Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Episode 28

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 28 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?

In the first two episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans' second season, we got enough plot developments to make your head spin. Now that's paying off majorly with so much action, it can't even fit in one episode! Orga and his crew are going all-out against the Dawn Horizon Corps pirates—now that they have former enemy Gjallarhorn's support—but of course nothing ever goes smoothly for Tekkadan. This episode stays interesting by alternating between expansive depictions of a three-party space battle and intimate portraits of character relationships, narrowing and widening the scope as needed.

At the beginning of the season, I focused on all the ways that Orga hasn't changed. He's still craving approval from his business bro Naze Turbine, and he's still reliant on Mikazuki's loyalty to justify his decisions. This week, however, it's apparent that Orga has gotten smarter and more secure in his leadership of the Tekkadan crew. He takes Merribit and Eugene as his seconds-in-command, and there's no longer any need for Mikazuki to be there in the boardroom. These are good choices. Merribit is a sensible woman who clearly cares about Orga (let's file this relationship under “just kiss already”), while Eugene was the former leader of the orphans before Orga took over and isn't just going to be his yes-man. However, after the decision is made, Orga races to Mikazuki to tell him the details, and their speech and body language convinces Atra that she can't can't walk in on their conversation. Mika's injury is also noticeably apparent in this scene—with the light out of his right eye and his arm in a sling. Orga has gotten smarter, but his need for Mika's approval hasn't changed, because now he's gambling with his friend's life more than ever.

Perhaps that's part of what makes today's battle so tense: Iron-Blooded Orphans never lets you forget the high stakes of every combat instance, now that there are children fighting on both sides. The pirates are the epitome of evil, readily treating their teenage “Human Debris” pilots as disposable, but how much better is Tekkadan? Akihiro tells Ride, one of the youngest combatants on their side, to “go dance with death!” I couldn't help but be reminded of the darkest entry in the Gundam universe, Gundam Thunderbolt, when the camera doesn't shy away from close-ups of suffering and death. The intensity is magnified with the series' insistence on using medieval-style weaponry, with no beam sabers anywhere to be found. Not only is Akihiro channeling an old-style General Grievous today, but he's got pliers too. Then there's the length of this battle, expressed by the number of combatants running out of ammo. It endures long enough for Mikazuki to get hungry, and his mid-battle pit stop with Atra shows such a contrast from the earlier scene with Orga—after regaining the use of his eye and arm in Barbatos, Mika is the strongest fighter on the field. Out of combat, Atra wants to protect Mikazuki; in combat, he's the most powerful force protecting her.

But encompassing these brushes with death is a larger political struggle, where part of Gjallarhorn is allied with Tekkadan against the pirates, while a newly arrived sector doesn't plan to work with Tekkadan at all, but instead take down the pirates for themselves. Not that it matters to the pirates, who mistakenly (and fortunately) believe that Tekkadan has called for backup. Won't everyone be surprised when they discover that this other Gjallarhorn group is under Gaelio's command—because now that he's spoken, there's no denying this masked commander's identity any longer. By the time of his arrival, the dynamics of the battle have completely changed, with the pirates retreating, no longer a threat, and Tekkadan and Gaelio's unit vying for bragging rights over a Dawn Horizon Corps victory. We've already seen some impressive new mobile suits and slick transformations, and I can hardly wait for Mikazuki to stop battling grunts and find his equal in Gaelio's formidable pilot Julietta next week.

Rating: A

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

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist


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