Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 49 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?
One episode from the predicted conclusion of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and our main characters are already dropping like flies. This penultimate episode was the end of many things—two speaking role deaths and the revolution against Gjallarhorn, for starters. But more than that, this was an episode about beginnings, and more specifically youth: McGillis and Gaelio's origins, Almiria's childish wisdom, and Tekkadan's relationships with those who profit off of its members' inexperience and loyalty. Wracked with emotion and centered on a beautifully animated space battle, “McGillis Fareed” told a story I won't soon forget.
Surprise surprise, it wasn't Gjallarhorn that assassinated Orga at all! Instead it was Nobliss Gordon, a man who has formerly done a lot to finance Kudelia (and indirectly, Tekkadan). But business is business, and he decides to have Tekkadan's leader killed in order to stay in good graces with Rustal, who he perceives as having way greater influence now. This shady deal takes place in full view of Julieta, who has a very frank, honest reaction to it: she's been surrounded by adults she can trust, but they haven't. And with all the cards dealt against them, they still have no choice but to fight. Rustal points out that he, the person she idolizes, is one of those untrustworthy adults she's disparaging. But Julieta has nothing to worry about with Rustal, because she has piloting skills that are useful to him, and as long as she's obedient, even adults who are evil in some contexts won't turn on her. It's a deeply nihilistic view of the world for somebody so young.
Be wary of the lessons that children learn, or end up like Almiria's father. Almiria is only eleven, but she has ingested her lineage's instructions on loyalty and honor too well. Her whole life she's been groomed for a political marriage, and even though everything's changed Almiria knows what her inner moral compass tells her—she is still McGillis Fareed's wife. Even if he killed her brother. Even if he betrayed her family. Even if she hasn't forgiven him, “his sins are my sins.” Almiria's father probably never expected the measures of servitude he trained in his daughter to become inconvenient to him. It goes to show that in Iron-Blooded Orphans, there are many different ways that child characters can wield power over the adults.
Over at Tekkadan, the events are those of one long funeral. I was surprised that Mikazuki didn't implode, but after he gathers the group around him, it's clear why—he hasn't accepted that Orga is gone yet. Orga's “words are still alive inside me,” he tells Tekkadan, and he intends to follow those orders. So much talk from one of Tekkadan's quietest members is enough to make people stand down and listen, and decide to fight simply a defensive battle so the others can make it through the tunnel. “They're crazy,” one Gjallarhorn soldier remarks, “How can they fight like this under the circumstances?” Killing Orga didn't weaken their morale because Orga's orders haven't been carried out yet, and they're working together to do just that. Not that it's a bloodless battle—Hush Middy is killed. Hush never had the Alaya-Vijnana surgery and was never an exceptional pilot, so his death is not a major surprise. More interesting is the way he faces his fate without losing hope, telling Mikazuki, “I'll catch up to you no matter what.” One by one, Mikazuki is losing all the people who matter to him and it's hard to avoid thinking about what's left for Mikazuki in the end—he can't even stand up to give his speech in Orga's honor without being hooked up to Barbatos Lupus Rex. Will he live to see the end of this battle?
If that wasn't enough loss for you, just sit tight! It's all sport to Rustal, who watches Gaelio and McGillis duel to the death without sending out reinforcements—because he's entertained and wants to see how it ends. And I can't wholly blame Rustal because the most beautiful animation of Iron-Blooded Orphans has always been in its space battles, the only place where these hulking medieval machines can be weightless and fluid. On top of that, Bael and Vidar are some good looking mobile suits. As in any especially epic Gundam battle, the pair escape the confines of machinery to fight man to man, though McGillis is in bad shape by this point, and his fate is sealed. “Look! it's the man you killed, and the man that killed you!” Gaelio declaims, and I'm thinking, poor McGillis, he has to die while listening to a lecture.
But things don't stay intellectual for long, as it becomes clear that McGillis and Gaelio are more emotionally similar than either of them ever expected. “Being with you and Carta made my aspirations waver,” McGillis said. McGillis had to get his revenge, but in the end he realized he just wanted to make Almiria happy. Now, Gaelio has been single-mindedly seeking his revenge, but McGillis is making him waver. All too late, their rivalry has dissipated leaving nothing but despair. Now Gaelio has a choice. Will he snap out of it and revel in his revenge? Or will he choose to carry out his late friend's own aims in McGillis's place? Amazingly, the preview for the presumed final episode, “Their Place,” reveals nothing. We'll have to wait and see if the kids are alright.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is available streaming at Daisuki.net.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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