(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.
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.
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.