Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 10

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Except for the battle at the very end, this episode was even quieter than the last, but also another episode that reminds you in no uncertain terms that This ain’t your Daddy’s Gundam—and it’s all the better for it. Last week was about forming a new family with Teiwaz. The Turbines are still with Tekkadan, but will set them loose on their own before long. This week is heavy with introspection and backstory, but all of it happens to be top-shelf stuff, thanks to a powerful, often tear-inducing script by Okada Mari.

I don’t want it to sound like this was a tear-jerker start to finish: in fact, there were just as many tears of joy over what Tekkadan & Co. have now achieved and their bright future than there were tears of sadness or longing over dark pasts. Laughs, too: all of a sudden Euguene think’s he’s an expert on women and looks down on the still “orphaned” Orga, who claims not to care about women, because he already has a family.

Meanwhile, those who have families outside Tekkadan like Biscuit and Takaki listen to their messages in private so as not to be insensitive to those who have no other family or who lost them long ago. The two share the dream of sending their bright sisters to school so they can one day be strong enough to stand on their own. The Isaribi has really become a home too, judging by all the hand-painted symbols on the walls.

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As a family, Tekkadan grows a little more complex, as Naze introduces Orga to the Teiwaz liason officer that will be joining his crew: Merribit Stapleton, with whom Orga had his meet-cute last week while drunk. Like all newcomers, Orga is cautious, and Merribit’s warm friendly manner with him will take getting used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment these two shared, particularly their elevator scene.  Orga may “just” be obeying orders by “tolerating” a “Teiwaz stooge”, to put it indelicately, but Merribit might just want to be friends too, and I look forward to her continuing to work with, and work on, young Orga.

Kudelia got a message from her mother, as well, but it wasn’t an encouraging one; her mom wants her to stop all this troubling silliness and come home. I don’t think her mom is simply relaying her husband’s sentiments, but expressing her own sheltered, deeply-aloof, “leave everything to others” nature. Then Kudelia asks about Atra’s parents, putting her own troubles into perspective.

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Atra tells Kudelia a dark tale of an orphan who did chores at a nightclub/brothel for food, but wasn’t very good at it, so never had enough to eat. Unlike many girls like her who likely grew up and became prostitutes for better pay at the club, she ran away, and quickly found out the outside world was even worse, but for one thing: she was free out there.

By chance, she was sitting on a stoop, trying to gather the strength to get back up, when she spotted a young Mika across the street, chowing down. Mika, who by then had also  learned a bit about the world, tells her she can’t have any, and that only those who work get to eat. Atra knows the score, and doesn’t beg. She just looks defiantly at Mika and tells him she will work, before fainting.

Because Mika does have a heart, though, he tells the shopkeeper about Atra, and gets her a job. Now we know Atra doesn’t just admire Mika from afar: Mika saved her when she had nothing. And not just with an isolated handout of a fish, but by getting her the means to fish herself.

From that point on, Mika became someone very important to her—so important, that Atra looks at Naze’s harem, and sees how it could theoretically work for both her and Kudelia to be the mothers of Mika’s children. Of course, she’s getting a bit ahead of herself, but it’s fun to see her thought process; not to mention I needed something to laugh at after that tear-inducing flashback.

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Just as Atra’s story beat Kudelia’s for pure initial despair, Akihito’s beat’s Atra’s. I was amazed they were able to stuff one more story into this episode, but I was very glad for it, especially since it ended by tying everything together. While Takaki was with Biscuit talking about their sisters, he was throwing a lot of standard death flags by talking so excitedly about a future he feels he can reach. Out here, he’s a little more subdued with Akihito out of consideration; but Akihito saw him and Biscuit before, and it reminded him of his own brother, Masahito.

Before he was “human debris” (God, how I hate that awful term), he and his brother helped out aboard a ship where their parents worked. It was attacked by pirates (the same kind of pirates the Turbines warn Tekkadan about), his parents killed, and he was separated from his brother and sold. Just when you thought your tear ducts were safe, too.

Akihito laments that he forgot about Masahito for so long, and doubts he’s still alive, but Takaki thinks otherwise, and now that Tekkadan has the backing of Teiwaz, anything is possible. Even Akihito believes this a bit, unconsciously, as Laffter notices he’s no longer fighting like he has a death wish in the simulator.

Just how much that alliance means comes into focus immediately after Akihito’s story is done, when pirates ambush them. This is where I’d expect a lesser show to act on Takaki’s death flags, but GIBO isn’t that kind of show. Instead, it plays a card it had held since the cold open: Tekkadan left Mika behind so that mods on the Barbatos could be completed, at which point he’s more than capable of quickly catching up.

