Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans – 10

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Wait for it – it’s coming.

If the ultimate test of whether a series is working or not is whether you feel anything for the characters (worry, for example) Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans is definitely working for me.  I think it’s a testament to the experience and savvy of the creative staff that the intra-episode pacing is as good as it is – every episode is a slow build, with the B-Part almost always much more engaging than the A-Part.  And that was certainly true this week.

That’s not to say that this series isn’t an odd duck, because it certainly is.  I still can’t quite figure out where it sits on the spectrum either of Gundam or of She-Who-Must-Not-be-Named, because right now it seems to be falling into the “neither” camp.  And make no mistake, episodes like this one are part of the process of Ok*da softening up the audience like a chef working a tough piece of meat.  The other shoe is hanging by a thread, and it’s a steel-toed boot.

There’s slow build written all over this episode, which marks another in a surprisingly (with Gundam, close to unprecedentedly) long string of what are effectively slice-of-life eps.  I very much appreciate the fact that Writer-san and Nagai-sensei are giving a chance for the secondary characters to form their own identities – kids like Takaki and Ride, too young to hog the glory either in battle or at the negotiating table, but nevertheless trying to make their mark in their own way.  Mind you, it was pretty clear as soon as Takaki told the story of his younger sister that we (and he) were being set up like a bowling pin, but that’s all a part of the tenderizing process.

The other character who gets some development here is Atra, and that’s an area where Iron-Blooded Orphans is losing me a bit.  The notion of the social structure on the Hammerhead being treated as normal is one thing – context is important in this case, and I suppose it might even be said to be daring to treat polygamy in such a matter-of-fact way in a mainstream anime.  But Atra’s calculus during her conversation with Kudelia didn’t exactly strike me as a positive thing.  I would hope Atra at some point comes to realize that she can set her sights higher than that fantasy (in my book she and Biscuit make the much better match anyway).

There’s much nostalgia on the table this week – boys musing about losing their virginity, about their hardscrabble and tragic family histories, and Atra about her first meeting with Mikazuki (and her life as an urchin enslaved in a whorehouse).  This is a tough world these kids live in, one that doesn’t run on empathy or even pity, and Orphans has done a very good job of humanizing them and making us understand why their bond is so important to them.  But it’s building up to something, and when Takaki asks Akihiro to take him with him on a patrol, it’s pretty much a given that the shit is about to hit the fan.

Again, I think Tekketsu no Orphans really passes the test here in the sense that when it seems likely that Takaki is about to sacrificed on the altar of dramatic impact (and he still might), we really care.  It may not be the most difficult path to audience buy-in, but it gets there.  Over the past several episodes this series has focused very much on the human side of the equation – establishing the stakes.  At some point it was always going to turn towards drawing against the reserves of engagement it’s been building up, and we may be starting to see that happen.

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8 comments

  1. s

    and this is why i cant really root for atra that much (im not really rooting for anyone in the romantics department as of yet). While she loves mikazuki and understands his personality quirks, she isnt proactive about conveying those feelings or establishing that romantic rapport between him and her. I cant really root for someone if they aint putting their back into it, feel me. The fact that she was cool with a harem ending was sort of "eh" with me because im like, "come on girl, you should want to be selfish about someone you love"…but i guess that's just my belief on the whole thing. A harem works too i guess although something about that end result (and atra being so cool with it) kinda makes me scratch my head. Overall it's fine…but one side of me is more taken back by the idea than the other

  2. M

    I also hope the show will end up showing Atra's harem calculus as a negative. It's too early to tell which way it can go, but I can definitely see them showcasing the negatives of the Hammerhead arrangement through Atra's eyes. Or maybe it will all be weirdly positive. I usually just laugh off any harems in anime as nonsense, but this is a more serious show, so that would be quite strange. Makes me wonder how polygamy is viewed in Japan.

  3. D

    Atra's part was certainly understandable from a narrative standpoint. The only form of family happiness she ever saw in her life is Naze's ship, so she may want to reproduce this form – I'm just not sure if Kudelia is willing to share.

    The episode was OK but the part with Akihiro's brother felt a little bit artificial. He never brought up this subject before and he had plenty of occasions to do so. He only talks about it now that a new bunch of characters are about to be introduced with the pirate crew. Coincidence ?

    Also three episode of slice-of-life in Gundam is not unprecedented but certainly uncommon. I'm wonderning how Bandai, which owns Sunrise, are allowing this. Is Nagai this powerful in the industry to keep the producers away from his work ? Even Mizushima had to give in by the second season of OO.

  4. R

    I kinda understand where Atra is coming from, and it's really a sad reminder of what these kids have gone through. They have been exposed to the harsh reality of their world and abused at an early age that their worldviews have totally been skewed such that they would desire to find love even in non-traditional setups (like Naze's harem). so yeah, Atra's fantasies is pretty much as disturbing as Mika's nonchalant attitude towards killing.

  5. K

    For me was funny, as soon as the episode started and we got Takaki's first scene I thought "man, stop saying those things, you're going to die." It pleasantly surprised me that he didn't bite it at the end of the episode, even though I fear he could actually die on the next one.

    The human debris thing is still as infuriating as ever, even more so when is a thing that exists today even if we try to turn a blind eye to it. Akihiro having a missing younger brother is another classic set up, let's see what's Okada's plan for it.

    On a side note, the polygamy thing is overblown. It's just an excuse to have lots of females character (without giving them proper backstories) and balance out the sausage fest that IBO was in the beginning. People are giving it way too much relevance.

  6. R

    On a side note, the polygamy thing is overblown. It's just an excuse to have lots of females character (without giving them proper backstories) and balance out the sausage fest that IBO was in the beginning. People are giving it way too much relevance.
    I sort of agree. As of now, it simply is an added detail to IBO's setting and themes (and an interesting one at that, mind you). And as Chrysostomus pointed below, the show neither moralizes nor celebrates it, it's only the audience that seems too eager to push their values on it.

    Though I'll reserve the "just an excuse to have lots of females character (without giving them proper backstories)" bit until later in the series. By then, we could judge whether at least Amida or Lafter will be given proper backstories.

  7. K

    Well, yeah I was being a bit harsh on it. The setup allowed them to insert a bunch of characters without having to expend time in "who is this girl" all of them are now "That guy wife No. XX" and that will suffice until they need more character for any of them.

    I agree in that the show isn't neither celebrating or chastising their of living, it's something like "they live like this" and people are pushing their morality on it. People should know that moral is a relative thing, and whatever you call moral can be immoral to another person in another place.

  8. C

    Jeez, people need to lighten up on the polygamy thing. She's an uneducated, poor child who has seldom seen a happy family before, what else is she supposed to think? I'm more surprised that the show still isn't moralizing about it and even treated it as a joke this time around.

    This episode was probably my least favorite, but at least we got to know some of the Tekkadan boys a little better.

    The ending was glorious, though.

    – all those deathflags
    – suddenly enemies out of nowhere
    – nooooooo!!! takaki's gonna die!!!
    – ORPHAAAAAANS NAMIDAAAA
    – Barbatos to the rescue!

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