Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 25 (Fin*)

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This episode marks the end of my Winter 2016, and it was a good one. In fact, it was a great one. The order of the final battles were all set, with no more surprises in store; all that was left was for everyone to have at it and see who comes out of the fray getting what they want.

Kudelia wants peace and equality for Mars; Orga wants to find, through the crucible of war, the place where Mika and Tekkadan belong. Henri and Iznario want to maintain their grip on power; McGillis wants to purge Gjallarhorn of the corruption and hypocrisy that brought about the crazed FrankenstEin monster.

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The actual battle between Mika and Ein is brutal and smashy, as has come to be the typical mobile suit battle style (even Ein doesn’t have any beam weapons or missiles, which is for the best). As for the personalities, Ein remains, well, crazy, while Mika keeps a casual calm, muttering fuel levels and tactics and generally ignoring Ein’s ranting.

Slightly more civilized in execution is the duel between McGillis and Gaelio, with the former landing swift and deadly strikes on the latter once Gaelio states he won’t let even a lifelong friend in McGillis get away with exploiting Ein the way he did.

While these final two mobile suit duels are going on, Makanai finally arrives at parliament. Was there any doubt once he got there that he wasn’t going to have any difficulty getting his way?

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When Orga receives the good news, he starts to be able to see the end he’ll make…but they’re not there quite yet, so he orders everyone to not die, warning them he’ll kill them again if they do.

As Henri and Iznario sweat, McGillis really gets into Ice Cold Mode, telling Gaelio such “soft-hearted emotions” as friendship, love, and trust Carta (who it’s confirmed has died) and Gaelio gave him won’t reach him, as he has “lived in anger.”

It’s an anger his two childhood friends were too busy trusting, loving, and even partially pitying him for not having been born to power as they were. McGillis took full advantage of their blind spots in using them to expose Gjallarhorn.

When he marries Almiria, he’ll become head of the Bauduin family, the Seven Stars, and the new, unblemished order. He admits to Gaelio that he was the only true friend he ever had, but sacrificing him was necessary for the good of the world.

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Ein’s constant ranting about making Mika repent for his sins really starts to grate, and it doesn’t help that Ein isn’t going down while Mika is running out of gas and ammo.

Back in Parliament, Makanai cedes his speaking time to Kudelia, knowing she’s more likely to deliver a speech that will rouse more members to their cause. She states her purpose for coming and the constant disruptions by Gjallarhorn, and asks the body to choose a future filled with hope.

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Mika, finally on his last nerve, hears Orga’s voice of support and finds his second (third?) wind, finally understanding how to use Barbatos, and proceeding to cut away at Ein’s mobile suit.

Ein calls him a monster, to which Mika dryly responds “Look who’s talking,” finally simply telling Ein to shut up by running his suit through the core. Mika’s never needed many words to get his point across, and achieves yet another badass victory by sticking to that M.O.

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Makanai wins re-election, cease-fire flares are fired, and the battle ends with Tekkadan the victor. Half-metal negotiations are opened, while Mika asks Orga at sunset if they’ve arrived at that place he’s always talking about. Orga affirms that they have, at least one of them, and Mika simply says “It’s pretty.”

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McGillis proceeds to send his father away to exile, then comforts his betrothed; he got everything he wanted out of this, but he still has much to do, and while he’s sitting pretty near the top of the food chain, he’s still not invulnerable.

To Merribit’s relief, after the battle the seeming death-and-revenge-obsessed kids…turn back into more-or-less regular kids/brats. They’re not doomed after all, but a lot tougher than she thought.

Laffter, Azee, and Shino are all fine. Orga meets with Naze and laments the men he lost, but Naze tells him that’s part of being a leader, and he can’t let it get to him. For his men to believe in him and his cause, he must believe in it too, no matter the cost.

Kudelia will be staying behind in Arbrau, but Atra still has the two of them console Mika, who’s lost the use of a hand and a partially ruined eye. And finally, after Orga congratulates Tekkadan for completing their first mission—escorting Kudelia to Earth—he turns around and asks Mika what they should do now, a nice mirror of the usual dynamic. Mika’s response: Let’s go home.

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*If it seems like this “final” episode left a lot of things on the table—no return to Mars, McGillis’ plan just getting off the ground; more observing and maneuvering by the parent companies—well, that’s because a new season has been announced, airing Fall 2016. We haven’t seen the last of the Iron-Blooded Orphans, and I’m not complaining.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 24

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Well, I’m back, after managing to climb my way out of the Ik Kil cenote, and upon my return I’m greeted with one of the hardest-punching episodes of IBO yet, the climactic Battle of Edmonton. What’s interesting is that most of the time, the city itself is completely untouched by the battle, as are its citizens (none of whom we see) and the parliament that is about to convene.

Tekkadan have six hours to get Makanai there, or everything will have been for nothing. But Gjallarhorn is careful not to appear like they’re interfering in Arbrau affairs, while Mika can’t just barrel into the city and wreck up the place, because Makanai would lose all support he has with such a reckless entrance.

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But the clock doesn’t rule this episode. It’s there, but far more important is Orga and Tekkadan’s commitment to demonstrating their version of the Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy: Things have worked out for them so far, so they’re going to keep working out, if only they keep fighting and pressing forward. There’s nowhere for them to retreat to anymore, so it’s not as if they’re swimming in options.

Merribit has an active role in the battle—tending the wounded, which seems like far too big a job for just her and Atra, neither of whom are triage doctors—but she remains convinced they’re doing this all wrong. She’s become the new Biscuit, only she’s even more outwardly opposed to the more reckless plan being implemented, and the costs of which are mounting by the minute; a lot of orphans die today.

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But Merribit isn’t in charge; Orga is, and he has the full support and loyalty of the men…er, boys,along with the tacit approval from Kudelia, who absolutely must get to Parliament with Makanai. In not so many words, Orga tells Merribit to stuff her objections where the sun don’t shine.

Since before they were Tekkadan, they’ve been risking their lives, either for their own purposes or for those of their masters. Tekkadan still has masters of a kind in Teiwaz, Makanai, Kudelia and Montag. But never has the need to put aside worries about losses or political or emotional fallout than now.

Even if Orga were to cave to Merribit’s wishes, what does she suggest: surrender? They’d likely all be killed anyway, and all the higher-ups would do is click their tongues in distant disappointment, lamenting Tekkadan wasn’t who they thought they were and moving on rather quickly.

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So Orga doubles down, hoping even when his boys see their comrades fall, they’ll fight that much harder so the survivors can survive and smile. It is a full understanding that nothing so much as a place to belong comes free, especially for a band of Martian orphans oppressed all their lives: the orphans who fall shall be bricks in the foundation of the survivor’s future; their blood will be the mortar.

But yeah, for all that to happen, some of Tekkadan has to actually, you know, survive. While I liked how the episode started with the battle already trudging on for three days, if you stop and think about it (or watch how quickly they incur losses in the scenes of the battle we get), you see that the show has suddenly gotten awfully darned liberal with Tekkadan’s strength and resources.

But this is an episode about putting a lot of stuff aside, whether it’s how Tekkadan can hold out so long against Gjallarhorn, or how good a wheelwoman Atra is in a pinch. It’s an episode where both the heroes and the show throw caution to the wind and go for it, and the results are far more thrilling than frustrating.

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One could level the criticism that there’s simply too many people fighting for screen time this week, but this also didn’t bother me, as we’re in the climax of the show (barring a third season). So when Eugene suddenly shows up to bail out the mobile workers, we cut to the nervous Makanai faction or Fleurs and Iznario watching from safety, or Gaelio takes Mika on to avenge Carta, I’m fine with all of it.

