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 – 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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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 09

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As the entire episode takes place aboard Teiwaz’s planetary cruiser Saisei, there are no battles this week, except those within the minds of our characters, particularly Orga and Kudelia, who must place Tekkadan and the Martian resistance respectively into larger, more powerful hands. After all, the next steps that need to be made could lead to war.

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That being said, while I have my lingering doubts about Teiwaz and the somewhat inscrutable, almost too friendly McMurdo Barristan, a quick check-in on McGillis, Gaelio, and Ein underscores how tenuous Tekkadan’s position is. They must become stronger, which means aligning themselves with Teiwaz through a blood oath between Naze and Orga.

Meanwhile, Barristan asks Kudelia to make Teiwaz a direct appointee. When Kudelia turns to Mika, he likens her situation to the time he first killed someone: it was a choice her entire future will depend on. It’s also a choice that takes your innocence away, making you less of a child and more of an adult.

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This is an episode filled with young people taking the necessary next steps into adulthood, whether it’s Orga putting aside his pride in an autonomous Tekkadan, Kudelia accepting the blood already on her hands and formalizing her commitment to potentially cause even more of it to be shed.

Orga and the boys also go all out with their celebrating in Saisei’s main street, with Orga drinking way too much (which was probably not much at all) and being offered a handkerchief by a beautiful woman, Merribit (who is unquestionably a cool, confident adult) who tells him adults “have to deal with many things.”

Kudelia also gives Fumitan a necklace that matches her own, a sign she sees her as more than just her maid, and unless I’m seeing things, Fumitan continues to look a bit suspicious while betraying a tinge of guilt over…whatever she’s doing when no one is looking.

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Orga appears passed out, but in reality is listening to Biscuit and Mika as they talk about how Orga’s guts have allowed them to keep “dreaming on” in the face of insurmountable odds, and ekeing through battles they had no business winning but for a hearty helping of luck. Biscuit also expresses his wish that Orga would rely more on them, rather than be the one everyone relies on. That’s what family’s for.

Orga also gets to see something he’s never seen before after waking up; Ride stashing away excess sweets and treats bought from Saisei’s shops, not for himself, but for the younger kids when they cry. Ride may still be so young he still has his spots, but his life has forced him to be an adult for those younger and weaker than him, and Orga is heartened by what he sees and knows he’s making the right decision.

Finally, speaking of stepping into adulthood, there’s one thing Shino needs that he can’t get on either the Tekkadan or Turbine ships. The day after, it’s clear to Yukinojou that Shino got laid, while Eugene proudly/awkwardly mentions to Laffter that he’s an adult now too, having been with his first woman the night before.

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The next day is when everything becomes official between Tekkadan and Teiwaz; between Orga and Naze; between Kudelia and Barristan. Everyone gets dressed up, as adults do, and everyone dons black robes that obscure their distinctive outfits. Orga exchanges his old pride for a new kind: the pride of knowing the house of Tekkadan that he built now stands on firmer ground. Kudelia, too, is no longer in limbo.

Things will probably start to move a lot faster now that Tekkadan is one with Teiwaz. They’ll have to deal with many different things, because that’s what adults do.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 08

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This week’s IBO opens with the end of the battle from the perspective of the four-man boarding party, as they quickly infiltrate the Hammerhead’s systems and fill the corridors with combustible gas to ensure no firefights. Throughout their operation, Naze sits calmly on the bridge as his crew reports what’s going on, until Orga & Co are literally in the doorway.

The nonchalance with which both Naze and his crew greets them really says a lot about the Turbines; this intrusion may have been a surprise, but they’re not ones to overreact. And as Naze said, they used an “old method” but executed it perfectly. That opinion demonstrates he’s been around the block, tactically speaking.

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Of course, he’s also been around the block sexually speaking. Not only is the entire crew of the Hammerhead female, but nearly all of them are sleeping with him (the OP updated to reflect this). I wasn’t sure about this at first (the reactions on the Tekkadan reps’ faces are absolutely priceless), but Naze is not an ordinary fellow, and all of the women are with him by choice and are fine with sharing him, so who am I to judge? Even Laffter considers him her “darling”, but has to admit the pilot in Barbatos got her juices flowing, too.

