslot on the Cartoon Network in this contemporary era of cartoon television. It was on Toonami when it aired in 2000, but these days, it would likely have been reserved for the “late night” block due to its content.
There was numerous deaths, a near suicide shown on screen, a massacre within a training center, colonies getting destroyed and it even features one of the Gundam pilots literally going insane,. Gundam Wing did not shy away from showing the evil and darkness of war and how it affected people. Another reason why it likely resonated with so many.
6. Zechs Marquis Nearly Stole The Show
A show like Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is only as good as its characters, and though there were many standouts, one that nearly eclipsed them all was Zechs Marquise, a man whose arc had more highs and lows than any other character in the series.
He’s a man that wants revenge for his family, but also wants peace between the Earth and the colonies. However, his desire to save everyone often leads to him being on the wrong side of conflicts, including a period in which he leads the White Fang, who desire to wipe the world clean so that it can be reborn.
That being said, he is a true warrior, which is why he eventually piloted the Gundam Epyon. He used it with such precision and skill in the show that he became eternally connected to it, even piloting it during the episode “Death Battle” versus the White Tiger Zord.
5. The Plot Is Incredibly Political
There are numerous political and militaristic themes that run throughout Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. There is oppression, revolution, resistance, coups, ascensions to thrones, assassinations and more. It’s all shamelessly entertaining, but for a cartoon series ostensibly meant for children, it’s also incredibly bold.
In fact, you could argue that just about every story element in the show is political in some fashion. The Gundams were made to stop the oppression of the OZ and the Alliance. Zechs joined the Alliance after his family was killed and wanted to bring them down from the inside.
4. It Showed The Consequences Of Its Characters’ Actions
Whether it’s a planned attack, a failed coup, or a straight-up act of revenge, if something big happens on Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, you see it happen, and you know something major will result from it. Often, the characters themselves find themselves in unpredictable circumstances because of the actions of the others. Characters rarely catch a break in the world of Gundam Wing
In one of the most famous scenes, Gundam Pilot Wufei blows up a training academy run by Zechs and fan-favorite character Noin. After the attack, Noin fights Wufei and loses, prompting her to leave the Academy and get her own Mobile Suit to stop Wufei and the others.
3. It Was So Popular, It Got An Original Movie Sequel
Though it only lasted 49 official episodes, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing got a true sequel via the original movie Endless Waltz. This sequel took place one year after the series, and showed how the events of Gundam Wing had affected everything. It also served as true and official ending to the series.
The movie also updated the look of many of the Gundams, given them not only a more sleek look, but one that made them feel even more unique, and in some cases, terrifying in their form. Nearly every main character from Gundam Wing made an appearance in Endless Waltz, thus adding a true sense of finality to it all.
2. It was more popular in America than Japan
Arguably the most shocking thing about the series, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was only moderately popular in Japan, but when it hit the US it blew up. Endless Waltz was even one of the most watched programs ever on Cartoon Network when it aired.
It is widely believed that the success of Gundam Wing in the US is the reason we got the other Gundam series and assorted media associated with it, including the long line of video games and even the original manga.
1. It had an epic intro
What gets you hyped for a TV show just before watching it? Is it the story you know will continue to unfold? Or the action that will be in it? While all that is true, for many, it was the intro that had many pumped before the show had truly began.
The intro for Gundam Wing did what an intro should, showing off the main characters and, of course, the Gundams themselves. And it did all of this in a meaningful and power way. Though the true intro that played on Toonami is hard to find, the music it featured it is not.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing stands as one of the most beloved animes ever made, especially to US audiences. Looking at this list, there were a lot of reasons for that. Whether another show like it will ever be made is up for debate, but for now, we can take heart that at least one series dared to do what Gundam Wing does with such skill and grace.
Anything else we should know about Mobil Suit Gundam Wing? Let us know in the comments!