Saturday, February 2, 2013

Awesome Characters: Heero and Relena

Today's Awesome Characters spotlight shines on Heero Yui and Relena Darlian from the anime series Gundam Wing.

Gundam Wing is, in literary terms, a YA science fiction. It premiered in Japan in 1995. The main characters are all teens who end up with incredibly important roles in a near-Earth space war (roles which are rather implausible for real life teens to have but do we care? No :D This is YA gold.) As usual, there are spoilers ahead.

The setting is Earth in the future. People have built space colonies at the Lagrangian points. There is political friction happening between the colonies and the Alliance--the centralized government on Earth. A group of scientists have constructed gundams, a special kind of "mobile suit" aka giant robot weaponized space suit, which are superior to any possessed by the Alliance, due to the fact that gundanium must be tempered in space. They send five teenagers to Earth each in a gundam, each having no knowledge of the others, and all with the intent to sabotage OZ (the Order of the Zodiac) a group hidden within the Alliance military who plan to stage a coup.

The series opens with Heero's descent to Earth. On the way, he sees a civilian shuttle and unwittingly contemplates killing Relena who is on board with her father, Vice Foreign Minister Darlian. There is a theme toward the beginning of the show that no one who sees a gundam may live to tell about it. Before he has the chance to decide, an Alliance patrol intercepts him. Zechs is aboard the Alliance ship and he and Heero have their first of many battles, which Heero loses even though Zechs is in one of the mook regular mobile suits. Heero falls to Earth and lands in the ocean. He flees his gundam and washes up on shore only to be discovered by none other than Relena, who goes to school nearby and has called him an ambulance. He knocks out the ambulance crew and steals the ambulance, leaving Relena surprised but intrigued about him. They meet again when Heero enrolls at her school as his cover. Relena tries to invite him to her birthday party but he rips up the invitation in front of her. She is distraught and demands to know why with tears in her eyes. He wipes away one of her tears and leans in to tell her that he's going to kill her, then abruptly walks off. Relena finds out more about Heero from Doctor J, the scientist who built Heero's gundam, who rescued her after OZ had her father assassinated. Doctor J says that deep down Heero is actually a kind hearted person, and Relena says that she already knows he is. However, Doctor J also warns her that Heero is single minded about his mission and will do whatever it takes, so she would be better off staying away from him. Relena is not deterred by his words, nor by Heero's death threats, and on multiple occasions she insists to him that she wants to be in on his secret mission. Even when he has a gun pointed at her and one of the other gundam pilots shoots him in the arm, she takes Heero's side and tends to his wound. She may be a little crazy, but I think she's cute. :3 She ends up dancing with him at her birthday party after all, which is attacked by OZ who considers her a loose end after she had witnessed the assassination of her father. Heero, despite his protests that he also considers her a loose end and plans to kill her, saves her from OZ with his gundam. He himself is shocked by this and he runs away.

Relena has some major character development, she goes from being a whiny (though brave) schoolgirl to a major political figure. Part of this comes about after it is revealed that Relena Darlian, daughter to a vice foreign minister, is really Relena Peacecraft, the long lost princess of the Sanc Kingdom, a pacifist fictional European nation which was sacked when she was a child. It is also revealed that Zechs, right hand man to Treize, the leader of OZ, is really Milliardo Peacecraft, her older brother, creating an interesting dynamic between Relena, Zechs, and Heero.

At one point in the series, Relena speaks in front of the Romafeller Foundation, the group that had been backing Treize, the leader of OZ, and she speaks out against OZ. Heero shows up in the wings and is going to assassinate Relena because her death would be more politically useful than her ineffectual speech making. Relena even agrees with him, she spots him with the gun and closes her eyes, accepting, but they are both shocked when the Romafeller people give her a standing ovation. This marks a serious turning point in her political career and Heero sees her differently than he had up until then. Relena also goes from being vengeful (she tries to shoot the woman who assassinated her father) to being a total pacifist (when she takes her role as being leader of the Sanc Kingdom before she has to surrender again) and finally toward the end of the series she renounces total pacifism and takes a more balanced view of working for peace.

Heero is a complex character. He has been trained to act emotionlessly in battle, to care nothing about his enemies. Yet his philosophy in regular life is to live by his emotions. He also seems to have little regard for his own life and takes failure hard. He considers his initial defeat by Zechs a failure and after another gundam pilot helps him escape an Alliance facility they jump but Heero doesn't pull his parachute, he wants to die. However, he suddenly hears Relena call his name and without thinking pulls his parachute, saving his life. Later, when it's a choice between self detonation and handing over his gundam to OZ, he chooses self detonation and is in a coma for a while. He carries the guilt of accidentally killing a little girl and her dog who had befriended him while he was waiting around during the day, casing an OZ facility. He was fighting OZ even before he acquired his gundam and in this case he had planted explosives at the OZ facility. Something went wrong with the explosion and some of the OZ equipment smashed into the adjacent area where the little girl was. During the last arc of the series he is fighting another gundam pilot who had temporarily switched sides, despairing that an end to war is even possible, and Heero demands of him "When does it ever end? How many more times do I have to kill that little girl and her dog? Tell me, Wu fei!" He also shows extreme remorse when OZ tricked him into destroying a shuttle full of Alliance peacemakers who opposed OZ. He went around to all the members of the peacemaker leader's family, handed them a gun, and told them what he had done. Being a family of peacemakers, they all spared him. To cover all of Heero's interesting moments would require explaining a lot more about the other characters and plot than there is room for here, but he has a big impact on the lives of many of the other characters in addition to Relena.

An image toward the end of the series that best sums up the progress in the relationship between Heero and Relena is when Relena is boarding a shuttle on her birthday, Heero sneaks on board and leaves her a birthday card and a teddy bear. Relena spots him out the window, he looks back at her, and she rips up the birthday card, mirroring the time he ripped up her birthday invitation. Another image is when Relena is giving a speech and Heero is again in the wings, this time just watching her speak. At the very end of the show (mini series which happens a year after the end of the original show) Heero breaks into the compound where Marimeia, the supposed daughter of Treize, is holding Relena captive. He pretends to shoot Marimeia and says "I have killed Marimeia Kushrenada, I don't have to kill anymore" and collapses into Relena's arms. Killing Marimeia's power was enough, he spared her life.

Gundam Wing is a very well thought out anime. Heero and Relena are great characters, and not only that, but there is a whole cast of other great characters which I've barely touched on here. I highly recommend this show to any fans of YA science fiction who are interested in anime.

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