Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 20

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Tekkadan did it: they finally got Kudelia Aina Bernstein safely to Earth. The inescapable question is, What now? All they know for certain is that they’re only safe for the time being; Gjallarhorn has their position and it’s only a matter of time before they strike.

This episode provides a breather from last week’s intense (and awesome) battle, giving various characters a chance to consider their options, and determine whether moving forward is the answer, or if returning home is the right way to go.

A lot of the decisions by many of those characters has thus far been informed by those of their brothers (giving this episode its title) and this is no different…until the positions of those brothers comes into conflict.

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Gaelio has evolved greatly from the haughty, simpering aristocrat soldier of yore. He got swept up in Ein’s vendetta by giving him an arena to exact revenge, but that failed, Ein’s life hangs by a thread, and Gaelio feels responsible.

The old Gaelio actually comes out when the doctors recommend the only course is to give Ein the Alaya-Vijnana system, something Gaelio was brought up to dispise as less-than-human. He sees Ein as a brother now, and doesn’t want to make him a monster.

It takes the desperation of Ein’s situation, and counsel from an out-of-mask McGillis to start to sway Gaelio towards consent to Ein’s A-V operation. As McGillis says, the hatred and mistrust of tech like A-V (or even prostheses) were a calculated part of Gjallarhorn training, since its original mission was to avoid another Calamity War.

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Ein’s only hope is a relic form that war Earth would rather forget. But Tekkadan has been out there using it all along. While Gaelio must consider a practice the effects of which are more widespread in Mars, the Martians of Tekkadan have to get used to something a lot less intense: live fish.

Before meeting the illustrious Makanai, he gives them a big load of the flounder (or sole) which the orphans distrust almost as much as Gaelio mistrusts the A-V. Both are strange and alien, and elicit disgust. The food they’re used to is awful by Earth standards, but to them, it’s just food, and fresh fish is an aberration.  But Atra gets over that, and with the Turbine girls, pulls up her sleeves and prepares a meal…but we never see Mika take a bite.

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When the meeting with Makanai arrives…it’s a little disappointing. First, the good news: they’re in Oceanian territory, safe from Gjallarhorn for the time being. Peaceful progress has been made in the Dorts thanks to Kudelia’s efforts. Because that has led to lower productivity in the Dorts, Oceania is benefiting by filling the shortfall, giving Oceania greater incentive to protect Tekkadan, who helped make it possible.

Now the bad: Makanai has been exiled from Arbrau, and currently has no real power. He shares Kudelia’s desire for talks on Martian half-metal deregulation, but first he needs an escort back to Arbrau for an upcoming session of parliament in preparation for a new election. Makanai’s rival, Henri Fleurs, has Gjallarhorn support, which means if Tekkadan sides with Makanai, Gjallarhorn will have yet another reason to take them out.

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And all this, when Orga admits to Naze that despite all they’ve managed to accomplish, Tekkadan are still “nobodies” without firm ground to stand on. Naze tells Orga he has a wide berth when it comes to deciding what to do next; he’s already fulfilled his debt to McMurdo. So it’s Orga’s show, and never before has he needed the support of his right-hand-man Biscuit. (Notice how Biscuit is seated on Orga’s left above).

The problem is, while Orga believes their best shot at a prosperous future is to help Makanai, Biscuit disagrees. He just received a posthumous communication from Savarin, telling him to choose the life he wishes to lead. Whether it’s loud and dangerous or quiet and calm, what’s important is that Biscuit chooses.

Biscuit still has family to protect, be it his sisters back home or his little brothers in Tekkadan. And he suspects a lot of Tekkadan’s success has simply been due to luck. So when Orga comes to him wanting to barrel forward, with the sea in front of them, Biscuit can’t help but think about how his brother, armed with the best intentions, got swept into the undertow, couldn’t get out, and drowned.

Orga is upset with Biscuit’s no, but understands it a lot more when he hears about Savarin’s message. As Merribit comments on Orga’s long-time dependence on Biscuit’s agreement to this point, Yukinojou tells Biscuit it wasn’t luck that got them this far, it was the fact they were all together.

Orga isn’t rushing ahead without fear or reason. He is thinking about the future Biscuit wants now. They only disagree on the timing and the path.

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Kudelia knows the only way is forward, and prays to Fumitan to give her the strength to do so. That strength enters on cue in the form of Atra and Mika with some food; Kudelia hasn’t been eating. Just as Orga draws strength and confidence in Biscuit, Mika, Naze, and others, Kudelia knows she can’t go anywhere without the strength lent to her from Atra, Mika, and Fumitan’s memory. Brothers and sisters.

