Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans – 25 (Season Finale)

Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -16 Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -26 Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -34

The worst-kept secret in anime is officially out, and Tekketsu no Orphans has its sequel.  As to whether it deserves one or not, I suppose that’s up to the individual viewer to decide.  What stands out more than anything for me is unfulfilled potential, because this was a Gundam incarnation with a better than average premise and an outside-the-box staff.  In the end I think the series largely bogged down under its own weight and the chemistry never seemed quite to mesh, and only one or two elements really felt fully realized.

The first thing that must be said about the finale is that it answered the question Iron-Blooded Orphans raised in the penultimate episode – that nauseating speech by Orga was being played straight, and not for irony.  Poor Merribit was not only shoved into a demeaning cry-on-cue situation, she wasn’t even given the dignity of being right – she was just being a soppy female for the purposes of the plot.  I didn’t want to believe that was the case but the events of the final episode seem to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what Okada and Nagai’s perspective on all this is.

Fundamentally, the biggest problem I have with this ending is that stupidity has no punishment – in fact, is rewarded – and that pretty much invalidates any meaning to the story as a whole.  I like happy endings as much as the next guy, but they have to be earned.  There has to be consequence of some kind, or else nothing means anything – it’s all just plot noise.  If your character had a name, you survived this finale as long as you were playing for the home team.  And all of Orga’s bad decisions were meaningless.  I would call the fact that the only senior Tekkadan leader who showed any real sense was the only one that died in the series ironic, but I just don’t think irony is in Tekketsu no Orphans‘ vocabulary.

Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -1 Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -2 Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -3

Now, the usual disclaimers apply.  The action sequences were, as ever, really good – and well-integrated into the story itself (which was not often but not always the case with Orphans).  It basically broke down to Ein vs. Mika and McGillis vs. Gaileo and while there was little mystery to either outcomes, both death matches were quite interesting existentially as well as visually.  Ein was basically the ultimate stooge on every level, a character forever being used for the convenience both of the villain and the writer, but that gave him a sort of pathos that made his long-overdue (presumed) demise rather poignant.

Also really strong was McGillis Fareed.  He was the one character and his the one plot thread in Orphans that was fully realized.  In a series full of cartoonish villains Fareed was a guy with real nuance – someone fighting for what I would argue to be worthwhile goals using unscrupulous and cruel means.  The degree to which those means were cruel and just what a stone-cold scoundrel he is were really hammered home in the finale, and that so-called duel with Gaileo was easily the most emotionally effective thing in the episode.  In the end everyone on both sides, up to and including his own father, were dancing to Fareed’s tune.  And he was the reason Orga’s tragic leadership wasn’t rewarded with more tragedy than it was.  I dare say McGillis Fareed might just rise to the title of magnificent bastard.

Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -4 Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -5 Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -6

As for Kudelia, she was an appendage to the end – someone who never had any role in driving the plot through any action she initiated.  Her only influence was symbolic – but like Orga, her ending proves things like that don’t carry any weight.  She’s rewarded for her passivity and myopia and winds up where she was hoping to be all along – in a position of influence and a symbol of change.  Well, I suppose that’s what real-life “revolutionaries” often are too – mere symbols – but that doesn’t mean they’re worthwhile protagonists for a drama.

Whatever that second season turns out to be, I certainly hope it focuses heavily on McGillis because a season of him screwing over people sounds like Tekketsu no Orphans‘ most compelling option by far – not to mention that the internal politics of Gjallarhorn are its most intriguing plotline.  The thing is, the plight of the Tekkadan is compelling and interesting too – it’s like every Gundam theme over the decades distilled down to its purest Absinthe-strength essence. But no matter how much one might feel the plight of the cast, I needed to see some semblance of reason and responsibility in the plot – and honestly, I think Tekketsu no Orphans punted that in the end.  It seems a lot to ask for that to change in a sequel, but there’s been too much worthwhile in this series over two cours not to at least give it the chance to prove itself.  Hope isn’t expectation, but it’s better than not caring.

End Card

Tekketu no Orphans - 25 -37

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

16 comments

  1. f

    It’s more like split our than a full second season. I dropped this at episode 15, but my inner mecha fanboy can’t rest like this. Do you think it worth picking up again, if just for the action?

  2. Very hard to say. It’s nice eye candy no doubt, and there are elements that work. But the things this show gets wrong really grate on my nerves.

