Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Episode 12 – Dropping Emotional Ballast

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Before we get to the meat of this episode, I want to dedicate a part of the analsis to more fawning of Atra and Kudelia’s friendship. Near the midpoint of the episode, Mika heads off to take part in another daring assault. Kudelia sits with Atra and Merribit at the cafeteria, beside herself with worry about the next battle. Her hands are on the table, clasped together. Then without any visual cue that she was going to do that, Atra reaches out and comforts Kudelia to not worry, all the while smiling that sincere smile of hers. It’s such an exceptional subversion of the usual rivalries that vie for another’s affection. Atra can tell Kudelia has a thing for Mika, but she never lets her uncertainty and jealousy alter the way she treats the latter. Always nice, always supportive, always there for a soul lost in a world she’s trying to come to terms with; that’s Atra for ya.

…Then there’s the fact that they’re fucking adorable together, and I like fucking adorable.

As per the machinations of the last episode, this one goes in on more action. It goes without saying that the action is remarkably well done, and the fact it’s in a debris field makes it more interesting, which debris fields usually do (even the malevolent Gundam SEED Destiny pulled that off).  We also get a very interesting tidbit of world building, as the Ahab Reactor’s powerful enough that even when the ships or suits one is enclosed in is destroyed, if it maintains power it can generate enough energy for gravity. It’s a small point that is quickly set aside for the important plot matters, but it gives the space road less traveled a bit more personality. This all culminates in another daring ship-to-ship combat scenario as we Tekkadan doing what they did to Turbine a few episodes back. Unlike the last one though, it’s hard to say whether this will succeed, for the episode doesn’t end with any retreat or surrender.

Instead it ends with the resolution between Akihiro and his younger brother, in a great scene that showcases Okada’s writing as quite clever, and possibly without peer in this case.  The usual expected case when two brothers/friends/lovers find themselves on opposing sides in Gundam is a slew of episodes where they fight one another, trade barbs on their ideologies and grievances, and then either join forces or one dies saving the other after a change of heart. Here there’s none of that, as Masahiro’s time as Human Debris reveals the psychological toll being such can have on a person. That entire scene with him and his other Debris buddies opining about the concept of death is an affecting little moment, showing how despite their status they cling so hard to their humanity and the hopes of a better life. Yet, when Akihiro offers the possibility of reunification and the inclusion into a family, Masahiro despairs and instead of accepting the offer, gives this ominous line: “You’ll find out soon. How Human Debris die.” At this point it seems likely that Akihiro would die horribly, and we’d have a brand new rival/enemy like Ein for Tekkadan to fight. However, Masahiro pushes him out of the way, not towards the deadly hammer of the Gundam Gusion, but away from it, instead taking the attack.

If Masahiro was so resentful of Akihiro’s good fortunes, why didn’t he take it away from him and let Kudel smash him? Did he push his older brother away to protect him? Or did he push him so he can take that attack and free himself from his awful fate? Will they even show even further bits of his last moments as to why he did it next week? It’s unsure, but it’s really damn good storytelling, especially in how it throws the audience in a loop that a supporting character will die, but instead it’s his brother. Either way, looking forward to see how they’re going to scrounge enough of their feeling currency to pay off the emotional toll set before them.

Iron-Blooded Notes:

  • Two more VAs revealed for voices: Eric Scott Kimerer for Biscuit and Cherami Leigh for Kudelia. Don’t know much about the first, but I think I’ve heard the latter in some places, and she isn’t quite bad. Wonder if Atra’ll be next.
  • Predictions for Atra’s English VA: Either Stephanie Sheh or Christine Marie Cabanos.
  • It’s almost Christmas/New Year’s, so that may mean a one to two week break of animu episodes. Wonder if this one will take a break, and if so, when.