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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Prince of Stride: Alternative – 04

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PoS (which is not a POS) follows up a big, exciting, official race with…another big, exciting, official race! Good form, especially if this is just a single-cour series. An anime about a game of speed should have a fast-moving plot. Especially since, well, most of the characters are pretty bland, so it’s best not to focus on them too long!

One notable exception this week is Ayumu, who may be the most knowledgeable in trivia and best shogi player, is the worst runner on the team. Far from being able to pull off “gimmicks”, he’s scared of them, taking him off whatever pace and flow he’s able to put together. But Ayumu doesn’t let that stop him.

He uses his frustration with being the worst at everything Stride-related (well, almost everything; more on that later) to fuel a steady, forceful improvement regime, helped out by Hozumi. And while he’s exhausted on the day of the race in hot-springy Atami, and Takeru doesn’t seem interested in his muscles in the bath (not necessarily a bad thing), he’s a lot more confident than he was.

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That is, until he meets his opponent on Mihashi High’s team, who is very friendly but also enormous, with a death grip for a handshake. It’s here where Ayumu hints that in order to survive in Stride (and more importantly to him, not let everyone down), he must flex his most developed “muscle”: his brain. To that end, he convinces his opponent he’s racing for his sister (though it kinda backfires when the guy promises he’ll give it his very best, rather than let him win).

Ayumu’s little conflict isn’t quite enough to sustain an entire episode, however, so it’s good there are a couple more things bubbling. You have the Kamoda brothers, for instance: the older, meeker Yuu only a “figurehead” relationer to the team’s ace, the younger, flashier Kei.

Yuu’s unique relationing style during the race positively baffles Nana (along with a no-radio-reception tunnel at a crucial moment, a rookie mistake). She’s even more troubled (and hence, distracted) when she learns that the runners aren’t actually even taking orders from Yuu.

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Still, Nana trusts in her runners and they make their relations; perhaps a bit sloppily here and there, but they make them. It’s another exciting race with the guys making the Road Runner whooshing sound when they take off running. I’ll only say that while in general I dig the super blue-heavy palette of PoS, the over-saturation tends to be overused at times.

When it’s Ayumu’s turn, the lead the previous three runners built against Mihashi quickly vanishes as the skyscraper blows past him. Unable to bear being the one who lost them the race, he takes a crafty shortcut that nobody expects, only because it requires a dangerous drop, which he does not stick. For a few moments when Nana couldn’t reach him, I feared he’d ended up in the drink, ending the race right there.

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Instead, he makes contact to Nana, and makes the last relation with Hozumi, who digs deep and regains the lead for Honan, resulting in their first win by a fraction of a second. No time for celebration, though, as Hozumi immediately turns around and races to Ayumu, who is later carted off to the hospital, banged up but alive.

After losing the race he so desperately wanted to win for Yuu, Kei decides he’s done usurping him as relationer, and for all the apologizing Yuu does, Kei knows he’s the one who should be sorry. Good for you, guy who looks way too much like Takeru!

Our last little wrinkle of drama is another peek into the whole “Riku’s estranged brother” story, where apparently after seeing his brother’s team win on the interwebs, Tomoe calls Galaxy’s relationer Kyousuke about maybe pairing up.

Kyousuke is noncommittal (he apparently had to give up Stride and doesn’t deserve to run anymore…so dramatic!), but something tells me one way or another we’re gonna see a clash of the Yagami brothers.

But here’s the thing: I just don’t think I’m going to have time to cover PoS every Tuesday going forward, so I’m afraid this is goodbye. But it’s a goodbye with a Robert Redford Nod of Approval.

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Prince of Stride: Alternative – 03

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With my enthusiasm for this Tuesday night (for me) sports anime waning fast, this was exactly the episode I needed: one that brought us the show’s first real race against an elite opponent in Saisei’s Stride Club, who double as a dance and vocal unit and are known and adored as Galaxy Standard AKA Gal-Stan, which sounds like some kind of American industrial conglomerate that manufactures nuclear reactors for aircraft carriers…but whatever!

What matters is, these guys are tough…but they’re not the haughty assholes I thought they’d be, which made watching their interactions with our boys in blue a lot more pleasant. Only one of them, Takusu, could be classified as a jerk, but Takeru is just as fiercely competitive to the point of rudeness.