The most obvious reveal that was coming this week was someone I’ll call “Frankenst’Ein”, but his entrance was still chilling in its ominousness. Laffter and Azee are two of Tekkadan’s best fighters, but the way StEin casts them aside like ragdolls really drives home the point that this guy is bad news. Indeed, Azee, Laffter, and Shino could all be toast, and all in a matter of seconds, which, obviously, would suck.

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Not only that, Ein manages to unite all the disparate battle vectors by working so fast he’s almost everywhere at once, undermining Tekkadan’s gains and wreaking havoc wherever he goes. Once he’s done beating up the mobile suits, the power is switched off in Edmonton so that Ein’s Arab reactor won’t cause any more chaos than he causes by ripping up the streets with another badass entrance.

However, on this point, Ein is outmatched by Kudelia, doing probably the bravest (and stupidest) thing she’s ever done by standing her ground and staring Ein down, daring him to do what he will. By doing so, and throughout his dialogue, Ein is not only revealed as an over-powered, formidable fighting force, but not the stablest of individuals, which is understandable considering how much Crank meant to him (and the fact he no longer has a full body).

Kudelia really is going all-in here, giving clarity to a very complex situation: Ein can kill her right then and there, but there will be consequences for the powers that be. Not only that, Kudelia’s able to distract Ein long enough to allow Mika to blast in to rescue her, along with Orga and Atra, at the last second.

Meanwhile, though it’s almost overshadowed by the impending Mika-Ein duel, I kinda cheered inside when Montag Dazzled the Stage and unmasked himself, proclaiming he’ll be Gaelio’s dancing partner for the duration. Great stuff.

I’ve wagered twenty-four weeks on this show (and would bet twenty-four more) and have been vastly satisfied with the rewards. I’m hoping the finale will net me a windfall. Yes, I have a problem, but I can’t stop now, with the finish line in sight.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 23

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Commander Carta Issue is ready to accept the consequences for her latest humiliating failure at the hands of Tekkadan, but Lord Iznario says she’s being given one last shot to redeem her pride honor. It’s thanks to an unlikely benefactor: McGillis himself, whom Carta can’t help but blush before when they meet on the stairs.

Carta may believe herself a worthless, humiliating failure, but she forgets that when she and McGillis were kids, she always treated him as an equal, despite everyone around them saying they weren’t because of Gill’s low parentage. All that mattered to Carta was that McGillis was a Fareed, and he should always stand proud and strong.

Now McGillis is simply asking her to do the same, and she will. But who knows the true reasons he wants her to fight Tekkadan once more, and how that coming battle fits into his grand plan to reform Gjallarhorn.

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As the Edmonton Express proceeds unabated, Merribit is increasingly concerned that the orphans of Tekkadan, including Orga, have gone mad in their thirst for revenge, and that it can’t possibly end well. But those same kids she wants to keep out of the fight tell her to back off. They’re fighting for Biscuit, and they will not be denied.

If only Gaelio could fight for his dead friend Ein. We see the toll Ein’s transformation into essentially a half-Gundam takes on Gaelio. Just as the Tekkadan kids are being metaphorically hardened into killers (which Merribit hates), Ein has been literally weaponized. He no longer has the luxury of choice, nor does he want it; he is still “alive” to avenge Crank and his other fallen comrades.

I never thought I’d be comparing Gaelio and Merribit, but here we are: both are appalled and scared of the sudden turn things have taken, but I don’t think either will be able to resist the force of the currents they’re caught up in.

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Even more unsettling is that Carta is, on some level, being thrown to the wolves by McGillis, with Gaelio and Ein sure to follow. Carta doesn’t realize the extent to which killing Biscuit radicalized Tekkadan.

She also quite wrongly assumes their patience and willingness to have a good old-fashioned 3-on-3 duel to decide whether they may pass or whether they hand over Makanai and Kudelia. Mika, in particular, isn’t having it. Why should they? Chivalry in this situation doesn’t do them a damn bit of good.

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Carta magnanimously gives Tekkadan 30 minutes to prepare, but Mika doesn’t need one. He rushes Carta and curb-stomps her two McGillis lookalikes. He doesn’t just disable their suits, he kills them, and then starts mercilessly whaling on an overwhelmed Carta. Even Lafter gets a little squemish at the sight of the carnage.

She rants about how this can’t be and who she is, but Mika doesn’t care about any of that, and neither do the kids who are watching (and won’t let Merribit send them away). Carta and Gjallarhorn are the enemy, and they’re in the way, so they’ll get crushed.

For a few moments, Mika is the bully, the antagonist in this fight, and Carta is like a lamb in the snow I’m feeling sorry for, even though she shouldn’t have expected anything else. It was a little hard to watch.

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A weeping, utterly defeated Carta is only spared from death at the last minute by Gaelio, but her injuries draw comparisons to Ein’s when he was last defeated. Could Carta end up the brain of another Gundam, like him? I don’t know, but Gaelio doesn’t have the heart to tell her he isn’t McGillis. McGillis, presumably, has moved on to other steps in his big plan.

The train makes it to the gleaming city of Edmonton, on time and ready to deposit their passenger right smack-dab in the parliament when the time comes for elections. Orga calls the city “the enemy’s grounds.” Mika listens, as he pops a snack in his mouth, unsurprisingly none the worse for emotional wear after his 3-on-1 beatdown.

But he used to just follow orders; take out those who he’s ordered to take out, because orders were orders. Now he’s finally seeing those he takes out not just as targets, but as enemies; those who stand in the way of Tekkadan getting to a place where they belong. If anything, this realization only makes Mika a more potent weapon.

As for Merribit, she seems to have taken on the thankless mantle of Tekkadan’s conscience, thinking about a future beyond the next battle’s outcome, like Biscuit did before. But is that future the “Final Lie” of the episode’s title?

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 22

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This episode doesn’t stray far from the familiar patterns associated with the aftermath of the death of a major character. Rain clouds gather. Tekkadan’s march forward is suddenly halted. Their leader Orga withdraws to his room to be alone, racked with grief and guilt over the decisions he made that cost Biscuit’s life. The iron flower’s petals are wilting.

As predictable as this reaction and its resolution may be, it’s important to remember why they’re predictable: because they’re realistic. The loss of someone both dear to the Tekkadan family and integral to the Tekkadan business reveals that yes, indeed, these are still a bunch of kids. Even Orga can’t deny how few years he’s been alive, nor can he conceal the fact this is the largest loss in his life to date.

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Naturally, as the other kids of Tekkadan deal with their grief without their leader around to share in it, the adults don’t skip a beat. Fareed’s father orders Carta home, telling his chosen pick for Prime Minister that Carta has only proven to be a “worthless tomboy,” which is pretty harsh but not inaccurate. Carta’s job was to stop Makanai, period. She could not attain that result even with superior manpower and equipment. Carta is furious over her latest defeat and wants to keep going after the “space rats”, but follows orders.

The other two, non-shamed members of Carta’s childhood triangle, McGillis and Gaelio, are busy as well. McGillis makes Gaelio confront his prejudice and ignorance over the A-V system (the only thing at this point that can save Ein) by showing him the A-V research that continued even after the war. Gaelio laments the “loss of humanity” needed to embrace A-V, but McGillis remarks, not wrongly, that every time the world has changed, either for better or for worse, it was because someone abandoned or exceeded their humanity.