They’re not brainwashed or enslaved, but more like a pride of lions, and only one has a mane. And they know when they’ve seen capable soldiers, even if they’re young and raw. So when Orga and Biscuit ask if the Turbines will not only escort them to Earth, but make Tekkadan a subsidiary of Teiwaz, Naze is open to both ideas. Only making either happens requires a visit to his boss, McMurdo Barriston, and there’s a matter of Kudelia possibly being “property.” Did her father arrange a marriage?

Oh, and Maruba? Naze sends him to the mines. grumpycatgood.jpg.

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With the war postponed for now and both ships en route to Teiwaz headquarters, a ship called the Saisei, the crews busy themselves with training, repairs, R&R, etc. Mika seems a little off to Atra (he only ate half his usual portion), and Orga learns why: Mika thinks he screwed up in the battle with Laffter. No one is as tough on him as he himself is.

Atra also thinks Aina could use some cheering up, so they visit the Turbines’ nursery, which is a ridiculous thing to have aboard a mercenary ship, until you realize that like Tekkadan, the Turbines are far more than a group of comrades. They’re family, who have spilled and mixed blood. Regardless, the little babies delight Aina, who Atra is glad can finally relax a little, at least until the next crisis.

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One of those crises is that Tekkadan is pretty much broke back on Mars, due to the scarcity of lucrative clients with Gjallarhorn looming over them. This means Orga and Biscuit must present Naze with a list of stuff they can sell to make ends meet. Naze couldn’t care less about such trifling stuff, and wonders why Orga didn’t take his original deal.

It’s here where Naze learns Tekkadan is a family like his, and breaking it up isn’t an option. Orga tried to come in on equal terms with the Turbine leader, but at the end of the day he’s still a kid by comparison. That’s not to say Naze wasn’t exactly where Orga is sitting at one point in his life, with a paltry harem of two or three women and a lot of self-doubt he couldn’t show to anyone, but which many could see nonetheless.

With Mika getting so upset about “failing him”, Orga feels the pressure to lead and succeed that much stronger, but Biscuit tells him not to get too bent out of shape.

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Laffter and another Turbine pilot are impressed with how hard both Akihito and Mika are working, but Mika reiterates he can’t do anything else. In the end, two very tight-knit but very different types of couples confer. There’s Naze giving Amida his measure of Tekkadan (the money stuff made his butt hurt), while Orga praises Mika for working hard. Mika says he’s working hard so Orga won’t “ditch” him, but obviously he doesn’t have to worry about that, because they’re family.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 07

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Space may be big, but the shipping lanes aren’t, and it was only a matter of time before Tekkadan got some attention. Only the first ship to confront them since their Gjallarhorn skirmish is the Hammerhead, commanded by Naze Turbine, who works for Teiwaz. They’re not stodgy and militaristic, but rather much more of a Bizarro Tekkadan, right down to the two groups’ eccentric young ace mecha pilots. It also reminds us that CGS were no angels back when they were working for Maruba. They did the jobs they were contracted to do.

I couldn’t really ask for a better adversary at this point: a group of people who under different circumstances I wouldn’t mind rooting for. Naze, like Orga, is a fundamentally pragmatic guy. With the info he currently has, Naze has no reason not to help the connected Maruba recoup his CGS losses. And while the Turbines have probably made lots of compromises to get to where they are, the point is they’re surviving and thriving. They’re a glimpse of a successful, stable Tekkadan no one is hunting.

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Except the Turbines have been charged with hunting Tekkadan. Biscuit thinks their wiggle room, but Orga has to consider all the angles, like losing face or breaking their promise to Aina and Nobliss. So negotiations break down, Turbine’s ace paints her nails and then licks her chops (the Tekkadan’s Isaribi looks kinda like a mecha-shrimp), and Atra battens down the curry and rounds up the potatoes in Zero-G.

In this battle, Orga sends Mika and Akihito out in the Barbatos and Graze, gives Eugene the bridge, then sends Shino down to the hangar. Now, I don’t know Shino so well, so I figured his time was going to be up., but the show turned out to be far cleverer than that. There were also no more strange shots of Fumitan; perhaps that’s just her natural expression to glare at people.