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Speaking of sisters, I’m pleased to report we haven’t seen the last of Carta Issue (thought it was pretty evident we were going to get more than just that one confrontation with her). With her pride and the pride of her fleet on the line, she’s coming after Tekkadan harder than ever. Thanks to her connections, she’s been given clearance to enter Oceanian jurisdiction, meaning the “time being”

Tekkadan was safe from Gjallarhorn turned out to be no more than a couple days. While I totally understand Biscuits desire to go home, considering the myriad dangers that surround them no matter what they choose to do, Orga’s plan is the one with the greatest reward. And thanks to the help of the Turbine girls, they’ll have a few more tricks up their sleeve with new Earth-optimized suit mods.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 16

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Fumitan has seen some things. She’s from the Martian slums, and seen things she was certain would cloud young Kudelia’s honest, ignorant eyes. When Kudelia shows her a bound book with stories about revolution (and an illustration of a golden-haired maiden leading the charge), she decides to give in to Kudelia’s demands to see the outside world, so her world can become larger.

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Despite Fumitan’s insistence, Kudelia reaches out to a young child in the slums with a candy. Immediately, there are three more children and an old man eager for handouts. Kudelia is overwhelmed by the lesson. Fumitan teaches her one more, by hiding in an alley and letting the young miss sweat. When she finally shows herself, Fumitan runs into her arms like a scared child relieved to see her mother. But her eyes didn’t cloud.

And they don’t cloud when Fumitan admits to betraying her, then runs off and hides from her just like that time in the Martian slums. But once again, Kudelia’s eyes remain honest, even as she becomes less ignorant. She doesn’t hate Fumitan; she’ll never hate Fumitan. She just wants to know the whole truth.

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As Mika and Atra search for Kudelia, Fumitan’s escape route is blocked when the space ports are closed in response to the worker protests. As soon as her elevator reaches ground level, two of her “associates” are waiting, and they give her one more chance to “do her job.”

Meanwhile, the more moderate workers’ timing is ruined when their march arrives at the government offices, but Savarin runs into a dead end with peaceful negotiations. There will be no negotiations, and there never were going to be any. The protesters are there, and they’re armed, because they’re all part of the plan.

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And wouldn’t you know, it, for the purposes of completing her betrayal of Kudelia and Tekkadan, Fumitan happens to be in the right place at the right time for Kudelia to spot her and try to get to her. Only she’s blocked from crossing the street by the picket line, and protesters recognize her as the “Maiden of the Revolution” and surround her.

The two goons who accosted Fumitan train a sniper rifle at Kudelia’s position, waiitng for the perfect moment to take her out, hoping to stoke even greater enmity with the oppressed workers, as well as the oppressed everywhere else; everything is being captured on live TV. It’s around this time I’m feeling very nervous about Kudelia.

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This is how Mika and Atra find Kudelia, but Mika sends her back to Orga (with a tender holding of her injured chin). It looks like he’ll go in Full Assault-and-Rescue Mode with Kudelia, like he did with Atra. But something’s not right. I just don’t feel like that’s going to go down, even if the show even further stretches his ability to kick ass without getting a scratch. This situation looks too big even for Mika.

That suspicion proves true, as Gjallarhorn stages a bombing on the government building they can later blame on the protesters, giving them the excuse they need to quell the demonstration, which they do in on of the cruelest, bloodiest way they can: blowing up the mobile workers, launching smoke bombs to obscure the protesters, then laying down sweeping machine gun fire into the cloud.

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Kudelia, somehow, survives the massacre, but she’s surrounded by carnage, and the girl who recognized her dies happy, because she was able to die in the arms of the Maiden of the Revolution, “like a fairy tale.” At this point I’m certain Mika won’t come in time, and he’s not omniscient enough to sniff out the snipers’ nest and kill them before they can get their shot off. So as the smoke clears, they train their crosshairs on Kudelia’s golden head…

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…and Fumitan takes the bullet for her. Just as before in the slums, she couldn’t stay hidden in the alley, in the shadows, just to prove a point. When she saw that illustration, she saw Kudelia’s idealism, and something she could destroy to save her, just as she could have torn or burned that book.

That will teach her the truth of the world, she thought. But that figure in the illustration wasn’t the Maiden of the Revolution, she was Hope Personified, which is apparently what Kudelia is and why her eyes never clouded. Was this practically the most predictable climax to an episode titled “Fumitan Admoss?” You’re damn right. And I didn’t give a rat’s ass; it was a beautifully orchestrated foregone conclusion.

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Who is the Kudelia Mika scoops up, the one who just had a random admirer and Fumitan die right before her eyes? Will she be able to recover, or are those eyes now in store for some clouding? As for the grand plot, everyone involved seems to think it can still be salvaged.