Revealing a squadron of new (or really old?) mobile suits, McGillis reveals his “plan”: Ein and Gaelio will both undergo the A-V procedure, and together with him eliminate Tekkadan and prove that they should be the ones running Gjallarhorn. In reality, McGillis intends to keep propping up Tekkadan and Kudelia as a relevant threat in order to use them as a stepping stone to power, i.e. overthrowing Gjallarhorn. In other words: he may only be their ally as long as they do what he wants them to do.

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Meanwhile, aboard the Montag ship, one of the “kids” is also moving forward without stopping. That’s Kudelia, and it’s no surprise: she already went through the pain Orga and the others are enduring after the loss of Fumitan. She decided long ago that no matter how much blood ended up on her hands, she wouldn’t stop fighting to become Hope.

That’s an important distinction from becoming a leader, as Makanai suggests after hearing her plans to get him to Edmonton via a train in Anchorage. A leader is just a person. She wants to be more than that, more than a mere human agent whose power is extinguished when she dies. She seeks an enduring transformation and influence. That’s the same area where McGillis is operating.

The adults on the Montag ship are powerless to do anything about the low morale. Merribit wants to do or say something to Orga, but isn’t confident she can get through to him. Laffter and Azee are more comfortable with their role right now, unable to fix the morale, but still committed to doing what they came there to do: support Tekkadan on behalf of Naze.

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As I supected, it’s Mika who breaks Orga out of his funk. Merribit is inches from knocking on his door, but Mika appears, and she suggests they both simply leave him be. But Mika comes right back and crashes Orga’s pity party with some cold hard truths. Way back when they were kids, they had an agreement, one that predates even meeting Biscuit: Mika would do anything, kill anyone for Orga, as long as Orga took the both of them to that place where they belong. That place was never simply an abstract concept for Mika: it’s a place.

Up to this point, since Biscuit died, Orga hadn’t been telling Mika anything. That ends right here and now, with Mika grabbing Orga and asking again and again what he wants him to do. He stands there, ready and waiting to carry out his will. He also puts it to Orga: are they there yet? No. So they must keep going. After bringing Orga back into the present with his eyes re-fixed on the future, lightning strikes; a nice, if on-the-nose touch.

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Orga emerges from his room, musters his boys, and tells them the best way to honor Biscuit is to make sure he rests easy knowing they’re continuing the job they have to do. At the same time, he makes it more about a job, which he probably has to considering how much of a jolt the kids need to keep going; he makes it as much about revenge.

After Orga’s pep talk, Tekkadan gets back to work, and the iron flower’s petals re-sharpen. As the credits roll, we see Makanai and Tekkadan already aboard the train bound for Edmonton, meaning they didn’t have any trouble getting to Anchorage or securing transport. That indicates the next three episodes are going to start taking care of business in earnest.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 21

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As expected, Gjallarhorn is coming. More specifically, Carta is coming. The Issue family is the Top Dog of the Seven Stars, and she’s coming in force to restore her pride and that of her fleet. Orga’s plan is to help get Makanai and Kudelia to parliament. Kudelia calls upon Montag for transport and he obeys, happy to be of help in the shadows.

But all this is preceded by a rare “Back on Mars” scene, specifically Biscuit’s sisters waiting for his return from Earth. As I saw the place and family he wanted to get back to as soon as possible (which isn’t as soon as he’d like, hence deferring to Orga), I didn’t know it was a bad omen.

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“We’ll worry about the future after we leave here,” says Mika. In the meantime, they’ll crush whoever’s in their way of that future. The target has had to move by necessity, and Biscuits okay with that. “You’d never complain about my reckless ideas,” Orga says to Biscuit in a dark mess hall. “I did complain.

You just weren’t listening.” And so it is with Biscuit’s many death flags early in this episode. They were clear to see, but like Orga, my eyes were focused elsewhere, on all the other issues at hand, like resisting Carta Issue’s imminent assault.

We even see a potential passing of the torch from Biscuit to Merribit, as she visits Orga and assures him he’ll have “plenty of chances” to tell Biscuit how much he needs him and wants him to stay in Tekkadan. Could the foreboding be any more obvious?

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Alas, like Orga, I wasn’t listening, partly because I didn’t want the worst to happen. Biscuit, even with his wavering resolve, was too important to Tekkadan’s survival. And when Carta brings the pain from land air and sea (and one naval captain is the older brother of Orlis, Tekkadan’s first kill), the focus moves from the characters to the latest battle they must fight.

Carta’s got the numbers, but she was born a few centuries too late. Tekkadan doesn’t cut her any slack for her flashy, chivalrous, but ultimately dubious tactics, like clumping her Blonde Squadron and rushing straight ahead, but not before posing and announcing how great they are. I chuckled when a shirtless, impatient Akihito interrupted her sublime little procession by blasting one of her men.

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That being said, Carta has a lot of steel to throw at Tekkadan, and throw she does. It’s just that most of it gets wasted with terrible gameplan that doesn’t try to poke or prod at Tekkadan’s defense, allowing them to exploit a great number of traps and misdirection.

Carta and her men are also not accustomed to fighting guerrillas like Tekkadan, and the uncouth rough-and-tumble melee combat throws them off balance. Meanwhile, thanks to Biscuit’s strategizing, Carta attacked the wrong side of the island in her desire to achieve her mission objective of capturing Kudelia and Makanai.

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When her men get to Makanai’s residence, only fire and smoke greets them, and in the confusion their targets slip away to the landing area where Tekkadan commandeers their own landing craft. Tekkadan knew exactly what their enemy was after and how they’d go about trying to get it.

Carta didn’t know or care what her enemy was up to or how it would fight, and simply thought everything would work out due to sheer brute force and “fortuitousness.” She thought wrong.

Even so, Carta is in the right place at the right time (and Mika is occupied) at one crucial moment when Orga’s Biscuit-piloted Mobile Worker is exposed. Carta is able to slip away and slash it, and Biscuit is able to warn Orga to let go and be thrown from the worker just in time.

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When Mika sees the worker tumble, he goes into a kind of controlled berserk mode, defeating both the suits hounding him and then beating Carta down (though not killing her in a murderous rage, hence the “controlled”). But the damage is done, and the flags this time didn’t lie: Biscuit is crushed by the worker, and due to blown-out ears, isn’t able to hear Orga’s cries.

Biscuit doesn’t want to die there and then, but he can’t overcome the damage done to his flesh and blood. “We will make Tekkadan…” are his final words to a devastated Orga…not “I told you this would happen.” The “we” and “Tekkadan” suggest Biscuit wanted Orga to know it he was with him and with Tekkadan until the end. That his death wasn’t Orga’s fault. Orga can’t just fall into a pit of regret and despair after all; there are a lot more people depending on him to lead their search for a future.

This episode returned to the Mars-based first ED, which was a nice move. Now I finally understand what the corn at the very end is about. It represents the quiet, peaceful life of farming with his sisters Biscuit was fighting for until the end, but could not quite reach. But for everyone else, the struggle continues.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 20

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Tekkadan did it: they finally got Kudelia Aina Bernstein safely to Earth. The inescapable question is, What now? All they know for certain is that they’re only safe for the time being; Gjallarhorn has their position and it’s only a matter of time before they strike.

This episode provides a breather from last week’s intense (and awesome) battle, giving various characters a chance to consider their options, and determine whether moving forward is the answer, or if returning home is the right way to go.

A lot of the decisions by many of those characters has thus far been informed by those of their brothers (giving this episode its title) and this is no different…until the positions of those brothers comes into conflict.

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Gaelio has evolved greatly from the haughty, simpering aristocrat soldier of yore. He got swept up in Ein’s vendetta by giving him an arena to exact revenge, but that failed, Ein’s life hangs by a thread, and Gaelio feels responsible.

