Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 39

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No big battles this week, just lots of stock-taking and important setup for the next conflict. Just as Lafter, Azee and the rest of the Turbines contingent say farewell to Tekkadan, Iok Kujan launches a major crackdown on Turbines, making the split well-timed. It’s Jasley (hoping to manipulate the “spoiled brat” who tells Iok its the Turbines and not Tekkadan he should go after.

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Thus you have the head of one of the illustrious Seven Stars families doing the dirty work for a rogue member of Teiwaz who wants to rise, and for whom Naze is in the way.

Even Iok’s subordinates aren’t quite sure what he’s on about, but Julieta joins the fight for her own reasons: she’s eager to become stronger and a good old-fashioned Gjallarhorn crackdown is as good an opportunity as ever.

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After Atra calms down and tells Kudelia what the shopkeeper told her long ago (“babies are like clamps”, keeping men from running off), Kudelia understands Atra’s sudden urgent need for someone to have a baby with Mika. But Kudelia doesn’t see why that someone can’t be Atra herself.

Even after all Atra has done throughout the adventures of Tekkadan, she still thinks she’s “not nearly good enough” for Mika, but she’s wrong. The fact is, she may be the only one for Mika. That being said, she has a long way to go, what with Mika not-quite joking about babies looking tasty.

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Before he learns just how fully he’s been backstabbed (be it by Jasley or McMurdo or whoever), Naze has a long talk with Amida, about Lafter likely finding another man, and about how much Tekkadan reminds him of the Turbines when they were just starting out.

It was Naze and former-mercenary Amida who started it, fell in love, then went to work gathering women living and working in horrible conditions and creating a family where all could thrive and protect one another. Change the gender and it is pretty famliar…only the Turbines have since expanded to 50,000 members. Not mentioned: how many of those are Naze’s children.

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But Tekkadan is no longer a fledgling; not only does it have its wings and the wind underneath, but something to work towards for themselves: the Kings of Mars. When Naze sees the head of the Gjallarhorn hammer above, coming down upon the Turbines, he insists Orga and Tekkadan stay out of it, even if it’s the exact opposite reflex Orga has.

Naze knows someone in Teiwaz is doing this. Who is irrelevant, it’s why that concerns him: it’s bait to lure Tekkadan to ruin, and Naze won’t let Orga swoop in just as their enemies planned. As much as they’ve done and promised to each other, Naze and Orga aren’t family; Orga and Tekkadan are, and that’s what he must protect from this latest threat.

That’s especially true with Rustal and Vidar still sizable thorns in McGillis’ side. McGillis’ own grand plans are suddenly not only in play but at legitimate threat. “Doing what he can” may not be enough to keep Tekkadan from the rough stuff once they lose the security blanket that was the Turbines.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 38

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This episode teases us a bit by jumping from the beginning of Mika’s battle with Hashmal to “One Month Later”, but thankfully Orga’s talk with McMurdo is a vehicle for rehashing that battle, which is one of the more vicious ones we’ve seen.

For perhaps the first time, an opponent is able to keep up with Mika, push him back, and do a ridiculous amount of damage, such that Mika truly has to pull out all the stops (and borrow Isurugi’s ludicrously huge sword) to get the job done. And he does: it’s immensely satisfying to hear the smash of Hashmal finally hitting the ground, out for the count.

McMurdo, like Naze before, gives Orga a polite — for now — warning not to let his interests clash with Teiwaz’s, because his life won’t be the only one to be forfeit. With each battle, it becomes more and more impossible for Orga to deviate from his forward path to dominion over Mars, as more and more alternate avenues close around him and Tekkadan.

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In another satisfying scene, Master Rustal all but drops his alliance with an increasingly chaotic Iok Kujan, and in doing so, gains a lot more respect from me. Rustal wants to rid himself of McGillis, but he’s not going to operate, or continue to allow someone like Iok, to work outside of the established ideals of Gjallarhorn; i.e. to protect order.

This is why Rustal gives Iok the cold shoulder at the meeting of the Seven Stars, congratulates Fareed for his hard-won victory, and bides his time. Like Iok, Julieta wants to act and act fast, but she’s at least able to take dierection from Rustal better.

What he wants from her isn’t mere brute strength like Mikazuki Augus; he wants something more; perhaps something that will endure longer than a bright-yet-brief flame. Julie is willing to try to find out what that is.

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As for Mika, he continues to sacrifice pieces of himself, almost exclusively for Orga’s sake. One could argue Orga has the power to stop him, but he simply can’t say the words, perhaps for fear it would undermine their relationship and Mika’s faith in him; perhaps simply because he knows Tekkadan would likely have fallen many times by now were it not for Mika’s singular contributions.

But Mika’s whole left side is paralyzed now. He needs (a very willing) Hush to carry him around, and is constantly asking if Barbatos is repaired so he can get back into the cockpit and be able to “move” again. In exchange for its Calamity War-ending power, Barbatos is exacting a heavy cost upon Mika by making it increasingly difficult for him to function without it.

