When Mobile Suit Gundam Wing shifts to outer space, there is a scene where Oz fires on its own soldiers in what first appears to be a typical We Have Reserves moment. "But we'd be firing on our own Leos!" "Who cares, do it before the Colonel leaves." But in the next episodes it is revealed they are getting their space Leo pilots from "volunteers" they tricked into fighting. They give their own soldiers the superior Taurus suits, so the characters' attitudes fall into place. Nowhere in the script do the Oz soldiers specifically say they think the colonists are second class, but it is implied twice later in the show. I'm surprised I didn't catch this sooner because I've read about the Japanese conscripting Chinese troops from the populations they took over in WWII. Plus, it isn't an old concept, so well done again Gundam. -lunnarian
It still works, though less well when you realize the OZ's Space Leo Troops are either combat engineers (who use older machines throughout the series) or colonial volunteers, quite literally, since OZ doesn't conscript (unless you're a Gundam pilot in captivity). It's not a "trick", since OZ makes a point of arming the colonies to fight the Alliance in space—all of which is alluded rather than being shown. It's not quite a perfect fit into the idea of Korean conscripts in the IJA or black rifle companies of the U.S. Civil War (Glory style), but it's still relevant. Especially when the next colonial revolution uses OZ's weapons to try and obliterate life on Earth....
As is otherwise noted with respect to Humongous Mecha, mobile suits are not particularly practical in terms of the vulnerability of their limbs. In Gundam Wing, however, their use is entirely thematically justified. Mobile Suits are generally the preserve of the Earth military forces, their initial mass production and deployment being specifically on behalf of the Romefeller Foundation. This is a foundation rooted in Aristocracy, and many of its members stressed the need to retain the human element in battle according to traditional ideals. When you consider that this is an organization that controls global munitions production, and that can effectively dictate the terms of any and all military force, it makes perfect sense that they would develop weapons to fit romantic ideals of the soldier even in the face of combat suitability; they're Nazi Noblemen.
Also note the shunning of massive space fleets like in previous UC Gundam where you have carriers for Mobile suits. Instead they project their power from military bases just to prevent any notions of mobility based warfare and a focus on "whomever have the biggest fortress wins".
Which also explains why the five engineers never built Wing Zero. In AC 195, it's a Lightning Bruiser, but in AC 180 it would've been the most dangerous thing in space.
The Dengeki Data Collection (released in the US as the Gundam Wing Technical Manual) says that eventually, two paths of "evolution" were determined for mobile suits: enhancing the pilot (the ZERO System) and removing the pilot from the equation entirely (the Mobile Doll System). I was posting on some other tropes about the ZERO System's finer points: the System forms a Technopathy connection between pilot and machine, while feeding massive amounts of combat data directly into the pilot's brain, which combines with the speed-of-thought reaction times to border on Combat Clairvoyance. And then it hit me: the ZERO System effectively turns its pilot into a combat computer, just one based off of wetware rather than hardware. It also serves to help explain Dorothy's loss to Quatre later in the series: she was feeding orders to White Fang's Virgo IIs, but didn't have the direct mental connection to all of them, meaning that she couldn't react to things like the Gundam Pilots' improvised tactics as quickly as if she had been using the System in, say, Wing Zero or Epyon.
I had a moment of Fridge Brilliance when I was reading the entry for Characterization Marches On. Several times in combat, Heero laughs as he watches enemy mobile suits being destroyed, which doesn't gel at all with Doctor J's description of him as a "kindhearted boy". But then Alternate Character Interpretation hit: Heero is sick of killing, which is one of the reasons he rejects the original Operation Meteor. And yet, the instant he is confronted by OZ mobile suits, he has no choice but to fight back, killing pilots in the process. He realizes that his mission is a paradox; he intends to stop the fighting...with more fighting (which would also be a plot point in a later series). His laughing is when he is on the verge of a full-blown Freak Out! from this realization, but he only stops himself going over the edge by going into Heroic Safe Mode, focusing entirely on the mission. A season longHeroic Safe Mode.
