Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans – 24

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(Author’s Note: I’m traveling for the next few days, so post length and timing will be outside normal range.  Thanks for your patience.)

I can’t be the only one who wanted to puke during that inspirational speech, can I?

It depends on how you look at it, I suppose, but I think it could be argued that the most damning feeling you can have about a piece of fiction is indifference.  There have been anime I’ve genuinely hated over the years (though I dropped almost all of them long before they finished), and countless ones about which I felt nothing at all and dropped immediately.  I think on some level it’s kind of a compliment to say you hate a show, because at least it made you feel something.  And it’s harder to do that in my case than leave me completely cold.

I’ve never hated Tekketsu no Orphans over its 24 episodes, but there have been times – only a few – when I’ve felt completely indifferent about it.  I don’t know if I hated this episode, but I can say for sure it made me very, very angry.  And looking back, I would rather have that than what I had after the completely “meh” episodes.  I was engaged from start to finish this week, but also enraged.  The tricky part comes in here, though:  I don’t know whether I was enraged with Tekketsu no Orphans or at it.

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This is a syndrome I’ve seen at times with anime.  Something incredibly stupid plays out, but you’re not quite sure what the show wants you to think about it.  I think it’s a given that any Gundam series takes the view that war sucks, and that child soldiers are always pawns ground up in its gears – Iron-Blooded Orphans is certainly no exception.  But when Orga was giving that preposterous speech about how it was OK for little boys to commit suicide at his urging, and then Takaki piped in to parrot the thought while Merribit wept in protest – what exactly was I supposed to think as I was throwing up in my mouth a little?  Even now, writing about the episode, I’m not quite sure.

I know what I was thinking – “This is fucking stupid.” I was (and am) pissed off – at Orga, for being in the end such a useless leader.  At the series itself for being one of the most spectacularly sexist shows I’ve seen in years.  At Kudelia, for being utterly useless for almost the entirety of 24 episodes and being the cause of most of the tragedy we’re seeing now.  “Why don’t you get in one of those goddam mobile workers yourself and put it on the line?” is another thought that crossed my mind, believe me.

Here’s the bottom line for me.  These kids’ lives aren’t disposable.  Their dying isn’t OK if it “makes Tekkadan bigger”, whatever the hell that means.  I don’t care if there’s no place to return to – what Orga should be trying to do is find a place that they can worry about returning too later.  Are we truly supposed to accept that this fool’s quest in support of one aged hack politician over another aged hack politician is the cause Orga should be staking spending children’s lives on?  That this half-bright Joan of Arc wannabe with delusions of grandeur is worth all those young lives being snuffed out?  F-that.

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But then…  Am I giving Tekketsu no Orphans too little credit?  Is it possible Okada and Nagai are on the same page as I am?  I don’t think so, to be honest – I think it was a lump and not bile that was supposed to come to my throat during that speech.  But in the end, feeling is feeling – and there’s no denying this ep made me feel.  When Ride made his comment about having a contest once Orga gave him the OK to die in battle, it just brought home how tragic all of this is.  And the battle itself was certainly nauseating in a good way (though skipping three days of it was a bit vexing, after all that buildup) – the ugliness of war in distilled form, on both sides.  Seeing children die and the monstrosity Ein has become – ugh.

It all boils down to the finale then, as it so often does – though it seems we’re almost certain to get a sequel down the line.  How Tekketsu no Orphans handles the conclusion of this battle and its aftermath is going to say everything about whether, in the end, it’s earned any respect.  And as is so often the case, Fareed is in the most interesting position to influence events – in ripping off his Char mask he’s symbolically showed the world (and Gaileo) his true colors at last.  Once he plays his trump card, the game is effectively over and it’ll be time to tally up the points.




  1. Deleted

  2. Thanks a lot for spoiling the episode.

  3. Fareed Mcgillis is pretty much going to be the only victor here.

    I kind of liked Merribit at the start, but right now she’s really regressed to the point all she does is cry(the Kudelia syndrome?). We’ll just have to wait for the finale, this series has been a crazy roller coaster ride ever since Biscuit died.

