So I started rewatching Gundam Wing dub last night. It’s a special series for me since, like many others, it was my catapult into the Gundam franchise on the whole. It was one of my first major fandoms, and I’d seen it in its entirety two or three times back in glory days of Toonami, but it’s been a good seven or eight years or so since I’d seen it last (and it feels much longer than that). Like some things I’ve revisited from the past, I was half-expecting it to be terrible, and to some extent, it was. The characters are hilariously unobservant and brash in ways that don’t even begin to make sense. The dubbing also offers some choice lines in amazingly awkward voices. There are many logic and realism gaps. I laughed a lot.
And yet, even with all the lulz, it’s still so epic when it counts. I’m still enjoying this way too much. Treize takes over the world in seven episodes in one of the most awesome coup de’tats ever. There are so many political things I’m noticing and understanding now that I didn’t even notice the first time around, and it’s just a lot fun to revisit something while simultaneously gaining a whole new experience. Nostalgia and sentimentality is undoubtedly what’s allowing me to forgive all of the more blatant flaws — I’d never accept such huge logic and realism gaps in a recent show, as evidenced by my dislike of Gundam 00, but for Wing, it’s all right.
But I never feel as if the nostalgia factor blinds me. Forgiving the flaws isn’t the same as denying they’re there, and besides, most good things have their flaws. It’s just your perspective that determines whether the good outweighs the bad, or if the bad outweighs the good. I’m only seven episodes into the rewatch, but right now, I honestly still think this is a great show. Wing’s storyline is strong and clear, and has many interesting concepts. Its characters are varied and relatively engaging. I still think the music is amazing. I still think the mecha designs in this series are some of the best in the franchise. These are the things that won’t change with time, no matter how many years pass. Good stories are good stories. Good art is good art.
The art and animation are a bit aged now, yes, but they still suit the story. That compatibility is much more important than the fact that it’s not as shiny by today’s standards. Of course it isn’t as shiny; Gundam Wing debuted fourteen years ago. But that doesn’t matter, just like it doesn’t matter that Nosferatu is a black and white, silent, German film. The medium still fits the story, and the story is still good. In that sense, I think that most productions, whether movies or television shows or anime or manga, can be considered “timeless.” It doesn’t matter when it was made; if it had a good story and the medium suited it, then it can remain accessible to any subsequent generation.
But then, what about the things that don’t hold up? Does that imply that they were never good stories in the first place, if the stories aren’t as good now as supposedly used to be?
Actually, I can’t think of many examples of (once) good stories that don’t hold up against the test of time. Most of the stories I loved as a kid I either still love now or still appreciate as something aimed towards kids. Some stories with overt social or political commentary or controversy might be more popular in one century than another, but if there’s enough story to go along with the opinion, I don’t think it’d have trouble remaining accessible. Just look at The Sound of Music or the Watchmen comic or books like Number the Stars.
Stories grounded in a certain time period also aren’t at a particular disadvantage either. As long as people have an understanding of the surrounding history and perspective, it isn’t really a problem. Shakespeare remains timeless despite the fact that his plays are centuries old and in a dialect that died somewhere along the way. The language might turn some people off, but the core of the quality of the stories are unaffected by neither time nor anything else. Can the stories still appeal to people if the language was updated to something more modern? Probably. It’s the same as when a popular novel is translated into several different languages, isn’t it? The story is the same. The story is still good. Everything else is secondary.
It’s kind of interesting to note also that there are a lot more things that I like more the second or third time around than things that I dislike the second or third time around. Second and third experiences allow for better understanding of the story involved, and understanding is essential to many experiences.
Many of the best anime and manga I’ve encountered are neither socially or politically charged or grounded in a specific time period, which will probably help them a lot. Some of them depend heavily on cultural quirks and current fandom (Ouran High School Host Club), and some of them are concentrated on ideas in technology that may well change in the future (Planetes, Ghost in the Shell), but as long as the people in the year 2500 take the time to understand where these stories are coming from, they can enjoy them just as we have. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up still liking Gundam Wing a lot this time around, and if that’s the case, I don’t think that will change in another decade or two, or three, or four. Similarly, I probably still won’t like Gundam 00 in however many years.
Final conclusion? All good stories are timeless.