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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995) anime series review

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: many thought provoking themes, intense mech action, greatly improved coloring and artwork, incorprates politics and philosophy, catchy soundtrack, gorgeous character designs, excellent japanese and english voice acting

The Bad: under-developed characters, overuse of repeated footage, mediocre chinese voice acting,

Current Availability Status: none in Singapore.


The year is After Colony 195 and Operation Meteor, the plan to topple the oppressive "OZ" organization" on earth, has been launched. Five Gundams, each with their own strengths and flaws, piloted by five very different young pilots arrive on earth but their secret missions are already compromised from the start. What follows is a grand sweeping tale of conspiracies, betrayal, hidden motives and conflict of ideals set among the backdrop of a world on the brink of war.

Compared to previous gundam series, Gundam Wing starts off with a "flipped" premise. The Gundams are no longer the "good guys" defending against an onslaught, but the ones provoking attack. It can be easily argued that they are the antagonists and OZ are the protagonists, retaliating after the Gundams have struck first. The defining line of good and bad has never been so blurred. The "invincible" Gundams is another refreshing change for the better. It emphasizes the point of view that no matter how powerful a weapon is, it is the weakness of the soldier behind the trigger that causes it to fail; seen in the many instances where the "invincible" gundams are defeated due to the pilot's and not the hardware's fault.

The story also has a fresh style, focusing more on the larger scale political happenings in the war instead of the 5 main characters. Deceit, political backstabbing, secret uprisings, changing values and a lingering air of mystery lends to a highly intriguing plot. Each episode brings its own share of story twists as former allies become enemies and friends turn on each other in this era of distrust. In the way the series slowly unravels the varying plot threads and mysteries, it manages to hook the viewer into being interested in what comes next.

Easily the more "intelligent" of the Gundam shows, Gundam Wing revels in its philosophical ramblings. Every single theme you can think about with respect to war, politics, human nature, and purpose are all in there. This series challenges you to think. It feels like the creators whipped out every book they could find about war philosophy and threw in wholesale whatever they had. Its thought provoking nature is sure to be a treat for the more learned and knowledgeable viewers, allowing for a wide range of intellectual discussion.

A pity that so much time and effort is spent planning out the otherwise convoluted storyline and in researching the underlying themes that little thought is given to character development or entertainment value. The most well developed characters are only Relena and Zechs Merquise, their motives and personality evolving nicely as the series moves along to its conclusion; Relana matures from a shy rich girl just moving through life into an assertive leader figure and Zechs' convictions to attain peace by any means drives him to be a very compelling character.

Sadly most of the other characters are already presented less as people and more like "personifications" of ideas, ideals and unique perspectives on war. They seem to be just in the story to convey the numerous thought provoking themes inherent in the series through their personality, dialogue and sometimes even monologue. Their "larger than life" personalities and nature coupled with their "over-the-top" way of speaking in the japanese voice track make them very difficult to relate to. It is over-acting, pure and simple. Gundam Wing is no better in chinese where everyone sounds like actors in a stage play, over emphasising their lines and not even trying to sound natural. The english dub on the other hand is more subdued but plays it more realisticly. The campy dialogue is dialled back a notch, as is the over-emoting that commonly plagues the japanese voice track. Furthermore, most of the characters are Caucasian so hearing them in english just feels more natural. The downside is some roles are badly miscast making many characters sound older than they are supposed to be.

On the technical side, Gundam Wing is quite inconsistent in its artwork and animation. Take a look at these scenes for an example of such inconsistency

It suffers from an overuse of repeated stock footage and sometimes the same stock footage(like some re-used scenes of Mobile suits blowing up) can be played more than once within the same episode. Below are screenshots of one such repeated scene shown in episodes 7, 8 and 9.

Artwork is generally beautiful, although the occasional lazily shaded, flatly drawn scene does appear. Sunrise has learnt to incorporate dynamic lighting effects into the coloring of the Gundams resulting in pure mecha eye candy.

The colors themselves are comparatively subdued compared to other Gundam series. So dark in fact that in some scenes in the blackness of space or at night, you can just barely see the mecha's outline. This lends a gritty gloomy feel to the show that matches its tone.

Gundam Wing is not a series for everyone. Those looking for pure popcorn entertainment would be disappointed by this show. Think of this as the Gundam franchise trying to appeal to an older and more sophisticated western audience. The unique core team of gundams and pilots call to mind superhero teams like the Justice League. Through its story, Gundam Wing does not seek to merely entertain but to convey a wide range of ideas and thought provoking concepts that would hopefully lead to intellectual discussion.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if an intelligent, thought provoking series showing war on a grand scale is your cup of tea
Avoid it: if brainless action is what you usually go for

Entertainment: B
Story: A-
Characters: C+
Animation: C+
Art: A-
Voice work (japanese): B+
Voice work (english): B+
Voice work (chinese): C-
Replay Value: B
"Brains": A-

Gundam Wing remembered to appeal to the fan-girls


What could be cooler than a gattling gun? TWO gattling Guns!
What could be cooler that 2 gattling guns?? Wait for the movie to find out.

This single exchange spawned a flood of yaoi fanfics.

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