Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 50 (Fin)

Once the tunnel digging is complete, everyone falls back except for Akihiro and Mika, who stand their ground and continue to buy time for their family. And while Tekkadan’s two toughest pilots put up a hell of a fight, even initially surviving a direct Dainsleif attack from orbit, they’re sufficiently softened up to allow Julieta and Iok to go in for the kill.

Akihiro gets Iok in his giant binders and crushes him, but he in turn is killed by Iok’s subordinates. Julieta, who has vowed to remain human while being as ruthless as Rustal needs her to be, beheads the bestial Barbatos Lupus Rex and raises it in triumph before her elated comrades. It is over. Mika, Akihiro are dead, and so is Tekkadan.

But life goes on, and those who survived thanks to their fallen brothers continue to follow Orga’s final order to keep moving forward. And what to you know, things end up working out both for Gjallarhorn (which reforms from within to a more democratic system under Rustal) and Mars (which gains nominal independence from Earth, as a new union under the chairmanship of Kudelia).

Kudelia and Rustal work together to end the practice of turning destitute orphans into human debris once and for all. Even without the main actors who set the stage alive to see it, and very few people remember who they even were, a measure of their ideals were realized anyway. Atra’s powerful monologue about how one doesn’t notice a flower blooming by the side of the road really drove that point home.

It helps that the “bad guys” who “won” are interesting and likable enough that years after they brutally took Orga, Mika, Macky and Tekkadan down, it’s still satisfying to see Gaelio returning to his old “frivolous” self, only now far more wiser, while Julieta has steady-competenced herself to being the likely successor to Rustal for leadership of Gjallarhorn.

Meanwhile, some survivors, among them Ride, can’t move forward without taking revenge, as he does when he assassinates Nobliss Gordon while he’s sitting on the toilet.

As for Kudelia? She’s overjoyed to learn Merribit and Yukinojou are expecting their second child soon, but can’t go out drinking with Chad and the guys. She heads home to the Sakura Farm, where an older, taller, and very badass Atra is waiting with their kid, with the unmistakable blue eyes and vacant expression of Mikazuki. The kid’s name is, naturally, Mikazuki, and unlike his father, he’ll have a childhood full of love and kindness, not desperation, and violence.

While chatting with Gaelio, Julieta admits the fighters of Tekkadan weren’t devils; she knew that the moment she saw an unconscious Mika when his cockpit cover sheared off. They were, in fact, the most human of us all, belonging on the battlefield for no other reason than to keep living and fighting. So it’s fortunate that there’s civilization to filter out some of our raw, instinctual humanity.

Thanks to the sacrifices of Tekkadan, McGillis and their allies, that civilization has been improved and made available to the next generation of youth, so maybe there won’t be a need for another Tekkadan ever again.

And that’ll do it. Whether you just checked in this week or have been following them since the very beginning, thanks as always for reading my reviews of what I believe to be one of, if not the best Gundam yet. It was a fantastic ride, and the franchise will be hard-pressed to surpass the greatness it achieved in these fifty episodes. But if they make a (non-SD) attempt down the road, I’ll be there to review it.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 46

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Once Shino’s suit blows up, there’s not enough time for Mika to take over the task of destroying Rustal’s bridge (nor is he assured to succeed). Besides, Mika is still busy with a very pesky Julieta. When Shino dies, we see a switch go off in Mika’s head: no more messing around with this relative amateur: Get out of my way.

After that, Julieta is lucky to escape with her life and limbs. But even when her suit is impaled, she still grabs on to Mika. Every moment he must fight her is a victory for her, especially considering she’s merely a human pilot, albeit a talented one; she hasn’t sold her soul to any technological devils. Julieta may be on the wrong side, but I still admire the hell out of her.

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Gaelio, who is tired to no end of McGillis’ bullshit, is determined to kill his former friend and commmander, a man who once inspired him. And to his credit, he seems to be doing quite well in his duel, even mocking McGillis for being so arrogant about piloting a suit with the soul of G-horn’s founder. And to the duel’s credit, it’s another brutal, beam-weapon-less smash-fest.

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In a crucial moment, the hand Almiria stabbed fails Macky, and Gaelio almost gets him, if it weren’t for somebody Gaelio sees his past self in: Isurugi. Someone hypnotised by the BS and whose head is filled with dreams that will never coalesce, but which will end only in his ruin.