There isn’t even any discussion about whether such effects can be reversed, so it certainly isn’t looking good for Mika long-term. This upsets Kudelia and Atra alike, who are also worried that all the gains Tekkadan has made hasn’t really changed Mika at all; he still sees himself as a blade; Orga’s blade, and only lives to serve him in any way he can, until his body and mind and soul are utterly spent.

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This compels Atra, likely too bashful to consider herself for the job, to beg Kudelia to have a baby with Mika, so that, if the worst happens and Mika doesn’t come back one day, they’ll still have a part of him to love and care for. It’s very in-character for Atra to propose such a thing, but I doubt it will go anywhere, since I don’t see Kudelia ever being able to propose such a thing to Mika, even if Mika could well simply say “ok, sure fine” about it.

But for now, Mika is focused on one thing: continuing to fight, kill, destroy, for Orga. For Tekkadan. For the Kingdom of Mars. He considers his current position “not that bad” as it “simplifies things.” Kudelia wants to create a world where he doesn’t have to fight. Now he can no longer move, let alone fight, without Barbatos, so as far as Mika’s concerned, there is no going back until Kudelia’s dream is attained. The only other outcome is death.

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Again, it makes sense for Mika to be so obsessed with Barbatos’ status; it is literally the machine that keeps him alive and able to be useful. When Orga visits him, thinking he’s asleep, he refuses to apologize for what happened, but Mika isn’t asleep; he hears him.

And he agrees: Mika chose to do what he did, and he can live with the consequences. He is also willing to keep going, and keep giving up pieces of himself for the cause. He won’t let Orga apologize, because there’s nothing to apologize for.

As McGillis considers Gaelio’s apparent return to the field of play, and Julieta aims to emulate Mika in her unswerving devotion as her master’s blade, Mika stays the course. With Orga, he believes he can go anywhere. In the final dozen episodes, we’ll see how far that is and how much more it will cost.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 37

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While Vidar’s showdown with McGillis and Isurugi is merely a tease, the continuing battle against Hashmal is most certainly not, as it enters — and is not quite resolved in — its second episode.

Just when we thought Mika and Akihiro would be able to take care of it with their badassery, their A-J systems enter “Safe Mode” and their Gundams are paralyzed at the worst possible time – with the city of Chryse in Hashmal’s manic crosshairs.

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We haven’t known Master Iok long, but it’s clear despite his age, he’s just another know-nothing Gjallarhorn aristocrat completely divorced from all good sense and competence.

I gained a lot of love for Julieta for being so utterly disgusted by her so-called superior, that she doesn’t even allow him to get himself killed, as even death is “no cure for his stupidity.”

Iok may be obsessing over his fallen men, but he’s also responsible for the deaths of all the civilians at the agra plant. Julieta sees to it he’ll live to answer for those deaths.

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This is a thrilling, stomping, unrelenting episode, where all the chaos unfolding threatening to spin everything we know out of control. From his makeshift command post Orga is only just keeping his and Tekkadan’s head above the surging waters of Hashmality.

With his two strongest pilots out of the picture until further notice (Zak reveals hidden knowledge by figuring out what the issue was, if not an immediate solution), he must unleash Shino (and a reluctant Yanagi in close quarters) and the new Flauros, which transforms into a wicked gun emplacement.

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Orga must swallow his and his organization’s pride (so it can live another day, tarnished rep or no) by asking McGillis and Isurugi to assist. One of Iok’s quieter crimes of late was planting the Seven Stars seed in Macky’s head; now all of a sudden he wants to grab glory while saving his partners’ butts.

But he very nearly bites off more than he can chew as Hashmal gets the better of him. Even McGillis is not immune to the insidious arrogance a Gjallarhorn uniform infuses in its wearer; combine that with Macky’s belief that history is on his side, and he nearly gets himself killed by insisting on sharing the front lines with his underlings.

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Orga wants to keep Mika out of the fighiting, lest another “Edmonton” occur, but Mika manages to convince Orga to let him go, remove Barbatos’ limiter, save Macky (and a foolhardy Ride), and fight Hashmal head-on, no matter what (further) damage it might do to his body. His logic is simple, as things tend to be with Mika: he only has a life at all because of Orga. Mika has to give him his all. It’s not a question.

Kudelia and Atra sit in Kudelia’s office in Chryse, confident Mika will keep them safe and come back, like he always does. But his arm sling has been a constant reminder that Mika hasn’t been 100% since Edmonton, and his use of Barbatos against Hashmal means he’ll leave a lot more behind on the battlefield when – or even if – he returns, as they hope he will.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 36

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If anyone wanted confirmation Iok is a moron, this episode put all remaining doubts to rest. First, he wakes up the Mobile Armor. Second, he gets his butt kicked, his men killed, and barely escapes with his life. Third, he ruins everyone else’s plans with an ill-conceived counterattack motivated only by vengeance for his lost comrades.

