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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Thunderbolt Fantasy – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: twins contain two parts of an important holy sword that an evil demon warlord wants because he’s super evil. One twin dies and his somewhat hapless sister falls off a cliff only to be rescued by the beginnings of a odd-ball troop of master warriors.

And yes, it’s done in a perfect blend of traditional Chinese live action martial arts cinema AND the thunder birds puppet style. It’s a little choppy but the articulation of the puppets is top notch. (no mouth movement but eyes can blink — even cry or spurt blood)

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Hard rock hair, almost as hard core as the guitar banging away in the background.

You may enjoy Thunderbolt Fantasy for its novelty, for its dedication to over the top action, if you enjoy classic Chinese Warriors with swords movies, or if you can down enough Adderol to actually process all that action without caring about the cliche (and bluntly idiotic) plot.

You should watch the first episode even though you may not like it because, lets face it, the plot is paint by numbers and the characters are pure cliche. Additionally, despite being ‘generally coherent,’ the nature of puppets doing complex acrobatics in the rain and lighting with CGI energy attacks/magic wooshing around limits the viewers ability to really follow whats going on.

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The verdict: Thunderbolt Fantasy deserves several points of credit for trying something very unusual in its presentation. It also deserves props for using the aesthetic successfully to boot.

However… the plot and blandness of the characters are not for me. Even if it’s awesome to see them periodically explode into a bloom of blood, cloth and practical effects.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 10

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Ernesta keeps from Aldy that Rimsy is his limiter, indicating we haven’t seen the limits of his power yet. And while Ayato and Julis walk to Saya and Kirin’s match, they encounter Irene Urzaiz whaling on some nobodies before she turns her attention to Ayato. Her very polite sister Priscilla bails him out this time, but message received: Ayato has yet another powerful opponent gunning for him.

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While I’m sure Saya and Kirin are looking forward to a fight with Allekant’s puppets, this week’s opponents are no sweat, and Ayato and Julis don’t even arrive until the match is long over, when they walk in on a nude Saya is trying in vain to grab a nude Kirin’s boobs.

After another ridiculously quick and easy match against two dolls from Queenvail, Julis (who defeated “Non-Sugar” all by herself) suggests she and Ayato have lunch, then presents the sandwiches she made, then hints at Ayato to reward her fairly by patting her head too, something Ayato didn’t know she wanted.

It’s a cute little scene that underscores how far behind Stella and Ikki these two are in the romance department. Then again every couple has their own pace and rhythms.

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They’re also merely spectators for this week’s main event between Lester and Irene, who we see in action for the first time. Lester and his partner try using the same tired old strategy against Irene: keep moving and wait for her gas-guzzling Ogre Lux to drain her dry.

But that fails when she uses gravity magic that renders Randy unconscious, then sucks the blood of her partner Priscilla to regenerate her power and assault Lester into submission. A Vampire Girl with gravity magic? Pretty sweet combo right there that’s sure to cause headaches for our wonder duo.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 09

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Okay, no more messing around: the long-awaited Phoenix Festa is finally upon us; that is, after the introduction of Irene Urzaiz, a student so badass she’s in school prison. The head of the “Steering Committee” also announces the controversial decision to allow contestants to field alternates (AKA puppets), bringing a grin to Ernesta’s face.

Before Ayato and Julis’ first match, a light lunch is indicated, which is provided in the form of various over-sized rice balls made by Kirin with Saya’s help. Saya is able to glom onto Ayato briefly, and even get her head patted by Ayato like Kirin. Julis, however, does not request to have her head patted, and lets the silver and blue have their fun.

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When lunch is over, it’s Showtime, and Julis has Ayato all to herself. I liked how confidently Julis, used to distant adoration, strutted out to the arena, while Ayato was a lot more nervous, and how she actually flaunted that confidence by acknowledging the cheering masses. She is a famous princess, after all.

Going in, Ayato is hyped as the only Rank #1 fighter in the Festa, and he decides to waste no time demonstrating that, breaking out Ser Veresta and putting on a little show of powering up before dispatching the two opponents (who weren’t even introduced) all by himself, with one swipe.

