Immediately as the preview for this episode took place in Episode 24, the only thing I can think of was: “Is this gonna end up like Gundam 00 Season 1?” After fighting for so long, is Tekkadan going to end their first season (or possibly series) at a tactical disadvantage? Are they gonna end with costly losses not just in their ranks and fail their mission to get Kudelia and Makanai to the Edmonton Parliament? How grimmy grimdark will the series conclude after killing off Biscuit and making it look like Tekkadan’s Edmonton attack would become a suicide run and/or a pyrrhic victory?
Well… the show pulls the rug out of under us by giving an episode that… doesn’t ever pull it out from under us. It just points us to the table with the fine china and yanks the linen from underneath it without disturbing said fine china. The thing is a few minutes earlier it was purposefully teasing us by juggling them with reckless abandon and I could swear they dropped a number of them on purpose. Terrifying… if charming.
So yeah, this episode goes off without much a hitch. The highlights of course are on three fronts: Makanai and Kudelia at the Parliament; Maccy facing off against Galli-Galli; and of course Mika versus Ein. It’s nice to finally see Kudelia make the long awaited speech that’s been implied since they left Mars, and while it doesn’t really surprise in any way, it does show how far she’s come from the ideal naïf who thought going to Earth to talk about tariffs and half-metals would be easy-peasy. Maccy and Galli-Galli’s fight is where the usual ideological falderal found in Gundam finales take place, with Galli-Galli’s attempts for ideal reform are thwarted by Maccy’s erm… ‘Maccy’nations. Maccy channels his own inner Char finally, but instead of revenge against those who wronged him, he instead pushes a reform toward a corrupted system. To be sure, we’re still kept in the dark as to why Ignacio took Maccy in long ago, but there must be something that happened between then and this season that may have solidified his ambition. It’s so much a defining event that he will fight demons by becoming one himself, using the emotions and ambitions of Ein, Galli-Galli, and Carta to forward his own goals. Evil acts? Most definitely, yet he doesn’t kill his father after he is exiled, and promises Galli-Galli that he will take care of Almiria. Shades of humanity left in him? At this point, I’m not sure although signs point to a no. We’ve yet to see his future plans for Gjallarhorn, never mind the many allies and enemies he will face on his path to power next season. So… who really knows if Maccy will become just like Daddy or worse (Mac-Daddy?).
As for Mika’s fight with Ein, it fulfills the role of the balls-to-the-wall fight to the death found in Gundam finales, and does so with gusto. Conversation is markedly banal with Ein opining about his beloved “Kuranku-nii” (just dig him up and screw him with your 50 foot Graze dick already, Ein!) and Mika not caring. However, that’s okay, since there’s a lot of catharsis to be had with Mika finally offing the poor bastard after so long. On a theme level it does shed light on the limits of the Alaya-Vijyana system, with one fully integrated into a system, believing he is self-actualized versus one who willfully pushes it to its full potential. In the end man beats machine and I’m left wondering whether or not future Eins will become the case. I wouldn’t be surprised, but the question is how it will be handled and whether Maccy will compromise and go along with it. Intriguing. I love it.
Then we get to the last seven minutes of the episode, and absolutely NOTHING extraordinary happens. No stray bullets killing characters, no situation goes FUBAR, no tragedy occurs. Everybody gets to either tidy up loose strings or prepare for the future. The only thing that can be considered tragic is that due to his overuse of the Alaya-Vijyana System against Ein, Mika loses feeling in his right arm and has hazy vision in his right eye. However, it is handled as a minor setback in the scheme of things. Tekkadan isn’t just going home, but they’re now military advisors for Arbrau. Even this is good news, with no portends to an ominous fate towards corruption, graft, and disunion. Some part of me ought to complain about this since it seems too happy, but then again the happiness in this episode is earned. It isn’t like Gundam SEED Destiny where it was handed to them in 22 minutes worth of shitty storytelling.
Again, this show subverts expectations, and does it so well. It more than makes up for the lack of surprises, the lack of death, and even the lack of dark foreboding (although there’s a lot regular foreboding when it comes to Maccy). That’s awesome. It could’ve gone to a grimmy grimdark place, but decides instead to let its heroes taste a genuine victory over impossible odds. Savour it and let them celebrate, because as always with victory comes pride, and after the pride goes the fall. Since this is a Gundam series, it’ll be a hell of a fall when it comes next season.
Overall: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 1 is not a disappointment. Production-wise it’s one of the best looking Gundam TV series (although that’s hard NOT to do since 00), and story-wise it’s a great premise with lots of room for growth. The characters are such a unique set that you cannot help but be invested in them, and their camaraderie through thick and thin is endearing. The antagonists are a fascinating bunch that don’t fit the usual villain mold in Gundam, providing their own hang-ups and dreams vis-à-vis Tekkadan.
I only wish it didn’t take so long just to get from Mars to Earth (Longer than Gundam SEED by one episode), and at times I wish its star protagonist, Mika, wasn’t well… Mika. I admire how he is such a marked difference from the usual emotionally maladjusted Gundam protagonist, but one could say he didn’t have TOO much an arc. For the most part he instead is a foundation of strength for Tekkadan, and an individual with very little inclination to pretenses that he’ll be refreshingly blunt to people. We do see him soften and learn some new things thanks to Kudelia and Atra’s influence, and for the most part that kind of development works for this season. However, how does it work when he is REALLY under duress? Against expectations, Orga doesn’t bite it or go bad throughout the entire season, so we never see how Mika responds to such events. What character does Mika become then? Will Season 2 be all about this? Or will it subvert expectations and Mika goes a different route and it’s up to Tekkadan to stop his fall from grace? We need a payoff or a cost from his behavior this entire season.
Yet I like this show. I like this story about “War from the Underclass”, and I look forward to seeing them again in the near future. If you’re a Gundam fan, check it out. If you’re just an animu fan who has been intrigued by this but have yet to take the plunge, do it anyway. It’s all here.
- The OP gets the same treatment as the ED, in that it starts playing the middle of footage then when it’s time the show segues into the actual OP. Neat.
- This scene.
- Tune in next week when I cover my next weekly write-up. Is it a new animu? NOPE! It’s Escaflowne!