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That last blunder proves most costly, as the Mobile Armor heads not into McGillis and Orga’s a carefully-planned ambush in a gorge, but towards the nearest agricultural complex. There simply isn’t enough time to evacuate the facility, and when Ride tries to protect it, the Armor’s beam bounces off his armor and hits the facility anyway, killing an untold number of innocent people. Things are officially out of control.

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Ride is saved by Mika, who manages to take out the swarming “Plumas” around him. Mika also stubbornly refers to the armor as a “bird”, not “angel”, as McGillis corrected him. To him, this is just another target to be eliminated, but as we don’t see him in a direct confrontation with it, and saw what happened to Iok’s elite suit, there’s a festering doubt that Mika can a.) defeat the armor and b.) do so without more collateral damage.

Chryse is the armor’s next target, and with McGillis and Isurugi are confronted by an opportunistic Mask-Gaelio, it will be mostly up to Tekkadan to stop their would-be throne from being torched by a relic from a bloody past. There’s no going back.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 35

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After a very obvious but enjoyable calm before the storm, the clouds roll in fast here, as tensions mount over the “mobile worker-like” discovery dug up in the mine. One look at it and you know it’s not something you necessarily want to switch on without taking certain precautions—if at all. But those handling it have no idea what it really is or what it was designed for – it’s just another potential asset to help Tekkadan become stronger.

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Not this time. This isn’t Barbatos. When McGillis hears (pretty damn late, if you ask me) about the relic Tekkadan dug up, along with the much larger machine still in the ground, he personally warns Orga to cease excavation immediately and not to activate what they already dug up. He also arranges for a secret in-person meeting with Orga on Mars.

McGillis has seen the old way of doing things – from afar, through delegation, etc. – and he wants to be a different kind of Gjallarhorn leader: one who looks his allies in the face, shakes their hands, and speaks with his own voice, out in the open.

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I never for a second thought Teiwaz’s #2 Jasley wouldn’t become another thorn in the side of Tekkadan. I just didn’t know he’d be such a big wrench in the works so quickly. Keeping a close eye on McGillis, he soon learns of the secret meeting, and leaks the intel to Rustal’s people. Why? Well, he doesn’t like the Tekkadan “punks”, and doing this disrupts their plans and throws Gjallarhorn into even more pitched infighting. It’s win-win, basically.

We don’t know Jasley well, and he’s a pretty broad character, but his motivations check out. He’s another one of the group of “cranky adults” in IBO who don’t like how these upstart kids are rising so fast. Even if Tekkadan wins the throne of Mars, Jasley is still Teiwaz’s #2, and Orga is still a punk in his eyes. He even thinks McMurdo, an “old man” a generation ahead of him, has gone soft for Tekkadan, and he doesn’t like it.

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Even with all the rising tensions, secret meetings and betrayals, there’s plenty of snapshots of ordinary life at Tekkadan, whether its at the maintenance bays, or mess hall, or in Kudelia’s office as she meets with Mika and Atra, with Hush tagging along so he can learn more about his new idol/master.

In this little scene, we see Mika’s reading has continued to improve, but he, Atra, and many other orphans still have no idea how to handle the money they earn, and have Kudelia manage it for them. Kudelia is an imminently trustworthy person with only their best interests at heart, but they’re still quite vulnerable to those who are less so. The key, Kudelia stresses, is education.

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I found myself a bit taken aback by the openness of McGillis’ meeting with Orga on Mars. It’s admirable for him to be mask-free and out in the open with Tekkadan, but considering Rustal is coming for him, perhaps a bit too careless. McGillis assumes no one knows he’s coming, unaware Jasley informed Rustal. But why not be more careful anyway?

Not only that, Orga’s best men accompany him and McGillis to the excavation site, but with no mobile suits backing them up. Now, we know the Mobile Armor that lies in the earth may be activated by mobile suits, but you’d think McGillis wouldn’t make himself a sitting duck for Iok so easily.

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When Iok and a brace of mobile suits land near the site, it’s because they believe McGillis is plotting to destroy what’s left of the mobile armor so he can receive the “Order of the Seven Stars” and rise to the first rank currently occupied by the headless Issue family. McGillis seems to scoff that off; but he can’t just be there as a sign of trust, solidarity, and transparency to Tekkadan, can he?

As such, Iok, like Jasley, has his information, and makes the conclusions he believes best fits: McGillis is starting a Gjallarhorn rebellion, and must be stopped. With mobile suits at his command and communication with Tekkadan HQ down, Iok is totally in charge…until his suits activate the mobile armor, which immediately shoots a giant energy beam into the sky – one of (if not the) first instance of such a beam in IBO.

