The Gundam Universe is one of the more complicated and lengthy endeavors out there in all of anime. It’s a world with over dozens of shows that all highlight a different aspect of this growing universe, with some heady politics usually thrown in for good measure. Among the sprawling, overlapping Gundam series that are out there, Gundam Wing acts as a beautiful gateway series to this intimidating catalogue of shows.
Gundam Wing gained a certain level of notoriety for receiving a dub in 2000 that aired on Cartoon Network’s prestigious Toonami timeslot, allowing it to be the first Gundam series that most people in North America were getting a taste of. The exploits of Heero Yuy and the rest of the pilots involved in Operation Meteor would introduce many to this beautiful world of mechs. Even though Gundam Wing might be one of the simpler series in the Gundam library, it still holds a lot of secrets within, and so, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Gundam Wing.
15 The Main Characters Are Named After Numbers
Many Gundam series, as well as anime in general, often have peculiar reasoning behind the naming patterns of characters. Gundam Wing is no exception here, and while you might have taken amusement in how cool some of the characters’ names were (how bad-ass is the name “Zechs”? Or “Treize”?), there’s a lot more method to this madness than you might think. Numbers, specifically French numerals, is the primary source of inspiration for names here.
This strategy is used for crucial characters, like Deathscythe’s faithful pilot, “Duo” Maxwell (Two); “Trowa” Barton, which admittedly is a bit of a stretch for “Trois” (Three); then there’s Sandrock’s pilot, “Quatre” Raberba Winner (Four); militant officer “Treize” Khushrenada (Thirteen); and of course, “Zechs” Merquise (Six, but in German, interestingly enough). This naming technique is also put into play with more peripheral characters too, like Lady “Une” (One), General “Septem” (Seven), “Quinze” Barton (Fifteen), and Zech’s alter-ego, “Milliardo” Peacecraft (Billion). In lieu of all of this it’s a little surprising Heero’s last name wasn’t Six!
14 Duo Maxwell’s Infamous Scream Was Inspired By Scott McNeil's Wife
Actors and voice actors alike have numerous tricks for drawing out particularly emotional performances when the occasion calls for it. Some people look into the depths of the character, while others draw from real-life examples to get to where they need to be. Gundam Wing is considered to have one of the highest quality dubs out there. Scott McNeil, the English voice actor for Duo Maxwell, gives one of the more satisfying performances of the series that covers the whole range of emotions that your average Gundam pilot is put through.
In episode 20, “The Lunar Base Infiltration,” there’s a pivotal scene that involves a public display of destruction featuring Duo’s Gundam, Deathscythe. Duo’s response to this situation is a scream to end all screams. McNeil, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, revealed that to get in the right headspace for this scene, he thought about when his wife backed up and ran over his Harley Davidson. Hey, at least she wasn’t piloting a Gundam at the time.
13 The Series Contains a Number of In-Jokes to “Modern” Technology
It’s always nice when animators can hide little Easter Eggs in whatever they’re doing, or find cute, obscure ways of having fun with astute audience members. While Gundam Wing is a very dour show at times, it still plays with its audience when it comes to hidden references. Curiously enough, rather than hiding nods to the show’s crew or some risky piece of perversion, it’s computer gags that get these guys going. It shouldn't be that surprising that a lot of the Gundam writing crew would end up being giant nerds.
Considering how complex technology has advanced in "Gundam Wing"'s After Colony timeline, the fact that computer science from the mid-‘90s would still somehow survive is kind of a hilarious joke. For example, the third episode of the series features a data readout on Heero. If you really examine the readout, you’ll see that it’s in fact a readme file for the TWAIN plugin from out of Adobe Photoshop. Furthermore, episode eight sees a piece of tech being stamped with “Intel Outside” in a rather wry joke. Imagine if Gundam were actually being powered with Intel processors?
12 Relena Peacecraft Was Modeled After Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn has been a major influence on a number of elegant characters throughout pop culture, but it’s kind of beautiful to see an anime of this nature turning to Ms. Hepburn as an inspiration for its aristocratic debutante character. The similarities between these two elegant types isn’t too difficult to see, but Gundam Wing would go to some lengthy efforts to prove to you that this connection was intentional.
Towards the back-end of Gundam Wing’s run, Relena changes into a different dress than what she’s wearing in the start of the series. This new “Queen of the World” dress, as fancy as it is, also happens to be identical to the one that Hepburn is wearing as Princess Ann in the film Roman Holiday. It’s interesting that with Relena very much seeming like an inspiration for the peacekeeping Kudelia Bernstein in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Hepburn’s voice still continues to have some resonance in the Gundam world.
11 An Alternate Ending to the First Episode Was Animated
One of the most striking things about Gundam Wing the first time that you see it is the bold ending it goes out on. The unexpected, cold as ice exchange that goes down between Heero and Relena has become a classic scene and it’s the perfect way to establish the series’ tone. This encounter between Relena and Heero involves him destroying an invitation to her birthday party without even reading the thing. Allegedly, an alternate version of this ending was animated where events go down differently and Heero does in fact read Relena’s invitation (although his response isn’t any more generous). With this being such a pivotal moment, but also one that happens so early on in the series, it’s not surprising to think of alternate versions having been considered. Relena and Heero’s relationship is one of the bedrocks of the series and getting that dynamic right as early as the first episode is important. That being said, the more brutal version that is ultimately used does feel like the more exciting decision.
