As a child of the 4kids-Toonami era of western anime, there are a handful of shows that, despite the handicaps of the time, remain landmarks for that generation. Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Pokemon, all of them vastly important series that shaped an entire generation of anime fans. One of those of course is Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. It is the series that laid the groundwork for Gundam in the west, and too many of my time, is a fond memory even if far better shows have come and gone since then.
That is the anime though, so what about the manga adaptation? One that decides to add a few story beats and re-design the initial five gundams? How does that hold up? Is it better or is it worse? Well after the cut let’s dive into the manga series Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: The Glory of the Losers and find out!
Now as much as I will praise Gundam Wing for what it do for anime fans, for what it means to both myself and others, the truth is that the series hasn’t aged well. Taking yourself away from those nostalgia feelings of seeing giant robots fight for the first time. Gundam Wing has always been a hodgepodge of a story with a strange-ass plot and barely developed characters. It attempts to present itself as some deep and philosophical story about the nature of war, but instead comes off as confusing and non-nonsensical. Furthermore the original English dub has aged terribly, being something made right when the anime industry in the west was just getting started. It is a series that often gets by on nostalgia feelings, and if it was airing today, it would be lambasted and ridiculed.
However, the manga is much more recent and serves as a re-telling and in some cases, remake of the original 49 episode series. Throughout my time with it, the phrase ‘director’s cut’ kept echoing in head, and honestly that is very much what Glory of the Loser feels like. The most notable example is that the manga, with artist Tomofumi Ogasawara uses this opportunity to bridge the gap between the anime series and the Endless Waltz movie.
If you don’t know what I mean, the original five gundams (Wing/Wing Zero, Deathscythe, Heavyarms, Sandrock and Shenlong/Altron/Nataku) were all completely redesigned for the concluding film, leaving the anime depictions to look quite different. The Glory of Losers addresses this by completely redesigning the initial five gundams, bringing them more in line with their eventual upgrades and replacements that show up as well.
This is probably one of the best parts of the manga. The redesigns in Endless Waltz, while absolutely lovely, always stood out to me, especially when I was younger, so to see the manga retelling address this fact and weave it into the story was frankly awesome to see. Things like the anime’s version of Wing Zero is also brought up and its transformation into the Endless Waltz version, one of the most beautiful and popular gundam designs of all time, is given ample time and explanation as well. Even better is that the Endless Waltz gundams aren’t left untouched either, and are given slightly additions and tweaks to acknowledge the changes made in the anime. (Deathscythe-Hell gets its double beam scythe, and Altron its tail laser). As a huge gundam nerd, I absolutely loved the attention to detail here, and it is made even better by the absolutely beautiful artwork. While I’ll get into the story in a moment, the art of this manga is absolutely top-tier. Everything pops, everything works, and it honestly feels like you are right back watching the series or movie again. The love and effort put on display here is deeply impressive.
In terms of story however, it is a more of a mixed bag. In many ways The Glory of the Losers is an upgrade, adding more scenes and foreshadowing more events. Things like the development of the Epyon and Tallgeese II and III are established earlier or hinted at. The five gundam pilots have flashbacks of their pasts, either lifted from the Endless Waltz movie, or from other manga series. Furthermore the re-translation helps the clunky dialogue immensely. However there are also many moments where the manga comes up short. When I said it was a ‘director’s cut’ I should have emphasized the ‘cut’ part. While the story is still the same from start to finish, a lot of the fat seen in the anime is shaved down or removed completely, and that is no more apparent than with Relena’s character.
So much of her story is removed or trimmed down completely that she is almost not even in the series at all. Her entire introduction to Heero is almost an afterthought, and she literally vanished for 2/3rds of the entire story, until showing up right near the end. Now I’ve always not really cared much for Relena as a character, but after reading the manga, I found myself actually missing the episodes that were focused on her, and the slow growth from spoiled rich girl to world leader that, while not best told story, actually gave the plot some decent legs. Glory of the Losers just skims all that over to get you back to the action as fast as possible. It isn’t just with Relena either, most of the secondary cast (which means the female characters) are just shunted to the sidelines and ignored completely. It is a damn shame, because I have a lot of fond memories of characters like Nion, Hilde, Sally Po and Lady Une, especially the latter as her entire villain role is removed completely. It is a damn shame, because it left me realizing at just how important these characters were to the story.
In the end, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: The Glory of the Losers is not the replacement for the anime series that I was thinking it would be. Instead I view it as a interesting and fun companion piece to a series, correcting some oversights and adding a bit more to a story that was always weak at the knees. However it cuts as much as it adds which prevents it from being the full on replacement that it might have been. I loved the foreshadowing, extra depth for some of the characters, and the mecha-redesigns, but I also couldn’t shake the empty feeling that came from the massive cuts that made to certain plot lines and characters. Still, it is a very brisk read, has wonderful artwork and it ended up being something I couldn’t put down. Whether I return to it is up to debate, but The Glory of the Losers reminded me why I love Gundam Wing in the first place, and why the series will always have a fond place in my heart.
If only for the bad-ass as all fuck opening theme.