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Atra and Aina, who aren’t so great at the combat, make a connection during the chaos of battle, as Atra helps Aina get her spacesuit on properly and keep her company. Out in space, meanwhile, IBO finally introduces us to some female pilots in Amida and Lafter, who aren’t just among the Turbines’ pilots; they’re the best, and don’t let anyone forget it.

After six weeks of Atra and Aina not having that much to do (and filling into “traditional” roles of cook, teacher, and emotional support), I can’t underscore enough how glad I am the show now has women in powerful warrior roles. And Atra and Aina aren’t in their roles because they’re not men, but because they’re not soldiers; an important distinction.

Mika’s ancient Gundam is realistically having software bugs, and is absolutely no match for Lafter’s super-fast customized-to-the-hilt rig, which fits her like a glove. Mika has to give everything he’s got not to be overwhelmed, while not forgetting he has to protect the Isaribi from the Hammerhead. Akihito has similar problems with Amida and her wingman Azee, but holds his own by sheer will, determination, and courage in the fact of unfair odds.

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Throughout the battle, Naze and Amida keep on ongoing narrative of the Turbines being the adults who must do their duty and teach the Tekkadan rapscallions a lesson. To that end, they feign being impressed when Tekkadan executes by-the-book tactics, and dismiss their reckless mecha combat as juvenile and undisciplined. Basically, while they’re not nearly as incompetent as any Gjallarhorn officer not called Fareed, Naze and the Turbines are still underestimating these kids. Obviously, that’s a running theme.

In fact, Orga, Biscuit, and Eugene use those by-the-book tactics in order to lull the Turbines into a false sense of strategic superiority. When the Isaribi fires missiles, the Hammerhead shoots them down, creating a smokescreen. But the Isaribi doesn’t escape; the screen is used to surprise the Hammerhead when Eugene plots a near collision course, stealthily dropping an Orga-led boarding party that cripples the Turbines from the inside.

To his credit, Naze doesn’t fume or pull his hair out when he realizes he’s been outmaneuvered. Instead, like Fareed, he seems glad to have a worthy opponent to face off against. Tekkadan exceeded his expectations, and he can’t help but smile about it.

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Out in the void, things get more and more intense, and if your adrenaline wasn’t pumping for that Isaribi maneuver through the smoke, Mika and Akihito’s increasingly brutal, metal-crunching duels do the trick. Mika manages to cast a line out and tether himself to Lafter’s mecha, and she tries to use the fact his old bucket lacks inertial dampers to let the g’s take care of him for her. But Mika not only endures, and lets her slam him into an asteroid: he uses his spear to anchor himself and pull her back to him.

Similarly, Akihito, who Amida says with semi-sarcastic respect fights like he has “muscle for brains” doesn’t give up, despite his mechanical shortfalls and the fact the enemy has numbers on him. He keeps fighting because he told Mika he’d take care of it, so he will. Even so, while Mika got the upper hand on Lafter and is poised to finish her, Amida seems ready to close her jaws on Akihito…

…Then Orga and Naze suddenly order a cease-fire to their respective fighters. Just like that, the battle is over, and for once, it’s the stopping of a battle I wanted to stop. I didn’t want Lafter or Akihito to buy the farm so soon, and I didn’t want Tekkadan and the Turbines stacking up blood-grudges that would prevent future cooperation.

I look forward to seeing not only how Orga, Biscuit and/or Aina deal with Naze and Amida now that the guns have been lowered and cooler heads have prevailed, but hope Mika gets to interact with his counterpart Lafter, who seems to share his love of the uncomplicated. They already had their first dance, after all.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 06

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Gundam IBO is so deft at telling its story, crafting compelling characters, and drawing us in to its world, that even an exposition-heavy episode that would have been boring in less capable hands is almost as engrossing and thrilling as the big adrenaline-fueled battles. One reason is easy: people tend to hew closely to what they know, both about themselves and the world.

The company and family that is Tekkadan is between worlds right now, but they have a place and a home in their ship, if only a transitory one. When we watch Atra and Mika act like an old married couple, we’re comforting that however much has changed, both for better or worse, some things haven’t.