  3. J

    I’d say no if you dropped it that long ago. McGillis really is the only shining light in this series (and this finale), and apart from him I’m struggling to think of how the series could have ended worse than it did.

    Mari Okada, why do I keep trusting you with mecha shows?

  4. I’m the exact opposite, lol. I’m thinking how the series could have been better, and while I can come up with suggestions, the list is relatively small.

    I’m struck by the difference between opinions on here and on forums (MAL, Animesuki, etc). Criticism on IBO tends to more pointed here, and folks here tend to place more importance on the Nagai/Okada factor. In forums, you do have people pointing out the show’s flaws, but the general consensus seems be that the positives outweigh any missteps they made. (If I may be so blunt, the overwhelming sentiment- which is one I sometimes share- there seems to be “THANK GOODNESS WE GOT A DECENT GUNDAM SHOW AT LAST.”.)

    Thanks for covering the show, Enzo. I may not agree with your sentiments on the show as a whole, but you’ve certainly given me plenty to chew on.

  5. J

    Haha, don’t worry about it! It is true that most on here will be looking at the series from a different perspective, although I’ve been following IBO on /m/ and the reception has been lukewarm there as well. For me it’s less of “At last, a decent Gundam show” and more “At least it’s not as bad as AGE…”

    By the way, I will be watching S2 and I was pleased with what I’d seen for most of the season, right up until the last 2/3 episodes. But for me Orphans has really ended on a sour note. Not to repeat what GE has already said, but Orga has got away with it big time (no, the injuries of Mika – which conveniently won’t affect him in Barbatos – and the many deaths of non-named characters don’t count in fiction).

    McGillis though … in particular his comforting Almiria came across as particularly callous. We’ve been left the hook for S2 from Iznario (my first guess would be that McGillis is adopted) and the fragmentation of Gjallarhorn’s influence should provide plenty of scope for the action scenes that IBO has done really well. Despite my misgivings, I’m looking forward to the second season.

  6. Thank you for your comment – it’s nice to see moderation when it comes to disagreeing viewpoints on TnO.

    I might venture that those who make that “At last!” statement about a decent Gundam show should consider taking themselves a little less seriously, because they got one in GBF (and Try). And those were Gundam shows that took a refreshingly self-aware and cheeky look at the mythology.

  7. T

    Ah, I love GBF & Try too. But I’m surprised that you’re actually able to appreciate the show considering your sentiments toward IBO. Some Gundam fans (in which elitists are among them) hate and like to bash the show for its very “Yu-Gi-Oh!” premise. It’s like they refuse to have some fun with the franchise they love once in a while.

  8. Thanks for blogging this series Enzo, I’ve found your opinions very interesting even though I haven’t always agreed with them.

    I think the biggest problem with the series is that its full of unlikeable characters who either haven’t developed much or regressed pretty badly throughout the series. When Mikazuki killed Crank Zent in the third episode I expected some serious pain to be dished out to him, but so far that hasn’t happened. Orga and Mikazuki’s relationship is really unhealthy, yet its being played as something positive in this episode.

    Overall it was a fun ride though, Nagai is talented director and I think the series benefited from him.

  9. C

    Bravo Okada, braaaavooo!!!! All those revived characters on Resurrection Sunday! It’s like poetry. So, the only one to bite the bullet was Biscuit, huh? What a hack. If I were to describe this show in one word it would be: boring. It was very, very dull and not much beyond that. A real shame, though. It had some elements I really liked, such as:

    a) Mika was no-nonsense and not a whiny, hysterical pacifist
    b) no beamspam, mechs felt very heavy, and melee was the preferred way of battle
    c) Aniki had a harem, and it was played straight, without any exaggerated anime reactions for the next 10 episodes.

    But those three things I liked cannot save this piss-poor writing. It felt like the characters, their relationships, and everything about the world they inhabit became stuck in a rut by the fifth episode, and the only thing that felt like development was their ships as they got closer to Earth.

    I cannot believe how they duped me, thinking this might actually be good after that embarrassing mess called G-reco. So who’s ready for “IBO Season 2: making Gjallarhorn great again”? I’m not.