That’s what he does here to bail out Akihito and Takaki. As with Atra years ago, Mika is more often than not, There When You Need Him. And pirates who would prey on Tekkadan will soon learn that the Iron-Blooded Orphans aren’t ones to be messed with.

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

17 thoughts on “Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 10”

  1. Wow! Three episodes straight of slow, slice-of-life-aboard-a-spaceship-slash-orphanage moments. This definitely ain’t your daddy’s Gundam (and I definitely refuse to call these eps as fillers because they are anything but such).

    And Okada’s already complex, but surprisingly subtle, love plot is getting even more interesting. So, I’m guessing it would be a bit of a May-December romance for Orga and Merribit (she’s probably in her mid 20’s).

    But I must say that this is cruel. The series has done a great job of getting me attached to these characters (better than other recent entries in the franchise), so it will definitely be heartwrenching when the inevitable comes.

  2. Death flags everywhere in this episode – and it’s not like these people did not have death flags before – just that now it’s even more obvious. Even if Takaki made it through the episode, the chances of him making through mid-season are slim in my eyes.

    As for Atra… well I stick with my gut feeling that she will make it through most of the season but won’t make it to end of series.

  3. 1. As others have said, lots of death flags here. But honestly, I hope most of them are red herrings. Because here’s the thing: most death flags are character development. When a random character gets a development we call it a death flag because it’s usually designed to make us care about them right before they kill them.

    But what if they just actually developed the main cast without killing them? What if they had a large, 3-dimensional cast of not dead people? That would be damn near revolutionary.

    2. I love that Mika is basically the hand of God. And that it’s on purpose. It is both cool, and it’s what he sees himself as to the point that if he ever slips up he’s afraid he’ll be left behind. It’s win-win; he’s awesome and it gives him a complex personality.

    3. Lot of movement on the romance front. It does seem like there’s gonna be a tit-for-tat between Orga and Merribit. Not thrilled the idea of the harem is not only still around, but now has a proponent in one of the main characters (atra). That’s just strange. A normal modern woman should not so quickly be able to decide ‘we should bang the same guy for the rest of our lives.’

    1. 1.

      But what if they just actually developed the main cast without killing them? What if they had a large, 3-dimensional cast of not dead people? That would be damn near revolutionary.

      They actually sort of did it here a bit already. As Braverade said, if this were another series, Takaki would have died right then and there, but then IBO refused to take that potential melodramatic route and instead gave us all that collective sigh of relief.

      2. Good point.

      3.

      Not thrilled the idea of the harem is not only still around, but now has a proponent in one of the main characters (atra). That’s just strange. A normal modern woman should not so quickly be able to decide ‘we should bang the same guy for the rest of our lives.

      That’s the problem, the setting here is everything but normal. See, even in real life places of perpetual conflict, “normal” morals and social rules break down. Hence, it is not surprising that, in such scenario, some women would be willing to, shall we say, give it all to men that they see as their protector and provider.

      As for Atra being a “proponent” of the harem, this is where her backstory really puts in a dark twist to the otherwise humorous scene. The harsh reality and abuse that she went through her childhood has pretty much screwed her worldview. Plus, there is the fact that she has been deprived of “normal” familial love at an early age certainly affect her conception of what that should be, hence her wanbting to get that love even in non-conventional setups.

      It is also interesting to note that the series itself never absolves or condones the harem. It simply stands as a reminder of the harsh reality of the setting.

      1. 1. That’s my point. Everyone keeps assuming that each development is a death flag, but what if they’re not? What if they’re just developments?
        ,
        2. Yay, I win.

        3. I agree and disagree. Harems aren’t a normal response to anything. And I’m aware normal is an INCREDIBLY loaded word that has little to no real meaning, but in this I’m going to use it. Harems are weird. EVEN in screwy situations. Love is a selfish emotion. Most people don’t want to share, and wanting to share THAT QUICKLY is even stranger.

        That said, your explanation of how growing up in a brothel of all places could have screwed her worldview is an interesting one. Normally I don’t like that sort of justification because I tend to believe that it’s putting words into the mouths of the writers. In this show however, they’ve shown some fairly complex character motivations so I’m more inclined to actually consider that possibility.

        I also agree that the handling of the harem itself has been rather well-done in that it’s just sort of there and it’s not played as ‘sexy’ or ‘bad’ (though I honestly think they’re giving it a BIT too much credit) but rather simply a life choice. Still, I will have a very hard time taking this show seriously if it ends on a harem ending, or even gives a harem ending a really serious chance.

