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Monday, 3 October 2016

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E1

Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans.
Series 2, Episode 1:
New Blood.

The first series of Iron-Blooded Orphans was probably my biggest surprise of the season, a series that started off boring me almost to tears, before quickly picking up its pacing and becoming something genuinely fun and interesting to watch, with some interesting themes on warfare and child soldiers, and some pretty solid mecha battles. So, I was pretty excited to see there'd be a second series -- while one maybe wasn't necessary, the first series was certainly left open enough for one to exist.

Also, the first episode of this series has given us Hash Midi, who is the best character in the whole show. I'm sorry, I didn't decide that, it was simply the will of the masses.

Picking up some months after the end of the first series, the first episode of series two of Iron-Blooded Orphans introduces us to a changed world: Gjallarhorn has declined in its role as an interplanetary peacekeeping organisation, which combined with Tekkadan's high profile success has led to more and more mercenary companies utilising child soldiers. Tekkadan, meanwhile, has risen to prominence as military advisor to Arbrau and shipping rights for lucrative half-metal, with Kudelia as one of their main benefactors.

After snubbing a business rival, Kudelia finds herself under attack by a pirate group called the Terra Liberianis, armed with mobile suits. As Tekkadan engages them in battle, Mika rushes to join the fray with his upgraded Gundam, Barbatos Lupus. Meanwhile, in Gjallarhorn, McGillis has ascended to become head of the Fareed family, and begs the other members of the Seven Stars to let him restore law and order on Mars, prompting suspicion from his peers.

Much villainy, such evil, wow.

One thing that kind of stood out about this episode is that there's really very little fighting in it. We get a battle scene towards the end, predominantly between mobile workers and mobile suits, and mostly focusing on Hash and his fellow newbies (some of which are definitely going to die before long, but I'm hoping Hash gets his own Gundam), but the episode ends just after Mika arrives in the Barbatos Lupus, leaving what is arguably the main spectacle of the battle for the next episode.

That's actually fine, because it means that the episode has more of a chance to focus on both the politics of the world and how they've changed, and also on Tekkadan's changed status -- much is made of how Tekkadan has gone from being underdogs to prestigious overdogs, with their own reserves/training corp, headquarters, and admin staff. Orga, we're shown, now basically works a desk job, and there's the definite implication that it's been a while since they've been in a proper battle.

Gjallarhorn, meanwhile, have become the underdogs, and given what we know of Gjallarhorn -- that they started off as essentially not that different from Tekkadan, including their usage of the Alaya-Vijnana System, before growing into a major intergalactic power -- that makes for a pretty interesting dynamic, as they're now having to contend with essentially being usurped by a group that may one day go the same way as them.

Hash for Best Character.

We also get to see the other Seven Stars, most of whom probably aren't important: Rustal Elian, leader of Gjallarhorn's largest fleet, is set up to be McGillis' rival, with another Star, Iok, being his lieutenant/sidekick/whatevs. I fully expect the rest of them to completely fade into the background before very long.

We also get to see Kudelia very briefly, and while I've seen some people praising how she's become more 'confident,' it actually seems more like she's had some negative character development -- in the sense of 'development that makes her worse as a person' not 'bad development.' She's a lot less idealistic now, and even a little bit cynical, which makes a certain amount of sense, given that she got to witness first hand Ein's axe-crazy attempts to murder her, had to deal with Fumitan dying (and we're given a rather pointed shot of a painting of Joan of Arc in her office, which was obviously a recurring motif during Fumitan's arc), and given that she could very easily be somewhat disillusioned by the government she's installed in Arbrau.

A somewhat redesigned Barbatos.

It's an interesting direction to take the character, but I have a suspicion that we'll see her go through some kind of character arc that shifts her back to being more idealistic again, making her a bit more of a counterpoint to Orga and McGillis.

This was a pretty strong opener to the series, and I'm interested to see where they head from here. I'm fully expecting to see something of a fall from grace for Tekkadan, if only because it's a little difficult to write an overdog story and make it interesting, but we'll see. Maybe instead of them losing influence, Gjallarhorn will just pull out an ace in the hole -- they do have at least seven Gundams, one supposes, after all.

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