Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Episode 31

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 31 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?

Wow, I expected that the second cour of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans was going to have a lot of cliffhangers, but two in a row? This week featured a military stalemate that just wouldn't end, and the episode's lack of a clear-cut conclusion—again—really drove that perpetuity home. I see what the show is trying to do, but it didn't make this cliffhanger any less irritating! However, Orphans continues its spot-on storytelling that weaves together many complicated threads into an irresistible human drama, which more than makes up for it.

There's something weird about this war, or at least that's what everyone keeps saying. Though Mikazuki and Takaki don't communicate in this episode, they do share this unsettled feeling. This episode ties a lot of disparate people's situations together with this isolated tone. There's Gaelio, clamming up around Julietta when it comes to his relationship with McGillis. There's McGillis, bewildered and in the dark about this endless war. Together these two represent the separation of Gjallarhorn, once a perfectly united, well-oiled machine. Likewise, Tekkadan has also split up, though in this case not by choice. It was so simple for Arbrau's Radice to take the reins away from young, inexperienced Takaki and cut off Orga's orders.

Like I said last week, Tekkadan's greatest strength is also its most devastating weakness. Tekkadan's compassion and its members' blind trust for family is what makes them vulnerable, and Radice and Galan have figured out exactly how to exploit it. To them, this loyalty is no different than stupidity. "Those kids are the same as dogs” because they still trust people. It's awful that Galan especially likes to manipulate Aston and considers him to still be Human Debris, but what's worse is that Aston himself still believes that. Takaki and Aston's friendship is poisoned by increasingly frequent arguments in which Takaki thinks Aston is too quick to disregard his own life. Since Takaki is the one narrating this storyline from the future, I see a death flag coming for Aston in particular, and I am not happy about it.

This episode begins by depicting the less glamorous side of war—pouring rain, twelve dead bodies, and the dazed still-living who aren't even sure what day it is anymore. But in the middle, it gives way to the eye of the storm: clear, blue skies over an unceasing tension backed by a soundtrack of uncertain violins. The storyline allows this mood to permeate every corner of the galaxy with perfect parallels—the sleepless night in Takaki and Aston's tent, the uneasy lull over dinner on Tekkadan's ship, the uncertain mood in McGillis' war tent, even the sharp guardedness between Gaelio and Julietta. To show just how far it reaches, the story veers to Takaki's sister Fuka, who spends her days in anticipation, waiting for Chad and Makanai to wake up or for Takaki and Aston to come home. This is an interminable, exasperating slog for everyone involved, and the feeling is inescapable.

But this series is full of movers and shakers, because otherwise we wouldn't have much of a story. Both McGillis's and Eugene's teams decide to take action at the same time. Finally something is going to break this haunting mood, but this is a Gundam show, so now I'm filled with dread over who will pay for this new development with their life. Just get it over with already!

Rating: B+

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

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist


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