10 There Are a Number of Universal Century Easter Eggs Hidden In the Series
Gundam Wing shares one of the rare honors of being a Gundam series that is set in some Alternate Century timeline that exists outside of the predominant Universal Century. In spite of Gundam Wing following the After Colony calendar, it still isn’t afraid to make reference to the timeline that started it all. In one scene when the Wing Gundam is powering up, its monitor reads “Charging M-Particles” which is clearly a reference to the Minovsky particles that help compose beam rifle blasts in the original series and beyond. Later on, Quatre is examining the blueprints for Sandrock when he sees that his mobile suit possesses movable frames and Gundarium Theta, both which also tie back to the Universal Century timeline. There’s even a reference to an ALICE Mk-II mobile suit system, which is a pretty deep cut to the photonovel, Gundam Sentinel, which also happens to take place in the Universal Century. With all the tribute that Gundam Wing pays to the UC timeline, it’d be nice if another series made some After Colony references at some point!
9 There Are a Number of References to The Wizard of Oz in the Series
Look, you may have noticed that the primary antagonistic force in Gundam Wing is the military force, OZ, but you might not have been aware of just how deep the homages to Baum’s classic novel run. When it comes to the characters and procedures that are tied to the mustache-twirling OZ, the references to the Emerald City become all the more clear. To begin with, the character of Dorothy Catalonia is clear reference to Dorothy Gale, the protagonist from The Wizard of Oz. Furthermore, the emblem that OZ’s special forces use is the profile image of a Tin Woodsman’s head, not to mention that the Romefeller Foundation who are sponsors of OZ use a lion for their identifying insignia. The trio of Dorothy’s friends nicely gets rounded out when an OZ pilot goes by the call sign “Scarecrow 5” in episode 35 of the series, too.
While The Wizard of Oz is the dominant reference point here, it’s also worth highlighting that OZ happens to stand for “Organization of Zodiac” with the naming scheme behind their weapons—Leo, Aries, Cancer, Libra, Virgo, Taurus, and more—tying to the different Zodiac symbols.
8 Lucrezia Noin and Zechs Merquise are Approximates for Garma Zabi and Char Aznable
With so many Gundam series dealing with the inner workings of war and the political triggers that can lead to such outbreak, it’s understandable that certain characters will begin echoing previous ones over time. There’s only so much you can say about war after all, and there isn’t an endless amount of archetypes to pour through either. Accordingly, you might have made the association between Zechs and Char Aznable from the original Mobile Suit Gundam due to the fact that they both wear such specific masks. However, Lucrezia Noin was also meant to be based off of Garma Zabi from Mobile Suit Gundam. While Zechs and Lucrezia both follow the same motivations as their predecessors, their relationship with each other also mirrors that of Zabi and Aznable which begins in friendship and ends in betrayal.
It’s not surprising to see these character types (and variations on Char’s original mask) still coming up in new Gundam series today. Even Relena has more than a few similarities with Sayla Mass from the original series.
7 Gundam Wing is One of Three Consecutive Alternate Universe Gundam Series
While Gundam’s Universal Century timeline was the dominant calendar to follow for a lot of the earlier Gundam series, that still didn’t stop shows from setting up camp in an entirely different universe and timeline. The idea of Gundam series existing in some unusual pocket of time isn’t that unusual, but what is a little uncommon is for three Gundam series in a row to take place in alternate universe offshoots. The ‘90s saw the release of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, which was set in the Future Century timeline, then Gundam Wing which took place in the After Colony calendar, and then finally After War Gundam X, which is appropriately set in the After War timeline.
What’s even more impressive here is that the Wing Gundam actually makes a cameo appearance in the final episode of G Gundam as the torch is passed from one Alternate Universe series to another. It was the perfect way of teasing the new series, which would premiere the very next week.
6 Episodes 27 and 28 Were Meant to be Flashback Episodes
Gundam Wing has the luxury of being a Gundam series that spans nearly 50 episodes, allowing a great deal of development to go on between its characters. Originally, the show was meant to broaden its scope even further and take time in the middle of the series to reveal important backstory regarding not only the Gundam pilots’ past, but also Relena’s as well. Unfortunately, this introspective plan had to be scrapped when scheduling became complicated and tumultuous after head writer, Katsuyuki Sumisawa, suddenly quit the series. Sumisawa’s absence meant that not only did new people have to be put in charge, but that the scripts for these flashback entries had no time to get finished. In lieu of all of this, this time was instead used to turn the episodes into recap installments instead, with the scrapped backstory content eventually finding a later home in Gundam Wing’s Episode Zero prequel manga.
Recap episodes are not an anomaly for lengthier Gundam series, it’s just hard to believe that anyone would be getting as excited over clip shows as they would with prequel content. Weirdos do exist though.