But Teiwaz’ leader McMurdo Barristan, having watched things unfold on TV, calls Nobliss with an offer to join forces, knowing Kudelia won’t be snuffed out so easily. This is the first solid instance of us knowing Teiwaz was rotten at the top, but it’s not entirely surprising.

For now, the Turbines and Tekkadan are unaware of treachery at the top, but I doubt they’ll go along with it if and when they become aware. Of course, there are more pressing matters: Tekkadan is still trapped on a Dort colony about to explode, and Kudelia probably doesn’t know what their next move should be.

The show is almost telling us “Sure, we knew that you knew what Fumitan’s fate would be. But what will happen now?” I’m not quite sure; there are many possibilities. All I know is that this was one thrilling powerhouse of a Gundam episode.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 15

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“You cannot truly become an adult.”—our Masked Man McGillis’s words in the cold open. Those words didn’t stick with me throughout this phenomenal episode, but gradually gained significance as things progressed. Masky is surprised by how excited he is. Disguising himself so he can visit Dort, the front lines of the upcoming rebellion, has brought out the little kid in him. The Mask protects his identity, but he’s still exposed and untethered, and we can only guess what he’s up to.

When Mika tells Fumitan he knows something is on her mind (he just doesn’t know what), she talks about things adults are supposed to have, like responsibility. Only hers are dual: both to protect Kudelia and watch her. But hanging out with all these kids, and Kudelia in particular, has brought out the kid in her too, and before she knew it she’d disobeyed orders, irking Noblesse.

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Meanwhile, someone who believes he’s one of the most responsible, pragmatic adults around, Savarin, wears the suit of a salaryman, occupies a cubicle, and informs on his little brother the minute he sees Atra with him. We’ll later learn Savarin has replaced the family of his childhood with the responsibility of adulthood: working to keep the working class society of Dort from exploding into chaos and blood, but also working to preserve his own skin.

The workers are lead by union boss Navona Mingo, who gets Orga’s team out of the line of fire and hides them in the slums, where he casually asks them to join his fight. He seems to shrug off Orga’s declining, but I somehow doubt that’s the end of it. Meanwhile, Gaelio and Ein are ready to go, but the captain of their ship is able to delay him by spewing a lot of bureaucrat-babble that impresses a junior officer. What’s this captain’s angle?

Betrayal is bad no matter who does it, so when Savarin betrays Biscuit, who idolized him and lived his very life by his example, has got to be devastated when Gjallarhorn arrest him and Atra. But the reason they’re doing so is because they believe Atra is Kudelia Aina Bernstein, Goddess of the rebellion. This is a misunderstanding Atra quickly picks up and runs with, to protect Kudelia, her family, from harm.

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This gets her beaten by the Gjallarhorn soldiers trying to get rebellion intel out of her, and the sight of Atra being roughed up, her legs, one missing a boot, dangling from the interrogation chair, is almost too terrible to behold; she is only a child, for crying out loud.

But Atra’s blood is iron; forged and stiffened on Mars from an even younger age than she is now. She knows how to take a beating; she used to endure them every day. Now that she actually has someone to take it for (rather than punishment for some petty slight), she’s all the more resolved. Her toughness in this situation brought a tear to my eye.

Speaking of eyes, when Orga learns through Navona that Biscuit and Atra have been kidnapped, he relays the info to Mika, who tells Fumitan to keep Kudelia safe while he rescues them. The “foolish, innocent child” Kudelia tries to sneak out anyway, but Fumitan stops her, and can’t help but remark how her “clear, honest eyes” haven’t changed since she was a young girl, and how much she’s always hated those eyes and wished they’d cloud up from reality; from adulthood.

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Hope and idealism, like the giddy excitement McGillis is feeling, is for kids. Reality and stern responsibility is for adults. And speak of the masked devil, MaskGillis shows up right there and then, revealing to Kudelia not only how Nobliss Gordon has been using her, but how he’s had one of his own by her side all this time.

Sensing this moment of betrayal could be a chance to finally cloud those eyes, Fumitan does not deny the masked man’s claims, and Kudelia is devastated. Fumitan then leaves Kudelia’s side, but Kudelia can’t help but go after her, even when Masky tries to hold her back and remind her of her responsibility. But is this all a game? Was Mask’s intention to use the truth to put Kudelia in a more vulnerable position?

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It’s a shame Mika wasn’t around to mediate things, but he’s occupied with being a one-man rescue team, finding Atra’s boot in the streets, seemingly following her scent to where she’s being held, crashing a truck into the building, and taking out all the guards off-camera before bursting in.

When he sees the state of Atra, he’s ready to go a little bit further, but there’s no time. Orga arrives in a truck just as Savarin is fingering them for Gjallarhorn once more. Savarin appeals to his brother to see reason and do as his big brother says. Biscuit is appreciative of everything Savarin did for him and his sisters, but he has a new family now, so he goes with Tekkadan, and the brothers are separated, perhaps forever.

