I listened to a Decemberists song called “Cautionary Song” today. This song is an extended exploration of the timeless theme that Your Mom Is A Whore. According to a random LiveJournal person I found via the google, the lead singer has been known to start giggling during the last verse.
Not actually relatedly, I found this webcomic the other day, and it is very awesome. Now I understand panel #5! I aspire to find a situation in which it would be appropriate to use that phrase.
I have now watched twelve episodes of Gundam Wing. Episodes 11 and 12 take place mostly in China, but for some reason they very carefully avoid ever actually calling it “China.” And we find out that Sally Po – who last time she showed up was in the military and lived in Europe somewhere, like, with the Delta Knights maybe – is no longer in Europe, but rather in rural China, coordinating a guerrilla-warfare rebellion against some bad guys we have never met before! Some guy apologizes that they are welcoming her home with all this killing, in the single line of dialog explaining her sudden change in locale!
Did I mention that it is completely impossible to identify people’s ethnic origins in this anime unless someone says it out loud? Sally has brown hair and blue eyes. A lot of the insurgents do.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to take the elements of these two episodes and impose some kind of a plot on them. Spoilers, I guess?
Wu Fei is also in China, even though plot-wise I think that kinda doesn’t make sense. He is being angst-ridden because he feels he is not good enough to pilot his Gundam anymore, because he lost a fight. Also, he has been out of communication with his superiors and the other pilots for at least a month, due to a combination of his own angst and the fact that the other four pilots have also suffered a major loss in his absence.
The bad guys whom Sally Po and company are fighting are just called “the government troops,” which you’d think would mean they were the Chinese military – except the United Earth-Sphere Alliance had previously dismantled the militaries of every nation on Earth and put their own people in there.
But since the Alliance has been overthrown by Oz – and the Chinese military dudes keep using the phrase “self-rule” and saying how they don’t want Oz getting a foothold in there – I think what’s supposed to be happening here is that the Chinese military guys are ex-Alliance forces who, with the loss of the centralized power structure to which they were accustomed, have taken their guns and defaulted back to local loyalties like-you-do.
If the writers of Gundam Wing were given to thinking about such things, they would see that this means these guys, Sally, and Wu Fei are all in exactly the same boat – the old power structures they’ve resented but become accustomed to are suddenly gone. They’re facing the decision of what to build in their place, and who and what they are when they’re not reacting to authority.
Maybe the anime could acknowledge this kinship in some fashion! Some kind of awkward, abortive dialogue between the three which – though it may not necessarily force them to reexamine their loyalties and truly question why they are all still fighting one another – illuminates the fact that, enemies though they are, they are all now inhabiting the same emotional landscape?
No, no. This is Gundam Wing. Look, the Gundam is now covered with a sparse coat of leaves! That means that it is invisible. Hey, those guys are beating up a poor shopkeeper and sneering! I will kick them… with my foot!
(I completely can’t take Wu Fei seriously.)
Also: There’s a guy named “Bunt” who’s in charge of the Chinese military and looks, you know, like a bad guy. He has a subordinate named “Nanaki”* who is very earnest and clearly one of those characters who is Just On The Wrong Side.
While “Nanaki” and “Po” do, I think, sound like the sort of things Gundam Wing might consider acceptable Chinese names, “Bunt” doesn’t. So, something they could have been doing here is this: Bunt was a military guy From Europe Somewhere who was put in charge of the Alliance’s operations in China. Given his sarcastic talk about China’s desire for self-rule, he must have faked loyalty to the newly-forming Chinese government long enough to sell out his largely-Chinese subordinates to Oz – which is, you know, itself largely In Europe Somewhere. We saw Nanaki’s headset poignantly bouncing away as he exploded because we were supposed to get that Nanaki and Sally Po should have gotten together and realized that they had the same goals in common.
(This conversation need not necessarily include Wu Fei, being as he’s kind of messed up and his “goals” seem to boil down to “kill dudes” and “scream at girls.”)
I mean, I think they should have been doing something like that. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t squeeze that story into two episodes – the Powerful Outsider Walks Into Local Power Struggle And Meddles story is the only one in a lot of shounen anime, they probably have a style manual on how to condense it.
But this is Gundam Wing, and it is crazy, and all that happens is that Wu Fei fights people, and then thoughtfully explains to Sally that everyone but him is weak, but he still sucks, and also he has depression.
Oh, and he jumps into a boat without any oars and drifts off at one point. I mean, I don’t think it’s meant to be symbolic or anything, I think they just forgot to draw the oars.
* …Red XIII?