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As the two teams line up for the race, it occurs how closely the five Honan runners resemble their Saisei counterparts. You have the guys with the dark hair, the greenish hair, the prettyboys, the tough guys, and the goofy guys.

I also liked the little pre-start conversations between the five pairs, though the simultaneous drawing out of their route legs made for a somewhat busy presentation; I had to rewind a couple of times to catch what they were saying because the graphics distracted me. But they’re cool graphics, so no biggie.

But then just like that chatting time is over and it’s time for a muthafuckin’ race, ya’ll. And I’ll tellya, it was a fun one to watch, from the whooshing sound of a runner blasting off the line to the uncertainty of who will have the upper hand in each leg.

And then there’s Nana, clearly nervous in her first true race, but never failing to connect her runners, once the Saisei relationer puts her at ease by making her listen on her headset to how much goddamn fun her boys are having.

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And it does look like fun, unless you’re Heath, or Ayumu, who are totally outclassed by their Saisei opponents. Heath takes it in…ahem…stride, but Ayumu gets so pissed off with the ability gap that he slows way down. And the Saiei guys aren’t just faster, they’re flashier crowd pleasers as well.

Takeru, who’s last in the order, has over fours seconds to make up against the Saisei captain and anchor, Suwa Reiji. Reiji, for his part, looks like he feels kinda bad his team’s going to beat Takeru’s so handily…right up until the moment his relationer tells him Takeru is right on his ass.

Saisei wins—it would have been ridiculous for them not to—but it’s only by .42 seconds, thanks to Fujiwara’s scary closing speed, which winds him considerably. And Reiji is happy it’s close. He likes a strong challenge and he got one.

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As for Honan, they did end up losing, which they thought meant losing Heath’s sis as a sponsor, but she was watching with Saisei’s sponsor, and was so pissed off she had a new line of sportswear custom-made for the guys and Hana: sharp-looking crisp white unis to replace their dour ld blue gym suits.  But she makes it clear she won’t accept further failure.

The next big even coming up is ominously called the End of Summer, AKA EoS, and the ridiculously unbalanced Honan has a lot of work to do. But after this week, I’m looking more forward to watching their progress than I was at this point last week, so Prinstride can log that as a victory on its little iPad.

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Prince of Stride: Alternative – 02

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So I’m apparently not that into sports anime. I never took a look at Haikyuu!!, Kuroko’s Basketball, Ookiku Furikabutte or even Free!’s sequel; they just weren’t calling to me. Now weird sports, like Shokugeki no Souma, Chihayafuru, or even Genesis from SKET Dance? Now we’re talking!

So I’ll admit, I’m craning my neck a bit into this genre I rarely enter, and struggling a bit with the premise of the central sport, which—not to at all belittle those who actually participate in this kind of thing—seems a little on the thin side. Despite all that, I am legitimately enjoying Prince of Stride….promise!

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It doesn’t really matter that I’d rather cook or play Genesis than run a lot; what matters is that these guys do want to run, and their passion and energy is infectious. They’re also all a diverse collection of personalities, united by their love of Stride (even those who prefer Shogi).

But to become a proper Stride Club (again), Honan needs to make…ahem…strides in the “relationing” department (still don’t like the use of that word). Fujiwara and Riku are out of sync due to the latter’s slowing down before the crucial high-five.

The team also needs a sponsor, but Heath has them covered thanks to his sister Diane, who owns a department chain and asks for just two things in exchange for her patronage: that they win, and that all these lovely young men model her wares, in an extended scene that does not over-indulge.

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The modelling turns out to be mostly harmless (though the girliest of them would disagree after being forced to dress in drag for Diane’s delight); as for the winning, Both Sakurai and Yuki decide to trust in Fujiwara’s speed. Yuki does as Fujiwara urges him to do and stops slowing down, instead going full-out, and from the reactions of everyone, it goes very well.

There’s still room for improvement all ’round, but there’s not going to be much time for it; their first match is coming against the famous elite Saisei Academy’s Stride Team. I’d call Honan underdogs due to their accomplishment and publicity deficit, but then again, some of their shots will end up in D’s catalogs…and Fujiwara is pretty confident they’ll be able to beat the favorites.

