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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