Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 03

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I don’t hesitate to award this episode a 10, and can be confident it’s not just a kneejerk reaction to the adrenaline rush it provided as things moved forward very fast. I’m giving it a 10 because it was virtually flawless by my standards, and comprised the total package: a taut, refined narrative, intricate character dynamics and motivations, and beautiful presentation, all while preserving the Gundam heritage that deserves to be preserved and subverting it where appropriate.

The escalation from serving a warm, home-cooked meal to everyone—including the surly First Corps—to a complete takeover of CGS by Orga’s Third Group, was delivered with stealthy deftness that respects the viewers. We all knew something was going to go down; it was only a matter of when, how, and if it succeeded.

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The answers to three questions are ‘now’, ‘forcefully’, and ‘yes, most definitely’. The stew they feed the Firsts is drugged, and they wake up, they’re tied up and at Orga’s mercy. I really dug his wry response to his former boss’s classic “who do you think you’re dealing with?” line:

“Incompetents who can’t give proper orders and caused this much damage.”

They’re not just incompetents who got Orga’s comrades killed, they’re incompetents who will also fail at the business end, and lead to the death of the company, along with the rest of the Thirds, in time. Orga is putting an end to their reign before that happens. It’s not just revenge; it’s pragmatism. This is how they survive.

The First Corps commander still thinks he’s in control, talking about sparing the lives of the people with a gun to his head. Again employing Mika as his steady right arm of enforcement, he makes an example of the commander by having Mika put two bullets in his head. No negotiations. No deals. Join Us, Leave, or Die are the only options. It takes Mika having to shoot one more First dead before everyone else has made their decision.

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So…now what? Interestingly, those who decide to join Orga’s new CGS regime include the accountant, Dexter Culastor, who soon determines just how screwed the company will be if they don’t find work immediately, and Todo, a middleman between the First and Third who was going to go whichever way the wind was blowing.

The problem with CGS right now is that they’ve got Gjallarhorn on their asses. Far from being a feather in their cap, no one will do business with them lest they too incur the wrath of Gjallarhorn. Todo has a solution: hand the young miss Kudelia over, in exchange for being left alone (and a little cash).

It’s a self-serving, weaselly plan (apropos since it came from the self-serving, weaselly Todo), but it’s also one of the only ways to get Gjallarhorn off their backs, if there even is a way. Eugene likes the plan and wonders why Orga hesitates, but the discussion is tabled by the arrival of Crank.

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As we should have known, Crank is not there to defect; he’s there to put and end to things between CGS and Gjallarhorn one way or another. If he wins the duel, they’ll hand over Kudelia and the captured mecha. It’s an arrangement even Aina agrees to, because like Crank, she wants to minimize further needless bloodshed, especially where kids are involved.

Orga asks Mika if he’ll do it, but it’s only a courtesy, because he knows Mika will do it. He may be short and scrawny, but Mika is the toughest motherfucker in CGS, as demonstrated when Orga tells Aina (who wants to do something to help and is considering having a mecha interface implanted) that a large chunk of those implanted ended up in hospital beds for life or worse…and Mika’s had it done three times.

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The duel commences, and Thank God the mobile suits have P.A. systems so the pilots can talk to each other. To not have such systems was an obvious and intolerable, beaten-to-death plot hole in Recon. Here, Crank can tell he’s fighting a child, something he abhors, but he must do his duty nonetheless. Wisely, this episode’s sole representative of the “bad guys” is a reasonable, honorable man doing what he thinks is best in this scenario, and if he gets killed, at least all the responsibility will fall on him.

But like Aina, Crank is misguided about one thing, at least as far as Mika’s concerned: He’s not some poor kid being victimized. Everything Mika does, every order he’s obeyed from Orga, has been of his own free will, and out of his desire to stay alive. Mind you, this is Mika’s own perspective; in reality he’s a severely screwed-up dude; “a bit Touchy”, as Atra remarks, doesn’t nearly cover it).

Crank, for his part, never underestimated Mika; he saw what he was capable of the last time he watched him fight. Instead, Crank is simply limited by his loyalties in what he’s able to do. So when he’s done as much as he can and still loses the duel, and is unable to move to kill himself, he asks Mika to do it for him.

Again, he didn’t have to ask: Orga already told Mika to kill Crank; there wasn’t going to be a different outcome, because Mika isn’t the brains of this operation, nor do I think he wants to be. And a notable gesture on Mika’s part: both before he takes off in Barbatos and after he kills Crank, he smells the bracelet Atra gave Yukinojo to give to him, perhaps keeping him grounded in his humanity among all the carnage. For those keeping score: Aina got to feed Mika, while Atra got her bracelet to him.

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The role of brains belongs to Orga, who stands fast even as a huge piece of mobile suit comes crashing down feet away from him. And that’s when he comes up with a new name for their company. Goodbye CGS, Hello Tekkadan, meaning “Iron Flower”, one that will never wilt. Nice name.

As for Aina’s role, she first becomes the newly-named company’s first official client when she commits to using Tekkadan as her security service indefinitely, no longer depending on her untrustworthy father, but the largess of Nobliss Gordon—a name we heard from Coral as also being Gjallarhorn’s financier. It also seems Aina will be eschewing a mecha interface implant for a more political role with Tekkadan, the company that kept her alive.

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

12 thoughts on “Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 03”

  1. Aaaand the Okada romance angle has slowly begun. Looks like Atra gets first point. But Kudelia’s little tsun-tsun moment is amusing.