As for their faculty advisor…he really needs to knock it off with those invented sayings every five seconds. It’s also a little disappointing to see the only female main character boxed into a non-running support role, vital though it might be. Hana-Kana simply doesn’t have much to do here.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 12

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GIBO has followed a highly effective pattern throughout the Fall: terrific quiet episodes followed by even more terrific LOUD episodes. The latest Loud One might just be the best.

Eugene might scoff at Kudelia’s ignorance of the gravitic effects of Ahab reactors, but I was glad for the little lesson, which explains why there’s a vast churning debris field made up of ships and suits from the calamity war, all gathered together by still-active ahabs, like the Pacific Trash Vortex in space.

It’s a fitting battlefield for Tekkadan and the Turbines’ fight with the Brewers, who have been hired by Gjallarhorn to bring Kudelia back into their orbit, whether she wants to or not. The debris field has powerful metaphorical value too: it’s the ingrained belief of most Human Debris that they’re no different from those hunks of metal floating around; if they’re not useful, they’re worthless.

At the same time, the adoptive, surrogate, and biological families aboard the Hammerhead and Isaribi themselves came together much like the debris field in which they’ll fight, only their shared experiences, emotions, fondness, and love comprise the “gravity” that brought them together.

That “human gravity” gives the impending battle extra weight: it’s not just about giving the Brewers a bloody nose: it’s about saving Masahiro, who isn’t just Akihiro’s brother to Orga and Tekkadan. Mika understands this, so as he goes out to scout with Lafter, he promises Akihiro he’ll try to go easy on Masahiro until he arrives.

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Heartbreakingly juxtaposed with Atra and Kudelia presenting their beloved Mika with a love-infused and no-doubt sumptuous homemade lunch for the battle (how adorably domestic), is the Brewers debris chow scene, who are lucky to get dry packaged protein bars. They notice there’s one extra, for their fallen brother Pedro, and talk arises of rebirth and resurrection into a better life after this one. Naturally, Kudal comes in and smacks them for such talk, but Masahiro seems intrigued.

As Mika and Lafter scout out the debris field (with Mika studying reading and writing and eating his lunch to kill time – every minute is valuable for this guy) Kudelia, Atra, and Merribit wait for the ride to get bumpy in the mess hall. Kudelia is apprehensive, but Atra takes her hands into hers to reassure her: Mika will come back; he always comes back. And because of how this particular Gundam treats statements like that, I know he’ll most likely come back too.

To me, it’s more another sign that Atra’s idea of sharing her love for Mika—rather than “winning” and depriving Kudelia of him—wasn’t a fleeting one. She cares deeply about Kudelia too, and doesn’t want her to worry. The display of affection and concern makes Merribit smile.

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And that’s about it for the “quiet” part of “The Shoals.” Brooke and Kudal end up taking the bait, believing the false readings of enemy ships being right behind their scouts, and sending all their mobile suits to attack, leaving them wide open for when Tekkadan and the Turbines get the jump on them.

The Hammerhead impressively rams Brooke’s ship into an asteroid, while the Isaribi handles the other with arresting cables and a boarding party led by Shino. Kudal sorties in his Gusion (armed with his own hammer), while Mika, Lafter, Azee, and Amida all maneuver the Brewer suits so that Masahiro is isolated, to allow Akihiro to approach and retrieve his bro.

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While the Brewers are no Gjallarhorn, didn’t see through their adversary’s tricks, and don’t impress Shino with their intruder repelling skills, they still put up a hell of a fight. In addition to its hammer, Gusion has anti-ship artillery that packs a punch, while most of the human debris pilots are fighting with revenge on their minds. Of course, ultimately Mika and the ladies don’t have much trouble taking them out; only Kudal looks to be a legitimate headache for our flygirls and boys.

As such, Akihiro gets the one-on-one encounter with Masahiro that he wanted. Akihiro still goes off about how he’s garbage, but Orga makes it clear he’s sick of that talk. Whatever happened in the past, they all have the power to change things as much as they want; they only have to do it. Akihiro thinks he can convince his brother of the same thing…but his brother is too far gone. “Why now?” is his refrain; as if now was too late.