Which will make it that much more impactful (and potentially devastating) when the core status quo is seriously challenged. Which it certainly will once Tekkadan reaches out the Jovian mafia, Teiwaz, for help, and Fareed continues his slow-burn pursuit.

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But that comes later. IBO recommends we be on our guard by checking in on the outside parties pursuing Tekkadan, but also welcomes us to kick back and enjoy the slice-of-life aboard a ship that’s equal parts military contractor transport, orphanage, school, and embassy.

Like any small community, everyone must pull their weight. Atra has settled in as the cook, and the better food is crucial both for growing young ones and morale of the older ones. Even Fumitan flashes her technical skill, getting hired as communications officer. But until this week, with the exception of securing funding from Nobliss, Kudelia has felt increasingly useless.

She’s being unfair: as she makes clear in her elevator speech to Mika and Atra, she might just have the most important role in Tekkadan’s survival—her pursuit of Martian independence. But she’s still restless and wants to make immediate positive contribution to what she sees as a microcosm of the planet she wishes to free, so I like how she settles on the one important role the ship glaringly lacks: a teacher.

That’s doubly important considering how un- or under-educated Tekkadan’s crew is. Most of the youngest are illiterate like Mika, who doesn’t even know why Kudelia is going to Earth, while Atra doesn’t even know they were headed to Earth (technically, they’re headed to Jupiter for the moment).

Mika smiles a bit when Kudelia says she wants to make everyone happy, because to hear Kudelia, complicating his life by expanding his world through reading and writing is the key to that happiness.

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And Kudelia would be right: as long as Mika and the others aren’t properly educated and remain in the dark about how the world works, they’ll always have a disadvantage that makes them vulnerable to those who do. Their potential enemies are getting smarter as the dumb ones exit stage right.

Enter Fumitan, who Orga seems to trust enough to not only make her comms officer on a mission requiring radio silence whenever possible, but leave her alone on the bridge. In my Mika-like ignorance (Mika would trust whoever Orga trusted), I’d hope Fumitan and her close-up eye-narrowing were only a red herring, not something more sinister. But I can’t discount that she’s the new internal threat to Tekkadan, and someone to worry about far more than the hapless Todo.

Similarly, Fareed is light-years ahead of Coral in antagonistic competence. He lets Tekkadan go so he can learn more and more about them, and in particular the weapon that’s keeping them alive. That weapon isn’t the outdated Barbatos (about which he already knows plenty), but its pilot Mika. Fareed reaches out to 2nd Lt. Ein Dalton for more insight into that pilot, and considers rewarding him by letting him join the pursuit mission. “I understand your feelings. I’ll think about it.” So far, that’s Fareed’s credo.

One of the unsung (no pun intended) elements that makes IBO such a great show to immerse oneself in (like an Utawarerumono hot bath) its its excellent score, and the theme that plays under Fareed’s talk with Ein is quintessentially Fareed: quiet, subdued, exacting, and inquisitive, building to more dramatic instrumentation when Ein expresses his desire to avenge his fallen comrades.

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Back aboard the Ex-Will-O’-the-Wisp, Biscuit wonders if Tekkadan is suffering from mission bloat on its first mission. Is this simply to tough with the manpower and equipment at their disposal? Shouldn’t they ask for help, like from a subcontractor? Biscuit asks these questions, but he’s fully aware of the answers: no and no. This is Tekkadan’s first mission, and they can’t compromise or fall short on the promises they’ve made.

Orga has to be bold, not just to make a name for the company, or cement the loyalty and confidence of its employees. It’s all for Mika. Her His eyes are there” every time he turns around. Mika is always ready for action; ready to be told what they’re doing next. To Orga, Mika is stronger and cooler than he’ll ever hope to be. So he, in turn, must be as bold and cool as possible.

That leads to taking shortcuts like balancing the fate of the entire mission on the presumption that Fumitan is one of the good guys who shares his values and goals. Or getting in bed with pirates and mobsters. Or embarking on a mission before determining the fate of your well-connected ex-CEO who ran off with a suitcase full of cash. We’ll see if Orga’s increasingly bold stance to carrying out his mission will pay off or lead to his downfall.

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