The wise man knows his memory cannot be trusted. Every now and again you reflect upon a loving toy, game, place, or experience that had a profound impact on you, especially when you were young. Unto yourself your mind bequeaths glorious images that entice you into revisiting that memory, and like that ridiculous Telepathic Pitcher Plant (TM) from that one Star Trek: Voyager episode, you heed the luring call of your nostalgia until that moment of unadulterated revelation when the walls of the trap snap shut and you flail in vain as you drown slowly in the horror of your own summoning.
My friends: Gundam Wing is that pitcher plant–and that Voyager episode.
This resembles nothing.
As many my age can recall, Gundam Wing is a beloved show of one’s childhood: the first solid incarnation of the Gundam anime franchise that American children and teenagers were exposed to. It somehow combined deep philosophical musing with the allure of implausible, anthropomorphic machines of war blowing lots of stuff up. To an adolescent mind, this was amazing, as most other cartoons never discussed the notions of war and peace at large along with the philosophies surrounding human conflict. Many viewers my age were intrigued and captivated by this new approach to looking at the world, and so were pulled into the medium of anime itself. This being the seed of much of my mental development, rewatching this could only be a pleasant experience.
Or so my memories told me. In reality, Gundam Wing is an emotional, logical, and moral trainwreck that somehow ascends into the High Heavens of Inanity unto a far loftier circle than even the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, no doubt swelling the slumbering corpse of Cthulhu with matchless pride. If you thought it was bullshit that Padme died for Literally No Reason (TM), your mind is about to cry rivers of blood, because everything in Gundam Wing happens for Literally No Reason (TM), and to such an extent you would think George Lucas would have sued Sunrise’s ass off by now for copyright infringement.
Gundam Wing takes place in its own uniquely baffling timeline in which humanity, still chafing from the wedgie it received after being shoved between a global mandate for absurd Victorian fashion and the mind-blowing computer technology of the 80s, reckons the years after the establishment of the first space colony, implying this was as significant an event in history as the birth of Jesus Christ. In case you did not know just how few Japanese are Christians, now you do. That’s how they keep getting away with that shit in Evangelion, yet even The End of Evangelion makes twenty-three times as much sense as the first episode of this series. This does not improve as time progresses.
Those are now the only words in your vocabulary.
The Year: After Colony 195. In one of the most ill-conceived terrorist operations since time began, the beleaguered and oppressed Colonies, unable to communicate with each other, independently craft the most advanced fighting machines ever seen by human eyes and decide to put them in the hands of the most deranged teenagers they could find. The first of these is the unforgettable Heero Yuy: History’s Most Virgin Psychopath. One has to wonder where this monster came from. In the first minute of his screen-time he coldly executes the first of Gundam Wing’s Legion of Unnamed Victims and laughs maniacally for about seven seconds before proceeding to the next one. This is the most relatable show of emotion he ever makes throughout the series, all forty-nine episodes of it. Then he proceeds to abandon his weapon of war in the ocean and crash on the shore where the Second Virgin Psychopath, “Relena Peacecraft,” happens upon him and seems not to care a wit as he commits brazen acts of terrorism before her eyes, including attempting to murder her. Translation: she’s in love with him.
Apparently the brilliant minds behind this operation thought the solution to their plight would be to hand the keys to a nigh-invincible superweapon to the Japanese child of Charles Manson and send him to Earth to do…something. It is never clear what exactly Heero Yuy was instructed to do or what the Colonies were attempting to accomplish except mass terror and undirected mayhem. Nor are the other Gundam pilots any better except the American one, Duo Maxwell, who actually wonders on screen what the hell is going on from time to time. Duo is also the only character in this series who has undoubtedly had sex. Beyond that, we have three other psychiatric wonder children: Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei, completing a grand circle of clinical insanity and pernicious racism. It’s clear the director was going for the diversity achievement here, but failed miserably, as every single character is inexplicably white or Asian. No one with skin darker than whole milk ever appears. No, not even in the background. Somehow the Nazis won in this universe. It would explain a lot, like why these people are not confined to a mental institution in very thick straitjackets, although not their clothing, as the Nazis knew how to dress at least.
I rest my case.
The show introduces our “favorite” Gundam pilots by squeezing the plot through a sieve, giving us ample time to reflect on all their shortcomings as human beings. Quatre Raberba Winner–yes, that’s his name–is the white, blond, adolescent leader of a random group of white Arabs headed by some comical incarnation of Wolverine. For the next forty-odd episodes or so, Quatre can’t make up his mind on whether he wants to be a pacifist, a murderer, or just batshit insane. It’s also clear he’s gay, as shown by his awkward, series-spanning mancrush on Trowa Barton, the Mad Clown Gundam Pilot, who has locks that defy the laws of physics and singlehandedly fund the AXE brand of hair products. He’s randomly suicidal, as the series goes out of its way to demonstrate to everyone’s annoyance. Apart from this pair of Necronomicon readers is Wufei Chang, winner of the most insultingly generic Chinese name since the first Grand China King Yellow Buffet opened its doors in America, who seems convinced his Gundam–that giant machine of war meant to kill people–carries with it the spirit of his dead, fourteen-year-old wife. End Paragraph.
