Today (3/6) is a very special day. It’s not the birthday of Gundam’s creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, the day the first Gundam kit was released, or the day the first episode of Gundam aired. In fact, this day is mostly significant to those of us living in the United States.
It’s the day Gundam Wing first aired on Toonami.
While yes, it was not the first Gundam fiction, (that distinction goes to the novelization of the original series), or even the first piece of Gundam animation available in English, it was the first time any Gundam series had been shown in the West since the infamous Italian broadcast during the early 80’s, but that’s another story.
I was unfortunately not there from the first episode-I caught it after a friend told me about it on the playground. He mentioned two shows to me called “Dragonball Z” and “Gundam Wing”. I’d seen advertisements for the toys on TV, but had no idea what either of them was about. Wing was my first encounter with human-piloted robots, aside from Power Rangers and that horrendous CGI Voltron cartoon from the 90’s. My ten-year-old mind was astounded by these themes of war, character drama, romance-things I’d never seen before-well, with giant robots anyway. It was like… the storytelling I’d grown up with in movies like Star Trek and Star Wars that shaped my childhood became combined with the robots I’d come to love from Transformers.
Wing was not my first encounter with Gundam, however. A year earlier, I had those comic-book style manga issues they released for Pokémon, and one of them had an ad for the “Mobile Suit Gundam 0079” manga that was running at the time. I remember they had some really cheesy tagline like, “One boy. One robot. One change to save the Earth from civil war”. My response was something really stupid like, “They didn’t have robots back when Abraham Lincoln was around!”. I wasn’t the most perceptive kid…
One of the things that got me most intrigued by this series was the toys, and they were what fully got me interested in it. They were model kits-not just action figures! I could BUILD my own poseable robot! Admitted, as a kid, I wasn’t too big on building models, probably because I was just not that into cars and planes and stuff, but robots… now there was something new. I didn’t get my first kits until that fall, Wing Gundam and Tallgeese (both at 1/144 scale), and I remember breaking the Tallgeese like a day or so after getting them. Either way, I discovered not just a new thing to collect, but a new obsession that would last to this day.
I’m going to be honest-Wing is FAR from the bes, in my opinion-in fact it’s one of my least favorite Gundam series. Regardless of how good it is in my mind or yours, it still holds a special place in many of hearts. Like Robotech and Voltron some fifteen years before, it was this series that led to the birth of a new generation of mecha fan. Because of this, Gundam Wing, I tip my glass to you, and say, “Thank you.”
“IT’S A GUNDAAAAAM!”<