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Series Review: Gundam Iron-Blooded Oprhans

When he asks this question, you know things are about to get real.

“Raise your (death) flags!” A common joke thrown around between fans of the series ‘Gundam Iron-Blooded Oprhans’ (aka G-Tekketsu) thanks to how the show liked to throw around death flags for every character whether or not they were really scheduled for the chopping block. With the series recently airing its final episode I’d like to share my thoughts on how the series played out through both seasons. Reviewing how it plays out as a mecha series and a story on its own. Will try to avoid being too heavy on spoilers for those of you out there not quite done with the series yet.

This series opens up with a setting of having colonies on Mars which is in general oppressed by those in greater power on Earth. Our protagonists being found at the absolute bottom of the societal barrel, being called ‘human debris’ as kids who for one way or the other, ended up being orphaned while voyaging through space or being stuck on the red planet. With human rights not exactly a fad on colonies beyond Earth, the poor kids are easily exploited for cheap labor and meat shields for riskier jobs. They even have their bodies modified so that they can pilot vehicles and mobile suits without the need for thorough training. We are then quickly taught why your most heavily armed personnel shouldn’t be the most abused as Orga, Mikazuki and the others stage a mutiny against their original boss and quickly form their own organization.

With the aid of Barbatos, a scrapped Gundam frame they happened to roughly put together, they quickly repel anyone who gets in their way. At the same time they are hired by Kudelia, a lady of high standing, to bring her to Earth so she can negotiate the independence of Mars. From there they start a long journey where they gain new allies and lose a few friends to reach their goal.

 

Season 1

Season 1 does a spectacular job of reeling you in with this journey of an idealist to help the people she loves, where she witnesses the hardships of the child soldiers with her own eyesand gains a more worldly understanding of what they really go through. A particular scene wouldbe when she meets Mikazuki and offers to see each other as equals but he completely denies her by refusing reasoning that his hands were dirty (at that time, with grease) and by that he concludes that they’re really not equal at all. In the future, she has other similar encounters and uses them to steel her resolve to change the lives of those around her in whatever way she can.

Orga’s ‘Tekkadan’ in the other hand  does whatever it takes to get the job done, getting involved with a mafia, taking on the policing organization ‘Gjallahorn,’ and even using do-or-die strategies making the most of their meager resources. With that, Instead of having armies of giant robots fighting each other we get a squad of maybe 4 or 5 from opposing sides getting on a melee. I really appreciate this change as it actually makes any mecha a big deal and foregoes having the gundam units OP by some mysterious power (like say, beam technology), it also makes the opposing threats more valid even if they’re just faceless mooks. Including the ships they board in as active combatants was also a huge plus.

By the end of the first season, Tekkadan succeeds in their major objective of getting Kudelia an audience with political powers on Earth. But not without paying a hefty price of losing some comrades and a telling ‘deal’ that Mikazuki makes with Barbatos to defeat the season’s final boss, Ein.

 

It only takes a few minutes on google to find out that the gundam units are named after Solomon’s 72 demons. Their technology especially with piloting them being considered, taboo. It may come off as laying it on a bit thick, but this does play into the series’ overall theme. I’ll get back to this later.

 

Season 2

The latter half of the series opens up with Tekkadan being recognized as some sort of band of heroes, and has in fact expanded to having a branch on Earth. People look up to Tekkadan, you’d be the cool kid in school if your brother was working in it. Tekkadan had pretty much found itself comfortably sitting on top of the world. So where else could you be going when you’re at the top? Yep, the world basically goes out to tear them down.

The battles certainly scaled up and not in a bad way, it shows how Orga and his band of brothers have grown as a military force. I am however, a little iffed over how the second season seems to have completely forgotten how powerful pilots have become, their skills seeming to have reset after the end of the first season. It was a real shame considering how everything else seemed to have received proper continuity.

While it was an awesome spectacle, the encounter against the mobile armor seemed frivolous and at best, simply an arc used to introduce new characters to the mix. The real story unfolds as Tekkadan becomes the victim of its own circumstances, being caught up in the schemes of the political opponents of their affiliates. And eventually would seek retaliation every time, even if it meant burning bridges they had once built and forming alliances with the worst individuals possible.

In the end, Tekkadan ceases to exist, and its survivors move on with their lives in the way of their choosing. What remained of Gjallarhorn chose to revamp itself and eventually, how Mars was treated along with how the likes of Mikazuki would be protected from living similar lives.

Personally, I wouldn’t have that played out much differently. Because seeing the jerks that caused everyone so much grief die to giant scissors is damn satisfying to watch. But if Tekkadan had chosen not to retaliate as often, they probably wouldn’t have met their demise. Some arcs and story plots seemed to be extra fluff but what peeves me the most is how McGillis acted seemed to be forced in the writing. However how it all ended proved to be quite satisfactory.

Did I say quite? I meant VERY.

Series Overall

In general I would say that there are two recurring ideas in the series. Taking down the conventional establishments, ideally to challenge one’s circumstances, and making deals with the devil. Tekkadan was pretty much up against Gjallarhorn in Season 1, and in several melees they defeated the knights of Gjallarhorn by taking advantage of their conventional behavior. Shooting them when they’re still posing or introducing themselves on the field instead of waiting for them to be ready, making use of a giant mace or chainsaw instead of the usual gun or sword. They also gain much needed support and power by becoming part of the Teiwaz mafia, helping an exiled politician make it to court, and demanding more power from demon-named weapons.

While they successfully make their claim to power by the end of the first season, the time to collect on its price comes along with season 2. As Tekkadan became the establishment, it was their turn to be taken down by people who sought power the same way they did. Pretty much everyone who piloted a gundam wanted more power for one reason or the other and paid a dear price. McGillis betrayed his friends, Gaelio used somebody else’s remains to pilot a robot, Akihiro lost people close to him and Mikazuki paralyzed half his body. By the end of the series, only one of them survived but was already stuck in a wheelchair.

Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans manages to tug at the heartstrings while making a good use of its mecha-themed elements and battles. Creating rather convincing characters and weaving a roughly layered story which wraps up with not what you’d wish for everyone, but more or less ends in a way that does everyone justice. The result is pleasantly surprising, considering this was put together by the director and writer of other animes like Ano-hana, Tora-dora, and Railgun.
I would recommend this for anyone who may like war dramas or the mecha genre in general. While 50 episodes is a tall order for watching these days, I’d assure you it’s pretty much worth the watch.

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