As any reasonable soul would have expected, this pentagon of horror manages to achieve exactly nothing except the wanton death of thousands of people and the complete geopolitical destabilization and upheaval of the entire planet several times over. Naturally, there are perfectly reasonable people on the other side trying to make sure things retain some modicum of order or something like that. Oh. Wait. No. The first character of the United Earth Sphere Alliance–because Third Reich or British Empire is too passe by this point–is “Lieutenant” Zechs Marquis. Don’t worry, his rank fluctuates appropriately in every episode, so it’s just safe to assume he’s in charge of everyone around him. The quality of dialogue (and sheer Japanese-to-English translation) in this show can be described by his approximate fifth line:
“So that’s their little battle seed all ready to sprout into new battles.”
Like Heero, Zechs manages to get all that annoying near-coherence out at the beginning just so we can be entranced by another twenty-four-and-a-half hours of whispers of the Old Ones from his lips. Zechs wears a mask and long, flowing blond hair down to his ankles. If you know anything about any military in the world, you immediately see a problem. Too bad. Gundam Wing doesn’t care. The “military” in this universe laughs at your notions of discipline, respect, regulations, intelligence, tactics, morality, or regard for human life. It is staffed by awkwardly-voiced morons who can’t make up their minds about who they are, yet insist on throwing out every last bizarre philosophical observation on the situation they can conjure. These people happily believe threatening to kill everyone in space is a viable defensive tactic for winning a minor land skirmish, and they’re right, because unlike you, you sad, small-minded offspring of an Earth inhabited by sane human beings, they know just how stupid the rest of their species truly is.
These people serve in a “military.”
Straddling Zech’s completely unused penis is “Lieutenant” Lucrezia Noin, another vaguely German personality and flight instructor who tries to seduce Zechs out-of-uniform on an open comms channel in her first five minutes on screen, then downgrades her game to tapping her dress sword against Zech’s in the lamest disco bar since disco died. After recovering from the hangover she doesn’t have, Noin bitchslaps a newly graduating pilot who speaks at the position of attention for some reason and berates him for not being able to take care of his machine. Meanwhile, in China, Wufei teleports over to Noin’s base, blows up the entire student barracks in the middle of the night, then survives an encounter with “Lieutenant” Noin because she is a retard who lets him get back to his Gundam and kick her ass. Wufei berates Noin for her existence as a woman and explains his victory in the most misogynistic manner possible. Noin is then not court-martialed for her utter incompetence by Zechs.
“It must get better,” you say to yourself. No, it doesn’t. Nothing in the series makes any more sense than this. The plot progresses through sheer inertia, leaving the viewer constantly baffled as to why. Every second line is an incoherent fragment of philosophical rambling that is beyond the capability of the human nervous system to process. To make matters crazier, the motivations of every character change faster than the weather for less scrutable reasons. Zechs alone shifts from villain to ally to villain to ally to madman, each time donning a new absurd personality to justify it. Which begs the question: is Gundam Wing, in fact, a groundbreaking series that attempted to explore mental health through the medium of highly marketable toys? We wonder, we wonders.
Pacifism will save us! Now blow shit up!
Once the aneurysm-inducing introductory episodes are out of the way, we get treated to our next gift of torture from Sauron the Great: the endless waltz of madness between the two obvious couples in this series. The first and aforementioned marriage of weird lies between Heero and Relena, two teenagers “in love” who never show it in any discernible way. Apart from the simple fact that these two spend about ten minutes in the same scene over the course of forty-nine episodes, Heero tries to kill Relena several times without showing a hint of remorse, while Relena reciprocates by standing on the shore and shouting “Heero, I’m waiting right here, so come kill me!” over and over again. The only person watching this ridiculous drama unfold is Relena’s stoned-ass butler, who, when he’s not aimlessly shuttling Relena about in her hot-pink Limousine of Despair, spouts exposition that he has no earthly right to know. The old dotard must be too senile and/or high to question why his young charge keeps harassing the Atlantic Ocean for not murdering her hard enough. Maybe he turned to drugs to dull the pain; maybe I should follow his wise example.
Pictured: a theoretical human being.