        What I actually think would be interesting to see in Atra would be her slowly warring against the harem idea in her own mind. Gunning for it at first since, frankly, aside from cultures that all but force it they don’t really work and there’s something inherently childish about it, but slowly realizing as her feelings ‘mature’ (IBO’s buzzword) that she doesn’t want to share Mika, and having to come to terms with the fact that adult relationships can hurt as much as they heal. That a ‘let’s all just live together and have sex and make babies is a really unrealistic fantasy.’ (which is why the Turbine’s weird utopian depiction doesn’t QUITE work for me)

      2. I’ll just say that several countries where we have readers are predominantly Muslim countries where polygyny is legal. In the case of Indonesia, “A man may take up to four wives as long as he treats them equally and can financially support them all”, while in Malaysia and Morocco, “a man must justify taking an additional wife at a court hearing before he is allowed to do so.”

        I mention this not as a defense or endorsement of polygamy (its not my cup of tea either), but as an acknowledgement that its application in the world of IBO isn’t that strange, and is a far more durable and respectable depiction than the less formal, more easily-dismissed “harems” (with a small h) so prevalent in anime.

        I don’t know the exact demographics of IBO’s audience, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them are Japanese and Western, and that it’s a conscious choice by the writer(s) to present a culturally inclusive world, which may mean sometimes taking the bulk of that audience out of its comfort zone; and mileage may vary whether it “works” or not.

        I also like how the show can separate the concept of polygyny as it exists with Naze and the Turbines, from how it exits in the more naive Atra’s mind. The Turbines have thought this through, and it works, but Atra hasn’t, and it probably wouldn’t.

        Atra is an out-lier due to her traumatic upbringing (she’s kind of seen it all), but Kudelia’s culture and upbringing is undeniably Western and aristocratic in nature, so she’d be far less open to polygyny than Atra.

      3. I’m well aware that polygamy exists, and has existed. I’ve even mentioned it a couple of times in previous posts. I haven’t gone into detail because frankly, nowadays on the internet Islam is a landmine unfortunately, but since you brought it up I’ll respond.

        The Islam counterpoint is actually why I used the word normal. The actual meaning of normal in its safest connotation is basically a statistical analysis. Monogamy is ‘normal’ because most cultures practice it. This does not remove exceptions, it just establishes likelihood.

        And importantly, in pretty much any culture that still practices polygamy, it is due to long cultural tradition. It doesn’t pop up as a fluke. That is actually my only problem with the turbine depiction. Not that it’s rude, but that it’s unexplained, and I’m sorry, unusual cultural exceptions or not, polygamy is unusual and if you’re going to use it, it requires an explanation.

        WARNING FOR OVERSHARE MOMENT-

        I have a cousin with two husbands (which is not legal so the second had a ‘commitment ceremony’). She is not muslim. She does not have a cultural background that explains this, but she does and that’s that. So I’m well aware that this can happen. But it requires reasoning besides ‘enough love to go around’ (my cousin has reasons) which is why I actually like the idea flamerounin mentioned that Atra has a warped view of love and family because of her background.

      4. TL;DR: I like the fact that the depiction of the Teiwaz harem is culturally sensitive and not played for fanservice, I don’t like the fact that in order to be culturally sensitive, they’ve skipped out (so far) on giving it any logical explanation.

    2. Note that this is just my thoughts, but I am guessing that the Turbines setup could also have been born out of necessity. Being the head of the house, so as to speak, Naze has the power to set “house rules” that everyone has to follow and I guess “no fighting among yourselves” is one of them.

      So, why would everyone willingly follow those? Probably because they think it would be better for all of them. Considering the harsh environment surrounding these women, where they could be abused and/or forced into unsavory jobs (as per Atra’s backstory hinted), sticking to the rules Naze put down would be more advantageous, as it gives them the security and well-being that they sought, not to mention that Naze has the means to sufficiently provide for all of them.

      Note that in episode 8, Amida hinted that Naze did start from the bottom, so he probably isn’t the “ladies man” back then. Also, Amida is most likely his first wife, and considering that she not only is more than willing to accept the setup, but also actively maintain its order, she probably has a hand in Naze’s decision to adopt the women, as well as making the rules for them (and yes, that does mean that here is a bit of altruism here).

      It’s also worth noting that it is implied that some of the women, such as Azee, are not Naze’s “wives” in the usual sexual sense of the word.