When Akihiro headed out, I wanted him to bring his brother back to the Isaribi. I wanted the words Akihiro heard from Orga, and took to heart, could be successfully relayed to Masahiro and snap him out of his nihilistic human debris mindset. But none of that happened. When Akihiro mentions another family other than him, mom, and dad, Masashiro loses it; Akihiro’s been having fun since abandoning him.

Twisting Akihiro’s brotherly mobile suit hug for a darker purpose, Masahiro releases Akihiro at just the right time to spare him the blow of Kudal’s hammer, which crushes him instead. Whether he was thinking about ending it so he could be reborn in his mother’s belly—a clean slate he felt wasn’t possible in this life—it’s a rejection of Akihiro’s hope, and an immediate end to Masahiro’s suffering…if he’s actually dead, that is.

In a safer, more controlled environment with more time and cooler heads, Akihiro might’ve been able to more carefully explain things and convince his brother to join him, but in the heat of a battle in a debris field wasn’t that environment. And now, no doubt, Akihiro will blame himself for what happened as more evidence debris is all he should ever aspire to be; to hope or wish for more only brings about punishment such as this.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 11

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It didn’t happen last week (there was too much going on with Mika coming in to save the day to add one more thing), but it happens here: Akihiro comes face-to-face with his brother Masahiro, who is fighting with pirates. For some reason, perhaps the fact I had a week to let the information settle, the impact of Aki’s hasty story about him and his brother wasn’t lessened by the brief in-show interval between backstory and plot twist.

On the contrary, that Masahiro is among the pirates, piloting mobile suits with other young lads with the same implants as Mika, adds personal stakes to the conflict with the pirates. The Kudal Cadel guy is another goofy throwback bad guy with a resting evil smirkface, but his child pilot minions and Masahiro in particular complicate what could have been a simple matter of “beat the bad pirates and move on.”

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While Takaki isn’t killed, despite ominously telling us what he’s going to do with the rest of his long, long life last week, he is seriously injured, and Tekkadan…has no doctor. When his blood spurts out of his jacket and floats in the low-grav environment, it’s a horrible moment that could lead to an unraveling of morale and cohesion. Even Kudelia freezes at the sight, compelling Merribit to pass her from behind, grab the medkit from her hands, and stabilize Takaki.

Merribit also lets Orga hear about the recklessness in not having a proper doctor aboard in such a dangerous environment, saying he’s “not being a good boss” by letting something like that go on. Orga can’t argue with her on that, and seems glad for the honest criticism. Still, things could have been a lot worse. They could very well get worse, as Naze accepts a challenge from the boorish, bizarre-looking pirate leader Brooke Kabayan, even as he’s suspicious about why the pirates are so eager to take on a far more powerful Teiwaz.

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We spend some time in orbit around and on Earth—I believe for the first time. Ein is already getting ribbed by superiors for his Martian roots, while Fareed and Gaelio visit their boss (and Fareed’s lordly dad) then Gaelio’s family residence, where Fareed’s betrothed (and Gaelio’s little sister) plies him with tea she’s recently learned how to make.

It’s all very civilized and bougie and dollhouse-y, and we see Fareed is as comfortable here as he is on a ship or in a mobile suit. He’s decided to be more or less hands-off with the Kudelia issue. Gaelio and Ein especially may want revenge for slights or lost comrades, but Fareed is playing a longer game (his ultimate goal seems to be running the whole damn operation), and not dirtying his hands with work he doesn’t have to do. It’s apparent the Brewers, the pirates who attacked Tekkadan, are being financially backed by Gjallarhorn, or someone working for it.

In a stark contrast of worlds, we see Masahiro being mercilessly beaten by Kudal for failing to secure the hostage, as the other human debris boy pilots can only stand there and watch. It doesn’t look like it would take much to turn these guys against their harsh pirate masters, the fact that Mika killed Pedro makes at least one of them put revenge ahead of a better life, which they’d certainly have under Orga’s command.

