On balance that was definitely an improvement for Tekketsu no Orphans, though the context is that last week’s episode was one of the weakest of the series in my view. I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m not seeing enough of the individuality of the creators, though. You had to figure going in that the results with this series were going to fall somewhere on a continuum between a traditional Gundam show and a Nagai-Okada one, but the Gundam gene is clearly dominant – much more than I expected.
That’s fine for what it is, but I wish we were getting something a little more mold-breaking. That wouldn’t necessarily mean whatever that is would work, but Iron-Blooded Orphans just feels creatively stifled to me, as if there’s something buried deep beneath the ground that only rarely breaks the surface. There are probably quite a few writers and directors out there who could do an ultra-traditional Gundam series, but how many are there that can do what these two can do? Isn’t it kind of a waste?
Well, be that as it may, it can at least be said that this is the week that Kudelia Aina Bernstein finally lumbered into action as a character. It seems fitting that we left her literally being slung over Mika’s shoulder and carried like a sack of doorknobs, because as I said last week Kudelia has been a completely passive character up to now. It took too long but at least that seems finally to have changed (the episode title was a pretty obvious clue it would), Fumitan’s death and the massacre of the union workers being the cold slap in the face to make Kudelia realize she wasn’t doing anybody any good the way she was.
We’ve seen this political dynamic play out in Gundam many times before, but given Tekketsu no Orphans’ place early in the timeline that makes a certain amount of sense. Gjallarhorn played the workers like a concert grand, luring them into taking inflammatory action and then using it as a pretext to wipe them out. Neither Gaileo nor the Tekkadan boys are happy about what’s going on, though the source of that unhappiness is obviously a bit different. Gaileo and MacGillis represent a sort of Southern gentlemen motif here – they’re with the bad guys, but their good upbringing makes stuff like what the security forces are doing here seem downright unsporting.
Orga is in a pretty tough spot here. Not only does he know full well that getting in the middle of this fight could be a death sentence, but his job is to deliver Kudelia safely to Earth. It’s only when Kudelia (finally) takes a stand and decides enough is enough that Orga is willing to acquiesce to his hot-headed colleagues’ wishes and join the fray on the side of the workers. A slightly-too convenient encounter with the news crew offers the chance both to escape Dort 3 and take the fight to Gjllarhorn in space and for Kuedlia to broadcast a subversive message to the nets, and it’s game on. This also allows Gaileo to whip out his family heirloom the Gundam Kimaris to do battle with Mikazuki.
At this point it’s really the men who are standing off to the side watching – Fareed, Nobliss Gordon, McMurdo Barriston – who seem likely to determine the course of fate. Everyone else from Kudelia and the orphans on down are tools in their hands, a means to an end, but at least now we’re seeing some indications that the tools aren’t simply going to passively accept being used.