This is, in effect, a game changer. We knew Tekkadan and McGillis had resentful adversaries to overcome. But this pteradactyl-like menace is a relic of the Calamity War that claimed hundreds of millions of lives, and it operates autonomously, a la the machines in The Matrix. Even the normally serene face of McGillis twists in oh-shittitude at its awakening. The storm is here. 

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 34

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Tekkadan is sharpening its teeth. It has to, now that Orga has cast his lot in with McGillis. One can’t be King of Mars without a powerful army, and with Tekkadan booting up their third Gundam frame (Flauros) that army is being made into something that will hopefully make potential rivals think twice about starting anything.

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Of course, some of those rivals may come from Teiwaz itself. Naze is pilloried by some of his fellow members for letting Orga make a deal with such wide-ranging effects on the entire organization. McMurdo is okay with it…as long as things go well.

If not, not only will Teiwaz likely dump Tekkadan, but Naze is on record as vouching for them with his very life. Of course, Orga is well aware he may have overstepped his bounds, so when Naze tells him this is the last time he’ll forgive him “with a smile”, he understands perfectly.

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As Orga heads to Ares to start talks with various people McGillis wants him engaged in, Isurugi also impresses upon him the importance of not screwing up, even to the point of bristling at Orga’s worry Macky is “overestimating” Tekkadan. Maybe he is, but Tekkadan has come a long way in a short time, so there’s no reason they can’t keep climbing if they maintain relationships with powerful allies…provided those allies can be trusted.

Speaking of allies, we see Kudelia, Atra, and Mika gathered around the same table – a rarity this season. Not much is said, but both girls see that Mika has a new student/servant in Hush, whom Mika finds annoying but isn’t about to cast him away. Hush still has a lot to prove to a lot of people – and he certainly doesn’t seem anywhere near ready to pilot that new Gundam – but he’s working hard, and more importantly, no longer has an over-inflated sense of his abilities.

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Speaking of Gundams, Masky shows Julieta what he can do in Vidar, and even after telling her he fights for revenge, she doesn’t see that in his graceful, beautiful fighting, which he chalks up to having so much fun fighting in the suit that he forgets what he’s fighting for, simply losing himself in combat.

Masky certainly shows he’s capable of taking out a good many of Tekkadan’s pilots, though Mika, Akihiro, and obviously McGillis could probably still handle him. I’m sure we’ll find out before long.

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As for Macky, he keeps reading the book about the founder of Gjallarhorn at his house; the same book that lifted him out of suicidal thoughts, because Agnika Kaieru believed in building a world where anyone, regardless of birth or status, could do great things.

Macky gets Almiria on board with his plans by telling her that this is also a world in which she won’t be mocked because she’s such a young fiancee. Masky says he’s consumed by revenge and is committed to erasing his past identity (as Gaelio Bauduin) so I figure he doesn’t care about Almiria anymore. I’m hoping Macky is aware Masky is out there, so that when he inevitably comes at him, he’ll be ready.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 33

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This week the Seven Stars meet, Rustal Elion feigns ignorance of Galan Mossa, and he and McGillis cross paths, after he’s fired the first shot across his bow. Rustal has always seen something in the not-related-by-blood adopted son of Iznario Fareed, but he still thinks he has the edge over him as the conflict between their two factions continues to escalate.

If Rustal is still feeling this confident even after losing someone as capable as Mossa, there’s every reason to believe it’s because he’s still got plenty of talent on his side. McGillis will have to pull out all the stops if he’s to prevail.

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Everyone notices Takaki is a glum shell of the cheerful fellow they knew and loved on Mars. Kudelia tries to tell him not to be so down, seeing as how despite all his responsibilities and experiences, he IS still just a goddamn kid. He needs to see more things, broaden his knowledge, and learn how to judge and choose properly, as well as realize there is more than one choice, but infinite ones on the road called life.

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In a welcome scene between Mask-Gaelio and Julieta, we learn that, like McGillis, she was someone with no family who Mossa not only taught to fight but recommended to Rustal. She is who she is because of Mossa, just as McGillis is who he is thanks to Iznario, even though he eventually rebelled against him.

Those similarities aside, Julieta’s fairly narrow frame of mind and simple black-and-white way of seeing things still mirrors Mika, who has followed Orga all this way and will continue to without question.

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As for Orga, this is the week he doubles down on throwing his and Tekkadan’s lot in with McGillis. Due to his dedication to his word he would support McGillis, their fates are intertwined all but irrevocably; if McGillis falls, Tekkadan will fall too (though they still have a degree of security in Teiwaz).

McGillis decides it’s time to tell Orga what he and Tekkadan will get in return for their continued dependable service: he’ll cede Gjallarhorn’s hold over Mars to Tekkadan, essentially making them the Kings of Mars. This arrangement proves McGillis isn’t just using Tekkadan because they’re easy marks: he identifies and believes in them, to the point his own confidence in his success is dependent on being right about them.