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But it’s not just a convincing win; everything went according to plan. Ayato’s chains were presented as showmanship rather than a hindrance to his abilities, and his battle time limit was kept secret by keeping the battle short, with the assumption that Julis would step in once he can no longer fight.

Julis also makes sure Ayato knows to be evasive to the press lest they give anything away. This isn’t Julis’ first rodeo; she knows ignorance is their best weapon, while any info their opponents glean is ammunition against them.

That brings us to the next battle, one between two Le Wolfe brothers who each look at least 35 years of age (Why?) and the two combat puppets built by Allekant’s Ernesta and Camilla, a male-female pair named “Aldy” and “Rimsy”, whose dynamic and banter resembles that of their human creators.

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Le Wolfe dudes flash their skills with wind magic and marksmanship, but even with one minute period in which the puppets don’t attack, they can’t put a dent in ’em. The minute is up, and it’s Game Over for the over-aged brothers, as expected.

Those puppets will definitely potentially pose a challenge to our Seidokan pals; I’m thinking Kirin and Saya will face them at some point, while Irene Urzaiz is gunning for Ayato, with orders not to necessarily win her match, but simply to destroy him.

In any case, we’ll see if the show takes us to those faced, named challengers or if Ayato & Co. will have to carve their way through more nobodies before they reach the “bosses.”

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Coppelion – 02

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The Coppelion meet Kawabata Mitsuo and his wife Yukiko, ex-convicts living in the radioactive zone after escaping from prison in the meltdown chaos; Mitsuo is searching for Miku, his daughter from his late first wife. The girls determine that Mitsuo and Yukiko argued about sending an SOS, and Yukiko took Miku hostage. Ibara enters a condemned hotel and finds Yukiko and Miku on an upper floor, but the hotel collapses and Yukiko falls to her death. Mitsuo dies from radiation before the girls can reunite him with Miku, but she still thanks them anyway for their efforts.

After the first week established that birds, wolves, and the like still thrive in the region rendered uninhabitable to humans, this week revealed that some humans have tried to do the same, and not all of them want to leave, despite the radiation. The first such people we meet are in a complicated, unenviable position; rescue would mean breaking up the family because Yukiko and Mitsuo are criminals who still owe debts to society. They were able to somehow scrape together a living, but then the supply trucks ceased. Yet however pure Mitsuo’s love for Miku, or good his intentions, subjecting her to a bleak, shortened life in that radioactive hellhole simply wasn’t fair to her.

Mitsuo ultimately came to realize that, but Yukiko simply couldn’t bear to lose another child, and was even messed up enough to threaten to shoot Miku if Ibara tried to take her; such were the twisting, traumatizing effects of their desperate way of life. Faced with human tragedy more complex than they’d ever perceived, the Coppelion girls reflect on their existence as test tube-grown “dolls” or “puppets” whose edict is to go where ordinary humans can’t and save people. They learn that not everyone they encounter can – or wants to – be saved. But they also learn that they’re not just automatons; this encounter affected them, stay with them, and inform their actions on future missions.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Baby, Please Kill Me! – 05

In which Yasuna tries to get Sonya to help her catch bugs…and gets smacked by Sonya; Yasuna and Sonya enjoy various festival activities…and Yasuna gets smacked by Sonya; and Yasuna makes puppet counterparts of her and Sonya…and gets smacked by Sonya. There’s also a cool beetle that  says “‘Sup.”

We have to hand it to Yasuna Oribe; the girl can take a punch. But all that physical punishment can’t be helping her IQ. Perhaps there’s a little masochist in her, and she longs for the back of Sonya’s hand across her face or her foot in her ribs. Or perhaps there’s something darker to it: Yasuna has started to expect abuse because she recieves it so often.

Bottom line: this isn’t a friendship. Sonya is a horrid bully who beats Yasuna every chance she gets. She is a brutal menace who must be stopped. Maybe with a ninja technique…like calling the police and filing assault charges. Ah, who are we kidding. Yasuna would be lost without Sonya. Without someone to annoy and bounce themes off of, she would surely turn to a life of delinquency and n’er-do-wellness…


Rating: 3