Never let it be said that Tekketsu no Orphans lets the grass grow under its feet.
I don’t want to say the plot thickened in this week’s episode of Iron-Blooded Orphans, but it was like Okada and Nagai tossed the world’s biggest roux in the gumbo pot. Things started off looking a bit slice-of-lifey, but that was a mirage – from the moment it was revealed officially that Fumitan was a traitor to Kudelia’s cause (or at least her life) it was clear this cour was going to hit the ground running.
Yes, Fumi is double-agent, working for Nobliss Gordon presumably. It’s not absolutely established what the motivation for either of them is, but it seems very likely that they’re genuine revolutionaries who see being a martyr as the best possible use Kudelia can be for the movement. The subject of tension between Mother Earth and the colonies it oppresses is never far from the surface in any Gundam series, and with the approach of the protagonists to the Earth Sphere it takes center stage as much as it has at any time in Tekketsu no Orphans.
Having arrived at the Dort Colonies (the near-Earth territory of the African block) the idea is for Fumi to escort Kudelia onto the Dort 2 satellite where a Gjallarhorn assassin will finish her off. Whether Fumi would have followed through on her orders if Kudelia hadn’t insisted on instead going on a shopping trip to affluent Dort 3 (they seem to have a Costco) is debatable – at the very least she was having second thoughts. Indeed, Kudelia turning to Fumi for motherly advice about what Mika’s kiss meant (“Is it time to consider marriage?”) was an unintended emotional low-blow (one could almost hear Mr. Ral saying his butt itched). Whatever the reason, Fumi acquiesces and accompanies Kudelia on the shopping trip, one on which Atra also tags along and Orga sends Mika for security (“It shouldn’t be all women”).
My initial hope when Bisky insisted on going to was that he was finally ready to try and get closer to Atra, but no, rather that that we have another brother drama building. Biscuit is from Dort 2 as it turns out, separated as a child from his achiever older brother, now some sort of suit on Dort 3. While that drama is playing out, an even bigger one is brewing on Dort 2, where the Tekkadan are welcomed like pubescent Robin Hoods by the oppressed workers on the station. The cargo they’ve been carrying, it turns out, is weapons – weapons the workers have been promised by their “sponsor” that they’ll need for the coming revolution against Gjallarhorn and Earth. And the boys of Tekkadan end up being caught in middle when Gjallarhorn troops show up to play their part in this well-planned drama.
This is all quite a mess, really, and plot-wise things are rounding into shape rather nicely on the whole. It’s a classic Gundam scenario – brewing cvil war between a wealthy Earth and a put-upon string of colonies – and it’s increasingly clear that both Tekkadan and Kudelia are pawns in the hands of those who see the entire board. Orga is in a tough spot – he and his nation of children really can’t survive without the help of older and better-connected allies, but they’re in a position where they can’t really afford to trust anyone.
Here’s where the real potential of putting this story in the hands of folks entirely new to the Gundam mythology reveals itself, if indeed this pairing is going to work. The individual character actions retain the flavor of those we expect to see from Nagai and Okada, but the context is pure Gundam – and the possibility that this familiar scenario could play out in an entirely unfamiliar way is rather exhilarating. Tekketsu no Orphans was always a gamble, an idea that could either be a triumph or a train wreck – but in this episode are helpful signs that the series may be starting to come together into a cohesive and compelling whole.