Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 05

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There’s a wonderful sense of anticipation and occasion on the eve of Tekkadan’s first space mission, as warm moments like Aina joining Mika on his night watch, or Atra enlisting as Tekkadan’s cook for the journey, are tinged with foreboding when Orga shakes hands with Orcus, a man we know he doesn’t trust as far as he can throw him.

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Traps and betrayals await Tekkadan in low orbit, with Todo cutting a deal with Orcus, who gets betrayed by Orcus, who cut a deal with Coral, who himself made a deal with Fareed in the apprehension of Kudelia. And at the end of the day, youth and smarts beat age and greed.  Todo’s treachery has been so blatantly telegraphed, it was all but inevitable his plan would be foiled by somebody; the fact Orga doesn’t have to lift a finger for it to happen is icing on the cake.

So Todo, and later Coral, aren’t just old villains, they’re bad, dumb villains that the show disposes of as soon as it can. In the villain vaccum comes Fareed, who like Mika on the other side is a different kind of animal. The beautifully-oiled gears are always spinning beneath his golden locks. Fareed doesn’t mug for the camera get bent out of shape; he twirls his hair, playing the long game.

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And as predictable as Todo’s failed betrayal was, the fact the show was very coy indeed about what if any countermeasures Orga had was nicely hidden beneath the more predictable surface. Orga doesn’t even tell most of his comrades what he has in store for Aina’s would-be apprehenders: Mika in the Gundam (wearing a flight suit too), and a game Akihito arriving right on time with Tekkadan’s ship.

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We’ve been waiting five weeks for IBO’s first space battle, and it doesn’t disappoint. Is there rampant, obvious CGI? Nope, just hand-drawn (or at least hand-drawn looking) mechas rockin’-sockin’ it could with maces, axes, swords, and bullets. And just when we thought Mika was good in atmospheric combat, we see he’s even better once he has the omnidirectionality of space in which to work.

The action is beautifully and tautly directed, and it’s easy to know what’s going on where at all times, without dumbing it down. There are also a good number of Gundam cockpit shots, and thankfully the pilots can speak to each other on the radio.

As his Gjallarhorn opponents get more and more pissed off, Mika just maintains his cool—but not cold—demeanor. He’s got a job to do, everyone’s depending on him, and he’s going to do it. His constant calm, and the power of those convictions, carry with them their own brand of ferocity.

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It’s fitting then, that Fareed, who really secured his position as most serious, interesting and complex antagonists in IBO, remains equally calm and collected this week. The lack of bluster or panic or desperation makes him all the more formidable a foe.

One of Fareed’s best lines of dialogue this week is a little cheesy and meta, but I still absolutely loved it: when the ship’s database confirms Tekkadan’s trump is a Gundam from the Calamity War, he points out how appropriate that is, since Gundams always seem to pop up and make significant contributions at key turning points throughout human history, and with a Martian independence movement gaining strength, this Barbatos has risen up once more to defend the underdog, in this case Kudelia.

What’s also so great is that his little speech didn’t just fire me, up, but it fired him up, to the point he heads out in his own upgraded Graze to join the fray. His opponent is a legend, and finally, a legitimate chance to test his mettle and prove his greatness.  Very good stuff.

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As Mika is dancing with the mobile suits, the Orcus and Gjallarhorn capital ships bear down on Tekkadan’s. They need a big maneuver to escape: enter a mining asteroid they tether to using some good old-fashioned, quick-and-dirty, NASA-style improvisation. Someone has to cut the tether loose at the right moment to send the ship flying safely away from the enemy.

It’s a suicidal mission, so Orga prepares to take it on, but in a nice bit of character development Eugene (for all intents and purposes his XO) volunteers in his stead, insiting the captain should just “sit around and look important.”

It’s a reminder that even though he’s pissed Orga kept the ship secret from him, he still has ample faith and respect in Orga’s command. It also reminds us Orga is still getting used to being the top dog; which sometimes requires delegating, or sending people out you know might not come back.

The thrilling tether swing-around works like a charm, even when the initial blast doesn’t cut the cord. On its way out of orbit on onwards to Earth, they don’t forget to pick up Mika, who destroyed Coral and got a good lick in on Gaelio. The whole time, Fareed was carefully analyzing Mika’s movement, and came away impressed.

Orga and Eugene also make peace, lessening considerably my previous worries Eugene would try to make a move against him. We’ve got a lot of Gundam left, so that could still happen down the road, but for now, they’re buds.

Oh, and yes, Mika’s fine. No adverse side-effects from all that space combat, either mental or physcial. Having both Aina and Atra aboard is a good move, not just for the triangle, but because they represent everything Mika has to lose if things go south.