    But beyond that, this episode definitely threw the series towards the darker spectrum, not because it upped the body count again, but because of the cold-hearted and cruel manner it did so. Crank was obviously going to die but Mika nonchalantly shooting him without even letting him saying Thank you was more agonizing than having him die in the typical Gundam exlosion. That scene cemented just how messed up the kid is.

    Okada’s everyday life scenes creates a cruel contrast to the reality of these kids everyday life.

    Also, I can’t help but notice that IBO’s next episode preview dialogues seem to be taking some cues from Cross Ange. Not as meta as CA’s, but the humorous dialugue just highlights more how cruel the actual story is.

    1. Random Iron-Blooded Musings:

      1. The scratch Orga gets on his otherwise unscathed face when he stands his ground, Col. Kilgore-style, as a piece of shrapel flies in feet away…I wonder if that’s foreshadowing for his eventual transformation to Mask Guy?

      2. Orga is now on the path to being exposed to and thus potentially corrupted by the great power now in his hands. I’m wondering if he’ll turn Iron Flower into a organization to exact revenge against the society that wrong him and his comrades, or if he’ll be able to preserve his pragmatism.

      3. With Aina now a client on retainer, there’s a new person to influence Mika and expand his way of thinking; I’m sure the more she finds out about his bond with Orga, the less she’ll approve, and the more she’ll want to reform Mika; show him another way to live. Mika’s already shown an affinity for her by eating her “flawed stew”.

      4. I also think Orga is well aware of the dynamic developing between Mika and Aina. Without having to discuss it with him, he knew Mika probably wouldn’t have gone for a deal where they hand Aina over to Crank (whereas Eugene and Todo were all for it). So he’s keeping Aina close.

      5. Then there’s the blonde guy, Eugene. So far he’s opposed and griped about virtually every one of Orga’s decisions these past three weeks. Should that rift continue to widen, I wouldn’t rule it boiling over into a full-on power struggle.

      Lots of great stuff but these are all only partially-formed ideas, influenced by past Gundam viewings. I’m not going to work extra hard to make predictions as we progress with the show. Rather, I’m going to sit back and enjoy; I have full confidence in this staff to deliver a great show.

      1. I’m with flamerounin; no mask guy please.

        I also really hope this story doesn’t turn anyone who’s pragmatic into a bad guy. One of the most refreshing things up to now has been the fact that the heroes aren’t shining knights, or angsty, or whatever else. They’re soldiers and pragmatists. That’s an interesting character type that is highly unusual in anime, and certainly in Gundam. Go with it.

        Don’t make Orga into a villain, don’t have Mika learn the value of pacifism. Let this be a story about these kids finding a place to belong like they’ve said so far, don’t push it into being a normal Gundam story with a masked villain and a hero who eventually becomes a martial pacifist.

      2. @kalerylan
        Considering that pacifism is pretty much one of the basic tenets of Gundam, it is inevitable. But if they do indeed go with that route with the Tekkadan boys (who seem to be a reference to real life Japanese child soldiers during WW2) or specifically with Mika, I hope they make that transformation organic and believable and not just because he gets a new uber-powerful mech.

    2. Like I mentioned last time, I hope they ditch the Mask Guy for once. Or at least make it more relevant. For instance, kinda like how Rau Le Creuset’s mask in Seed serves more purpose than just fulfilling the tradition.

  2. I love the brutality that characterizes this show.

    That said, I’m really hopeful that they never step back and have someone teach Mika to love or something. Yes, he’s messed up. Yes, he’s cold. But the setting is brutal. I am much more interested to see this dealt with than to spend the second half of the show having him learn to stop being violent and maybe fighting Orga and pushing for the gundam-style pacifist crap.

  3. Reminiscing tragic Gundam characters, Crank’s rather silly sense of responsibility and dislike of the young’s involvement in conflict was overshadowed by Mika’s, as you put it, messed up character.

    Yep, Mika is totally messed up. I’ve never seen such a warped kind of Gundam protagonist not since Gundam 00. And Setsuna F. Seiei was considerably tamer compared to Mika. Setsuna was more collected and focused, while Mika goes with instinct and whim, I wonder if how long he’ll maintain such mien but hopefully he never becomes anything like Tomino’s creations.

    1. You could consider Mika as Setsuna’s pre-Gundam meister days when he is ststill the brainwashed child soldier controlled by Ali.

      1. Now that you mentioned it Orga and Mika’s relationship somewhat resembles that of Ali and Setsuna. Whether the two would come at odds with each other in the future, nobody can say.

  4. A few more points, after a second (and still excellent) re-watch. Hey, it was a pretty rich episode:

    1. I did like Aina’s early tsun-tsun moments at the meal, and I like the character too, but I DO hope she gets something substantial to do soon. Now that the trip to Earth is still on, she should get that.

    2. You gotta save the accountant, right? And I love how, without getting mired in too many details, the show acknowledges that once you take over a struggling, corrupt private security company, you can’t just keep running it without some kind of income. Tekkadan has a three-month burn rate before Aina pledging a cash infusion from Nobliss.

    3. Mika is so very deliciously nonchalant throughout the duel, compared to the ultra-formal Crank. No shirt, informal in tone, and expressing his displeasure with Crank never saying what happens if he wins, which he does, handily. I am loving Mika right now, even if he, no, because he’s so messed up, but in some ways, still just a kid.

    4. Curious to see if/when Nobliss comes into the picture, what happens, and how much of his intentions we’ll be privy to. Is he funding both Gjallarhorn and the independence movement? Was he just toying with Aina when he sponsored her, or does he have a plan for her?

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