What They Say:
Mankind has moved into space. Thousands of people live on giant orbiting space colonies called “Sides.” However, the Earth Government, which rules the colonies, is unjust and cruel. A group of revolutionaries build five robotic weapons called Gundams and plan to send them to Earth to begin their fight for independence. Piloted by five young men, these Gundams carry the colonists’ hopes and dreams of freedom with them as they descend to Earth to begin Operation Meteor!
Contains episodes 1-25 on Blu-ray with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles. Presented in collector’s packaging.
A bit disappointed as a classic and well known introduction to anime, the Blu-Ray release with an English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo so sadly no 5.1 option – albeit it doesn’t affect the quality in regards of audio listening as it is very clear in both languages, with some classic voice actors in both languages involved in this. There were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using and there was no transition problems with the audio and the subtitles/action so in that respect it was fine – just feel especially considering the many MANY battle sequences that this is a series that would have really benefited from a 5.1 track.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio via NTSC transfer to PAL format – unfortunately with this being an older release the transition to Blu-Ray isn’t one of the best – it is still in a ¾ screen format (with black bars on the side) and does feel more of a DVD release, not to the point of the screen being blurry from pausing, just again with the action sequences a full-screen cinematic effect would have been much welcomed. That said, the animation was fine and with a lot of bright colours and the battle sequences with the Gundams during the space segments intermixed with the times everyone interacts whether at school or Heero popping in his broken bone, still transfers well onto the screen, just some obviously noticeable issues.
There was no packing for this test release however the Blu-Ray Special Edition version of this will get collector’s packaging.
On each of the discs, the menu is very similar, each disc has two of the characters on a space background (Disc 1 being Heero/Duo, Disc 2 being Quatre/Trowa, Disc 3 being Wufei/Trieze, Disc 4 being Relena/Zechs – Milliardo) with the Gundam Wing sign below with Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on Disc 4, extras. The menu is quick and easy to access and you can access a pop-up menu to return to the main menu or change your language. In other words, a standard Blu-Ray menu set up.
The only extra on the Blu-ray itself is the standard clean opening (two versions) and the clean ending.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gundam Wing is to many a person (myself included) an introduction to the Gundam franchise, being the 1st Gundam show to get an easily accessible release to the West – in the UK if I remember it aired on Cartoon Network/Toonami after the popularity of shows such as Pokemon and Dragonball Z managed to suggest that anime had a place on television. Originally airing in Japan between 1995 and 1996, it was a show that had its fans and detractors (especially among people already familiar with Gundam) but without it, looking for other shows may have been impossible for those who got caught with the Gundam bug.
Not saying though it was the robots that everyone was watching for though, as I was there during a lot of wars for shipping as Gundam Wing was one of the first series I remember during my fan-fiction days that had a strong shounen-ai/yaoi fanbase, and considering the amount of flame wars I saw back in the day, I have warped memories of this show as wondering what I couldn’t see. So nearly 20 years later, does rewatching the show make me rekindle my love for it as I remember liking it but was never a full on mecha/Gundam fan…
As this covers the first 25 episodes, a lot is introduced and discovered and you may need to know some Gundam lore to go through some of it, but otherwise is quite accessible. The basic premise is that we have 5 Gundams to try and overthrow the United Earth Sphere Alliance and we gradually get introduced to these pilots, albeit all have different backstories, don’t seem overly knowledgeable about each other and all have very differing personalities. Like the original Gundam, there is a Char like antagonist who is one of my favourite characters in Zechs Merquise, who manages to block one of the Gundams from getting to Earth and crashes into the Pacific Ocean. This is our lead, Heero Yuy, a man of few words but lots of action, and he is discovered by the show’s female lead, Relena Darlian…soon to be better known as Relena Peacecraft. Heero and Relena’s relationship is…interesting to say the least. He is gentle with her, yet as she is the daughter of the Alliance’s minister she is on his hit list. Relena, on the other hand, is very intrigued by him, and seems to not be in fear of him despite this threat. It’s a bit of a strange relationship to say the least and more so when more things get revealed…
With Heero discovered, we, of course, do get other pilots – one of them the ever-popular Duo Maxwell who stops Heero from detonating his own Gundam and instead offers to help him out, despite Heero’s mostly silent treatment(though hilariously Heero steals parts from Duo’s Gundam to get it fixed ^^). We also get introduced to Trowa Barton, an acrobatic young man and Quatre Raberba Winner, a pacifist style character who seems to see Gundam’s as a necessary evil, they clash in battle but go their separate ways. Zechs meanwhile means with his lieutenant Lucrezia, but is attacked by the 5th pilot, Chang Wufei, a rather arrogant and misogynistic young man (at first) who was always my least favourite as felt was the least interesting and his personality put me off. However, we are soon introduced to the true enemy, the leader of Oz, Trieze Khushrenada and his colonel Lady Une, who are ruthless with a smile (again at first) as they severally set off a trap injuring Relena’s father where he reveal Relena’s true identity as a Peacecraft as well as learning of Heero’s mission via the doctor, named Doctor J who train him and designed his Gundam. Relena becomes a target now however Heero surprisingly saves her, as the two of them had danced previously as Relena tells him the new information, making him unsure what to do. Unfortunately, when the Gundams meet for the time, Heero has unknowingly killed the Pacifist leaders of the Alliance due to Lady Une’s trickery, making Oz the new ruling power and the Gundam’s public enemy number one.