  4. I think this is the first time we’ve seen Merribit actually cry. Considering the situation, I think it’s kind of justified.

  5. It isn’t, she cried the previous episode too when the kids ignored her. The biggest problem with her right now is that she isn’t even making the arguments that Biscuit did, she’s not encouraging Orga to turn back. She has a convincing argument, but she chooses not to talk. Why?

  6. Yeah, but you know – how much can you hate on the only character who’s actually calling bullshit here?

  7. A

    I don’t think Orga trying to find a new place for them would be a much better choice considering their current situation or if he changed stance after Biscuit’s death. Too many enemies and too little allies on Earth. Fareed more than likely wouldn’t offer any assistance as he probably needs these sacrificial pawns to push forward and not turn away. Teiwaz being only a regular company in the Earth sphere, it’s unsure if they could even offer Tekkadan a way to escape the Earth sphere.

    What should be noted though, is what let the notion of child soldiers and workers to be an acceptable thing. Gjallahorn and various governments let this occur. Loss of morality in the Earth sphere and prejudice to people not born on Earth have let corruption fester in governing bodies. That is what I felt was also quite sickening.

    In the grand scheme of things for the setting that’s been built, Kudelia is necessary for a pawn to create a change in this society. If nothing is done, stories similar to the ones of the boys in Tekkadan would just repeat. To be honest, would we still be disgusted if adults were fighting instead of children? I doubt we would, even though we should. IBO feels similar to Gundam 00 with how the grand scheme of societal change is the real end goal. This will either be confirmed or denied with how/if the second season goes.

  8. Man, I miss Eugene. Everything’s awesome when he’s around. When he showed up and the triumphant music started, I seriously thought he SOMEHOW found a way to not only stop the horrible mass suicide, but also beat the shit out of Orga for being a godawful leader and either make him listen to reason or take over his place. I guess this show just wasn’t meant to be Space Pirates of the Caribbean…

  9. C

    This is not sexism, hardly any anime out there is sexist… Just poorly-written. Anyone see Zankyou no Terror? That had, hands down, the most useless female lead I have ever seen in my life, but I would not call it sexist. Why? Because its writers were so god-awfully incompetent at telling anything coherent, meaningful or even remotely plausible in that show that it’s only natural they mishandled its main female character. Victory Gundam is sexist. This gundam? This is just crap.

    As to how this episode made me feel? Well, immediately I watched it on 1.5x speed. I was so bored with it I just wanted it to end already and go do something productive with my life. And this is supposed to be THE EMOTIONAL CLIMACTIC TURNING-POINT! Please end this farce already.

  10. I’m not sure I’ve seen a statement this week I disagree more strongly with than “Hardly any anime out there is sexist”, LOL.

    Sexism goes both ways, of course – and anime is well-represented across the spectrum.

  11. Am curious which aspects of the series you find sexist. It’s not as overt as Grimgar that’s for sure.

  12. You know, when people hear “sexist” it seems like they often go straight to fanservice – and objectification via fanservice is certainly a form of sexism in anime. But there are other kinds, and I think the kind we see in Orphans is in a way more insidious and damaging. I mean, look at the roles women play in Tekkadan – they cook, they do the laundry, they cry – while the “men” fight. Their main ally is a dude with a self-described harem, and while his “wives” do fight, they do it in Hooters outfits and paint their toenails in suggestive poses.

    It’s fitting that you mention Grimgar, because I think that’s a series that combines the above types of sexism in a particularly vile way. But I find Orphans to be extremely sexist in its own right.

  13. Thanks for the lengthy reply, I see what you mean even though I think it applies to most anime out there. Unfortunate that even women writers have to succumb to such tropes.