The old Gaelio actually comes out when the doctors recommend the only course is to give Ein the Alaya-Vijnana system, something Gaelio was brought up to dispise as less-than-human. He sees Ein as a brother now, and doesn’t want to make him a monster.

It takes the desperation of Ein’s situation, and counsel from an out-of-mask McGillis to start to sway Gaelio towards consent to Ein’s A-V operation. As McGillis says, the hatred and mistrust of tech like A-V (or even prostheses) were a calculated part of Gjallarhorn training, since its original mission was to avoid another Calamity War.

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Ein’s only hope is a relic form that war Earth would rather forget. But Tekkadan has been out there using it all along. While Gaelio must consider a practice the effects of which are more widespread in Mars, the Martians of Tekkadan have to get used to something a lot less intense: live fish.

Before meeting the illustrious Makanai, he gives them a big load of the flounder (or sole) which the orphans distrust almost as much as Gaelio mistrusts the A-V. Both are strange and alien, and elicit disgust. The food they’re used to is awful by Earth standards, but to them, it’s just food, and fresh fish is an aberration.  But Atra gets over that, and with the Turbine girls, pulls up her sleeves and prepares a meal…but we never see Mika take a bite.

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When the meeting with Makanai arrives…it’s a little disappointing. First, the good news: they’re in Oceanian territory, safe from Gjallarhorn for the time being. Peaceful progress has been made in the Dorts thanks to Kudelia’s efforts. Because that has led to lower productivity in the Dorts, Oceania is benefiting by filling the shortfall, giving Oceania greater incentive to protect Tekkadan, who helped make it possible.

Now the bad: Makanai has been exiled from Arbrau, and currently has no real power. He shares Kudelia’s desire for talks on Martian half-metal deregulation, but first he needs an escort back to Arbrau for an upcoming session of parliament in preparation for a new election. Makanai’s rival, Henri Fleurs, has Gjallarhorn support, which means if Tekkadan sides with Makanai, Gjallarhorn will have yet another reason to take them out.

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And all this, when Orga admits to Naze that despite all they’ve managed to accomplish, Tekkadan are still “nobodies” without firm ground to stand on. Naze tells Orga he has a wide berth when it comes to deciding what to do next; he’s already fulfilled his debt to McMurdo. So it’s Orga’s show, and never before has he needed the support of his right-hand-man Biscuit. (Notice how Biscuit is seated on Orga’s left above).

The problem is, while Orga believes their best shot at a prosperous future is to help Makanai, Biscuit disagrees. He just received a posthumous communication from Savarin, telling him to choose the life he wishes to lead. Whether it’s loud and dangerous or quiet and calm, what’s important is that Biscuit chooses.

Biscuit still has family to protect, be it his sisters back home or his little brothers in Tekkadan. And he suspects a lot of Tekkadan’s success has simply been due to luck. So when Orga comes to him wanting to barrel forward, with the sea in front of them, Biscuit can’t help but think about how his brother, armed with the best intentions, got swept into the undertow, couldn’t get out, and drowned.

Orga is upset with Biscuit’s no, but understands it a lot more when he hears about Savarin’s message. As Merribit comments on Orga’s long-time dependence on Biscuit’s agreement to this point, Yukinojou tells Biscuit it wasn’t luck that got them this far, it was the fact they were all together.

Orga isn’t rushing ahead without fear or reason. He is thinking about the future Biscuit wants now. They only disagree on the timing and the path.

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Kudelia knows the only way is forward, and prays to Fumitan to give her the strength to do so. That strength enters on cue in the form of Atra and Mika with some food; Kudelia hasn’t been eating. Just as Orga draws strength and confidence in Biscuit, Mika, Naze, and others, Kudelia knows she can’t go anywhere without the strength lent to her from Atra, Mika, and Fumitan’s memory. Brothers and sisters.

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Speaking of sisters, I’m pleased to report we haven’t seen the last of Carta Issue (thought it was pretty evident we were going to get more than just that one confrontation with her). With her pride and the pride of her fleet on the line, she’s coming after Tekkadan harder than ever. Thanks to her connections, she’s been given clearance to enter Oceanian jurisdiction, meaning the “time being”

Tekkadan was safe from Gjallarhorn turned out to be no more than a couple days. While I totally understand Biscuits desire to go home, considering the myriad dangers that surround them no matter what they choose to do, Orga’s plan is the one with the greatest reward. And thanks to the help of the Turbine girls, they’ll have a few more tricks up their sleeve with new Earth-optimized suit mods.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 19

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Due to the Dort excursion, it’s been a while since the last big space battle. I was hungry for a new one, and this show delivered a feast with its usual excelent timing. Before the battle commences, however, Kudelia gets her long overdue handshake with Mika.

In her first such attempt (in the very first episode), Mika demurred because his hand was dirty, but she never cared about dirt, and now her hands are dirty too, and whatever their personal inadequacies tell them, they’re on more equal terms than ever, with a united cause.

Kudelia also warmly thanks Orga and Tekkadan for getting her this far (and she’s sure they’ll take her further still), promising to make them all happy. As she glances at Fumitan’s empty chair, it’s also clear she doesn’t want her maid’s sacrifice be in vain, any more than all the other people whose blood is on – and dreams are in – her hands.

We also get a nice symmetry between Commander Carta Issue, who choreographs her men as part of their preparations for battle, and Eugene getting all fired up on Isaribi. Both strive to meet their personal ideal of cool to all around them. Eugene wants to be like Orga. Carta, as it happens, wants to show how far she’s come to McGillis and Gaelio.

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I always knew McGillis and Gaelio went way back, but now we see there was a third member of their childhood clique, the lovely (but also tomboyish in the day) Carta, who is spellbound the moment she first lays eyes on the newly adopted/arrived McGillis.

In the present, she’s pissed McGillis chose Gaelio’s little sister instead of her, and in order to further his career, no less. But Carta herself was only given Ariadne fleet command because of her silver (as opposed to iron) blood. Gaelio sees her as a figurehead, but she takes her role seriously.

As he watches the confrontation unfold between Tekkadan and Carta, McGillis (AKA “Montag”) monologues the importance of “unveiling the past” of those one wishes to predict and control. At the same time, living in the murky past “wastes” the bright future. He’s hoping Tekkadan is taking steps forward, and wants to see that he’s right.

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Speaking of a waste, just imagine if Tekkadan had the manpower and firepower at Carta’s disposal. Carta is rusty, if her blade was ever sharp to begin with. Earth’s orbit may be “her sky” to her and her loyal men, but that title had probably never been challenged in any way until now.

Some may decry how poorly she performs here as making it too easy for Tekkadan to succeed, but I take a different tack: there are good and bad, experienced and inexperienced commanders in Gjallarhorn. Her ability simply doesn’t match (or frankly justify) her arrogance or theatricality.

Faced with an unpredictable and fully committed opponent, Carta is outmaneuvered by “old school” tactics such as the Isaribi using the Brewers’ ship as a physical shield from long-range bombardment, which when destroyed releases a huge cloud of nano-mirror chaff that blinds the fleet, giving Tekkadan time to get the landing party into position.

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To pull off these tactics, Eugene had to control both ships with his A-V system, which takes him to the extent he looks like he’s just seen up someone’s skirt by the time he’s finished. Hopefully, he’ll be okay. The landing party, guarded by Shino, Akihiro, and Mika, is then ambushed by Gaelio and Ein, who in hindsight doesn’t seem so much obsessed with revenge here and now as he is eager to prove to Gaelio that he’s worthy of the trust and opportunities bestowed on him.