Now with Trieze the main enemy, the Gundams split their duties. After Wufei gets served some humble pie at the hands of Trieze in a sword fight, Zechs returns to the story as he returns to his home, and you learn the surprise of who he really is and how he is linked to Relena as his real name is Milliardo Peacecraft, a.k.a. Relena’s brother. Again, this is something of a shock and twist especially considering his role in this considering Relena’s pacifism, but is another thing to add to the drama this show hits because despite being the first Gundam show to have a true Western audience, it is surprisingly serious and dark for the most part. He fights Heero at one point, but Une manages to blackmail them into forking over the Gundams. Heero apparently self destructs his and ‘dies’ but we know better, whilst Zechs looks to rebuild it with Relena almost killing Une herself but is saved by Lucretia.
Of course Heero is not dead, as Trowa managed to save him, whilst Wufei has been in a slump since his loss but get convinced to fight again by a woman named Sally Po, starting to not be such a pain in the back when it comes to women fighters. Trowa also has a lady in his life that helps out, named Catherine, a fellow acrobat in the circus he works at who makes sure he doesn’t do the same thing as Heero when he attacks an OZ base. There is some internal politics banter (Trieza applauding a move Relena does), Zechs tricking his superiors into salvaging the Gundam, Noin brings Heero and Trowa over to Zechs, Relena discovers Zechs is her brother (which when caught Zechs surrenders so the girls can escape), some battles involving Lady Une against Zechs, Duo is captured when OZ advance Gundam technology and Heero saves him (despite initially going to kill him…Relena has rubbed off on him the right/wrong way ^^) and then the reveal of Trowa now being a member of OZ…
…there is a lot going on basically…
The final few episodes have some interesting reveals and battles – Duo meeting a lady named Hilde at OZ who helps him discover the Gundam engineers who were captured, Lady Une slowly coming round to her sense as she seems to have a split personality and nearly gets killed when she rescues Duo and Wufei, Quatre having a mental breakdown and attacking colonies before Trowa snaps him out of it, and it ends with some new Gundams being rebuilt for Duo and Wufei with Sally rescuing Heero’s Gundam…setting up nicely for part 2.
Or at least it would have if there wasn’t so much to go through….
It is a large mesh of things that may make you wonder what is going on half the time. The narrative does flow well but you have to keep going back and forth wondering what happened – with so many reveals and characters involved as well, it can be hard to keep track – fortunately it is just enough following what is going on that when something happens a few episodes later, you have the recollection of what happened and understand what is going on.
Gundam Wing’s characters are perhaps among the most well known so from the first half, let’s mention the two main leads as both were (at least back in the day) quite controversial. Heero for example, is considered not an interesting lead because of his quiet and one track mind, yet that is challenged many times when he saves Relena and Duo despite him questioning why he did it. I think the issue with Heero is that because most of the other pilots are more emotionally in tune that they seem to be far more interesting (Duo and Trowa in particularly are far more popular) – fortunately with characters like Zechs and Duo bouncing off him, he certainly is still memorable.
Relena suffers from a different problem, a pacifist minded albeit politically strong woman in a show that has a big shounen-ai fan base. Weirdly, I always liked Relena as despite some of her moments she has a smart mind, good eye for the political BS in the show, and her relationship with Zechs/Milliardo is one of those that will be the base for most of the show. I will say her fixiation with Heero can be a bit strange, unhealthy at times, but I never saw her annoying as such, especially compared to other characters (Une, Wufei and to a lesser extent Quatre I found worse).
Fortunately, characters like Duo and Zechs, with Trowa as well to a lesser extent manage to make the flow of the story more tolerable. Duo is the only character who really has some comic timing, especially when he is had enough of Heero’s antics, whilst Zechs/Milliardo definitely have a lot of Char’s mannerisms and characteristics whilst still being his own character, especially to the twist that OZ’s best pilot is in fact a member of a pacifist family. The story definitely helps with him being a pseudo antagonist, which works because the true antagonists in Trieze and Une (at first) are a lot less active and not as interesting aside from their smiling yet at times ruthless nature.
With plenty of backstory told and still plenty to be discovered, the show does try to bring in all 5 Gundam pilots into the mix. As mentioned, I am not a huge fan of Wufei though after meeting Sally he does seem to improve, Quatre as a character didn’t seem to be as developed at first and his one big mini arc basically drives him insane and removes the good nature from him until Trowa snaps him out of it. It also almost has a Pokemon esque feel in how the Gundam evolve (ironically as GW came out before Pokemon, but in the West Pokemon arrived here before GW) ready to take out the new OZ mechs – it isn’t a shounen series, but does feel like Shounen 101 in good guys lose, need to become more powerful, then return to beat up the villains.
That said, Gundam Wing is definitely watchable and flows through just right so you get what is going on. It really depends on how you view the characters and how much you get involved with them. There is still another 20+ episodes to go and it is hitting a fever pitch with the new Gundams, Une’s possible betray to Trieze, seeing how the Peacecrafts interact, there is plenty to look forward to. Just make sure you’re not researching GW fanfiction when watching it, you may wonder what people are looking at compared to you…
Gundam Wing was the first major Gundam series to get a much bigger western audience and seeing it in a Blu-Ray set brings back a lot of memories, both good and bad. Shipping jokes aside, the show is a strong entry to the Gundam archives, with an interesting range of characters, plenty of battles, some shounen 101 and even a good deal of intelligent writing with the villains and their politics as well as some of the twists brought out. Sure it can get confusing at times as so much is going on with so many characters and the leads can be a bit polarizing, but with a lot of characters getting enough screen time, it is palatable enough for your mechanized plate to continue through to the next set.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Anime Ltd
Release Date: August 26th, 2019
Running Time: 625 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.