The second match made in Dis is between Lady Une and Treize Khushrenada, two of the most incompatible personalities on God’s Green Earth. Lady Une is a sociopathic schizophrenic and “Colonel” in the Earth Sphere Alliance that, based on some pretty obvious subtext, just seems to want Treize to bone her hard. You would think this would be straightforward, but Treize has to spend far too much time tending his sinisterly forked eyebrows to pleasure women. Lady Une, in response, tries to kill every living thing in sight. By that, I mean the Gundam Pilots. For a while there I thought she was (in delectable irony) the only person who grasped just how dangerous these teenagers are, but alas, she turns out to be just as sexually repressed and incompetent as the next demon-child of the Axis Powers that rule this world. So much in this series would be solved if people just got laid. So much. Oh, Freud, why did you have to die so soon? You missed a grand opportunity. Fate is truly cruel.
You will notice I am avoiding discussing the greater plot, if you can call it that, as digesting it will involve alcohol and meth in the obscene quantities that these characters seem to ingest. Here is a blessedly brief argument of Gundam Wing. Take a deep hit first.
The United Earth Sphere Alliance is headed by pacifists who are violently oppressing everything in heaven and earth because shut up. In response, the Colonies forge the Gundams and send them and their thoroughly insane pilots to Earth to “retaliate,” meaning kill lots of innocent soldiers and blow shit up at regular intervals. Treize wiggles his forked eyebrows and dupes his wise, virgin adversaries into assassinating the inexplicably pacifist leadership of the military that rules the world (read that again), leaving Treize, a lowly “Colonel,” in charge of everything. His new organization, “Oz”–whatever the hell that stands for–seems completely indistinguishable from its predecessor until more inebriated old men with unbelievable power show up from somewhere and start making AIs capable of fighting without pilots, thus eliminating the need to execute a few hundred nameless soldiers and civilians every episode. Unable to stand for this, Treize throws the calmest shitstorm of philosophical babbling ever recorded and splits Oz into two under the apparent premise that humans dying in battle is preferable to humans not dying in battle. So logic vomits out this surreal standoff where the enemies are the people who want to save human lives. Treize’s eyebrows did it.
Thou villain with thine benevolent wishes!
It was at this point that the quivering, haltering plot fell apart even before my twelve-year-old mind when it first beheld this. It sounded vaguely eloquent back then, but Lady Une’s rant about how soldiers dying in battle is a good thing smacked of utter bullshit. Turns out it was utter bullshit. I get a gold star. In order to keep stomaching this epic space drama at the mountains of madness, I just ignored this point and skipped to the next scene that involved senseless killing…five seconds later. Oh good, I thought! It’s over! I was betrayed. Having written itself into a corner by introducing the invincible “Mobile Dolls,” the plot compensates for this by conjuring more Giant Machines of Death, but this time their use drives their pilots balls-to-the-wall-I-hate-bodonkadonks-mad–even more than they already were! What?! you gasp, baffled. Oh yes, it’s true. The solution to beating the Mobile Dolls is a Hitler Machine! If you think about it, though, this actually follows the whole logic of the series to the letter, in that there is none and you should look out the window and pray that the Rapture is happening.
Thanks to the benevolent influence of one of these new Crazy-Gundams, Quatre goes on a merciless (as opposed to his previous merciful) killing spree after his dad objects to the democratic process on his colony, which votes Oz in fair and square. To prevent this dastardly spark of tyranny from spreading any further, Quatre’s Dad, the whitest Arab known to man, attempts to rob his former subjects’ of their entire livelihood, which they end up killing him for. Quatre blames the colonists for doing the completely reasonable thing and declares that that the colonies have lost their minds and all need to die. Wow. Well, I guess crazy people think normal people are crazy, so that…makes sense? God hasn’t answered me in a very long time. The last I heard from Him was a cackling this place needs more death. Uh oh. After Heero and Trowa kick Quatre’s retarded ass, the pilots all end up on the moon, where the writers gang-rape biology, allowing several of the pilots to survive complete oxygen deprivation for over twenty minutes. Given how brain-damaged these young-ins are already, I guess that’s a fair leap. Sort of. Anyway, Oz splits into two and starts a world war over AI, a war the proponents of Japanese Luddhism lose. Derp.
This Semitic man makes good decisions.
Meanwhile, on the abused, battered shores of the Atlantic, Relena Peacecraft has at last annoyed the sea into giving her her own kingdom, a twisted plot of land populated by her Psychotic Fan Club and other nameless, repressed high-school students. With options now at her disposal, Relena spends her spare time yelling at the forest outside her window instead. Her Sanc Kingdom espouses complete and total pacifism while being guarded by Giant Machines of Death as tall as skyscrapers. History proceeds to laugh its ass off and sends, like, ten other countries to go knock that shit down, because seriously, it’s dumb. Relena’s demented experiment into brainwashing a generation is crushed under heel in about two minutes, a conclusion no resident of the After Colony timeline could have foreseen. Everyone is sad and cries and whines and boo hoo hoo. Not for long, though, as Relena is then crowned Queen of the World. End Paragraph.
