Wing Wednesday: Best-Laid Plans…

So a commenter posed a question that I’d really like to answer:

Before even starting did you guys pick certain plot points or things you wanted to expand/change before doing the series, or is sort is it more you deal with these as they come along?

First off: thanks for the question, JTGWfan23! I appreciate hearing from you guys to know what you’re curious about. And this just so happens to be a topic I wanted to dive into at some point, so. Win/win!

Rewatching Wing

Back in 2014, Blue approached me about abridging a show with him. I hadn’t really watched anime at all since I was a tween, though, so there was a big knowledge gap between us. We only really had two anime in common from our days growing up together: Dragonball, and Gundam Wing. But we only remembered Wing in its broad strokes, as it had been years since either of us watched it.

Cue a Christmas season watch of Endless Waltz. We watched it together with a critical eye in his bedroom, making MST3K-style riffs as it went and pausing multiple times to discuss how we could ‘abridge’ this character or that moment. We started to re-figure out who these characters were and fell in love with these performances all over again in the process, from Scott McNeil’s over-enthusiastic Duo to Mark Hildreth’s over-stoic Heero.

A lot of our characters’ traits and how we portray them now spawned from that night watching Endless Waltz together. But I felt like if we were really going to do this, and really do the series and its hardcore fans justice, we needed to become hardcore fans ourselves.

Diving Into the Lore

I loved Gundam Wing when I was ten. But that’s the issue: I was ten. I’d rewatched it with Blue when I was sixteen, too, but outside of that, it was a vague sort of nostalgic love, coupled with a few fanfics I’d read and a few mix CDs I’d burned with Two-Mix songs all over them. Now that I was thinking of retelling Wing myself, I realized how little I actually knew about it, let alone Gundam as an entire decades-long franchise.

After rewatching the show in full, I sought out any extended lore there was. I found all of the manga associated with the show (Glory of Losers hadn’t started yet), as well as the official art book, gunpla magazines with sections dedicated to Wing and the official Technical Manual that gives specific notes and tidbits like character blood types and ages. (How the hell is Zechs 19?!) I even learned that there was an entire novella sequel series called Frozen Teardrop, and… well. It might be pretty terrible, but when you’re lampooning a series, it’s good to know all of its lowest moments just as intimately as its highest, because those low moments are what you’re going to use for jokes, right?

All of this was to prepare ourselves. To leave no stone un-turned. I wanted to make sure we knew everything there was to know, from little-known lore to video game references to deep cut soundtracks. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have new ideas down the line.

Writing Episode to Episode

The reality is that new ideas build upon old ones as you continue a project. No matter how much planning we make in advance, those plans can fall through the moment someone says, “Wait. What if we…?”

It’s both a strength and a weakness of amateurism and writing from episode to episode. The script we wrote for Ep.10 could have never been conceived at the time we were still writing Ep.1, because we hadn’t allowed these characters or their performances to grow just yet. We hadn’t established our brand of comedy, learned our process or even thought up running gags that would later be staples of the show.

One example of this being a problem is Quatre’s first big appearance in Ep.2, when he allows Walker to give his final words because he “doesn’t want his first kill to be some sort of one night stand.” We hadn’t yet figured out what we were doing with Quatre beyond “soft boy who doesn’t want to fight,” and it wasn’t until later on that we made the connection between his aversion to death and the death of his father that sets him off. We retroactively gave him thanatophobia, said that talking about death could result in a “code red”, and just hoped no one would notice the inconsistency.

Problems can arise from planning ahead, though, too. When Quatre calls the Leos he’s destroying “Mobile Dolls” in Ep.7, that’s because we were trying to set up how they got their name. We’d always found the name humorously un-threatening, and had the idea of Quatre coining the name before Tuberov/Dermail stole it. But that never really worked out in writing, particularly because Quatre doesn’t really fight any more “Dolls” before Tuberov’s first appearance, leaving it as an underwhelming callback joke from four episodes prior. So why does he call them “Dolls” in Ep.7? Shrug emoji.

But there are more gains than losses with the process. We only thought up things like Sylvia Noventa becoming a villain, Heero rocking out to Bonnie Tyler, Treize’s Cool Capes Club and Oz’s Gundam ranking system while planning for those episodes themselves. New ideas tend to hit us whenever they want to hit us, and we roll with it.

Keeping the Ending in Mind

That said, these new ideas are only pit stops along the journey. We plan multiple episodes ahead, but in some cases our plans extend to the very end of the show. I know exactly how Wufei’s final confrontation with Treize will play out. I know exactly what will happen when Heero saves the day with one big buster rifle shot. That means that everything we script between now and then will remain consistent– at least, for the most part. I don’t want our portrayal of Relena in Ep.3 to seem like it’s not even the same person in Ep.30.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t changes to the plan, like the aforementioned Quatre changes. Treize originally wasn’t omniscient, either. Sylvia wasn’t even going to be in the show as I thought her story was unneeded. But the beauty of working as amateurs publishing on our own schedule is that these ideas get to ruminate and grow without strict deadlines or suits dictating we ‘reach a wider audience’. We benefit both from having a completed series with over two decades of fan discourse to pull from, and from the improvisational nature of writing each episode individually.

But every idea we have is always run through the same question: Does this match where we want to be at the end of the show? Only the ideas that answer ‘yes’ make it to the final cut.

Thank you again JTGWfan23 for your question! If you guys have any other burning questions about the show’s process, let me know in the comments and I might just answer yours in a future blog post.

See you next Wing Wednesday, on July 5th!