Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans – 07

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What one takes away from this episode hinges on, I expect, what one brings into it.

I have no quibbles with this episode of Iron-Blooded Orphans, and I expect it’s going to be greeted quite favorably by the audience.  No reason why it shouldn’t – it’s a very solid mecha action ep (though I would argue less compelling than the exceptional 5th episode), and puts all its footsteps in the right places.  One might very well be watching Gundam mainly for stuff like this, and that’s as good a reason as any.

It’s odd, then, that when all was said and done I found the episode to have been pretty flat.  Part of that no doubt comes down to expectations – with Nagai Tatsuyuki and Okada Mari involved, what seems most intriguing about Iron-Blooded Orphans is its potential to go to places other Gundam series don’t usually go, not its ability to step nimbly in the regular stomping grounds.  Though, that it does step so nimbly as it does is a testament to the versatility of a director and writer who don’t usually do this sort of thing.

I think I missed Fareed McGillis here, too – he’s the most interesting of the antagonists we’ve met so far because he’s so hard to predict.  By contrast this week’s foes are pretty standard-issue – especially Maruba Arkay (who at one point is actually reduced to running in place and flailing his arms in fury).  Somewhat better is Naze Turbine (Toriumi Kousuke), captain of the Hammerhead – the ship that intercepts the Tekkadan.  Naze is at least smart enough not to take a buffoon like Maruba seriously, but he’s pretty clearly a zaku – it’s his boss McMurdo Barriston, the leader of Teiwaz, that seems like the guy who’s going to be a real factor in the story.

The dynamic among the Tekkadan boys is pretty clear – Biscuit wants to negotiate, Mika just waits for the go sign from Orga, and Orga thinks about the big picture.  Orga is smart enough to realize that having Teiwaz as an enemy would present Tekkandan with huge problems, but also that Biscuit is negotiating from a position of weakness.  As it stands, Turbine has nothing to gain from giving Tekkadan a good deal – I suspect he’d make good on his word to spare them and even give them some work if they surrendered unconditionally, but I wouldn’t want to be in a position to bet my life on it.

I do find the character-driven nature of last week’s episode, with its focus on the larger injustices at the heart of Tekketsu no Orphans and the feelings of the principals, to be somewhat more engaging than this straight-ahead tactical battle drama – I think the creatives behind this series are more at home in that mode – but this is still solid Gundam.  The confrontation with the Hammerhead and it’s seemingly all-female combat team is well-done (happily, the curry survived), and Orga’s plan to turn the battle around a suitably clever stratagem.

The key takeaway here is that Orga is formidable beyond his years – he understands both that the only desirable outcome of this encounter is an alliance with Teiwaz (winning this battle would mean losing the war) and how to go about achieving it (finding a way to negotiate from a position of strength).  I’m not sure how realistic it is that a teenager with Orga’s backwater background would have this level of tactical sophistication, but it sure makes this an easier story to tell that he does – chalk it up to good instincts and necessity, I suppose…

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9 comments

  1. R

    I really like that little bit of friction between Orga and Biscuit. It adds yet another interesting dimension to the Tekkadan boys' relationship. Also, Biscuit himself is shaping to be an interesting counterpoint to Mika in that he isn't just the straight out "yes sir" guy unlike the latter. Him defecting from Tekkadan is probably going one of the biggest twists that could happen.

    And I actually find Naze Turbine intriguing not as an antagonist but as a potential ally for Tekkadan (as hinted upon by his disgust when learning about what Maruba did to the boys). As for Lafter, hopefully she's is a less psychotic and more benevolent version of Nena Trinity. She could actually be an interesting addition to that subtle Okada romance subplot.

    Basing from the preview of the next ep, this series may actually be doing the opposite of the typical Gundam show. Usually, the franchise' narratives tend to center around the battles with the lives of the characters being sort of just "side dishes". But in this one, the battles seem to be the side dishes, with the story focusing more on the cast's relationships, which as you said is where Nagai and Okada are more at home with.

  2. J

    I didn't see Biscuit's negotiation attempt as a marker of a schism, more that Orga is capable of looking at the bigger (combined?) picture that Biscuit cannot because of his lack of combat experience. They both wanted to strike a deal with Turbine/Teiwas, but Orga knew that it was pointless to do so while Turbine had nothing to lose. Mind, I too can see Biscuit's non-combat role landing Tekkadan is serious trouble eventually; there's a good reason that when push comes to shove command has been passed over Griffon.

    There's still not time not-Nene to turn out to be not-Katejina instead, but I seem to be the only person making that comparison at the moment. But it looks like mutual alliance is the order of the day next, and another chance for Okada & Nagai to keep it simple and relatable.

  3. I would agree that a schism between Orga and Bisky is not the point here, if it exists at all – this exchange is here to illustrate that Orga is capable of seeing the big picture.

    "Simple" is definitely an appropriate descriptor for what we're seeing so far, I think – surprisingly so given the parties involved.

  4. C

    No, please no, don't even mention Katejina. Don't make me relive Victory, please!

  5. C

    I really, really enjoyed how tense it was, how it felt that they managed to survive by the skin of their teeth. They struggled very hard, and they "won."

    None of this breezing through the enemies and winning easily, like it often happened in g-reco.

  6. K

    I don't understand why you're demoting this episode to action only, it's CLEARLY a necessary plot development in terms of advancing the story or expanding the cast to add more variety to the character personalities. That you're demoting Naze to an extra status out of hand like that when we've barely met him or gotten to know his relationship with his boss, is like demoting Char because Gihren is the guy in charge of Zeon. Not to mention it feels like you're deliberately ignoring all the interesting personalities among the female pilot characters on the Turbines side….

  7. D

    This epiosde wasn't flat by any means. It was probably the most engaging and tense episode to date. The battle wasn't one-sided like in episode 5, the boys actually struggled and even Barbatos sustained major damage this time – which is a nice way to show that Mika isn't all-too-powerful like a certain egg-loving character from a certain show. Hand-drawn animation and OST were also a lot more memorable this week.

    IBO may not be the Okada show you were expecting, but it's shaping to be the Gundam show that we were waiting for. Take it for what it is and you'll enjoy it all the more.

  8. J

    Lighten up everyone, clearly GE's soul is still being held down by gravity.

    On a more serious note I suppose this is where the difference between a [Gundam] dilettante and a fan rears its head. You're looking at what the pair (well, Okada) could bring to the Gundam format from outside the genre with a hint of lament, while I'm looking at what Okada last did within the genre (M3) with great relief that those pitfalls have been avoided so far. But we both like what we're seeing, just to slightly different degrees.

    Regardless, I will still look forward to your musings on the series.

  9. I don't sweat it too much to be honest, but I appreciate the sentiment. I'm not interested in writing about a series from a perspective that isn't mine – what possible good can that do? If people want that POV I'm sure they can find a source for it easily enough.

    Believe me, I'm also relieved Okada is treating this differently than her prior sojourns into the genre – differently than pretty much all her work within established franchises, pretty much. I just find myself wishing at times she'd be herself a little more than what it feels as if she's doing here. Which surprises the hell out of me, in truth.

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