Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Episode 45

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 45 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?

It's the final battle here on Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and we know this because people just won't quit mentioning it. “We risk our lives for the last time,” says Orga and that's how you know at least half of these characters are going to die. This week's episode is unusually fast-paced, almost erratically so, but it has the effect of mimicking the chaos of the battlefield, where it's hard to tell what's going on until it has already happened. Combined with a brief love story and a Gundam 00 homage, there's a lot to take in this week.

Last week's episode concluded with Tekkadan preparing for battle. This week's episode began after the battle was already underway. It had the effect of making me double check that I was on the right episode, and it doesn't get any less turbulent after that. There is little to no setup between different events. In one scene, McGillis is giving an inspiring speech to his men; the next he's dueling Gaelio, who has somehow appeared right next to him. I'm accustomed to establishing shots in this show that prepare me for what's going to happen next, but they're lacking today. On the one hand, it's confusing and makes for a wilder ride than usual. But on the other hand, if I interpret it as intentional, it matches the chaos of the battle it depicts.

If nothing else, Rustal's battle tactics are easy to comprehend. We're seeing them through Iok's wide eyes, and Iok is repeatedly left flabbergasted that somebody would not only rationally consider their next action, but the one after that and after that, like in a game of chess. Basically, Rustal wants to annihilate McGillis's fleet and look good while he does it, so he's planted one of his own soldiers among McGillis's, who uses an illegal weapon. That apparently frees up Rustal to use ten or so of that same weapon right back at them. It's called the Dáinsleif, which a quick Google search tells me is a magic sword in Norse mythology. With these illegal weapons on the other side, I'm sure these next few episodes will be a bloodbath.

In the midst of this craziness is a surprising emotional moment that I'm choosing to interpret as romantic, though it's left ambiguous, as these things often are. With a brave face and unflaggingly positive demeanor, Shino convinces Yamagi to send him out to what may very well be his death and, helmet to helmet, there's no way Yamagi can refuse him. “This is no joke. You don't even know how I feel,” Yamagi says, just short of a confession. This has been a pretty slow burn, following up on Yamagi's leading question to Shino in episode 5 (“You like girls, don't you?”) and his confirmed crush in episode 7. Looks like Yamagi was going to be doomed with an unhappy ending sooner or later. Today, it signposts Shino's outcome—love interest reveal plus talking about the future equals an incredible surprise if the pilot survives.

Even more interesting is how Norba Shino's role in this episode mirrors that of sniper Lockon Stratos (what a name!) during Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Like today, Lockon had just one shot, and like today, Lockon flubbed it and died soon after. It's such a clear parallel that I can't interpret it as anything other than an homage. That's what has been so interesting about the process of watching Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans—there are homages everywhere, and it's fascinating to see glimpses of established Gundam canon mixed into a brand new universe and storyline.

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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