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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Episode 13

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans ?
Community score: 4.5

Space fireworks and absolutely no crying? Whatever you like, Iron-Blooded Orphans, it's your funeral. In “Funeral Rites,” our protagonists handle some extremely heavy subjects with an air of childlike wonder. This emotionally charged episode echoes the adults of the world it portrays, callously using children's perspectives to find levity amidst the worst horrors of war—and the result was more unsettling than uplifting.

Tekkadan has decisively crushed the Brewers pirate group, but not without casualties. In order to help the crew find closure, ship's advisor Merribit lightly suggests a strange old colony custom called a funeral, which nobody here seems to have heard much about. (That's tragic in itself since both Human Debris and “space rats” have been taught their deaths are meaningless.) Much of this episode surrounds Tekkadan's preparations to symbolically send off their comrades with prayers and fireworks. The fireworks are an especially meaningful addition, as the show tells us: “When we're alive we make such a racket, but it's an instant when we go.” The philosophy of this episode is decidedly Buddhist, and it'll be interesting to see if the concept of death and rebirth continues in later episodes.

Merribit tells Orga that funerals are also for the living, and while they may banter and disagree about many things (seriously, how long until they kiss?) this is one thing they can agree upon. Orga has the best wishes of his comrades at heart, as well as the interests of the kids forced to serve on the Brewers ship. That's why Tekkadan's crew didn't want to kill the kids on the ship, and why defeating the Brewers didn't feel like much of a victory after all. The one surviving friend of Masahiro is moved to tears when he realizes Orga is going to welcome him to the fold, and we realize that these kids are just like Tekkadan was—used as pawns to fight a war for adult politicians far away.

On the note of those powerful adults, McGillis and Bauduin attend a fancy party under the emblem of an eight-legged unicorn. McGillis is up to his ears in gorgeous adult women but instead absconds to the balcony to reassure nine-year-old Almiria that he only has eyes for her. This moment is unsettlingly creepy when you realize that McGillis is actually assuring Almiria of her sexual attractiveness. There's a meme throughout Gundam that pairs the “Char” figure, the handsome blonde antagonist of the series, with a decidedly underage love interest, but I don't think that's what's happening here. It's not that McGillis truly believes Almiria is sexy, but that he needs to placate Almiria so he can use her as a pawn in a political alliance. Just like the kids from the Brewers ship and Human Debris and Tekkadan before they found their own power, this is a world where adults ruthlessly exploit kids for their own gain. The kids all seem to know this, and yet they still run to adults for comfort, reminded of some long lost mother or father. The little boy who sobs on Fumitan's ample bosom, rejecting Atra's flat chest, is a comically direct indication of this.

From when Naze and Amida start kissing in front of the Orphans and expressing their intent to have another baby, to Orga and Merribit's flirt-fighting where each side uses their age gap to needle one another, every interaction in this episode between kids and grown-ups is tinged with hostility and an uncomfortable sort of sexual mystery. The same goes for THAT scene between Mikazuki and Kudelia. This is certainly an unusual moment in the Gundam universe—for the lead pilot to make the first move with a love interest. Usually pilots, as brilliant as they are in tactics, tend to be emotionally stunted otherwise. Mikazuki's forwardness, with the shaking of his hands indicating powerful feelings below the surface, portray him as a character in between childhood and adulthood. As we discover the extent of the danger Kudelia is about to find herself in, I can't help but wonder if Mikazuki will use his burgeoning adulthood to protect her, or if he'll exploit her like all the other grown-ups we've seen so far. For all the innocence of this episode's funeral rites, it hasn't given viewers reason to believe that Tekkadan's orphans won't be just as ruthless as their own oppressors once they grow up.

Rating: B+

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is available streaming at Daisuki.net and Funimation.com.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.

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