Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 46 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?
You can tell we're getting to the Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans finale because the battles have even more unlikely survival odds than usual. If I had to put a theme to episode 46, I'd say it was chiefly about love and war. We saw the beginning, middle, and end of various characters' romance arcs, some less predictable than others. Most surprising was the way that war takes away a character's humanity while romance revitalizes it. With the specter of death looming low over everyone, it's a race to the bottom to see what disappears first—each character's life or their will to live. This week gave us an eventful episode that didn't quite end on a hopeful note, perfectly expressing the gravity of the overall mood.
In times of war, soldiers must put their humanity aside in order to prioritize killing above all else. There's no time to retrieve Shino's body, as much as it pains Orga. Instead, Eugene is the level-headed one, reminding Orga that Tekkadan needs to seize the chance that Shino created for them, and it's time to toss all sentimentality to the wayside. Likewise, Mikazuki has coldly put aside his feelings to devote his entire being to crushing Julieta. “He's hardly human anymore,” she remarks mid-battle. Mikazuki has always been teetering on the edge of humanity, because he's always followed Orga's orders rather than thinking for himself since childhood. Murder isn't so mentally taxing when you're “just following orders,” and that's what makes Mikazuki deadly—though not in this case, when Julieta miraculously escapes with her life. Thirdly, there's McGillis and Gaelio, who have both become less human in order to prioritize each other's death. “You mock my ideals but you also tainted yourself with forbidden powers,” McGillis observes, to which Gaelio replies that once he kills McGillis with the very powers McGillis idealizes, the two will finally understand each other. McGillis declares that Gaelio has gone mad, but to me it's more that he's become less human mentally as well as physically. These are all examples of soldiers shutting down their emotions in order to survive.
On the other hand, this episode's focus on love stories showed that while these soldiers may restrain their humanity in battle, they are still deeply capable of love. Hush makes a strong observation when he notes that Atra seems different. It's subtle, but I can't imagine that this has any other interpretation than Atra and Mikazuki having consummated their relationship. It shows a different facet to Mika—that he can fight one woman with the intent to kill her, while treating another woman tenderly as his lover. Likewise, there seems to be romance blossoming between Julieta and Gaelio. When Gaelio claims he picked up Julieta by chance, methinks he doth protest too much. The way she was counting the days until he visited and the sweet smile he gives her combine to deliver just enough subtext to make romance apparent in my book. It's fascinating to see two hardened killers decide to open themselves up like that. Next to the subtle hints of these two romances, Yamagi's crush on Shino is overtly acknowledged by Shino himself. It's post-mortem of course, but Shino's knowledge gives new meaning to his earlier overtures to Yamagi, stroking his hair and offering to take him drinking. It's nice to see Iron-Blooded Orphans being equal opportunity—gay or straight, you're still going to get a really unhappy ending.
Love isn't the only reason these characters fight. They're also out on the battlefield for their ideals. As Yamagi reminds Orga: “They all died believing your words.” In the same way, Isurugi sacrifices himself for McGillis because “I was able to dream when I was with the general.” When Zack complains to Hush that they should just quit Tekkadan now that things are looking dire, the others note that Tekkadan is the only thing many of them have, so they have no choice but to believe in Orga and his words. Mikazuki's confession was especially eye-opening, that he fights so “your words wouldn't have been a lie.” Orga expresses an ideal, and Mikazuki devotes himself to making it reality. Now Tekkadan has only half the mobile suits they lost the first battle with, and they're off to put their lives on the line once again—in the Mars sphere this time. This puts Tekkadan in a tough place. If they don't fight and cut their losses, their comrades' deaths will have been pointless. But if they fight, there's bound to be more death on the horizon, even if they win in the end. We all know where this is going. Characters on both sides have shown that they can be lovers and killers at the same time, and that doesn't bode well for a happy ending for anyone.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is available streaming at Daisuki.net.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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