Gaelio isn’t wrong about what happens: Isurugi’s last-ditch defense of his commander claims his life. But Isurugi wasn’t from a great family; he was colonist and a commoner, and being with McGillis allowed him to dream big, so big that he didn’t even need to be around to see those dreams fulfilled, as long as he was useful to McGillis.

It’s not a one-sided thing to him, in which Macky takes and the world makes. McGillis gave hope to the hopeless, and they gave him their lives.

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IBO has always had exciting battles, but it’s often the aftermaths of those battles that I’m more invested in, and that’s the case here. The “final battle” wasn’t final and wasn’t a battle so much as a rout, in which McGillis’ shorthanded fleet poked the bear and got mauled.

But Tekkadan isn’t just a military organization like G-horn, they’re a family, and to see Shino and others buy it not for final victory, but just so the rest of the family can live to fight another day (which they were hoping not to do) is particularly despairing.

There’s a great moment when Derma is wishing he had died alongside his friend, rather than losing an arm and becoming less useful as a weapon. Akihiro puts his hand on his head and simply thanks him for surviving. Aki doesn’t care about his adoptive brother’s future effectiveness as a weapon. He cares about being able to talk to him.

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Shaking off the loss of his most loyal lieutenant, it’s full-speed ahead to Mars for McGillis, who has the awkward task of having to call Orga and Eugene to his ship to talk about what happens next, even though the battle they just fought was supposed to be the final one.

At this particular juncture, McGillis believes, or at least gives the impression that he believes, Tekkadan will weather these setbacks and terrible odds as they always have, better than the group’s actual leaders. Orga likely never considered that whatever loses they sustained in the battle with Rustal would only be the beginning; that all those losses gave them was time.

The significance McGillis places on “flying over Mars” and fighting on “home ground” in the next leg of the battle couldn’t feel more hollow, because there wasn’t supposed to be a next leg.

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I loved the scene where Akihiro comforted Derma, but I loved the scene with a recovering Julieta and Gaelio even more. The second he appears, the playful adversity picks right back up, with her wondering what took him so long to visit her after she woke up.

In some Gundams, no doubt this would be a scene in which the injured pilot double down and decides that, like Gaelio, there’s no price she won’t pay, nothing she wouldn’t give up, to become stronger; strong enough to beat Mika. Julieta doesn’t go there.

Having faced off against the terrifying, inhuman might of Mikazuki, she’s decided that’s not her path. Even if she didn’t see the malice in Mika’s real face, his Barbatos’ “expression” mirrored his own. Julieta will become stronger as a human, as herself. No shortcuts.

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Having come back from that deeply unpleasant meeting with McGillis, Orga inspects a room full of body bags filled with comrades for whom he promised a warm place to live and make money without bloodshed. Yamagi, still reeling from the loss of Shino, expresses his resentment for what he sees as cowardly whining by Orga.

When Eugene tracks Yamagi down, he thanks him for tellking Orga what he couldn’t say. Then he tells Yamagi about a time Shino pondered whether Yamagi liked him, and expressed his gratitude that their family is full of so many different types of guys, including a guy who’d love someone like him.

Yamagi knows Shino wouldn’t want him to worry about having not died with him, but to live on, fight on, and make him proud. Just as Isurugi gave his life for a dream he’ll never see, so did Shino, and both went out perfectly fine with that arrangement. No one cursed their lot in life, because they were the lives they chose.

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We end with another excellent Orga-and-Mika scene, in which Orga admits all the lies and big talk he told everyone about money and status and one last battle. Mika, true to his Mika-ness, tells him if there’s someone to blame, it’s him. Orga only “lied” because Mika couldn’t wipe everyone out. His failure to do so only steels him to want to correct that failure in the battles to come.

Orga seems to get it, finally: he’s never had to bear the entire weight of the decisions that have led to their current situation, because they were never his and his alone. They were also Mika’s, and Eugene’s, and Akihiro’s, and everyone else’s, because Orga isn’t a dictator. The things they’ve done are things everyone more or less agreed to or went along with.

On the one hand, most of Tekkadan can’t easily walk away, like Zack could (but likely won’t). But the responsibility lies with everyone. Orga’s most important job is to not have doubts, and as Macky sends Tekkadan and what’s left of his fleet into a Martian trap, a absolute lack of doubt is vital to just keep going.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 45

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The calm is over; the storm is here, and it’s going to be a bad one. IBO wastes no time plunging us into this, what everyone is calling The Final Battle. As there are still five episodes left, I didn’t think the battle would only last an episode, and so it didn’t. But a great deal of damage was done to the good guys, and though key pieces still on the board mean they can still turn things around, they have lost and will lost a lot to do so.