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While waiting for Takaki to wake up, Akihiro runs himself down for having had so much fun being on Tekkadan, and explains how his brother is with the Brewers. He blames himself for everything that happened, because human debris isn’t supposed to have “fun”, meaning the opportunity to explore his potential as both a fighter and a person.

Even freed of oppression, he still wears that red stripe down his jacket to remind himself of his place in the universe. He doesn’t lament what he is, but rather the fact he strayed from the limited view of who he’s allowed to be, programmed into him from years of abuse.

Orga and Mika, however, don’t let him fall in that trap. Orga promises to take responsibility. No more letting Merribit, or Naze, or Mika, or Akihiro down. He’ll help Akihiro get his brother back, if that’s what he wants, as well, because Akihiro’s brother is Tekkadan’s brother.

Tekkadan and the Turbines are portrayed as principled organizations that do things the right way, while the Brewers aren’t, and don’t. They shouldn’t be taken lightly moving forward, but they’re also a good opportunity for Orga to show what Tekkadan can do when looked down on. Here’s hoping they teach the Brewers a lesson.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 10

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Except for the battle at the very end, this episode was even quieter than the last, but also another episode that reminds you in no uncertain terms that This ain’t your Daddy’s Gundam—and it’s all the better for it. Last week was about forming a new family with Teiwaz. The Turbines are still with Tekkadan, but will set them loose on their own before long. This week is heavy with introspection and backstory, but all of it happens to be top-shelf stuff, thanks to a powerful, often tear-inducing script by Okada Mari.

I don’t want it to sound like this was a tear-jerker start to finish: in fact, there were just as many tears of joy over what Tekkadan & Co. have now achieved and their bright future than there were tears of sadness or longing over dark pasts. Laughs, too: all of a sudden Euguene think’s he’s an expert on women and looks down on the still “orphaned” Orga, who claims not to care about women, because he already has a family.

Meanwhile, those who have families outside Tekkadan like Biscuit and Takaki listen to their messages in private so as not to be insensitive to those who have no other family or who lost them long ago. The two share the dream of sending their bright sisters to school so they can one day be strong enough to stand on their own. The Isaribi has really become a home too, judging by all the hand-painted symbols on the walls.

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As a family, Tekkadan grows a little more complex, as Naze introduces Orga to the Teiwaz liason officer that will be joining his crew: Merribit Stapleton, with whom Orga had his meet-cute last week while drunk. Like all newcomers, Orga is cautious, and Merribit’s warm friendly manner with him will take getting used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment these two shared, particularly their elevator scene.  Orga may “just” be obeying orders by “tolerating” a “Teiwaz stooge”, to put it indelicately, but Merribit might just want to be friends too, and I look forward to her continuing to work with, and work on, young Orga.

Kudelia got a message from her mother, as well, but it wasn’t an encouraging one; her mom wants her to stop all this troubling silliness and come home. I don’t think her mom is simply relaying her husband’s sentiments, but expressing her own sheltered, deeply-aloof, “leave everything to others” nature. Then Kudelia asks about Atra’s parents, putting her own troubles into perspective.

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Atra tells Kudelia a dark tale of an orphan who did chores at a nightclub/brothel for food, but wasn’t very good at it, so never had enough to eat. Unlike many girls like her who likely grew up and became prostitutes for better pay at the club, she ran away, and quickly found out the outside world was even worse, but for one thing: she was free out there.

By chance, she was sitting on a stoop, trying to gather the strength to get back up, when she spotted a young Mika across the street, chowing down. Mika, who by then had also  learned a bit about the world, tells her she can’t have any, and that only those who work get to eat. Atra knows the score, and doesn’t beg. She just looks defiantly at Mika and tells him she will work, before fainting.

Because Mika does have a heart, though, he tells the shopkeeper about Atra, and gets her a job. Now we know Atra doesn’t just admire Mika from afar: Mika saved her when she had nothing. And not just with an isolated handout of a fish, but by getting her the means to fish herself.

From that point on, Mika became someone very important to her—so important, that Atra looks at Naze’s harem, and sees how it could theoretically work for both her and Kudelia to be the mothers of Mika’s children. Of course, she’s getting a bit ahead of herself, but it’s fun to see her thought process; not to mention I needed something to laugh at after that tear-inducing flashback.