That went rather well, actually.
Space decides that it has had enough of this nonsense, and Oz is ripped apart from within a third time by a new faction of mass murderers called White Fang, led by another German named Kanz. I think my theory about the Nazis was right. It explains everything, but I digress. White Fang kicks Oz out of space. Zechs, addled by the use of his own Crazy-Gundam (side effects may include breathtaking lunacy and halitosis) and distraught by the completely predictable demolition of Relena’s tiny sanctum of hypocrisy, decides to command this new faction and blames Earth for everything that has gone wrong in history ever. Now we end up with a villain who is ninety-nine percent right about things somehow. He just wants to plunge the planet he was born on into a perpetual nuclear winter. His plan goes like this:
- Lose your mind.
- Build a space replica of all the Egyptian pyramids and smash them together.
- Give your new spaceship a huge-ass beam cannon.
- Crash it into Central Asia.
- Pop the champagne: you’ve killed ten billion people.
Well, yes. Ignoring that minor detail of how everyone wouldn’t die right away and they’d all scramble into space to escape death by freezing, thus taxing the Colonies’ already limited resources into oblivion and spawning a new series of desperate wars for food and material and thus failing in every way imaginable, his plan is perfect. Needless to say, this scheme is so jaw-droppingly bonkers that even the Gundam Pilots band together to put a stop to it. They do so in the most drawn-out and incompetent manner possible, of course, so the jaded, senseless viewer, who has now forgiven George Lucas for all his sins so mild, is forced to sit through another fifteen or so episodes as he watches Treize die because he randomly decides to lead from the front, Duo kick some ass, Quatre have a random fencing match in zero gravity with one of Relena’s failed bitch-candidates for brainwashing (which he still somehow loses), Wufei keep shouting at his Gundam-Wife because they never boinked or something, Trowa’s hair interfere with Higgs-Boson particles, and Heero and Zechs have a lame duel in which they both throw philosophy books at each other with their lazer swords. Finally Heero bothers to shoot down the last fragment of Zech’s Egyptian Theme Park Ride and saves the Earth. Quatre objects to them even celebrating this moment with alcohol. Holy shit, kid, let loose and make out with Trowa for Pete’s sake.
Are you still there? That was the plot, more or less. I left some greasy turds from Shub-Niggurath’s latrine left for you to find if you ever watch this series for yourself, but really, the single best thing about Gundam Wing is its ripe hypocrisy about its whole nature. The series prattles on time and time again about how fighting solves nothing and Pacifism Is the Answer against a simultaneous backdrop of Gundams killing everyone and exploding everything visible. Heero alone commits so many crimes against humanity it’s hilarious. Trowa tries to off himself about every third episode while shooting countless bullets into the faces of countless innocents. Quatre decapitates multiple soldiers with his scythes of death, then weeps. You should have surrendered, he laments. You shouldn’t have beheaded them, you asshole. Maybe that would have worked. Wufei spends a whole third of the series in China yelling at his Gundam-Wife, then pops in at the most random and convenient moments to save the day–or not. It’s about a 1-3 record for him. Duo just stays away from all these lunatics until Zechs concocts his Operation Pyramid, shacking up in the meantime with a hot German chick he swiped from Oz. No, they don’t have sex on screen, but they do have sex. That’s pretty much a given, as Duo even tries out one of the Crazy-Gundams and concludes that using it is a bad idea. Coitus solves everything and Americans are better than you. We must teach this lesson to the Japanese. Again.
Anyway, when all is said and done, one realizes that Gundam Wing was written by an inebriated replication of the Septuagint authors, i.e., a bunch of undersexed, neo-Nazi fogies locked up on an island somewhere dreaming up a scenario that reflects what they thought young whippersnappers of the modern world do in their spare time: man weapons of mass destruction while angsting over their not-boyfriends. Beyond that, I believe I have found a thing in the universe that exists without a cause and persists without evidence of it. The whole Standard Theory of Physics is just plain wrong, readers. The powers that be lie to us. We must rise up, don our epaulets, fork our eyebrows, castrate our young men, and chant for pacifism and peace to all mankind as we break the necks of our rulers with our bare hands and laugh beside Mephistopheles. Therein lies the salvation we all search for, in a world devoid of all common sense and any desire to solve our problems save through genocide! Glory to all the Colonies!
Or we could, like, not do that. Like we’re doing now. You’re all right, humanity. You’re all right.
Before you ask: no, Heero and Relena never ever ever got back together. The Atlantic swallowed her whole. Because she asked for it.