Rustal Elion shows what a ruthless sonofabitch he can be, quickly splitting McGillis’ fleet and focusing on the rebels and Tekkadan, confident if he takes them out the Regulatory fleet will go over to him. He even has a mole among the rebels, who fires a Dainsleif at Rustal’s fleet, making it legal to return fire with the same weapon, only a hundred fold.

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The results are devastating as round after round pierces allied ships. Even Shino takes a big hit, but manages to get back to base, where Yamagi fixes his broken arm, and Yamagi reveals (to us, not Shino) his feelings for him. This…seemed a bit rushed, frankly.

Shino’s great, but from the way he fights I kinda always knew what end he was headed for. Adding this extra wrinkle out of nowhere as incentive to want him to avoid a violent fate doesn’t harm my like of the character, but doesn’t elevate it; it’s just there.

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McGillis tries to dazzle the stage after over half his forces are destroyed (along with Tekkadan’s Hotarubi) but I couldn’t help but think how similar Macky’s posturing felt to Carta’s empty pageantry, which is worth less than nothing if the enemy doesn’t fight with honor, as Rustal certainly doesn’t. He’s playing to win, as well as for survival.

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Even the look in McGillis’ face—a truly “Oh Shit” moment when Rustal looses another massive volley of Dainsleifs—seemed Carta-like in a sort of entitled Things aren’t supposed to go this way! outrage. Bael looks like a shining knight on this stage, but there’s increasingly little he can do to stop the crumbling equipment and spirits that surround him.

Meanwhile, Tekkadan’s only hope is to use one of their crippled ships as a shield in a last-ditch effort to get Shino close enough to Rustal’s bridge to take him out with his “Super Galaxy Cannon.”

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…It doesn’t work. Once more, a potentially huge pressure-releasing moment is denied the audience, just as Naze and Amida were denied their final revenge. In a way, repeating this pattern is a strategy of diminishing returns.

With Julieta somehow holding her own against Mika (which seems dubious) and Gaelio lurking around Macky and Isurugi, Orga down to one beat-up ship, and nowhere left to run, our iron-blooded orphans are in the direst of straits yet.

With Barbaros and Bael still on the board, it’s not quite time to throw in the towel. But will these two namesakes of the franchise possibly be enough to grab victory from the jaws of defeat, and how many more familiar faces won’t live to see it?

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 44

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While it certainly seemed like the start of the “final battle” between McGillis/Tekkadan and Rustal was eminent, that start is pushed back to next week, leaving us with the CBTS to end all CBTS episodes. Turns out piloting Bael isn’t enough for the other families to side with McGillis; the best he gets is their neutrality.

I guess they figure not actively helping someone Rustal has publicly labeled a traitor and murderer may help them down the line, if Rustal is able to defeat him. I’m not sure why one of the family heads is an alien, but between him and the fat one I’m not sure Macky would have gained much by having them on his side anyway.

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Another “loose end” is Almiria, who hears Rustal’s speech and assumes, not wrongly, that she’s been a pawn in this all along. When she can’t force herself to do what she believes is her duty—kill Macky for killing her brother—she turns the blade on herself, only for Macky to stop the thrust with his hand.

Telling her he will fulfill his promise to make her happy, one day, is all well and good, but her head is swimming with so many complex emotions (and she’s just a kid besides), she concludes that Macky is simply going crazy here, and so is she.

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As for Orga, he is not pleased McGillis could not secure a larger fleet to fight Arianrhod. When they meet face to face he makes sure to slug Macky for so blithely bringing up the casualties that will surely result from being outnumbered 2-to-1.

Orga wasn’t expecting to have to sacrifice so many members of his family to gain the Martian crown, and it’s because he fell into a pattern of accepting McGillis’ constant reassurances without question.

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From there, everyone starts taking stock. Merribit and Dexter feel helpless for not being able to fight beside the fighters, but will stand beside them anyway. Zack wonders out loud whether fighting the battle really is the only option.  Gaelio tells Julieta she’s becoming stronger “the right way”, perhaps insinuating he didn’t by relying on taboo measures.