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Just as Atra’s story beat Kudelia’s for pure initial despair, Akihito’s beat’s Atra’s. I was amazed they were able to stuff one more story into this episode, but I was very glad for it, especially since it ended by tying everything together. While Takaki was with Biscuit talking about their sisters, he was throwing a lot of standard death flags by talking so excitedly about a future he feels he can reach. Out here, he’s a little more subdued with Akihito out of consideration; but Akihito saw him and Biscuit before, and it reminded him of his own brother, Masahito.

Before he was “human debris” (God, how I hate that awful term), he and his brother helped out aboard a ship where their parents worked. It was attacked by pirates (the same kind of pirates the Turbines warn Tekkadan about), his parents killed, and he was separated from his brother and sold. Just when you thought your tear ducts were safe, too.

Akihito laments that he forgot about Masahito for so long, and doubts he’s still alive, but Takaki thinks otherwise, and now that Tekkadan has the backing of Teiwaz, anything is possible. Even Akihito believes this a bit, unconsciously, as Laffter notices he’s no longer fighting like he has a death wish in the simulator.

Just how much that alliance means comes into focus immediately after Akihito’s story is done, when pirates ambush them. This is where I’d expect a lesser show to act on Takaki’s death flags, but GIBO isn’t that kind of show. Instead, it plays a card it had held since the cold open: Tekkadan left Mika behind so that mods on the Barbatos could be completed, at which point he’s more than capable of quickly catching up.

That’s what he does here to bail out Akihito and Takaki. As with Atra years ago, Mika is more often than not, There When You Need Him. And pirates who would prey on Tekkadan will soon learn that the Iron-Blooded Orphans aren’t ones to be messed with.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 09

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As the entire episode takes place aboard Teiwaz’s planetary cruiser Saisei, there are no battles this week, except those within the minds of our characters, particularly Orga and Kudelia, who must place Tekkadan and the Martian resistance respectively into larger, more powerful hands. After all, the next steps that need to be made could lead to war.

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That being said, while I have my lingering doubts about Teiwaz and the somewhat inscrutable, almost too friendly McMurdo Barristan, a quick check-in on McGillis, Gaelio, and Ein underscores how tenuous Tekkadan’s position is. They must become stronger, which means aligning themselves with Teiwaz through a blood oath between Naze and Orga.

Meanwhile, Barristan asks Kudelia to make Teiwaz a direct appointee. When Kudelia turns to Mika, he likens her situation to the time he first killed someone: it was a choice her entire future will depend on. It’s also a choice that takes your innocence away, making you less of a child and more of an adult.

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This is an episode filled with young people taking the necessary next steps into adulthood, whether it’s Orga putting aside his pride in an autonomous Tekkadan, Kudelia accepting the blood already on her hands and formalizing her commitment to potentially cause even more of it to be shed.

Orga and the boys also go all out with their celebrating in Saisei’s main street, with Orga drinking way too much (which was probably not much at all) and being offered a handkerchief by a beautiful woman, Merribit (who is unquestionably a cool, confident adult) who tells him adults “have to deal with many things.”

Kudelia also gives Fumitan a necklace that matches her own, a sign she sees her as more than just her maid, and unless I’m seeing things, Fumitan continues to look a bit suspicious while betraying a tinge of guilt over…whatever she’s doing when no one is looking.

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Orga appears passed out, but in reality is listening to Biscuit and Mika as they talk about how Orga’s guts have allowed them to keep “dreaming on” in the face of insurmountable odds, and ekeing through battles they had no business winning but for a hearty helping of luck. Biscuit also expresses his wish that Orga would rely more on them, rather than be the one everyone relies on. That’s what family’s for.

Orga also gets to see something he’s never seen before after waking up; Ride stashing away excess sweets and treats bought from Saisei’s shops, not for himself, but for the younger kids when they cry. Ride may still be so young he still has his spots, but his life has forced him to be an adult for those younger and weaker than him, and Orga is heartened by what he sees and knows he’s making the right decision.

Finally, speaking of stepping into adulthood, there’s one thing Shino needs that he can’t get on either the Tekkadan or Turbine ships. The day after, it’s clear to Yukinojou that Shino got laid, while Eugene proudly/awkwardly mentions to Laffter that he’s an adult now too, having been with his first woman the night before.