Watching them in the early days reminded McGillis of timeless legends. We’ll see if he’s giving them too much credit, blinded by his own romanticism and desire to purify a system he was adopted into.

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When Orga tells his senior staff what McGillis told him – what essentially lies at the end of the rainbow for them when the fighting’s done – Mika, Eugene, Akihiro, and Chad are all for it without question. Kudelia and Merribit are less enthusiastic about more fighting, and Takaki flat out tells Orga he’s done.

His life is not his own to throw away for glory any longer: he won’t leave Fuka behind. He doesn’t mention Biscuit, and how he left Cookie and Cracker, but he didn’t have to for Orga to understand and accept his resignation, not with indignation, but gratitude for what Takaki has contributed to this point.

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Takaki follows Kudelia’s advice and takes a different path than the one everyone, including him, had blindly taken out of loyalty and a desire to protect his freedom. But he has that freedom now, and there’s too much blood in Tekkadan’s future for him to remain.

What about Mika? It’s not like Mika is ever going to waver for a second, or fail to obey every order given to him by Orga. But while I said he would never question Orga, but he does comment that this thing they’re working towards is “taking longer than he thought.”

That, and his expression of relief that Takaki threw in the towel, are the closest things to complaints he’s leveled against his big bro. Orga can pick a destination – the very Throne of Mars – but he can’t promise anyone they’ll actually ever get there. And like every leader great and small, that central uncertainty, and the consequences of his decisions, will continue to weigh on him.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 32

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I lauded McGillis’ decision to take to the battlefield to personally end the “mayhem” stewing between Arbrau and the SAU, but I did not expect the enemies he was fighting to be the Earth Branch of Tekkadan, but that’s exactly what went down thanks to the scheming of Galan Rossa and Radice.

Takaki and Aston have been so thoroughly, well, brainwashed by the charismatic veteran Galan that they’ll fight their own ally without hesitation – though it’s unclear how well they know McGillis and his relationship to Orga and Mika.

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It’s a relief, then, that all of the delaying is done away with and the Barbatos arrives in the middle of the battle just in time to save McGillis from Takaki and Aston. And man does McGillis, and all that he represents, almost get killed in a nameless skirmish spearheaded by a nameless mercenary, all for the benefit of his political and military rival, Rustal. Mind you, Mika isn’t helping an old friend, or even a guy who gives him cool chocolate: he’s simply obeying Orga’s orders not to let him die.

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As for Aston, he steps in front of Takaki and takes the brunt of an attack from McGillis that kills him, and all of Takaki’s hopes and dreams and innocence seem to die with him. That last thing is surprising considering how much Takaki has gone through, but up until Aston dies with a grateful smile on his face, Takaki was determined to go home to Fuka with Aston, not leave him behind. This may have been a pointless battle, but it might just cost Takaki the most.

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As for Hush, he gets to tag along with Mika, as Mika is willing to give him a shot, but let’s just say Hush doesn’t do so great in his mobile suit debut. Indeed, he’s quickly disarmed, loses his cool, and very nearly cries for his mommy before Mika has to bail him out (the second big bailout Mika executes this week).

Hush’s comrade later tells him he’s still got the self-awareness of his weaknesses to be a good pilot, but yeah, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a very very weak asset to Tekkadan right now, and can’t be trusted with anyone but Mika, someone who can take care of himself.

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Okay, maybe Mika isn’t the only one who can take care of himself and his own affairs when it comes to mobile suit battle. When Eugene and Akihiro arrive at Tekkadan Earth HQ, corner Radice and learn of His and Mossa’s treachery, and furthermore learn that Aston has been lost as a result, he goes the fuck after Mossa, and doesn’t stop until the guy has to self-destruct himself to keep form being halved by Akihiro’s giant vice-grips.

Their battle is the most emotionally and physically intense of the episode, illustrating both how badass Akihiro is and how fiercely he defends (and avenges) his fellow ex-human debris. Though like Aston, Akihiro has never really come to grips with the “ex-” part; he always puts others before his own well-being, and almost gets blown up by it, moments before Laffter can arrive to warn him. Laffter doesn’t want to lost Akihiro because of his own paltry sense of self-worth.

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I enjoyed the little scene between McGillis and Mika near the episode’s end; both because these two are always fun to watch interact directly with each other (especially now that they’re on the same side), but that it almost shows that for all their differences, these are two guys utterly ruthless in their own ways, going after very specific goals only they believe they can achieve.

He’s almost an Orga surrogate here, without the shared past. Both McGillis and Mika seek a better tomorrow, and for now, their interests are aligned, with no sense of that changing anytime soon. And just as McGillis has Mika, his rival Rustal has Julieta, who seems to be the only one who sheds any tears for Galan Mossa, but is told not to do so by Rustal, as it wouldn’t be what Mossa wanted.

But as much as Mossa—who seemed to be a good friend of Rustal’s; perhaps even a blood relative—tried to erase his identity and that of his entire operation, he couldn’t erase one eccentric pilot’s regard for him, nor her grief over his loss.