In the cold open Eugene and Shiro threw what you might call death flags, but since this is IBO not all death flags are genuine. Nevertheless, with so many people in play, I figured someone else we care about was going to die in this battle, especially when the transport carrying Orga, Kudelia, Atra, Biscuit, and Merribit is targeted. Enter the cavalry: Laffter and Azee, piloting suits modified so as not to tip off Teiwaz involvement.

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Ein has always been an intriguing if one-note character, but he faces another serious setback here as his suit and his body are pierced by Mika when he jumps in front of Gaelio to protect him. Like Carta, Ein simply can’t back up his rage and enthusiasm with actual ability. I doubt he’s dead dead, but he’s in bad shape, and now Gaelio has a another reason to want Tekkadan blood.

When Carta sends out her mobile suit forces, elite though they may be (or believe themselves to be) they can’t hang with Mika, especially when Montag joins the fray (in what I’m guessing is a suit that disguises his identity from Gaelio and Carta, whose reactions to his involvement aren’t seen). One of Carta’s pilots actually does give Mika a pretty hard time, making him miss his opportunity to use the transport ship as a atmospheric entry shield (Barbatos won’t make it on its own).

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Things look bleak for Mika (whose handshake with Kudelia could also be considered a death flag), especially when he thinks back to the convo he had with Orga back when the were kids, which set them on this course. But Mika’s not ready to say goodbye to the world yet; not when he hasn’t yet seen with his own eyes the place they belong Orga talked about.

So as the transport occupants worry and fear the worst during the long, violent atmospheric entry, Mika hitches himself to the mobile suit of the guy he defeated and uses it as an ablative heat shield, safely emerging not long after the transport. Kudelia, Atra, Orga…they’re all elated. Another close call, that’s all. Now, after that exciting space battle, our people are finally on Earth, where several new battles will commence.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 18

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This is largely an episode that is doing the practical work of moving pieces on the master game board, as well as introducing a few new faces. But it also has some of the most powerful scenes of the entire series, and one of those new faces happens to be the new face of the Maiden of Revolution, Kudelia Aina Bernstein.

Wounded by the loss of Fumitan but now hardened by the wider plight of the people who believe in her, she takes up the baton of destiny. While before she was wide-eyed and often seemed lost, here her stare has grown a lot more resolved and aware.

But this episode is called “Voice”, so it’s not just a new face she’s found in herself, but her voice as well. It’s a voice that’s powerful enough to inspire the larger revolution she didn’t know she was the idol of, and strong enough to stop the Gjallarhorn fleet without firing a shot. Mika is understandably impressed, as am I.

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So is McMask (who continues to have Mustachirato around). He contacts Tekkadan with a business proposal on behalf of the “Montag Company.” It looks like he’s decides to enlist Kudelia’s aid on his crusade to reform Gjallarhorn.

McGillis’ long game has gotten so long, it makes thinking about a potential Gundam rematch with Mika seem like a dinky whim. They’re for all intents and purposes on the same side, due to his and Kudelia’s shared desire for change.

On the other hand, there are some who aren’t so inspired by Kudelia’s voice, like the Gjallarhorn fleet that only stopped because they were ordered to; Gaelio, who’s only looking for a piece of the action, and most notably Ein, who is actually half-Martian and thus mercilessly discriminated against for being “less than human”, which is what Gaelio warns him he’ll become if he undergoes the A-V procedure.

Ein is still inspired by the voice of his late mentor Crank, who for all his toughness was someone who didn’t believe in judging people by lumping them into ordered groups (they chat in a brief but strong flashback scene). He treated everyone equally, and encouraged Ein not to worry about what others think of him. If the A-V can help Ein defeat Tekkadan, so be it.

In terms of wild cards, Ein’s not as flashy as McMask, but he could still exert some influence before the end. In another Gundam, he indeed might be the protagonist, and we can actually empathize with his desire for revenge. However much I like and support Tekkadan and Mika, Mika did kill Crank.

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Another great scene is after McMask’s introductory meeting with Kudelia, Orga, and Naze, in which Orga and Biscuit learn that McMurdo and Nobliss were in cahoots without their knowledge. Biscuit is somewhat miffed by being left out, but Orga isn’t the slightest bit surprised, nor does he feel betrayed

His aniki simply hasn’t deemed him or Tekkadan quite ready for that kind of information, that’s all. His “scurrying at the feet” of greater men who are in the business of outwitting each other. And while Tekkadan are largely now a means to an end – protecting Kudelia – Orga’s talk reminds us they’re not done changing.

In one of the funniest moments of the series, and a very knowing one from the production staff, Mika immediately recognizes McMask as the Chocolate Guy. Yet McGillis doesn’t even skip a beat; after all, he’s not wearing the mask to conceal himself from them, but from his peers.

McMask cannot yet show his hand to the world, but there’s no harm in letting Orga, Biscuit, and Mika (but only them for now) in on his secret, and tell them of his plans to transform Gjallarhorn, and how his goals align with Kudelia.

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But realistically speaking, this has been an extraordinarily rough, draining few days for Kudelia, and she’s continuing to push herself, not sleeping or eating while furiously preparing for negotiations. Atra noticed her legs shaking during her televised speech – something I’m glad we learned through her rather than when it happened. At the time, the show itself, like us, was focused on the voice of Kudelia the Revolutionary; Atra was focused on Kudelia the flesh-and-blood human being.

We’re briefly introduced to the charismatic female commander of the Outer Earth Orbit Regulatory Fleet, who digs eye makeup and may be afflicted with the Gundam equivalent of Chuunibyou, though with the firepower to back up her theatricality. She looks to be a fun and formidable foil to Gaelio as well as Tekkadan. We also meet a female politician and an old whitebeard who considers Kudelia his “Prince Charming.”

Finally, as Akihito trains Shino in the simulators on the Hammerhead, Laffter seems to be throwing out restless vibes that suggest she may have a thing for Akihito. I could totally see her dumping Naze for someone who can give her their full attention…but this could all be just wishful thinking on my part.

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But what puts this episode over the top for me is the final scene, which is definitely be in my Top 5 of the series so far. It had just about had me in tears needing to be held and consoled by Mika. It’s a scene that rekindles Atra’s strange, beautiful, adorable fantasy, but also shows how Kudelia will find the strength to keep pushing forward.

The burden of her responsibility literally pounding at her head, a lonely Kudelia is joined by Atra, who came to deliver her some lunch, but also comfort and solidarity. Atra wants Kudelia and her to talk to each other more, so that they can share the burden she’s carrying alone. Atra actually forgot the lunch, but Mika brings it, hears their conversation, and joins in. Kudelia may think herself powerless, but that’s the strain of her burden speaking.

Mika thinks she’s amazing, having stopped an attacking fleet in its tracks with her voice. No one can overstate how rare a gift that is, no matter how much luck may have played a role. Mika admits even Orga couldn’t have done what Kudelia did. Mika knows he’s out of the loop about a lot of things and knows he can only do so much, but he also knows what he can do, which is support Kudelia with everything he’s got (which, as we know, is a lot).

Atra concurs with his ‘amazing’ label, and Kudelia is moved to tears, prompting Atra to order Mika to take her in his arms and console her. She’s surprised at first, then leans into the hug. When Atra starts to cry, Mika surprises her by bringing her into the hug as well, simply going by the rules Atra herself laid out regarding consoling ladies.

