#1 The dub
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has one of those dubs that, I feel, is a major reason for why many anime fans have long opposed the idea of watching anime in English. I don’t mean to dredge up the ancient ‘dubs vs. subs’ debate here, but rest assured you are best off going with the subbed version of Wing if you intend to watch it at all.
Performances are all over the place. Some characters sound fine and feel like effort was put into their delivery, others sound so phoned in that it becomes laughable. Of the main characters, Relena definitely gets the worst of this. Her dialogue often sounds whiny and obnoxious, but whenever she has to shout her lines it almost sounds like the actress was told to keep it down a bit so the neighbors won’t complain.
For 1995 I am willing to put up with some subpar voice acting, but I have seen much better dubs come out of this era.
#2 Hamfisted characters
I hate it when people tell me I should expect characters to be poorly written when I watch shounen anime. Just because a show is meant for boys and male teens doesn’t mean they are doomed to having bad characters. The original Mobile Suit Gundam stands as an example of this done right, making it a shame that Wing can’t live up to that legacy.
5 Gundam pilots are individually brought to earth from the oppressed colonies and told to do whatever they can to liberate their homes from the military regime that rules Earth. All of these pilots are young teenagers with a laundry list of problems and one-note personalities. Of these, I found the most objectionable to be Chang Wufei, who appears like an honorable, Chinese-warrior type, only to be one of the most obstinate, overly-angry twits in the entire show.
Relena, again, deserves special mention for being particularly bad in this regard. While she does grow into a more tolerable character, the early episodes present her as this completely unreasonable rich girl. She ends up finding one of the pilots, Heero Yuy, after he just landed on Earth and knows he is an enemy of her people, yet becomes obsessed with constantly being near him. There is this one scene where she ditches her own birthday party because somebody said they had seen him somewhere, so she rushes out there and he tries to kill her, because again, he is an enemy. She is then saved by a passer-by who shoots Heero, who she then gets upset at for shooting “her friend”. After that, I couldn’t take her serious anymore.
The main cast does not have exclusive rights to poor characterization. Lady Une is a minor antagonist who has this basic “split personality disorder” thing going on, all the scientist characters look like they were rejected designs from a Megaman game and have personalities to match, and the entire Romefeller Foundation, supposedly this Illuminati-like organization of aristocratic rulers of Earth, are spineless slugs with no charisma.
#3 Recycling ideas
Gundam Wing was the second time the MSG series would deviate from the Universal Century setting, establishing the After Colony timeline. It’s a universe where characters are designed with a more 90s flair, but despite the bold move in establishing a new universe, it seems Sunrise was a little too attached to its old ideas.
Like Mobile Suit Gundam, the story concerns a war between the forces of Earth and those of discontent space colonies, during which both sides reveal themselves to have questionable morality. A number of details in how this war proceeds are eerily similar, including the entire finale of the show being a less interesting version of a major plot-twist from Universal Century.
The most blatant example of recycling is in how Wing flat-out rehashes Char Aznable as the main rival for the Gundam pilots. It wouldn’t be the first or last time that Sunrise uses characters with similar traits to Char, but Wing‘s Zechs Merquise is both visually and lore-wise almost identical. Their backgrounds are as close a match as you can get and, despite lacking the red mobile suit, Zechs wears a similar black-red military getup and mask.