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The next day is when everything becomes official between Tekkadan and Teiwaz; between Orga and Naze; between Kudelia and Barristan. Everyone gets dressed up, as adults do, and everyone dons black robes that obscure their distinctive outfits. Orga exchanges his old pride for a new kind: the pride of knowing the house of Tekkadan that he built now stands on firmer ground. Kudelia, too, is no longer in limbo.

Things will probably start to move a lot faster now that Tekkadan is one with Teiwaz. They’ll have to deal with many different things, because that’s what adults do.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 08

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This week’s IBO opens with the end of the battle from the perspective of the four-man boarding party, as they quickly infiltrate the Hammerhead’s systems and fill the corridors with combustible gas to ensure no firefights. Throughout their operation, Naze sits calmly on the bridge as his crew reports what’s going on, until Orga & Co are literally in the doorway.

The nonchalance with which both Naze and his crew greets them really says a lot about the Turbines; this intrusion may have been a surprise, but they’re not ones to overreact. And as Naze said, they used an “old method” but executed it perfectly. That opinion demonstrates he’s been around the block, tactically speaking.

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Of course, he’s also been around the block sexually speaking. Not only is the entire crew of the Hammerhead female, but nearly all of them are sleeping with him (the OP updated to reflect this). I wasn’t sure about this at first (the reactions on the Tekkadan reps’ faces are absolutely priceless), but Naze is not an ordinary fellow, and all of the women are with him by choice and are fine with sharing him, so who am I to judge? Even Laffter considers him her “darling”, but has to admit the pilot in Barbatos got her juices flowing, too.

They’re not brainwashed or enslaved, but more like a pride of lions, and only one has a mane. And they know when they’ve seen capable soldiers, even if they’re young and raw. So when Orga and Biscuit ask if the Turbines will not only escort them to Earth, but make Tekkadan a subsidiary of Teiwaz, Naze is open to both ideas. Only making either happens requires a visit to his boss, McMurdo Barriston, and there’s a matter of Kudelia possibly being “property.” Did her father arrange a marriage?

Oh, and Maruba? Naze sends him to the mines. grumpycatgood.jpg.

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With the war postponed for now and both ships en route to Teiwaz headquarters, a ship called the Saisei, the crews busy themselves with training, repairs, R&R, etc. Mika seems a little off to Atra (he only ate half his usual portion), and Orga learns why: Mika thinks he screwed up in the battle with Laffter. No one is as tough on him as he himself is.

Atra also thinks Aina could use some cheering up, so they visit the Turbines’ nursery, which is a ridiculous thing to have aboard a mercenary ship, until you realize that like Tekkadan, the Turbines are far more than a group of comrades. They’re family, who have spilled and mixed blood. Regardless, the little babies delight Aina, who Atra is glad can finally relax a little, at least until the next crisis.

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One of those crises is that Tekkadan is pretty much broke back on Mars, due to the scarcity of lucrative clients with Gjallarhorn looming over them. This means Orga and Biscuit must present Naze with a list of stuff they can sell to make ends meet. Naze couldn’t care less about such trifling stuff, and wonders why Orga didn’t take his original deal.

It’s here where Naze learns Tekkadan is a family like his, and breaking it up isn’t an option. Orga tried to come in on equal terms with the Turbine leader, but at the end of the day he’s still a kid by comparison. That’s not to say Naze wasn’t exactly where Orga is sitting at one point in his life, with a paltry harem of two or three women and a lot of self-doubt he couldn’t show to anyone, but which many could see nonetheless.

With Mika getting so upset about “failing him”, Orga feels the pressure to lead and succeed that much stronger, but Biscuit tells him not to get too bent out of shape.

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Laffter and another Turbine pilot are impressed with how hard both Akihito and Mika are working, but Mika reiterates he can’t do anything else. In the end, two very tight-knit but very different types of couples confer. There’s Naze giving Amida his measure of Tekkadan (the money stuff made his butt hurt), while Orga praises Mika for working hard. Mika says he’s working hard so Orga won’t “ditch” him, but obviously he doesn’t have to worry about that, because they’re family.

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