Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 35 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?
This has been the most highly anticipated episode of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans yet—at least if you're a fan of Gunpla, the plastic mecha model kits. In late November, Bandai began displaying a kit referred to only as “Mobile Armor [Tentative].” It's an extremely bizarre looking suit with odd proportions and an unusual, inhuman shape. The only time Bandai calls a kit “tentative” is when giving the name away would be a major spoiler for a currently airing Gundam show. This is the first time we've seen the “tentative” approach for any Gunpla based on Iron-Blooded Orphans, and this episode revealed why. All of Tekkadan's political scuffles seem entirely insignificant in this episode, which powerfully demonstrates that there are things even less human than the most inhumane enemies.
Jasley, the Teiwaz guy in the leopard-print coat, is pretty sure that Tekkadan is disloyal and untrustworthy because of its Gjallarhorn contacts. So he attempts to crush them by leaking information about them, a member of his own organization, to his biggest enemies. Even Julietta can't believe it. It makes you wonder why Gjallarhorn would ever trust a man so willing to sell out one of his own, until you realize that the Gjallarhorn group has internal politics of its own, as evidenced by Rustal egging Iok into getting angry and insisting on following McGillis to Mars. Everybody's got their own interests that they're trying to achieve by using information, weapons, even other people.
But people's lives are short, and their memories are even shorter. This episode shows people's ambitions as totally insignificant in the shadow of the Calamity War. This war has been a specter over the entire story of Iron-Blooded Orphans, but that's ancient history, right? Turns out that 300 years isn't so long when it comes to the immortal Skynet robots people were fighting against. We've seen McGillis reading up on the Calamity War and the founding of Gjallarhorn a lot lately, so it's no surprise that he knows exactly how serious it is when Tekkadan digs up an old mecha without a cockpit. For the first time, we learn that the Calamity War was not fought between people—a truly terrifying development. Iron-Blooded Orphans has shown us plenty of times that people can be crappy to one another, but at least you can reason with people before they decimate your world, as opposed to automated machines of death.
What powers Mobile Armor? Back at the Tekkadan mechanic shop, the Mobile Armor accessory doesn't go berserk until the mechanic thinks to turn it on, but out in the mines, nobody lays a finger on what we believe to be the Mobile Armor Pluma. Iok shows up with his mobile suit, and that seems to be all it takes. The creators have said that none of the Gundams in Iron-Blooded Orphans have beam weapons, and the result has been a pretty medieval theme with heavy, clanging, close-range combat weapons. Pluma's awakening has literally blown this entire premise wide open with a powerful laser emission. In this pivotal scene, Mikazuki's lifeless left eye suddenly fills with light. Mikazuki's suit Barbatos was one of the 72 that originally defeated the Mobile Armor in the Calamity War 300 years ago, but can it meet this challenge again?
Jasley and Rustal's schemings are made small next to this blast from the past, but other human interactions are suddenly wrought large, like when Hush becomes the fourth wheel to Atra, Mika, and Kudelia's love triangle. Every episode reminds us of these characters' triumph through difficult times to become an unusual family. Mikazuki is a brilliant fighter, and Atra is impressively brave, but there are knowledge gaps that remind us of their hardships—like their childlike inability to manage their own money. As a result, they unconditionally trust Kudelia to take care of them in this way, the same way she relies on them to protect her, and each of them has saved her life at least once. In one another way, it's clear how much they have on the line to fight for, and now perhaps all of that is at risk. “Awakening Calamity” did an incredible job of raising the stakes. Even as it reveals one big mystery in the Gunpla community, it's by no means finished telling this compelling story.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is available streaming at Daisuki.net.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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