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SF in Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

Although what I said in my previous post still stands (that I hadn’t read much SF before becoming part of the Gateway team), upon reflection I realised that this wasn’t really the whole story. From a very early age, say about 6 years old, I have been exposed to SF through another medium entirely: anime and, a bit later, manga. It never occurred to me because anime has been part of my life for so long that I’ve never really taken the time to think about the sorts of genres I was enjoying and consuming, but a large proportion can definitely be classified as SF.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, which originally aired in Japan between April 1995 and March 1996, is one such anime. Although not the first series of the now rather extensive Gundam franchise to be dubbed and distributed in the US, it’s the first to have been aired on American TV, filling a slot in Cartoon Network’s Toonami anime block during 2000. Like Haldeman’s The Forever War, Gundam Wing is a military SF, but rather than battling against aliens from the far reaches of space, the protagonists are fighting other factions of Mankind.

Gundam Wing takes place in the “After Colony” timeline. Set in the distant future, Man has built space colonies at the five Earth–Moon Lagrange points and back on Earth, nations have united as the United Earth Sphere Alliance. The Alliance, however, oppresses the colonies with its military power, using a large variety of different mecha to keep them in check. Although the colonists desire a peaceful resolution, five disaffected Alliance scientists turn rogue and independently manufacture extremely advanced mobile suits, piloted by teenage boys who are sent to Earth and tasked with the destruction of the Alliance and their weaponry in order to free the colonies from oppression.

As a kid, some of the more complex political strands went completely over my head; I was there for the epic space battles and giant robots kicking arse. A re-watch found the various political plots and splitting factions to be utterly compelling and the characters to be interesting and varied. Whilst the main protagonists are all male, what’s great about Gundam Wing is that there is also a whole host of fab female characters that play a variety of roles throughout the course of the anime: doctors, veteran pilots, crazy power-hungry military leaders, pacifists. If the men are doing it, so are the women.

There are also, of course, still the epic space battles and giant robots kicking arse.