Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 32 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?
The thing I thought was going to happen on Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans this week? Well, it happened, followed by a completely predictable response from Tekkadan, whose Mafia-style revenge is quickly becoming its M.O. Much of “My Friend” was inevitable, but what I didn't expect was the subtle way it re-engineered the plot in the process. The last two arcs have been seemingly unrelated, as Tekkadan is betrayed and seeks revenge in turn, but now our heroes are finally acknowledging that there's a sole puppet master behind the scenes of each event, tying it all together. Everyone is gathering the knowledge they lacked so they can break the cycle, move forward, and face the real threat that looms over Tekkadan.
“Did your boss himself order this?” McGillis asks Takaki and Aston. This too-little-too-late attempt at de-escalation could have prevented a tragedy, all because McGillis is too smart to believe Orga is double-crossing him and instead correctly assumes ignorance on the Earth Branch's behalf. Maybe if Aston and Takaki hadn't talked about returning to Fuka together, Aston's death flag wouldn't have been so starkly raised, and he wouldn't have died a pointless death in a pointless war. He also died mainly of injuries from his own suit, bits of shrapnel puncturing his skin because they so rarely wear armor while piloting (the better to hook right up to the Alaya-Vijnana system, I guess). It's a pretty good metaphor for how Takaki unintentionally sealed his death by acting impulsively—in war, the things that help us can also hurt us. Iron-Blooded Orphans makes the horrors of war especially visceral this episode.
It's a wake-up call for Takaki, seen previously as a sweet kid who remained somehow uncalloused by the horrors he's witnessed. He's certainly no Mikazuki, who keeps a revolver in his sling and is the first to ask why they're interrogating the traitor, Radice, rather than simply executing him. Or so I thought. When Takaki insists on dealing with Radice himself, everything about his gentle nature so far made me think he'd be forgiving. Not so—it's the second three-shot execution we've seen this cour, because I guess that's the only way to make sure somebody's really dead. Sorry Radice, the “I was just following orders” defense didn't work for the Nazis, and it certainly didn't work for you.
This episode is also a wake-up call for Hush Middy, who I've previously hypothesized is a Kamille character, perhaps destined to replace Mikazuki as the most reliable pilot of the show. This episode disproved that particular theory by heading in the opposite direction. Rather than surpass Mikazuki, Middy saw his own limits. It's rough “to realize you're just another punk kid,” he reflects, and his inabilities have nothing to do with Alaya-Vijnana. Mikazuki is the cool, competent hero at every necessary moment—popping into the battle just in time to deliver a much-needed ass kicking and appearing at the ready later to execute a traitor. The silver lining for Middy is that his self-awareness makes him considerably more likable as a character.
It doesn't take long for Tekkadan to sort out the situation. Akihiro's Full City is quick becoming my favorite mecha in the show, with its extra arms and downright medieval pliers. When everybody who needs killing is dead, McGillis and Tekkadan realize they have a common enemy, and he's closer and more influential than they guessed. How long until they figure out it's McGillis's childhood friend Gaelio? I'm excited for that discovery.
It can be satisfying to see Tekkadan storm the battlefield and easily vanquish their enemies, but the ending of this episode reminds us that in war, there are no winners. Fuka has fallen asleep looking at a photo of herself with Takaki and Aston, and when Takaki comes home alone, she already knows what's wrong. It's a message that not only adheres to the overall lesson of Iron-Blooded Orphans, but the whole Gundam franchise since 1979—even if mecha is cool and revenge tastes sweet, we still leave each episode feeling a little bit empty. Now that the big picture is surfacing, I'm certain it'll be just as complicated and morally gray as this episode feels right now.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is available streaming at Daisuki.net.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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