Kudelia tells Atra over the space phone that she finally realizes the contradiction of working to eliminate strife from Tekkadan’s future, even though they wouldn’t be the tight-knit family they are without past strife.

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But because Kudelia is back on Mars, it falls to Atra to be there for Mika, so that’s what she does, and in one of the most tender scenes Mika has ever been involved in, when Atra bursts into tears from his tough talk, he hugs her and won’t let go. He’s only known battle in his life, whether it was his choice to fight or someone else’s. Now he’ll fight so Atra, who he admits is precious to him, won’t have to cry anymore.

The show can’t wriggle out of giving us a battle next week, so however many episodes it lasts, what form will it take? Will it be the beginning of Tekkadan’s future, or will Rustal see to it that future is snuffed out in the flames McGillis’ childish delusions of super-heroism?  There are sure to be casualties, big ones, but who? We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 40

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With the stage so ably set last week, all that was left for IBO was to put on a show. The final pieces to go into the mix? The excellent Akihiro and Shino, who are more concerned with how cool their callsigns should be than whether they’ll get Tekkadan labeled outlaws like the Turbines.

Just when Orga is at a loss about what to do, they enter his office and offer an alternative plan: they, along with Ride, will simply be testing out their booster systems when they come across the evacuating non-combatants at the Turbine’s relay base. They won’t fight Gjallarhorn, so everything should be fine.

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It’s a good-sounding plan, but everything does not turn out fine. Before everything turns to shit, we get a look at the feverish evacuation of the Turbine innocents as Naze empties the Hammerhead, ready to face the music himself. Watching the Arianhrod fleet bear down on them from the radar screen packs a lot more dread-punch than I thought.

Lafter and Azee are ordered to protect the civilians, leaving Amida to pilot her mobile suit alongside Naze in the ship. Becausde she knows and loves her man so much, Amida knows what’s going on here, and she’s not about to stay out of the coming action.

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If only Iok had stuck to procedure and not let his emotions drive his command. He ignores the Turbines’ white flag and orders the use of the illegal Dainsleif weapons against the transports, which should be some kind of war crime if anyone was (or could be trusted to) observe Iok’s actions (alas, Micky sits this one out, his hands tied).

It’s horrifying to watch the vulnerable transports get run through with the harpoons like whales full of innocent people; people who die in large numbers for no reason other than Iok’s realization of a grand and noble battle in which he makes no distinction between combatants and children. When he starts targeting the launches, he reaches a new nadir.

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Not everyone will be saved as Naze had hoped, but thanks to the timely arrival of the Akihiro cavalry, more lives are saved. I love how businesslike Akihiro is when he comes to Lafter’s side. The tide cannot be turned, but she still appreciates that he risked everything to come, and every little bit helps against a reckless, heartless, merciless foe like Iok.

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When Amida gets up close to Iok’s ship, she’s met by Julieta in Julia, and the two have an excellent fight in which Juli’s lack of experience is badly exposed. She may have the superior machine, but Amida essentially has her way with her. Not only can Juli not take Amida out, she doesn’t know why it’s so hard to fight her.

Amida gets free and sets a collision course for Iok’s flagship’s bridge, which he helpfully left out of combat mode. I really hoped the hubristic Iok and his reign of idiocy could have been wiped out; it might have been a step towards making all this slaughter not in vain. Alas, a Dainsleif spear stops Amida in her tracks, and her last shot only cracks the viewscreen.

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Now truly all alone, Naze tries desperately to finish what Amida started, and comes so tantalizingly close, only to bounce off the side of Iok’s ship, leaving the bridge unscathed, and crashing and destroying another ship along with his own. Seeing all the familiar places in the Hammerhead be consumed by flames awful to behold.

Is this the end of the battle? Not sure why Iok wouldn’t mop up what’s left of the Turbines, or why the forward mobile suits aren’t recognizing Tekkadan forces fighting them, which as Merribit said, could “crush” them. Perhaps Iok is satisfied and retreats before his screen cracks. In either case, plenty of damage is done.

Naze Turbine and Amida Arca are gone, and the Turbines are history. It’s a huge blow to everyone, and the tears flow accordingly. McMurdo promised he’d take care of Naze’s people (by placing them in groups under his direct control), but the lives of the survivors will never be the same. The episode doesn’t take any further steps to indicate what happens next, for first the dead must be mourned.

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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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