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As for Takaki, the loss he experienced is more than evident both in the cockpit, at Earth Branch HQ, and back at home. His gaze has changed, from his easygoing glint to more of a Mikazuki stare. He decides to take care of “Earth branch problems” in the injured Chad’s stead, doing what Mika casually offered to do and putting three bullets in Radice for his treachery.

The once kind and gentle Takaki has crossed over into new territory, and both the blood of Aston and the lies of Radice and Mossa crafted this new, darker, more tortured Takaki, who no longer seems comfortable in Fuka’s presence.

This was a hard-hitting and very satisfying episode that swiftly and efficiently wrapped up the Earth Branch arc. I won’t lie that bringing in Mika, Akihiro & Co. definitely raised my interest level, but I also won’t deny that despite the fact either Takaki or Aston (or both) were doomed here, I was still fully emotionally invested in their fates. Not a bad feat for a miniature war with no name.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 31

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Even Takaki can feel it: something’s not right. Something hasn’t been right since Chad was injured, Radice took over, and Galan was brought on. But that “something” is impossible for him to grasp, at least to the point it alters the course he and the other Earth Branchers of Tekkadan, which is precisely the course Galan wants them on: the path to ruin.

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As such, Takaki finds himself very nearly back to where this all began: human tools of CGS; cannon fodder for endless, pointless battles between Arbrau and the SAU. And it’s all in service of weakening McGillis’ position and reputation. As he stares in his coffee, McGillis knows exactly what’s going on, as he’s probably been expecting concerted resistance to his reform movement. It’s strange to see him on his heels, almost forced to make a move.

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I’m not yet sure if McGillis is being played here, but Takaki and Aston are being played like fiddles. Galan treats them decently, but behind their backs calls them dogs he’s helpfully trained for Rastal. He tells Takaki again and again that this is it; the last battle; just one more push and he can go back home to his normal happy life with Fuka and Aston. Only they’re just words, and in reality there is no end to the war in sight.

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That’s just how Galan, Radice, and Rustal want it. It’s another case of the adults getting one over on the kids; manipulating their emotions to keep them pliable. Galan even goes out of his way to save Takaki’s life, not just to keep up the charade but to build more trust; trust Galan has every intention of betraying when the time is right.

It’s an episode that establishes a terrible situation for Earth Branch, and makes me question the wisdom of splitting Tekkadan’s forces across two planets in the first place. Mika, Kudelia, Eugene & Co. are on their way, and may be able to provide some relief but Galan won’t make it easy for them to interfere in his plans. Will it be too little, too late to save Takaki?

Meanwhile, McGillis takes the stage in his mobile suit, determined after a matter of weeks to nip this sprawling yet low-boil conflict in the bud. A rematch with the masked Gaelio seems imminent.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 30

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Note Orga tucking his tie to keep it clean – nice little detail
With so much opportunity for prosperity and stability on the horizon, Orga’s not one to go soft: When he’s late for dinner, he doesn’t ask Atra to heat it up, preferring to “deal with whatever’s in front” of him, be it food, work, or trouble.

Mika, always one to both notice and speak up about things no one else does, notices Orga is looking a little skinny, and drops some of his weird nut things on top of Orga, who isn’t a fan of the taste. But by episode’s end, Mika’s coat lint-garnished snacks are the least troublesome thing he must deal with.

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Julieta and Iok report their failure back to Rastal, who already has plans to open a front against McGillis on Earth, using some “bearded gentleman” Iok isn’t comfortable with but Julieta seems to be fine with, as long as he serves her master ably.

Julieta also meets with Mask Gaelio, who seems to be trying to warn her about trusting someone, even a superior, too closely. After all, all he and Carta ever were to McGillis were loyal and admiring, and he repaid them by screwing them royally. His only mistake was not making sure Gaelio was dead.

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McGillis’ enemies are joining forces out of a shared desire to see him fall, and McGillis’ enemies are now Tekkadan and Admoss Co.’s enemies. They reaped the benefits in last week’s battle, but Tekkadan’s Earth Branch represents its soft, vulnerable underbelly, and Radice has already given up on the ragtag Tekkadan Earth crew he deems “uneducated animals”.

Mere minutes before a commencement address, Makanai’s office is bombed, and Radice is in on it. Chad is injured along with Makanai, leaving Radice in charge of Tekkadan Earth, and he wastes no time showing his contempt for his underlings in keeping them in the dark.

Radice is having a drink with the “bearded gentleman” when the bomb goes off, and this is only the beginning, as rumors start to swirl everywhere that the SAU is responsible for the incident, and Gjallarhorn is brought in to arbitrate.

