For my money that was definitely the best episode of Tekketsu no Orphans so far. I like Gundam episodes that are succinct, focused and to the point – when it comes to this mythos, in my view simpler is generally better. There was never a moment this week when it wasn’t absolutely clear what was happening on screen – and why we should care about it – and the linear momentum of the episode never let up. Good stuff.
There’s a part of me that still wonders whether this style of series is the best use of the talents of Okada Mari and Nagai Tastuyuki, especially the latter. He’s an incredibly talented director when it comes to subtle character drama, and there’s just not much opportunity for that here. But there is a curiosity factor in seeing what someone of that temperament can do with this kind of show, and so far the results are pretty good (and improving). But I would never have guessed Nagai was directing Iron-Blooded Orphans if I didn’t already know it.
I do appreciate the restraint Okada is showing so far, which is somewhat out of character for her, and I certainly realize it’s a reversal for me to opine that she’s being too faithful to the mythology she’s adapting. I still think that’s true, but the directness of Iron-Blooded Orphans is starting to work quite well. This notion of a group of teens and children struggling against oppression and exploitation by adults is as old as Gundam – indeed, as old as anime science-fiction – but it can still pack a punch in the right hands.
Part of the reason this is working is that the boys of Tekkadon strike a pretty good balance – they’re exploited without being Dickensian about it, and they’re resourceful and skeptical enough to survive without being unrealistically so. This whole Orcus affair is a good example. It seems pretty obvious to us that Todo can’t be trusted – we’ve seen his true stripes – but if Orga and his circle are smart, they ought to suspect treachery even not having seen what we’ve seen. Why? because they’d be fools to trust any adult after what’s been done to them. I always suspected Orga was too smart to be suckered into Todo’s trap defenseless, but it’s nice to see it proven true.
The battle itself was excellently done – a very solid Gundam space set piece, if not spectacularly animated. Again, I really appreciated the clarity of the storytelling, and I think that’s directly attributable to Nagai’s superb and steady hand at the tiller – very often these sorts of sequences are chaos, and not in the good way. Things got more complicated when McGillis and Gaileo (not Galileo as I mistakenly called him last week) joined the fray, but you didn’t need a scorecard to know the players here – it was a nicely laid-out skirmish from start to finish, with a nifty resolution using the mining asteroid.
As nice as it is to have clarity in the narrative, a bit of grey is nice too – and for me, that’s the role McGillis and Gaileo fulfil in this story. The white hats and black hats are pretty easy to tell apart in Tekketsu no Orphans, but McGillis is a different animal – he’s neither incompetent nor psychotic (and he doesn’t have a Hitler moustache) and he seems more strategically inclined to the scalpel than the chainsaw. Antagonists like that are relatively rare in Gundam series, and it’s he more than any of the cast who’s sparked my interest so far as a character.