  14. I don’t think they have to most of the time – especially a writer of Okada’s stature. She chooses to.

  15. g

    And not only that, the whole scene, where Merebit cried and telling how wrong it is, was so patronising.
    I really don’t know if the show is self-aware or not and what they want us to think about the whole Orga’s speech. Do they really want us to think it’s a Greek tragedy and Merebit is right but nothing can be done or should arouse in us a will to fight along the rest of Tekkandan “Yeah! that’s right. Go get them, boys!” ? Because I’ve felt even small kids basically talked down to Merebit and the whole “explanation”, why it’s right thing to do, sounded “typical hysterics of wymynz, am I righto, boyz?”

  16. K

    “It’s fitting that you mention Grimgar, because I think that’s a series that combines the above types of sexism in a particularly vile way.”

    Not sure I understand this. Sure the two main girls are sexualized (to an annoying degree sometimes), but not how its “vile”. The boys cry along with girls, their main cook is a guy, they all do laundry, their newest female party member is the most reliable person on the team. Not how it fits the vile category of sexism.

  17. C

    Let’s take a look at all the women in IBO and what they do:

    Kudelia: amateur politician, interplanetary ambassador, revolutionary
    Atra: chore girl, cook
    Merribit: Teiwaz’s liaison, overseer
    Fumitan: communications officer, double agent, maid
    Carta: military commander
    The Turbine girls: mafia mobile-suit pilots
    Henri Fleurs: politician, aspiring Prime Minister
    Biscuit’s grandma: farmer
    Cookie and Craker: farmhands

    And you’re saying that there’s some unspeakable sexism with the show because two characters are occasionally shown doing housework on a ship filled with smelly child soldiers? At least in Atra’s case she CHOSE to do it, she could have just stayed behind on Mars working in that grocery store. But no, she made a decision and she’s walking that path the best she can. She’s also like what, 10 years old? You can’t expect her to do that much, but even so, she had freedom of choice and what is more liberalizing than that? Where is the sexism in that? Tell me.

  18. G

    I wanted to insult you but I managed to restrain myself. Look, I’ve come to love this series. It’s on a real streak right now. But as with most (if not all) Gundam series, it’s sexist as fuck. Your attempts to pretend otherwise reveal a massive denial or a severe lack of critical skills. You tried to to list their jobs as if that proves anything. A series can have a cast full of women doing traditionally male jobs and still be disgustingly sexist in its presentation and overall portrayal of gender. Enzo already pointed out the sexualization of Lafter (a character that I like and was really saddened by her apparent death) but it’s more than just individual scenes. It’s the whole atmosphere. It smells. It smacks of gender as that twitter guy used to say.

  19. C

    You keep repeating that it’s sexist but provide no examples whatsoever outside of Lafter. So, she’s sexualized? And how many times have the Tekkadan boys been shown sweaty and shirtless inside their mechs? Are you going to complain about that too it does it not fit your “everything is sexist” narrative?

  20. I’d been debating on posting this, but what the heck.

    I think the speech was intended to disgust us, but also show that these boys (including Orga):
    1) are young,
    2)are on an emotional high at the moment,
    3) are somewhat lacking in the self-worth department.

    It’s blind trust they have in each other- born from the time they spent resisting the older workers at CGS as a group. It’s not healthy- but the boys see nothing wrong with it; for them age isn’t an issue when it comes to each other. They’d happily die for each other if the situation called for it- good or bad, that’s what their environment has shaped them into. I personally see little to no glorification in the portrayal, and I don’t think the the intent was to make us go, “Wow, how admirable!”. It’s just how it is for them, and thus far the series has refrained from passing a clear judgement on the boys. Your review made it clear that it’s that it’s that lack of clarity which was infuriating you during the episode.

    Biscuit was the most thoughtful and restrained out of the whole lot of them because he was closest to having a normal family. Tekkadan now is like a bunch of partially-trained hounds who’ve lost their tamer- Orga is the bark (and provides strategic bite), and Mika is the physical bite.

