When I was a kid, I always root for the good guys in TV shows and storybooks. Who doesn’t? Distinguishing white from black, siding with the goodies and going against the baddies…it’s one of the few lessons the earliest media we’ve been exposed to and our parents fed us. So when I watched Gundam Wing for the first time, I was intrigued.
With all the promo materials I’ve seen, I readily tagged the five pilots and Relena as the heroes before I even watched the series. But when I sat down for a GW marathon, I found myself asking—just like how some of the characters found themselves asking—who are the real enemies? Zechs Merquise? Treize Khushrenada? The Alliance? The Romafeller Foundation? White Fang? And who exactly are the good guys? The Japanese boy, who always opts to do the supposedly “right” thing (in consonance with his missions) instead of doing the obviously “kind” thing? The braided one, who believes he’s some kind of a god of death? The green-eyed soldier, who follows the example of guys who think life is cheap? The blond kid, who blasted a whole colony into smithereens? The Chinese guy, who once commented something to the effect that women’s place is right next to bleeding hearts?
For me, the lack of central antagonist (or the cookie-cutter goody heroes) is one of the beautiful intricacies of Gundam Wing. No one’s pure black or pure white: everyone is made up of several shades of gray. The personality of each character is labyrinthine, and trying to find the easiest way out of it requires a lot of work and thinking. That’s why I love how the fans are drawing their own maps of the characters’ identities through analyses and fan fiction. Actually, just watching the show then trying to figure out the team you’re going to cheer for already explains how you view the characters! It’s only expected that the five pilots would get lots of love, but even the folks who would normally be placed at the ‘evilest’ end in a clichéd story’s good guy-bad guy scale also get sizable love-chunks from the fandom.
I love Gundam Wing up to now because it is the first fictional work that taught me to appreciate the characters because they’re more like humans—complex, flawed, a mixture of good and bad, capable of growth—instead of because they’re obviously portrayed as the good protagonists. :)