The three just float there Atra and Kudelia crying it out, and you can just about feel the weight of Kudelia’s burden lessening as it’s distributed among the other two. It’s a beautiful moment, full stop. When she later informs Naze of her approval of the McMask deal, her eyes are still raw from tears, but they’ve never looked more strong or determined, because she has friends who love her and who have her back.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 17

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As news of the failed uprising on Dort 3 spreads, other Dort colonies’ workers mobilize for war, just as the “Regulatory Bureau” intended. Those workers soon discover their weapons have been rendered useless and the main Arianrhod fleet lies in wait just beyond the colonies to mop up. All Tekkadan can do is watch it all on TV in the space port.

That is, until Kudelia makes a bold decision that changes the course of every iron-blooded orphan under her employ, as well as her own. She can’t retreat and continue on to Earth after witnessing all this. She’s done running; she’s going to become the hope these downtrodden people need. And she’s issuing new orders for Tekkadan to assist her.

It’s been a long time coming, but now that Kudelia fully understands what’s going on, she is compelled to act.

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In a stroke of luck, the crack Dort news team that has been covering the uprising and subsequent bombings is ordered to cease their reporting by the Reg Bureau, determining the reports are not conducive to maintaining public peace and calm.

The news team isn’t particularly okay with that, so when they spot some “workers” sneaking around, suddenly Kudelia and Tekkadan have exactly what they need: a means off the colony, and a means to get her voice out there, to both the workers and masters everywhere.

Orga informs Naze of the change of orders, and while the Turbines can get involved, they give Tekkadan their blessing, and Akihito sorties in his recently-finished Gundam. The Isaribi sends Barbatos out for Mika, who EVAs out alone to meet it.

Naze seems frustrated that he’s so “soft” on Tekkadan, but also that he can’t join such an interesting and noble battle. Mika remarks how amazing Kudelia is, and he’s frustrated too – perhaps he feels he hasn’t done enough yet (even though, let’s face it, he’s done plenty to be called amazing himself).

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Mika stops some of the helpless workers from getting massacred, but is soon challenged by Gaelio and Ein, the former piloting his shiny family heirloom, Gundam Kimaris, which McGillis recognizes, observing the battle from the bridge of his own ship.

Like Barbatos and Gusion, Kimaris has no beam weapons, and is armed with a good old-fashioned spear with which to crunch into his foes. Kimaris is very fast, sometimes overwhelmingly so, but it’s not a game-changer; the combat here remains wonderfully primitive and visceral.

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When Gaelio and Ein notice Mika’s true intent – to shield the news launch – I felt a quick pang of Flay-end-itis, but the Isaribi meets the launch and the crew make it back safe and sound. Akihito and Shino join Mika in battling Gaelio, Ein, and the other Gjallarhorn forces, with Shino re-naming Crank’s Graze “Ryusei-go”, which raises the eyebrows of the mechanics in a funny little aside.

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Mika comes close to taking out Gaelio, but Ein shields him with his own suit, getting damaged in the process. With the main fleet closing in, Gaelio and Ein retreat as their “further intervention will become a problem.” As all this is going on outside, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, Maiden of the Revolution, dons her own armor – her stately red dress.

After contacting Nobliss Gordon (a move that intrigues him greatly), she begins to broadcast using the news team’s camera and feed signal, to tell everyone out there what’s really going on in the Dort Colonies. If she’s to have any credibility on Earth or Mars, she must own the fact that she was here when everything started to boil over, and shed a light on what’s going on.

With her decision to take up the mantle of authority bestowed to her by the powers that be and actually run with it, Kudelia may have just proven to Nobliss she has the potential to becomes something more than a pawn in a plot, and thus is worth more to his goals alive, even if it’s just to continue to be surprised and entertained by what he observes.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 16

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Fumitan has seen some things. She’s from the Martian slums, and seen things she was certain would cloud young Kudelia’s honest, ignorant eyes. When Kudelia shows her a bound book with stories about revolution (and an illustration of a golden-haired maiden leading the charge), she decides to give in to Kudelia’s demands to see the outside world, so her world can become larger.

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Despite Fumitan’s insistence, Kudelia reaches out to a young child in the slums with a candy. Immediately, there are three more children and an old man eager for handouts. Kudelia is overwhelmed by the lesson. Fumitan teaches her one more, by hiding in an alley and letting the young miss sweat. When she finally shows herself, Fumitan runs into her arms like a scared child relieved to see her mother. But her eyes didn’t cloud.

And they don’t cloud when Fumitan admits to betraying her, then runs off and hides from her just like that time in the Martian slums. But once again, Kudelia’s eyes remain honest, even as she becomes less ignorant. She doesn’t hate Fumitan; she’ll never hate Fumitan. She just wants to know the whole truth.

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As Mika and Atra search for Kudelia, Fumitan’s escape route is blocked when the space ports are closed in response to the worker protests. As soon as her elevator reaches ground level, two of her “associates” are waiting, and they give her one more chance to “do her job.”

Meanwhile, the more moderate workers’ timing is ruined when their march arrives at the government offices, but Savarin runs into a dead end with peaceful negotiations. There will be no negotiations, and there never were going to be any. The protesters are there, and they’re armed, because they’re all part of the plan.

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And wouldn’t you know, it, for the purposes of completing her betrayal of Kudelia and Tekkadan, Fumitan happens to be in the right place at the right time for Kudelia to spot her and try to get to her. Only she’s blocked from crossing the street by the picket line, and protesters recognize her as the “Maiden of the Revolution” and surround her.

The two goons who accosted Fumitan train a sniper rifle at Kudelia’s position, waiitng for the perfect moment to take her out, hoping to stoke even greater enmity with the oppressed workers, as well as the oppressed everywhere else; everything is being captured on live TV. It’s around this time I’m feeling very nervous about Kudelia.

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This is how Mika and Atra find Kudelia, but Mika sends her back to Orga (with a tender holding of her injured chin). It looks like he’ll go in Full Assault-and-Rescue Mode with Kudelia, like he did with Atra. But something’s not right. I just don’t feel like that’s going to go down, even if the show even further stretches his ability to kick ass without getting a scratch. This situation looks too big even for Mika.

That suspicion proves true, as Gjallarhorn stages a bombing on the government building they can later blame on the protesters, giving them the excuse they need to quell the demonstration, which they do in on of the cruelest, bloodiest way they can: blowing up the mobile workers, launching smoke bombs to obscure the protesters, then laying down sweeping machine gun fire into the cloud.

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Kudelia, somehow, survives the massacre, but she’s surrounded by carnage, and the girl who recognized her dies happy, because she was able to die in the arms of the Maiden of the Revolution, “like a fairy tale.” At this point I’m certain Mika won’t come in time, and he’s not omniscient enough to sniff out the snipers’ nest and kill them before they can get their shot off. So as the smoke clears, they train their crosshairs on Kudelia’s golden head…

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…and Fumitan takes the bullet for her. Just as before in the slums, she couldn’t stay hidden in the alley, in the shadows, just to prove a point. When she saw that illustration, she saw Kudelia’s idealism, and something she could destroy to save her, just as she could have torn or burned that book.

That will teach her the truth of the world, she thought. But that figure in the illustration wasn’t the Maiden of the Revolution, she was Hope Personified, which is apparently what Kudelia is and why her eyes never clouded. Was this practically the most predictable climax to an episode titled “Fumitan Admoss?” You’re damn right. And I didn’t give a rat’s ass; it was a beautifully orchestrated foregone conclusion.

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Who is the Kudelia Mika scoops up, the one who just had a random admirer and Fumitan die right before her eyes? Will she be able to recover, or are those eyes now in store for some clouding? As for the grand plot, everyone involved seems to think it can still be salvaged.

