Retro Rec: Gundam Wing
Gundam Wing is an Anime series from the mid 90s. The world of the show consists of Earth and severl Space Colonies, and the action is driven by the tumultuous politics between those born on earth and those born on the stations. Wars are faught in Mech Suits, called Gundams, and the main characters are 5 teen boys who pilot special Gundams (for individual reasons) in order to bring peace through acts of terrorism. Except, they’re the good guys, so acts of freedom fighting. Each pilot represents a different culture (Japanese, American, Arabian, Latin(?), and Chinese), and the suits are named according to the zodiac, (which makes sense, as the bad guys are called OZ – which stands for Order of the Zodiac). The most common place to see remants of this show these days are conventions, dusty model kits in comic shops, and in several anime fans’ movie libraries.
Gundam Wing was one of my first fandoms, and one of a few that I’m involved in, or got involved in, almost completely online. I had favorite characters, ships, authors, and even episodes , without ever seeing the show. I gleaned my information from fan sites and from really epic stories. As a result, my mental image of the show is more fanon than canon, and when I went back to watch the episodes, I was a bit disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the show. But there’s something about the Anime format that feel truncated – like, because it’s a medium from another culture, there’s something lost in the translation–they’re using social cues that American simply don’t know. But, I feel that’s a seperate post. I’ll get back to this.
Gundam Wing is also one of the few fandoms where I prefer rarer pairings. Each pilot in GW is usually given a number, based on their name. (Heero (Odin) – 1, Duo – 2, Trowa(Triton) – 3, Quatre – 4, Wufei – 5). For some reason, when using numbers, an “x” is used instead of a slash mark. Some other fan authors have adopted the “x” as opposed to the slash. (a “+” almost universally means friendship). The most common pairing is represented as 1×2, or Heero/Duo. The Leader and the Clown. It can be argued that these two are the closest thing an ensemble show has to main characters, (Heero moreso that Duo, becuase of his subplot with Relena, the heir apparent on Earth).
My favorite pairing is 2×5, Duo/Wufei. The class clown and the angry scholar turned fighter.
Broad sweeps of generalizations, based on fic, paint Duo as the lauging “God of Death,” (His Gundam is called Shinigami, which means God of Death, or Great Destroyer, depending on which version you’re watching) and fights because he is the only survivor of the Maxwell Chuch massacre. During the show, he wears a long braid (3 feet) and a Catholic priest’s collar. In the movie, he’s lost the priest duds, but kept the braid. Fans tend to feminize Duo, and my biggest pet peeve about GW fic is when Duo is turned into a 14-year-old girl. (I’m a character purist, I admit it. Part of the fun of fanfic is seeing these characters do things. Change the characters too much, and it’s not fanfic!) He’s a munitions expert, and a hacker, and kinda crazy.
Wufei, on the other hand, is usually depicted as bitter, angry, stubborn, prudish, obsessed with Justice, and a misogonist. All right, I’ll give you angry and stubborn. And obsessed with Justice. And the misogonist. But he’s not always running around, sword held high, screaming “JUSTICE!” He’s the last survivor of the L5 colony; his clan sent him out in the Gundam, then self-destructed rather than give up to the enemy. Just before that, he was married (the main reason why Wufei is ususally left out of the slash-fest, and, I think, why he’s painted as a prude) to a woman named “Meilan” who was bitter, angry, stubborn, prudish, and obsessed with Justice…hmmm… Meilan called herself “Nataku” (Justice), and, when Scholar!Wufei wouldn’t fight (He kept his hair down and wore glasses, people!) she stole the Gundam Shenlong to fight. It killed her, and Wufei held her as she died in a field of flowers. He renamed the Gundam Nataku, for her, and fights to avenge his clan–to bring Justice.
For all their personality differences, Duo and Wufei have a lot in common. They’re both fighting becuase they lost everybody they loved in the war. They are, respectively, Vengance (or Death) and Justice. They both pull crazy menuvers in battle, because they fight with all they have. While not explicit in the series (and, after all, this blog is about fanfic, and ALL OVER INTERPRETAIONS) Duo and Wufei have more in common, values-wise, than any other in the series.
The best example of this in fandom, in my opinion, is in a story that takes place post-series. It’s Freeport by Maldoror. (Link is to the re-edited masterpost.) Wufei is a Preventer (think Space Cop) who has a dangerous assignment on the Anarchist Colony of Freeport (Mos Eisley –but a colony). He must work with Duo for the first time since the war, as Duo is an established presence on Freeport, and the natives are suspicious of outsiders. Together, they must navigate the politics of an anarchist society, hunt a killer, and keep their true mission a secret, becuase Freeport Hates Cops. Add in ritualized D/s relationship (Wufei must pretend to be Duo’s “Hound,” a position likened to a full-time slave that acts like a bodyguard) that depends on Wufei’s silence, Duo’s reluctance to stirr the pot (and mutilated hand), and an unknown something that Wufei isn’t telling Duo? And you have one killer plot-driven epic.
It is a slash story, and it does get explicit. And it is one of my favorite scenes. Not because it’s hot as hell (which it is) but because it addressed power dynamics and each character stays true to themselves (or, at least, the very believeable version of their future selves that Maldoror envisions). When they have sex, they have sex. That’s hard to do, and Maldoror does it very well.
I’ve talked about this story more than once when I’ve said:
So, I was reading this story…