      1. Couple of things.

        1. I’d actually thought about that. What if these women were sort of ‘strays’ that he picked up and making them ‘his women’ was a way to protect them? It’s possible. Highly immoral and straight up illegal in reality (more so than polygamy itself) but it’s a possible explanation. And valid, even if it’s messed up.

        2. It comes back to the concerns I mentioned in response to your Atra theory. I don’t like doing the writer’s work for them. Having a space harem (that is not culturally mandated) is strange. It requires explanation. They have not given us one. I don’t like that. I’m not the sort of person that is stuck on my opinions though. If they give us an explanation at some point I will change my mind, but at this point I do think it’s a bit too strange of a thing to have no explanation and me to say okay to.

        P.S. I’m not sure what we’re to take as far as the sexual relations go. It certainly hasn’t been presented as though they all have a strong bond, but it actually hasn’t been presented as though Naze cares at all about them beyond Amida despite having fathered children on a number of the, so I’m mostly chalking that up to a writing misstep at this point. It does seem that pig-tail girl apparently has sex with him which is strange since she’s been implied to be a ‘peer’ to the tekkadan crew who Naze and Amida refer to as children. But again this all just comes back to a very strange situation that could mean A LOT of things that we have been given very little explanation about.

      2. I guess the full explanation of the harem is not required for now and will have to wait, mainly because the story has yet to put them into focus (the story at the moment is about the Isaribi and its crew). At the moment, they are simply companions in Tekkadan’s journey. But, if some of them become bigger players in the plot and have their backstories expounded upon, then we will likely get more insights into why the Turbine harem exists.

      3. True. But that’s kind of my issue. If you had a cannibal in the corner (which, like polygamy, is a thing practiced by certain cultures both historically and to some extent today so if you’re trying to be culturally sensitive don’t jump down their throats) you would wonder why. I wonder why.

      4. Oh, and you’re right the show is about Tekkadan, not the Turbines, but the thing is, they haven’t let the harem drop. It gets a scene in every episode we went from finding out about it in one episode to Amida arguing its merits in the next episode to Atra apparently deciding to pursue it in the next episode. This isn’t a random one-off like Mr. Naked Businessman, the idea of polygamy is now officially a subplot of the series.

      5. Speaking of you mentioning cannibals, I dunno if you had watched Gundam G no Reconguista, but that series had it worse in this matter. They had this Kuntala (institutionalized cannibalism) thing that was supposed to play a major role in the antagonist’s backstory and motivations. But as was with many plot threads from Reco, that one never goes anywhere aside from a few mentions of the word “kuntala”. As in totally nothing, no explanations of what is was supposed to be, why it existed, context. And the supposed commections to the antagonist never came to pass.

        At least with IBO, we do get a few more bits explaining why such things like the harem exists each episode. Though working from those bits to better understand the particular does require a bit of effort from the viewer. Personally, this is something I actually like both as a viewer and as a writer myself, because it opens up a variety of interpretations (mind you that a writer leaving something ambiguous does not always mean he does not have an explanation for it).

      6. Agreed.

        I look at it not as ‘putting words into the writers’ mouths’ or ‘doing their work for them’, but as the writers putting ideas into the minds of the viewer by intentionally not providing all the answers.

        Some see a frustrating, even glaring void that demands filling by the writer. Others see an opportunity for deeper narrative involvement. I accept the validity of the former interpretation, but I subscribe to the latter.

        Regardless, it’s interesting to see this subplot spark such rigorous discourse!

  4. I kinda missed all the death flags and assumed the ‘long lost brother’ would tragically turn out to be one of this week’s pirates…

  5. I loved this episode so much, it was a return to form after the last two episodes.
    While the last two episodes gave development to Orga and Mika, we now get a chance to really develop some of the smaller ones.

    I’m really so glad we got to see Takaki, Atra, and Akihiro’s backstory. We get to see what Takaki is working towards. He’s barely literate himself, but he’s working himself to the bone in order to take care of his sister at the young age of 13. Atra kept her cheerful heart and demeanor, despite all the abuse and obstacles that life threw in her way, and despite her love of Mika, she is happy to call Kudelia “sister”.
    Akihiro’s backstory was definitely the saddest. I actually teared up with his. I really hope that that story doesn’t end tragically and he’s able to find his brother.

    Orga and Merribit are interesting. I like that while Orga was a little out of his depth with the woman at first, when it comes to his men and his family, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the woman, he will not stand for it.

    A really great episode and It was just puncutated in the best way possible in that last end scene. Mika is such a boss!

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