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Monday, 24 October 2016

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E4

Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 4
The Trigger of Success.

It's odd to think that we're a fifth of the way through the series, because it looks like we won't actually be getting down to the meat of the plot until the next episode: Instead, these first four episodes seem to have been committed to establishing the new state of play, giving Tekkadan a disposable enemy they can combat to show how they operate now, and what kind of scale they operate at, while also establishing the rivalry between Rustall's Arianrhod fleet (and his various other supporters, including Vidar/Gali-Gali) and McGillis' faction.

(Interestingly, the next episode looks to have a heavier focus on the Earth Faction, so that'll be fun.)

In this week's episode, Tekkadan contend with Julietta and Iok to try to capture Sandoval, the leader of the Dawn Horizon Corps, first and secure victory for themselves and their faction of Gjallarhorn. In the aftermath, Hash approaches Mika with a request, and Orga pays a visit to Allium, the man who hired the Dawn Horizon Corps. As McGillis arrives at Mars, he invites Orga up to Gjallarhorn's Ares Station.

The battle in this episode was over and done with a lot quicker than I expected. I kind of assumed the whole episode, or at least the vast majority of it, would be taken up with it, and instead it ended up finished pretty rapidly, with a fast-paced, high tension game of 'who can get to Sandoval first' between Julietta in her Reginlaze and Mika in the Barbatos Lupus.

D'aww, Hash and his Saitama eyes.

(Incidentally, I get the impression that the Reginlaze is meant to be almost Gundam-like, with one character noting that Julietta and Mika are both similarly strong -- as in, possessing much physical strength -- and Julietta directly linking that to her Reginlaze.)

Most of the rest of the episode is devoted to people talking politics and/or emotions: We get Naze talking about the mining industry with some other Teiwaz bigwigs; Tekkadan talking about the mining industry; Kudelia and Atra talking about Mika and also farming and, in all likelihood, the mining industry; and McGillis talking about reforming Gjallarhorn.

(I'm not saying that Iron-Blooded Orphans is sponsored by the Miners' Union, I'm just implying it.)

I tuned most of that stuff out, but I did manage to catch the basics: Kudelia is sad that Mika's always busy, Atra still wants a polyamorous relationship, Naze thinks Orga isn't good at politics, Tekkadan owns a mine now. Also, they've found the Flauros in said mine, along with something that's like a mobile suit but, we're told, far too big to be one.

I've been asking when the Flauros will show up for a few weeks now, so I'm pretty happy to see it appear, even if it'll probably take at least several episodes for it to go from 'decrepit relic' to 'functional Gundam.'

Starring Shino and Eugene as 'those two sitcom guys.'

We also get a scene of Orga and Mika attempting to shake Allium down for money and, when he can't pay off, killing him. While there has been a -- kind off odd reaction from fanboys who seem to have not really got why this scene is meant to be disturbing, it does hammer in that the two of them (and especially Orga) are antiheroes, which is something we've known for a while. The entire scene is framed to place them squarely as the bad guys, having Orga act less like a man who is genuinely out for justice and more like a mobster capitalising on an opportunity while also sending a message to anybody who might defy him.

(Which, of course, Orga is -- he's a member of Teiwaz, after all, a mafia/yakuza hybrid group. It's not much of a surprise that he's acting like a mobster when he's been a mobster since halfway through the first series.)

It's an interesting, morally grey situation, as the show pushes up to empathise with (if, perhaps, not sympathise with) a character who has always been presented to us as double-dealing, underhanded, and murderous, while also asking us to see the show's two leads as dark, violent people whose motives are less about justice, or even revenge, and more about a predatory desire to shake a man down for cash.

Mika seen here as Orga's eyeless enforcer.

The ability to present those kinds of situations in an honest and thoughtful way has always been one of the areas where Iron-Blooded Orphans has really shone, so I quite enjoyed the scene, even if there was something deeply disturbing about it at the same time.

Incidentally, harking back to that scene between Kudelia and Atra again, we get some hint of where Mika could take his life if he didn't want to live out the rest of his days in Tekkadan, as Atra and Kudelia discuss how he's been researching different farming techniques. That, at least, gives me some hope he might survive the series.

Anyway, it looks like next episode is going to have a heavy focus on the Earth Faction, as they're inaugurated as defense contractors (or something?) for the Arbrau region. I'm sure there's no way that could go wrong, and I'm definitely sure that Gjallarhorn won't try to sabotage it in any way in an attempt to get themselves back on top. It looks like we'll also get some stuff with Mars and the Arianrhod fleet, including maybe a conversation between Julietta and Vidar?

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