    What a mediocre time to be a Gundam fan. And to think that they’re actually gonna air Unicorn soon, and that Thunderbolt will end with the 4th episode…

  10. M

    I enjoyed the first season, but I also couldn’t help but be annoyed that everything worked out so well for Tekkadan. I agree that it felt like they were setting it up to show the terrible consequences of Orga and Mika’s relationship and Orga’s leadership. Tekkadan’s decisions and lifestyle shouldn’t come with such easy rewards. Did anyone of note on their side die? You can’t tell the audience that they’re taking crazy risks and fighting super advanced robots (Ein) and not take any serious casualties. At least Mika took some damage.

    I’m reminded of a comment I made on an early episode post. I thought that their was no way they would play Naze’s harem straight and would eventually show how it isn’t something to be emulated. Now we’re 25 episodes in and it’s as glorified as ever. I realize there’s a season 2 where the harem and Tekkadan’s direction can be more critically addressed, but I don’t think they should get off so scot-free for as long as they have.

  11. T

    ” I thought that their was no way they would play Naze’s harem straight and would eventually show how it isn’t something to be emulated.”

    Why does the show have to portray Naze’s harem in negative light when it was the best solution for him and his women in-universe? I’m not a supporter of harem or polygamy but only because in many cases, the women consider themselves abused and treated unequally. But if Naze and his big family can make it work and they’re all happy, I will support that 100%. No need to wish or expect the worst coming out of Naze’s harem.

  12. A

    While I understand and empathize with your frustration surrounding Orga, I’m still not entirely convinced that he’s being played as straight as you suggest. Pulling back on killing off the Tekkadan/Teiwaz characters in this final episode was a mistake and certainly seems to suggest that the show doesn’t hold Orga responsible for his actions. Still, there’s something off about the way that the show treats him. The adult characters in Tekkadan’s midst throughout Episode 23 and 24 bring up several times that Orga is “wrong.” I find it particularly interesting that Merribit says that Orga’s notion of what a family is — family, one of Iron-Blooded Orphans’ main themes — is wrong. Makanai notes at one point that Tekkadan is using Biscuit’s death as a pretense for revenge when what they really want is just wanton destruction. Series that deify their protagonists don’t usually provide this much resistance without undercutting the resistance itself, and though Merribit is poorly portrayed, the show has yet to overtly overthrow the notion that Orga is somehow “wrong.” I could be deluding myself about all of this (just as Orga is!), but I still have hope that this is the beginning of Orga choosing his convictions and proceeding down a dark and tragic path.

    Still, I have to say, Orga’s speech actually excited me because of how messed up it was, how cloaked in rhetoric it was, and yet how very like Orga it was – the kind of sophistry that a child forced to become an adult has to come up with in order to make sense of the world. His charisma somehow created the monster that Mika is, Mika, whose body is now physically eroding from being used at Orga’s behest, who asks Orga how many more people he has to kill. We keep flashing back to an as-of-yet unexplained scene in which Mika shoots and kills a man in the street with Orga by his side. It would take a truly thickheaded writer not to push the potential of this unhealthy relationship, and even less to at least recognize it.

    The ending of this season sets up Orga and McGillis as these characters who are willing to kill and sacrifice even their friends and comrades for the greater good. Meanwhile, Mika faces off against Ein, sinks deeper into Barbatos and becomes even more of a machine in the way that Ein did — and, perhaps, an even stronger puppet for Orga’s ambitions, just as Ein became for McGillis. I mean, just look at that! It would take some incredible serendipity to set that all up by accident. It’s stuff like that that gives me hope that this series still has fruit to bear. Let us hope!

  13. So I was reading an translated interview with Okada and this jumped out at me (credits to Karice for the translation):

    “And Orga’s judgment starts to show some cracks after Biscuit’s death—he starts down a somewhat more dangerous path. But the director told me that he wanted the finale to have something of a happy note, and I was like “what’s to be done with that?”…. Yes. I was really wondering how I could bring them to such an ending from that point. That part gave me a lot of anxiety.”

  14. Good for her!

  15. B

    Yeah, I had a feeling the happy ending was a last-minute decision. Reading the interview confirmed it. It’s nice to at least know that Okada shared some of our scepticism- it somewhat lessens the sour taste it left in my mouth. I wonder who wanted the change- Nagai, or the specific episode director of IBO’s finale?

    That interview was a very pleasant read. Say what you want about her writing, but the lady knows how to talk. I got a chuckle out of her admission that she’d turned Kudelia into a bit of a punching bag. I like her general attitude, actually- she seems to be aware of her reputation within the fanbase and takes it in stride.

  16. It’s definitely Nagai with a change as big as this.

Leave a Comment