5 Gundam Wing’s Premiere Date Holds a Special Significance
With a property that has been around for as long as Gundam has, it’s pretty common for the topics of tradition and anniversaries to occasionally work themselves into conveniently timed Gundam series. Admittedly, big events full of mecha-pomp and circumstance have taken place on pivotal releases, such as the franchise’s 20th and 30th anniversary. The Gundam Perfect Mission 30th Anniversary short is a great little gem, and the entire concept of the Gundam Evolve shorts revolve around tradition. Gundam Wing might not get such an honor, but it does happen to share a premiere date with the original series, Mobile Suit Gundam. Both Mobile Suit Gundam and Gundam Wing premiered on April 7, with the latter airing on the 16th anniversary of the original series’ debut. Deciding to have this premiere date on the anniversary of Mobile Suit Gundam in order to call upon the heavy tradition of the series is a great way to conjure up nostalgia, too. Besides, what’s a better Sweet 16 gift than Gundam Wing?
4 Zechs and Treize Were Actually Working Together the Whole Time
Hidden alliances and double agents are not exactly foreign entities to Gundam series. The anime are usually brimming with the sort of espionage and intrigue that’s tailor-made for such things. The arrangement going on here in Gundam Wing isn’t so cut and dry, but unbeknownst to many viewers, Zechs and Treize actually have a secret plan that they’ve been working on together for the bulk of the series.
Such an alliance between Zechs and Treize might surprise you at first, but the idea here is that the two of them intentionally set out to make the Eve War between the Earth Nation and White Fang as grueling and miserable as possible so people would be more receptive to the idea of pacifism. It’s a hell of a gamble, but one that ultimately works for them. This development is made much more explicit in Gundam Wing’s manga where Zechs actually tells Heero what’s going on (although it’s still kind of confusing to completely track), however, you can still connect the dots and assume the same thing is also happening within the anime.
3 Heavyarms is the Only Gundam from Operation Meteor to Not Get Totally Destroyed
Let’s be honest, one of the most satisfying things about various Gundam series is watching the sublime battles and the insane collateral damage that happens as a result. These are shows filled with giant mobile suits! Of course there’s going to be some wanton destruction. A number of integral mobile suits have been put through the wringer in various series, with Gundam Wing showing no fear in the area of killing its mecha-darlings. That being said, it’s still a little surprising that practically all of the essential Gundam involved in Operation Meteor get completely annihilated at one point or another. Yes, some experience some pretty snazzy rebuilds making their destruction a blessing in disguise, but it’s still pretty jarring to see so many pivotal Gundam get reduced to scrap metal.
Gundam Wing might play fast and loose with its level of destruction, but believe it or not, Trowa Barton’s mobile suit, Heavyarms, is actually the only Gundam to not get completely ruined throughout the series. Granted, Trowa might not be charging into battle with the same veracity as Heero or Duo, but he certainly goes through his share of battles. Having tons of gatling guns come in handy.
2 Gundam Wing Has a Photonovel Sequel That Ruins Everything
No, not Endless Waltz, which actually does act as a satisfying epilogue to the Gundam Wing series. Rather, in 2010 a sequel series that’s set 20-30 years after Gundam Wing and Endless Waltz began serialization. The most frustrating thing here is that Gundam Wing: Frozen Teardrop has original writer, Katsuyuki Sumisawa, in place and yet this project is still full of so many confusing decisions.
Set in the new Mars Century era, Frozen Teardrop is mostly concerned with the idea of whether people can really stop fighting, with peace once more being in jeopardy. Oh, and lots and lots of fan service. Basically everyone shacks up and has babies in this thing. A sequel to Gundam Wing isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it’s just that nobody was asking for a project of this nature that only belittles the decisions made at the end of the series. The whole “lazy” photonovel approach to the material isn’t doing it any favors either. Frozen Teardrop is worth watching for the sheer spectacle factor alone, but you’re better off viewing Endless Waltz as the end point. Or maybe you’re some sort of masochist.
1 1. Gundam Wing Abruptly Switched Directors Part Way Through the Series
Some of the other behind the scenes issues that were faced during Gundam Wing’s production are outlined here, but with the trouble that the series had regarding directors, it’s kind of remarkable that the end product turned out as good as it did. Gundam Wing’s director, Masashi Ikeda, abruptly stepped down from his role part way through the series, seeing replacement by Shinji Takamatsu, who would also go on to direct the following Gundam series, After War Gundam X. However, due to the awkward circumstances involving this director change, the credits of Gundam Wing don't reflect this swap, continuing to credit Ikeda.
Interestingly enough, Takamatsu would leave Sunrise entirely after Gundam X failed to see success, which is also the explanation as to why Gundam Wing’s Endless Waltz OVA is directed by Yasunao Aoki, rather than either Ikeda or Takamatsu. It’s also bizarre that Ikeda would also abruptly leave his next job as the director on Inuyasha only part way through the series, too.
Surely you learned something new here about your favorite Alternate Universe Gundam series, but did we miss anything? Prove to us that you’re a true Newtype by letting us know below!
Gundam Wing is currently available on various anime streaming services.