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It’s a chaotic situation and the last thing Orga, Chad, and Takaki wanted. Takaki, the ostensible leader of Tekkadan Earth with Radice having turned against them (still unbeknownst to them), must way everyone’s selfish desire to avenge Chad with Chad’s actual orders to keep things under control. It’s a lot for the gentle-hearted Takaki to take on, and just when he was hoping he could give Fuka a better life on Earth.

He at least has Aston on his side, who may share the others’ thirst to avenge Chad but considers his duty to his superior more important. What ticks Takaki off is that in interpreting his duty to him, Aston goes straight to fighting or dying for him.

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Tekkadan was supposed to be moving past such desperate measures, but McGillis’ and their foes are determined to keep them dragged down in the mire. On a hunch, Orga rushes the delivery of weapons and new mobile suits to Earth, and sends Eugene and Akihiro to make sure they get there.

Mika and Kudelia also tag along for the journey, and with such big names it looks like Earth is going to play a bigger role than I thought…once they get there. It’s a three-week trip, and a lot can happen on the ground in that time.

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Like Orga, Takaki isn’t fully aware of the depths of Radice’s betrayal when he shakes the hand of Arbrau Defense Force’s new commander, the hulking “bearded gentleman” Galan Mossa. But he’s certainly uneasy about the future, and his future self narrating admits this was the time a trap began closing around Tekkadan; one that they could not escape from without more fighting and dying. It’s a cold dinner, but all they can do is deal with it.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 29

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When Kudelia didn’t play ball with Allium, he sent the Dawn Horizon Corps after Tekkadan, but quickly lost control when Sandoval decided to use the job as an opportunity to put the upstart Tekkadan in its place.

Throw in rival Gjallarhorn forces and you have a chaotic, compelling mix of goals and motivations. It’s a big knot that came together last week, and by the end of this episode, that knot is mostly undone and replaced by other, tighter knots.

First things first: Nab Sandoval, and Tekkadan wins. Orga tells Mika to win it for them, and he does, capturing the pirate leader before Julieta can (Julieta is pissed, but not manically so, at least for now).

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For their victory, Barristan awards them the biggest half-metal mine in Chryse – giving Tekkadan the well-earned opportunity to supplement or even eliminate their mercenary activities with self-sustaining revenue stream…once it’s up and running of course. More victories, more rewards…more problems.

After the fine battle where he was essentially only part of the pit crew, Hush decides he deserves not just to confront Eugene and Shino, but ask them to ask Orga for a mobile suit. Mika says he will, after Hush tells him why: to become stronger than him. That’s fine with Mika; he’s not in a competition to be the strongest, he just is the strongest.

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Later, we see Allium desperately trying to pick up the pieces, continually reminding us of that cockroach Todo, only somehow less capable. Nobliss doesn’t answer his calls, and when Orga and Mika have come to ask for compensation for his treachery, a call to Gjallarhorn is of no avail.

Here we see a combination of the dual hats Orga must wear. He has to be the politician in the tie, making sure all his connections are in order before he steps in Allium’s office. Naze knows this side will be tough for him.

But in using Mika as his unblinking attack dog when diplomacy fails, Orga shows he must still cultivate and bring out the brawler/gangster side, backing words with steel. All Allium had in the end were words: far too many and not convincing enough to save him.

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It’s no accident that this unpleasant if necessary scene is juxtaposed with a far more peaceful moment between Kudelia and Atra at the Sakura Farm, tossing out potential death flags in committing to an endgame that is, as we saw with Orga and Mika, still quite a ways (and many more battles) off.

Kudelia is out of immediate, constant danger of the kind she was in last season, but she is still struggling with exactly how to end the deadly “chain reaction” of creating Mikas and Tekkadans to achieve her desired gains. Like Mika with the other types of seeds, she’s going to have to trying multiple methods, with no guarantee of success despite the conviction of her promise.

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Peace is a lot tougher not just when you’re surrounded by resentful rivals (two of whom Tekkadan ends in Terra Liberionis and the Dawn Horizon Corps) but possessed of all-too-tantalizing weapons.

At the end of the day, the nabbed Sandoval and won the mine thanks to Mika in his Barbatos. I’m not sure if Barristan knew about the more immediate treasures in the mine—a Gundam frame and “something bigger”—but it’s looking more likely like Hush may get his shot.

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Finally, Orga, along with Mika and Merribit, are invited (not summoned) to Gjallarhorn’s Mars HQ, Ares, and to the same office where Coral once plotted their and Kudelia’s demise. That didn’t go well, because Coral was corrupt and unprepared.  McGillis won’t make the same mistake of underestimating Tekkadan’s desire to survive and thrive and the upside of remaining close allies.

Orga and Mika are understanably suspicious—this guy wears more than one mask—but in this place and time it seems only appropriate to continue working with him. They want a less corrupt Gjallarhorn too, and McGillis offers advantages he says will outweigh whatever problems come from gaining the same enemies he has, which include Rustal, Iok, Julieta…and Gaelio.