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The final kiss-off from Tekkadan is shipping a beaten and marked Todo to Gjallarhorn in an escape pod. No more Todo blatantly undermining Tekkadan in the shadows. Fareed lost this round, but he didn’t come away empty-handed (and I’m not talking about Todo): he got to observe his enemy closely, and will be more prepared for him the inevitable next time.

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Houkago no Pleiades – 06

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When the Pleiadian spaceship starts to shift into their dimension, the plan to rebuild its engine accelerates, as does the need to find as many fragments as possible. For once, the girls are able to snag one without interference from Dark Minato, but it turns out to be a trap he sets that lets him discover their base.

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He places a magical barrier around the entire school, trapping Subaru inside. After delving into Hikaru and Itsuki’s pasts, personalities, and motivations the last two weeks, HnP swings back around to the pink-haired protagonist, face-to-face with Dark Minato on solid ground for the first time. But before he can get too close, her Drive Shaft activates and brisks her away.

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She ends up in Nice Minato’s observatory, in an embrace neither are embarrassed about. Subaru is scared, and finds solace and comfort here, with him. Is he an old friend she forgot? Why are there two versions of him? Neither of these questions are explained, but as usual, this Minato is able to provide some advice that helps her press forward, despite her fear. But this visit feels like a goodbye.

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A path leads to a new exit, but when she opens the doors to her friends’ delight, all of a sudden the whole damn school is floating up in orbit, just above the Pleiadian spaceship. Exactly why this happens isn’t explained, but it’s very surreal and cool.

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The President says if the spaceship fully shifts and awakens all of his countrymen, it would be very bad, without going into detail, so when Dark Minato attacks them, Subaru blocks his path. She’s decided she’s not giving up the fragments, she’ snot letting him destroy the school, and she’s not letting him hurt Aoi. He gettin’ nothing!

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Even though she’s scared and shaking, it doesn’t matter; she’s not backing down. Dark Minato is taken aback, as he’s used to using fear and little else to keep his adversaries down. Likely due to Subaru’s resolve and show of strength, their Drive Shafts transform into more recognizable Subaru products, and the five of them create a spark that knocks the ship back into a higher dimension where it will be safe until the engine is completed.

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The ship, the school, and her friends are safe, but when she returns to the magical conservatory, it’s dark and barren, and Minato is nowhere to be found. Will they ever meet again? Or was Subaru’s decision to walk down that path and exit out the rooftop door a symbol of moving on from the security blanket of Minato’s counsel; that moving forward meant leaving a part of herself behind?

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P.S. While I still like this show, it’s likely to be next on the dropping block, as Zane wants me to take Re-Kan! off his hands since he’s dropped Mikagura to review Ore Monogatari!!. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 40

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The day of the big debate is here, and while Tenchi gives Momo some last-minute encouragement (without picking a side), he gets a flash of past young Momo wearing vintage garb when they shake hands, as Momo tells him she feels like he’s always been there protecting her. Probably because I guess he technically has!

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With the live polling numbers displayed above the stage showing Momo and Yuki exactly tied, this is both their time to grab the lead. Yuki starts off with flashy poses and promises both she and the voters probably know she can’t keep.

Then she brings up the newspaper scandal she cooked up, which proves to be a critical mistake, because Momo turns it around and delivers a monologue about how everything comes from love, so there’s nothing wrong with showing it.

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The speech isn’t that sophisticated, and she completely skirts over things like inappropriate underage relations, but that’s not what’s going on between her and Tenchi anyway, and she’s so earnest and cute she wins the crowd over immediately, leaving Yuki looking like a steaming stick-in-the-mud.

Victory seems well in hand for Momo…until her entire body seems to shimmer in and out of cohesion, Kurihara’s earring glows, and that huge spaceship we saw a few eps back appears in Earth orbit. Looks like they’ve come for the ‘temporal fugitive(s).’

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 06

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“The ship is too big. If we walk, the episode will be over.”

We get more battles this week, prefaced by long, multi-vehicle journeys through massive space stations, but we don’t get any kind of satisfying explanation for why exactly the Capital Army is committing such massive levels of manpower and equipment and yes, even expanding their arsenal all for the sake of one cadet they’re not even sure is still alive (or whether he defected). Well, besides the fact he’s the protagonist, I mean!

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“You mean I can DVR twelve inane discussions at the same time?”

Bellri’s own mother doesn’t quite understand it, either. She loves her son, but also thinks all this military buildup is a mistake, and “rescuing Bellri” and “restoring honor” aren’t just flimsy motivations; they’re downright ridiculous and reckless. Let’s get down to it, shall we? The Capital Army has been developing all these new toys from the get-go. They’re itching to play with them. They’d probably mobilize even if there was a space cat stuck in a tree.