But Teiwaz’ leader McMurdo Barristan, having watched things unfold on TV, calls Nobliss with an offer to join forces, knowing Kudelia won’t be snuffed out so easily. This is the first solid instance of us knowing Teiwaz was rotten at the top, but it’s not entirely surprising.

For now, the Turbines and Tekkadan are unaware of treachery at the top, but I doubt they’ll go along with it if and when they become aware. Of course, there are more pressing matters: Tekkadan is still trapped on a Dort colony about to explode, and Kudelia probably doesn’t know what their next move should be.

The show is almost telling us “Sure, we knew that you knew what Fumitan’s fate would be. But what will happen now?” I’m not quite sure; there are many possibilities. All I know is that this was one thrilling powerhouse of a Gundam episode.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 15

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“You cannot truly become an adult.”—our Masked Man McGillis’s words in the cold open. Those words didn’t stick with me throughout this phenomenal episode, but gradually gained significance as things progressed. Masky is surprised by how excited he is. Disguising himself so he can visit Dort, the front lines of the upcoming rebellion, has brought out the little kid in him. The Mask protects his identity, but he’s still exposed and untethered, and we can only guess what he’s up to.

When Mika tells Fumitan he knows something is on her mind (he just doesn’t know what), she talks about things adults are supposed to have, like responsibility. Only hers are dual: both to protect Kudelia and watch her. But hanging out with all these kids, and Kudelia in particular, has brought out the kid in her too, and before she knew it she’d disobeyed orders, irking Noblesse.

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Meanwhile, someone who believes he’s one of the most responsible, pragmatic adults around, Savarin, wears the suit of a salaryman, occupies a cubicle, and informs on his little brother the minute he sees Atra with him. We’ll later learn Savarin has replaced the family of his childhood with the responsibility of adulthood: working to keep the working class society of Dort from exploding into chaos and blood, but also working to preserve his own skin.

The workers are lead by union boss Navona Mingo, who gets Orga’s team out of the line of fire and hides them in the slums, where he casually asks them to join his fight. He seems to shrug off Orga’s declining, but I somehow doubt that’s the end of it. Meanwhile, Gaelio and Ein are ready to go, but the captain of their ship is able to delay him by spewing a lot of bureaucrat-babble that impresses a junior officer. What’s this captain’s angle?

Betrayal is bad no matter who does it, so when Savarin betrays Biscuit, who idolized him and lived his very life by his example, has got to be devastated when Gjallarhorn arrest him and Atra. But the reason they’re doing so is because they believe Atra is Kudelia Aina Bernstein, Goddess of the rebellion. This is a misunderstanding Atra quickly picks up and runs with, to protect Kudelia, her family, from harm.

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This gets her beaten by the Gjallarhorn soldiers trying to get rebellion intel out of her, and the sight of Atra being roughed up, her legs, one missing a boot, dangling from the interrogation chair, is almost too terrible to behold; she is only a child, for crying out loud.

But Atra’s blood is iron; forged and stiffened on Mars from an even younger age than she is now. She knows how to take a beating; she used to endure them every day. Now that she actually has someone to take it for (rather than punishment for some petty slight), she’s all the more resolved. Her toughness in this situation brought a tear to my eye.

Speaking of eyes, when Orga learns through Navona that Biscuit and Atra have been kidnapped, he relays the info to Mika, who tells Fumitan to keep Kudelia safe while he rescues them. The “foolish, innocent child” Kudelia tries to sneak out anyway, but Fumitan stops her, and can’t help but remark how her “clear, honest eyes” haven’t changed since she was a young girl, and how much she’s always hated those eyes and wished they’d cloud up from reality; from adulthood.

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Hope and idealism, like the giddy excitement McGillis is feeling, is for kids. Reality and stern responsibility is for adults. And speak of the masked devil, MaskGillis shows up right there and then, revealing to Kudelia not only how Nobliss Gordon has been using her, but how he’s had one of his own by her side all this time.

Sensing this moment of betrayal could be a chance to finally cloud those eyes, Fumitan does not deny the masked man’s claims, and Kudelia is devastated. Fumitan then leaves Kudelia’s side, but Kudelia can’t help but go after her, even when Masky tries to hold her back and remind her of her responsibility. But is this all a game? Was Mask’s intention to use the truth to put Kudelia in a more vulnerable position?

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It’s a shame Mika wasn’t around to mediate things, but he’s occupied with being a one-man rescue team, finding Atra’s boot in the streets, seemingly following her scent to where she’s being held, crashing a truck into the building, and taking out all the guards off-camera before bursting in.

When he sees the state of Atra, he’s ready to go a little bit further, but there’s no time. Orga arrives in a truck just as Savarin is fingering them for Gjallarhorn once more. Savarin appeals to his brother to see reason and do as his big brother says. Biscuit is appreciative of everything Savarin did for him and his sisters, but he has a new family now, so he goes with Tekkadan, and the brothers are separated, perhaps forever.

Meanwhile, Kudelia is out in the open, searching desperately for Fumitan, while a full-blown armed uprising of Dort’s working class is about to explode on the same streets where she calmly shopped just hours before. She’s too concerned with Fumitan to realize the danger she’s in, or the merit of staying put so Mika and the others could meet up with her.

She’s acting like a child would, only considering one thing at a time and rushing at it with reckless abandon; unknowingly squandering the sacrifice Atra made to keep her safe. But it’s not all her fault—because you cannot truly become an adult.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 14

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GIBO picks up where it left off, with surplus mobile suits the likes of Shino wants to learn to fly, and Kudelia unsure of what to do about Mika’s kiss. Oh, and in case you missed all those suspicious sidelong glances last cour, this episode makes it clear as crystal: Fumitan has orders to lure Kudelia into a trap where she’ll be assassinated as the leader of a rebellion.

But while Fumitan may always appear stoic, she’s still conflicted about this plan. Kudelia doesn’t aid Fumi’s resolve to betray her when she comes in for advice about love.

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The intricate plan Fumitan is a merely one gear in casts an ominous shadow on Tekkadan’s arrival at the Dort Colonies to deliver some Teiwaz cargo before continuing on to Earth, which is in spitting distance. The ominousness only rises when we see Gaelio planning a “drill” with his family flagship, assuring Ein he’ll have his shot at revenge.

Kudelia unknowingly thwarts Fumitan’s plan when she requests to visit the commercial colony Dort-3 rather than the cargo colony Dort-2, for “shopping.” Atra asks to tag along, Orga assigns Mika as their protection, and he notices Fumitan’s sudden frustration, even if he may not be sure what it’s about. Finally, Biscuit asks to come along as well. So if this is a three-way shopping date, there will be two chaperones of both genders.

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I’m not sure why I assumed Kudelia just needed to get her luxury goods fix, but she instead heads to the nearest Space Costco to snatch up clothes, soaps, and other hygenic products for the Tekkadan crew. In explaining the highly practical purchases, Kudelia brings up the fact that the crew doesnt’ bathe enough, and the Isaribi, frankly, stinks to high heaven. I’d never thought about that either, but now I am; Tekkadan is not the sterile, antiseptic environment that, say, Gjallarhorn ships seem to be.

The reason for Biscuit accompanying the group is also a surprise: turns out he and his sisters are originally from Dort (albeit the slums), and his older brother Savarin is still living and working there. Atra convinces him to give Sav a call and arrange a meeting. The thing is, the cubicle-occupying Savarin has a news bulletin in front of him warning them to be on high alert for Tekkadan, believed to be a rebellious element up to no good in this law-and-order sphere.