I really liked this scene, because it shows McGillis dispensing with Gjallarhorn superiority, looking a potential ally level in the face, and offering an earnest hand of friendship and cooperation without strings (that we know of). Perhaps it’s because McGillis, like Orga, Mika, and Tekkadan, is not only an orphan, but an upstart rising high. Upstart orphans gotta stick together in a world trying to keep them down.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 28

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This week is a case of strange bedfellows and an unexpectedly huge and complex space battle. Orga can only move Tekkadan forward, but Merribit is there to remind him not to push too far too fast, and there’s a constant feeling Fareed’s Gjallarhorn allies could turn on them at any minute. So it’s interesting when they don’t, though they only brought one ship out of five promised, for “reasons.”

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The Gjallarhorn no-nonsense Captain Isurugi (perhaps the most level-headed and least scenery-chewing GJ commander to date) wanted to get a head start on the battle because the victor will get the fame of having taken down Dawn Horizon.

But Dawn’s leader Reuters seemed to be counting on his opponent to attack quickly when his forces were scattered…which is why he tricked them by towing seven of his fleet’s ships behind the only three Tekkadan detected. The Orphans used to pull off tricks like this all the time, now they’re falling for them. The times they are a-changin’…

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Even though they have the numbers, Dawn doesn’t have Mikazuki Augus, who goes about his business in his usual casually brutal way. We also meet Akihito’s huge Gusion “Rebake”, and the Tekkadan pilots experience the very strange sensation of being covered, not attacked, by Gjallarhorn Grazes. The goal isn’t total victory over a larger opponent, but simply buying time for the rest of Gjallarhorn’s fleet to show up. And it’s a tremendout battle – one of IBO’s finest.

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Even that task requires all mobile suits to be brought back in for pit stops, and launches are staggered so there’s always someone out there. When Mika comes in, Hush, assigned to flight deck duty, curses under his breath how efficient Mika was with his propellant, despite moving around the most.

Mika, meanwhile, is personally refueled with pita sandwiches by Atra, making sure the pilot who makes Barbatos go doesn’t go hungry in the midst of a battle. Even in an intense battle like this, it’s warmer lighter moments like these that give life and realism to proceedings that would otherwise be stodgy.

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We perhaps learn the reason Fareed’s Gjallarhorn ship arrived so quickly: when the others show up, they have no intention of fighting with Tekkadan. Iok, Julieta, and the bitter Masked Man (Gaelio?) all pilot mobile suits and add even more complexity to the battle. Reuters also covers Dawn’s withdrawal by taking his Hugo out.

But when Mika engages, he’s blocked by Julieta, who so far is not acting as crazy as her butterfly-eating debut. Perhaps, like Mika, she’s All Business when she’s in the cockpit? In any case, these two will either start going at it next week, or one or both of their COs will tell them to stand down. One would hope the pirate leader doesn’t get to slip away in all the confusion over dibs and jurisdiction.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 27

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This striking image encapsulates the episode pretty nicely: Hash (or Hush) wants to be able to do what Mika can do, and what what his “older brother” couldn’t do back in the slums. He is at the head of the new recruits who have heard tales of Tekkadan and seek greatness—and purpose—in this new Mars, but haven’t escaped their past.

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We also check in on Tekkadan’s Earth Branch in Edmonton, where Takaki lives with his sister Fuka and takes her to school. Things are still a little delicate, but Takaki will take all the stability, normalcy, and domesticity he can get. He’s an iron-blooded orphan success story; in a way, he achieved what Biscuit tried to but could not. Now that he has it, he has no qualms about paying it forward.

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We jump from a meal on earth to one on Mars, where Hash makes his pitch to Yukinojo: he wants the A-V surgery. “Too old” is the cold reply, along with warmer words from Atra that Hash simply doesn’t want to hear. He’s poised to shove Atra aside, but Mika grabs his arm. And here Hash is: faced with the person he wishes to be more than anything, even at the cost of his life.

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Hash seems an over-eager brat in a hurry to die—until we hear his story, and it’s a sad one. His “big bro” Builth went off to CGS looking for glory, but his A-V surgery failed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Hoping to make the lives of the younger kids like Hash easier, Builth’s actions had the opposite effect, and he took his own life before he could over-burden them too much. But doing so bestowed Hash with a new and potentially deadlier burden: to follow in his footsteps, but succeed where he failed.

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Meanwhile, Tekkadan is going to subjugate the Dawn Horizon Corps pirates, Todo reappears (as a Very Irritating Person), and Fareed has sent the Arianrhod Fleet to Mars to join the pirate fight. Aboard is Iok (who seems put out), Julieta (who seems less crazy but no less devoted to Rustal), and…a new Masked Man.

Who the heck is this? Will he ever speak, or does he rely on the pulsing lights on his face to communicate? I’m not quite sure, but Julieta doesn’t trust him. Nor does Orga trust Fareed, but that doesn’t mean they can’t work together, at least for a time, towards a shared goal.

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