Meanwhile, Kudelia is out in the open, searching desperately for Fumitan, while a full-blown armed uprising of Dort’s working class is about to explode on the same streets where she calmly shopped just hours before. She’s too concerned with Fumitan to realize the danger she’s in, or the merit of staying put so Mika and the others could meet up with her.

She’s acting like a child would, only considering one thing at a time and rushing at it with reckless abandon; unknowingly squandering the sacrifice Atra made to keep her safe. But it’s not all her fault—because you cannot truly become an adult.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 14

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GIBO picks up where it left off, with surplus mobile suits the likes of Shino wants to learn to fly, and Kudelia unsure of what to do about Mika’s kiss. Oh, and in case you missed all those suspicious sidelong glances last cour, this episode makes it clear as crystal: Fumitan has orders to lure Kudelia into a trap where she’ll be assassinated as the leader of a rebellion.

But while Fumitan may always appear stoic, she’s still conflicted about this plan. Kudelia doesn’t aid Fumi’s resolve to betray her when she comes in for advice about love.

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The intricate plan Fumitan is a merely one gear in casts an ominous shadow on Tekkadan’s arrival at the Dort Colonies to deliver some Teiwaz cargo before continuing on to Earth, which is in spitting distance. The ominousness only rises when we see Gaelio planning a “drill” with his family flagship, assuring Ein he’ll have his shot at revenge.

Kudelia unknowingly thwarts Fumitan’s plan when she requests to visit the commercial colony Dort-3 rather than the cargo colony Dort-2, for “shopping.” Atra asks to tag along, Orga assigns Mika as their protection, and he notices Fumitan’s sudden frustration, even if he may not be sure what it’s about. Finally, Biscuit asks to come along as well. So if this is a three-way shopping date, there will be two chaperones of both genders.

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I’m not sure why I assumed Kudelia just needed to get her luxury goods fix, but she instead heads to the nearest Space Costco to snatch up clothes, soaps, and other hygenic products for the Tekkadan crew. In explaining the highly practical purchases, Kudelia brings up the fact that the crew doesnt’ bathe enough, and the Isaribi, frankly, stinks to high heaven. I’d never thought about that either, but now I am; Tekkadan is not the sterile, antiseptic environment that, say, Gjallarhorn ships seem to be.

The reason for Biscuit accompanying the group is also a surprise: turns out he and his sisters are originally from Dort (albeit the slums), and his older brother Savarin is still living and working there. Atra convinces him to give Sav a call and arrange a meeting. The thing is, the cubicle-occupying Savarin has a news bulletin in front of him warning them to be on high alert for Tekkadan, believed to be a rebellious element up to no good in this law-and-order sphere.

Meanwhile, at Dort-2, Orga, Eugene, Shino and Yamagi get an unusually warm welcome from the cargo depot employees, who call them “knights” of their savior, Kudelia. Their lives are almost as menial and disposable as Orga’s crew back when they were CGS, while the richies on Earth sit around soaking up profits. They’ve been told Tekkadan is there to help them start a rebellion, and to Orga & Co.’s surprise, the Teiwaz cargo turns out to be arms for just that purpose.

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The workers, mere cogs in the schemers’ design, were also told Kudelia would be among them, so this is the trap that was meant to close around her. Gjallarhorn conveniently shows up, but the workers take up their arms and force them to retreat (so much for the Gjallarhorn troops being better trained and motivated here, huh?).

Not knowing what the hell is going on or who put them up to this, all Orga & Co. can do is try to get the hell out of this mess, ordering Merribit to launch the Isaribi. But it looks like the ink is already dry on the fiction about them being a “ship of hope” for the rebelling workers of Dort. At least Naze doesn’t seem to be a part of it, but rather only thinks Tekkadan screwed up somehow.

As all that excitement going down, Kudelia is having far greater difficulties: she can’t summon the words to ask Mika about his feelings, even when she gets some time alone with him. It’s looking like the kiss was just a kiss, so far. As for Fumitan, she’s still conflicted about disobeying orders (could they be from Orcus, if that’s an “O” in the signature of the orders?) and not making sure Kudelia was on Dort-2.

Like the workers, she’s taken the first step to a new life; in their case one where they’re fighting rather than working for The Man; and in Fumi’s case, protecting Kudelia rather than working for those who want her out of the picture. In both cases, there may be no going back.

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P.S. On first glance I’d call the new OP at least the equal of the first, while the new ED, while solid, isn’t quite as strong as its predecessor. Also, in the preview, we’re teased with images of McGillis wearing a mask, and talking about gaining the life of a new man. But he may only be joking.