Meanwhile, at Dort-2, Orga, Eugene, Shino and Yamagi get an unusually warm welcome from the cargo depot employees, who call them “knights” of their savior, Kudelia. Their lives are almost as menial and disposable as Orga’s crew back when they were CGS, while the richies on Earth sit around soaking up profits. They’ve been told Tekkadan is there to help them start a rebellion, and to Orga & Co.’s surprise, the Teiwaz cargo turns out to be arms for just that purpose.

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The workers, mere cogs in the schemers’ design, were also told Kudelia would be among them, so this is the trap that was meant to close around her. Gjallarhorn conveniently shows up, but the workers take up their arms and force them to retreat (so much for the Gjallarhorn troops being better trained and motivated here, huh?).

Not knowing what the hell is going on or who put them up to this, all Orga & Co. can do is try to get the hell out of this mess, ordering Merribit to launch the Isaribi. But it looks like the ink is already dry on the fiction about them being a “ship of hope” for the rebelling workers of Dort. At least Naze doesn’t seem to be a part of it, but rather only thinks Tekkadan screwed up somehow.

As all that excitement going down, Kudelia is having far greater difficulties: she can’t summon the words to ask Mika about his feelings, even when she gets some time alone with him. It’s looking like the kiss was just a kiss, so far. As for Fumitan, she’s still conflicted about disobeying orders (could they be from Orcus, if that’s an “O” in the signature of the orders?) and not making sure Kudelia was on Dort-2.

Like the workers, she’s taken the first step to a new life; in their case one where they’re fighting rather than working for The Man; and in Fumi’s case, protecting Kudelia rather than working for those who want her out of the picture. In both cases, there may be no going back.

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P.S. On first glance I’d call the new OP at least the equal of the first, while the new ED, while solid, isn’t quite as strong as its predecessor. Also, in the preview, we’re teased with images of McGillis wearing a mask, and talking about gaining the life of a new man. But he may only be joking.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 13

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While this is officially the last episode of the Fall 2015 season, Gundam IBO’s second half will continue without a long hiatus. Despite that, this really felt like the turning of a page, full as it was with both endings and beginnings. One first: Shino’s Tekkadan commandos getting attacked by the Brewers’ Human Debris kids when they turn their backs, forcing them to fire back.

It speaks to the fierce reality and lack of shortcuts in this show that the kids aren’t simply happy their saviors have arrived. They know what will happen if they don’t do their jobs as proscribed by their Brewer masters. While that goes on, Akihiro leaves his cockpit to say goodbye to his brother on better terms than I’d expected, with Masahiro “going ahead” of his brother to see if what he heard about souls being reborn is true.

Finally, as Mikazuki methodically takes down Kudal in his Gusion, a strange feeling comes over him as he masters his sword. From the way he’s fighting, Kudal thinks Mika is someone who enjoys taking human life. Mika isn’t sure, but it’s clear he’s comfortable in such a hazardous situation, and Kudal ultimately didn’t even pose much of a challenge to him.

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Speaking of challenges, you can almost see McGillis Fareed gritting his teeth at the umpteenth evening gala full of an equal measure of snobs, gossips, and syncophants who don’t even bother keeping their voice down about either his dubious parentage or the youth of his betrothed Almiria. When Ally comes out, repslendent in her party dress, the first thing her eyes wander to after McGillis are the fully developed bodies of the ladies surrounding him, wanting to dance (and probably more, as Gaelio suspects).

McGillis knows he could take any and all of those women if he wanted, but he doesn’t want to. Instead, he goes to his future bride, still a child but desperately wanting to dance cheek-to-cheek, and takes her into his arms. She’s embarrassed and worried people will laugh if they’re seen, but McGillis doesn’t care, and he doesn’t want her to care either.

She’s the finest lady there, as far as he’s concerned, and her happiness is far more important than the idle chatter of people with nothing better to do. This adorable gesture didn’t feel like another calculated move by McGillis, but a genuine act of kindness and love. He and Alimiria will make this work, together.

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Speaking of kindness, the Brewer kids have never known it, so they’re on edge after being rounded up by Tekkadan, like caged feral animals. However, Orga’s charisma and decency shines through in his informal chat with them about how they’ll be taken care of from now on, and not in a sinister way.

Masahiro may not have survived the battle, but it’s good to see the other kids being integrated into Tekkadan. I’m sure some will integrate better than others, but they’ll also be able to do what they want and realize their own unique potential, with no more beatings.

Shino was much closer to Mika to the comrades that were killed, both physically and emotionally, so it makes sense to see Shino breaking down before Mika and the corpses of those comrades. But when Shino he says he wishes he’d died too, Mika reproaches him. To wish for death disrespects those who died so others could live, even if that’s not the only reason.

Regardless, everybody is down in the aftermath of this battle, moreso than any previous one, so after all the business is complete, Merribit suggests they hold a funeral for the dead. Orga is particularly dubious of the concept, but once the benefits both to the dead and the living who survived are laid out, he agrees.

The subtle dance of Orga and Merribit continues, as she catches him calling her “old lady”, and shoots right back by calling him a “child”; both being more playful than nasty about it.

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Everyone deals with grief in different ways, but even for those who are able to keep it all bunched in are struggling, so the funeral really does the trick in terms of being a release valve for the crews’ collective pain; the space fireworks were a particularly nice touch. And because most of this crew are still children, sometimes simply being held by a mother figure is required, something even the usually-stiff Fumitan (who is hiding things other than pain deep within her) is able to do for one of the younger orphans.

Finally, after the funeral, at the meeting where the plan to continue on to the Colony is agreed upon, Naze and Amida seem to put a punctuation mark on the whole Brewers/Shoals affair by starting to make out, startling and embarrassing the young men present, Orga included. Naze says it’s simple: years with high death rates have high birth rates. After seeing lots of death, men look at the women next to them, who are suddenly “even prettier than normal,” and can’t help but kiss them.

Whether he’s 100% correct on the brain chemistry, it’s true that after battle men tend to reflexively seek out the opposite sex, be it a matronly embrace to feel safe within, or the lips of a woman you want to make babies with. Such a phenomenon is perhaps best immortalized in that famous photo of V-J Day in Times Square, a spontaneous reaction casued by the sudden release of so much tension and despair the war caused, and unreasonably high levels of jubilation over its ending.

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Mika seems to take that to heart when he encounters Kudelia, who, having seen how effective Fumitan managed to calm the younger kid, hugs Mika when she sees his hands shaking. Mika, suddenly seeing the beautiful woman in front of him for the first time, takes some liberties and kisses her. Some bad graphics editing unfortunately obscures this kiss with end credits, but the music editing was perfect, as the soulful refrain “or-or-phans” is belted out in the moment of that kiss.

I must say, I knew Mika withheld multitudes of emotions behind his calm exterior, but I was just as suprised as Kudelia by that kiss. At the same time, the kiss made perfect sense, and I hope it leads to a deepening of their relationship, which has had some nice moments but had remained pretty distant until now.

The show doesn’t forget about Atra, who sneezes alone in the kitchen while this is going on. There’s also an interesting parallel between Mika and McGillis: both didn’t do what was expected, but simply what they wanted and what they felt was the right thing to do.

The show also doesn’t forget about Nobliss, who seems to be planning for Kudelia’s death at the Colony in the show’s second half – and continues to portray Fumitan as someone who has a role those plans, yet looks conflicted as she admires the necklace Kudelia gave her.

Hopefully things won’t Nobliss’ way. But whatever happens, this show is sure to continue to surprise and delight in its second half. It’s already the finest Gundam I’ve laid eyes on. If it were the opposite sex, I might just be inclined kiss it…or at least cut a rug with it.

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