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YES. FISH. WE GET IT.

Back with the pirates, Noredo and Raraiya are kind of stuck on a treadmill of asking Bellri when they’re going to escape back to the Capital and wondering if Raraiya is becoming lucid. Raraiya, at this point, is poised to become lucid sometime around episode 53. And never has a fish pooping in a glass ball gotten so much attention.

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As for the orbital battle, it’s pretty slick…for Gundam G. There are capital ship evasive maneuvers, dogfights, and the first use of G-Self’s “Reflector”, which absorbs energy from weapons either for deflection or use by G-Self’s weapons. It takes Bellri a while to figure out exactly how to use it.

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But in a nice nod to the fact he’s still ostentibly a Capital cadet, he uses the long leash the pirates have given him to detect the Amerian space fleet, which is moving in stealth as the pirates make a big flashy decoy show for the Caps. The episode shows a lot this week, but it also has its characters constantly spouting too-on-the-nose monologue overstuffed with proper nouns. I don’t have my glossary on me at all times!

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But then, something I’ve seen happen a lot in Gundam takes place: Bellri kills his friend and instructor Dellensen, and doesn’t realize it until he’s already killed him. You’d think with all this technology and weaponry flying around, there’d be some kind, any kind of communications protocol. People identifying themselves before they attack and whatnot. Sure, the heat of the moment and all that, but it still seems like a contrived, highly avoidable tragedy. But like I said, Gundam pulls this all the time.

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This was actually a beautiful little cut to the bridge. I kinda wanna be there

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As a result of his actions, Bellri goes into Depressed Mode, and Noredo can only stay by his side and ride it out. She can’t really ask “Sooo…Can we leave now?”, because, how can Bellri go back to the Capital having killed one of his own comrades, even if it was a misunderstanding? I’d imagine he’s extended his stay somewhat, along with that of Noredo and Raraiya. Which is just fine for people like Aida and Klim, who he impressed this week.

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Speaking of Klim: Here’s your RABUJOI Moment of Zen:

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Kill la Kill – 24 (Fin)

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Last week we said we were sad that Kill la Kill was ending, but that didn’t mean we thought it shouldn’t end. Far from experiencing pangs of withdrawal in the aftermath, we feel perfectly satisfied and a little relieved; almost as if we’ve been through a mutual breakup. A weight is gone, but there are no regrets. The show came to its natural conclusion…which is to say it went completely nuts; one last hurrah before purging itself form our systems.

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Victory ultimately goes to Ryuko, Satsuki, and all mankind, but it isn’t easily achieved. Sanageyama’s initial raid on Honnouji results in a scene suffused with fairly overt reproductive symbolism: he’s leading a charge of thousands of his underlings—lets call it a school of sperm—but Ragyo’s transmitter is protected by what amounts to a giant condom, which is ultimately busted open by…err…Gamagoori’s face cannon thing.

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That would only be the…er…tip of the complication-berg, as Ragyo throws anything and everything at Ryuko & Co., including ordering Nui to cast her body into the revived original life fiber, creating an even more ultimate garment that Ragyo dons, allowing her to rocket into orbit to transmit the message for all the world’s Covers to start feeding. Ryuko in turn borrows the fibers from everyone elses’ uniforms to create her own ultimate rocket suit, thus leaving the entire cast buck naked.

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The orbital battle between Ryuko and Ragyo becomes just as much one of words than of blows exchanged (Ryuko is slashed to pieces multiple times, but quickly regenerates). In effect, Ryuko yells a lot about how she and Senketsu are neither clothing nor human, and yet both clothing and human, Ragyo calls out their lofty, highly abstract BS, but it doesn’t matter, because they use that BS to absorb her power and render her Covers around the globe inert.

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Rather than return to earth and reconcile, she tears out her own heart. With his role as a check against Ragyo’s plans completed, Senketsu burns up in the atmosphere, shielding Ryuko during re-entry. Ryuko is distraught, but once she comes down to earth, and her landing cushioned by the bosom of her sister (and virtually everyone else, all of them still naked), she immediately feels a lot better. As Senketsu eloquently puts it in his parting words, a sailor fuku such as himself is meant to be grown out of, not worn forever like a second skin.

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Now the threat has passed (at least until the next Life Fiber arrives on Earth), and she is free to wear what she wants, live life with her real and adoptive sisters (Satsuki and Mako, respectively). Kill la Kill took the guilty pleasure to dizzying new heights, ones we won’t likely return to for quite a while. But like the placid epilogue we see during the credits, coming back down to earth and to a state of relative normalcy isn’t so bad either.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)
Average Rating: 9.417 (episodes 13-24), 8.958 (total)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.51