    Speaking of Orga, I don’t think he has much of a choice- whether they get Kudelia and Makanai to Edmonton or, they’re going to get run over by Gjallarhorn at some point. Their fates are sealed- they lost their first chance the moment they thought it funny to send Todo to McGillis in episode 5/6, and their second and last when Makanai pointed out that the only reason Gjallarhorn hadn’t attacked them when they landed in Oceania was because they were under the Federation’s protection. Orga and Biscuit’s argument only made that clearer- even that was rendered null and void when Carta disregarded regulations and went after them. It’s a problem, but it’s had some of its seeds planted pretty early in the series.

    I’m stll puzzling over the the sexism claims, but your answer above has given me something to think about. Though it seemed to me that their ignoring Merribit more to do with her being a grown-up and an outsider than her being being female specifically. They wouldn’t have listened to the old mechanic either, but he knows them well enough that he’s keeping his mouth shut. Heck, I doubt even Naze could’ve calmed them down after Biscuit’s death.

  21. G

    @Chrysostomus: Your arguments are ridiculous and you are both infuriating and predictable , but I will try to be more specific. First of all, there is no male equivalent to scenes like this or to Lafter’s erotic painting of her nails. The boys being ripped and the scenes focusing on their muscle training are meant to highlight their strength as warriors, not to provoke any titillation from the viewer. The same cannot be said for the scenes of the girls I mentioned. Of course you are now thinking typical dishonest bullshit like ”who are you to say what titillates and what doesn’t while ignoring the obvious differences between focusing gratuitously on a pantsu ass-shot and having soldiers working on their abs or fighting naked.

    But I should add one further point. Let’s compare two of the main characters, Mikazuki and Kudelia. Mika is stoic, strong, a cold-blooded killer, yet also wise and decisive. Him being terrifying does not negate the fact that he provokes a sense of awe and respect to the viewer. Intentionally so. On the other hand Kudelia is naive, breaks down in tears and is half useless/half plot device. Now you may say that those descriptions by themselves do not mean much. They are characters with vastly different backgrounds after all. Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that these characteristics are not only specifically gendered in popular culture but -and this is the most important fact- colored by the very specific portrayal of their essences and the different affectations that each character is meant to evoke to the viewer. Again, Mika may be a killer but he offers excitement and violence. We are meant to (at the very least grudgingly) respect these gendered aspects of his character. Kudelia on the other hand is weak and pampered in a specifically gendered sense, her attempts at grandstanding mostly impotent and in constant need of protection. When Mika kissed her, he did it in a very aloof/ ”might as well” way that can be perceived as badass. Kudelia’s awkward fumbling while blushing later on is meant to be cute, sure, but it’s clear who’s the boss in this relationship.

    She is far below Mika on the ”’respect” totem pole and while that by itself would be fine, the fact that they both embody gendered characteristics creates the specific smell that I mentioned in my previous post.

  22. C

    “The boys being ripped and the scenes focusing on their muscle training are meant to highlight their strength as warriors, not to provoke any titillation from the viewer.”

    “Mika is stoic […], yet also wise….”

    “Lafter’s erotic painting of her nails.” (painting toenails is erotic?)

    Okay, you have been officially outed as a troll and I’m not gonna take that bait.

  23. G

    You fucking disaster of a human being, keep lying to yourself

  24. Take it outside, both of you. That’s as far as this is going before I start deleting comments.

  25. G

    @Kamen Rider Kekkaishi: Oh it’s fucking vile. I only saw scenes from the first episode of this putrid piece of trash but it was enough to be thoroughly disgusted. It wasn’t just the sheer volume of the fanservice, but how it manifests in the context of the series world. The whole medieval/organic feeling + well animated tits&ass was an especially vile concoction, a fucking poison that if imbibed uncritically would rot one’s brain and warp one’s sense of what’s good in this world. This is the face of death. Lean to recognize it when you see it.

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