Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans – 02

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On thing about Gundam – whatever the series itself brings to the table, you can get an awful lot of entertainment value from the names.

OP Sequence:

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The elephant in the room with Iron-Blooded Orphans is and always has been the same: how will Okada Mari’s dominant-gene vision mesh with the supremely well-established and archetypal Gundam universe – and what impact will a powerhouse director like Nagai Tatsuyuki have on that unholy marriage?  I’d go so far as to say that for most who aren’t already huge Gundam fans, that elephant is the main curiosity factor for this series.

The thing with Gundam is that as elemental to anime history as it is, as a mythology it does have some considerable plasticity to it.  There are certain “historical” facts that every incarnation is expected to incorporate, but stylistically there’s always been a lot of room for play here.  That’s why the idea of Okada – as disastrously as she’s misstepped with updating established franchises, especially mecha – taking a stab at a Gundam show always seemed to have at least some chance of working.

After two episodes, I think the jury is still out on whether or not this will work.  There are things about Tekketsu no Orphans I’ve liked, others not so much.  I’ve never thought sci-fi was a great fit for Okada because, to be blunt, she doesn’t seem that interested in getting the details down.  Okada wants to write emo and angst, and she wants to put her characters through existential hell – and Gundam gives her plenty of opportunity to do that.  But so far the larger universe seems like a 2-D backdrop rather than a living, dynamic setting with depth of field.  Ironically, it almost seems as if Okada has been too respectful – or lazy – to do any reinventing of a very classic Gundam setting.

I’m waiting for some of the cast to break out of the cookie-cutter class, too.  It’s a pretty standard bunch so far, with a few more getting additional focus this week: there’s Crank Zent (Mamiya Yasuhiro) a senior commander for  the Gjallarhorn forces who’s morally affronted at the idea of fighting child soldiers (if he doesn’t die a noble death in the next episode, it’ll be the surprise of the year).  We also meet Biscuit’s two sisters, Cookie and Cracker (Kuwahara Yuuki and Senbongi Sayaka), whose function in the story should be self-apparent from the moment they appear on-screen.

As chestnut as it is, there is some traction to the core premise of Iron-Blooded Orphans.  These boys have really been screwed by life – illiterate, forcefully mutated to synch with their mobile worker machines, abandoned and abused by their own adult overlords even as the enemy attacks.  It’s pretty obvious that Orga has decided on a full-fledged revolt and I certainly can’t blame him, and as condescending as Kudelia’s initial attitude is, at least she represents a potential ally with some pull in society.  There should be some emotional pull to seeing them fight to gain some control of their lives and change a sick and craven system, but it’s too early to say whether the writing and execution will be able to extract it.

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ED: “Orphans no Namida (オルフェンズの涙)” by MISIA

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  1. R

    So, Biscuit's sisters are named Cookie and Cracker. Hey, who the heck are coming up with these names?

    Seriously though, even this early, IBO is actually doing one thing that G-Reco and Aldnoah Zero failed to do: give actual human weight to its conflicts. Say what you want about Okada's melodrama (which I'm sure we'll be getting sooner or later), but her human drama still has that depth. For one, Mika isn't a cold and distant protagonist that is meant to look cool on scree. And we actually see the People (combatants and non-combatants) affected by the conflicts, which makes Kudelia's realization that she is just a naive little princess have more weight to it.

  2. K

    The same person who named Biscuit Biscuit.

  3. R

    Oh yeah right.

    On a more serious note, Im curious to know if Biscuit has the same implants as the other kids. They mentioned in ep 1 that it seems to be a requirement for the kids to be able to work at CGS. Might also explain his ability to detect the energy from the reactors of the mobile suits.

  4. J

    I thought Biscuit's backstory was being set up as having to join CGS to make ends meet rather than being an orphan/urchin like the rest of the 3rd Division. That would presumably disqualify him from being able to accept the totally-not-Psycommu system due to age. I suppose he could be a reject that miraculously survived the process.

    If Crank doesn't die next week, it will be the plot twist of the decade. I'm kind of disappointed that it's so blatantly set up for him to fall nobly in battle and leave Gjallarhorn with zero (morally) redeeming characters in the first cour at least. Or is this my knowledge of the franchise getting ahead of me?

    So for so good, I agree that there has been more depth of feeling and consequence to the battle than G-Reco, but that's a fairly low bar. The comment from the mechanic about having 110 people die then remarking that Augus did a good job was a stock framing of the conflict, but well executed and a highlight of the episode.

  5. R

    Yeah, that's Biscuit's backstory, but his ability to detect Ahab waves (or whatever they call the energy from the reactors) still feels peculiar for his supposed character.

    As for Gjallarhorn, Ein seems to be the one being set up to become the morally redeemable character on their side, as he is shown hesitating a lot. But yeah, I am also hoping Crank would do an Andy Watfield (Seed) turn.

  6. C

    Still good so far. Okay forget everything I said about Mikazuki maybe being like Setsuna.

    I like how he obviously cares for his comrades and has a deep bond with Orga, and how that contrasts with the rather cold way he speaks to Kudelia. She's pretty pampered, and maybe part of her does it to please her ego, but I do think she means well.

    And thanks for the spoiler, next week's preview! God, I hate it when they do that.

  7. K

    I actually don't mind right now that the sci-fi element is a backdrop. I like that its focusing on the orphans for now to give some weight to everything before we inevitably go full on space.

    I did really like that Kudelia put together that her father can't be trusted pretty quickly.

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