There's a bit of subtle Fridge Brilliance in the censored English version. Namely, that Duo calls himself "The Great Destroyer" instead of the "God of Death", considering a line from the Bhagavad-Gita once quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
This one falls a bit under Genius Bonus. In Chinese mythology, there exists a guardian deity by the name of Nezha. In his myth, Nezha fights off a pair of dragons one after another and even kills one before sacrificing his life to save his people from the wrath of a Dragon King. His body was later rebuilt using lotus roots and he was given a fire-tipped spear and a pair of wind-and-fire wheels. He is often depicted carrying the Universe Ring in his left hand, the fire-tipped spear in his right, and the Red Armillary Sash around his shoulders. The Shenlong and Altron Gundams both carry "fire-tipped spears" (the beam glaive and beam trident", feature a red breast plate, carry a circular object on their left arms (the Shenlong and Altron Shields), and have the heads of dragons on their arms. But the real kicker? In Japan, Nezha is often referred to as Nata, which is short for Nataku. Wufei doesn't just call the Shenlong and Altron "Nataku" to honor his dead wife, he views them as the physical embodiment of her desire to protect the innocent.
The OZ mobile suits are often mocked for their abysmal performance, but it makes perfect sense when you remember they were originally created as terror weapons (or as maintenance machines even earlier than that) to keep the civilians in line & were never intended to fight other MS, let alone Super Robots like Wing & friends. Indeed, MS introduced after the Gundams' debut do manage to score a few key victories before the obligatory round of Midseason Upgrades sets them back to being mowed down by the thousands, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam-style.
Part of this is the show provides us with precious few reference points—OZ's mobile suits are used by practically all organized armies, and almost all non-Gundam fighting involves either the fall of the Alliance or Treize Faction's Civil War. It's hard to reference because of the similarity of technology, but they do overwhelmingly clobber every form of non-mobile suit military weapon they encounter (remember, Gundams are mobile suits)).
OZ's mobile suits' trouble is that they were designed with combined warfare in mind (the Leo would be akin to a main battle tank, the Aries to an attack helicopter, and the Tragos' hovercraft configuration is biased to artillery support), and the pilots are smart enough they never let them do it unless there's the whole team or are Quatre with his small private army, that also have combined arms (either through the Gundams' respective specializations or the Maguanac Corps' having counterparts to both the Leo and the Tragos) but with much higher performance suits (at least for the Gundams), better pilots (the Maguanac seem to be on average superior to OZ's pilots) and a much better field commander (Quatre).
One thing that gets bandied about is that Heero and Zechs have "mastered" the Zero System by the end of the series (they even say it to each other), but I'd say the only one who even came close to it was Heero. In fact, Fridge Brilliance (with a dash of Horror) kicks in when you realize the evidence presented suggests that Zechs was suffering from lasting insanity as long as he used the Epyon. You can chalk up his face heel revolving door actions to the writers trying to cram as much of Char's character arc in as possible, but in-series, he's more or less consistent (just changing alliances as it best serves his end-goals) until he starts using Wing Zero (and later Epyon). His markedly different Blood Knight and Omnicidal Maniac stance towards the end seem to be a result of Epyon messing with his head after using it so much. Epyon's system is noted several times to be stronger than the Wing Zero's, and we're also told that the system keeps finding new targets as current ones are eliminated. Zechs may say what he wants about his road being the only one to total pacifism, but it's equally likely that he's just wiping out all his potential targets in one fell swoop with his version of Operation Meteor. Zechs didn't master the system. Itmasteredhim.
This could also explain why Heero was willing to trade the Epyon for Wing Zero in the first place. Maybe he saw a future where he ended up like Zechs and decided to try and make a choice to change it?
The ZERO system is already hard enough to deal with, given how it can mess with your head. But it also can be considered the closest thing the series might have to an Eldritch Abomination when you remember that one OZ soldier tries to use the Wing Zero, and the ZERO system doesn't just kill him, there's no body found afterwards when Zechs captures it. OZ was so terrified of what the suit could do that they had no desire to touch it whatsoever and just wanted to blow it to scrap. Yet when Zechs opens the cockpit, there's NOTHING in there. This is possibly the first known Gundam to SNACK on the pilots it seems to really hate. And given that Epyon has the same system? Forget worrying about the threat to their sanity. Heero and Zechs are lucky these things didn't see them as LUNCH.