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Monday, 23 January 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E15

Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 15
Lit by a Blazing Sun.

So, I've been thinking for a while about how this series of Iron-Blooded Orphans is shaping into a very well put-together tragedy: You've got your characters with tragic flaws (Orga and his desire to achieve his goals as quickly as possible, Mika and his lack of regard for his own self), which are actually treated as flaws, and the audience is made aware very early on that this will end badly for at least some of Tekkadan. We're shown multiple places where Orga and Mika could turn away from this inevitably tragic path, and each time we see that while they could have stopped, their tragic flaws won't let them.

This episode -- and the last, too, since it's an arc -- could be described as its own mini-tragedy, though, and while it's a different sort to Orga and Mika's (Naze and Amida aren't falling victim to their own tragic flaws, they're falling victim to Orga's), it's no less effective. As with the overarching tragedy, however, it's made very obvious, very early on how this will turn out, and while we're presented with ways that the outcome could be changed (such as Tekkadan interfering), we always know in the back of our minds that that's not going to happen.

The story still manages to pack a few surprises, though, most notably with Iok's character. We'll get to those.

In this week's episode, Naze has McMurdo disown him, and asks him to make sure the women of the Turbines can find work, before he and Amida head out to face Iok's fleet. When they surrender, however, Iok reveals his true colours, attacking them with the same illegal Dainsleif weapons that they've been accused of smuggling, and firing on the fleeing Turbines as well. As Akihiro, Shino, and Ride arrive to help evacuate the Turbines, Naze and Amida decide to go out in one last blaze of glory, buying time for their fellow Turbines.

Julieta, just punch him, nobody would blame you.

This episode wouldn't have worked half as well if we hadn't had the exploration of Naze and Amida's relationship last episode, with the clarification of just what the dynamic of the Turbines is, and the insight into how the two of them fell in love. Last episode also gave us the line that becomes this episode's title, with Amida being the sun and Naze being the one lit by her.

While I don't think anyone was surprised by what happened to Naze and Amida, it was heartbreaking nevertheless -- possibly even two of the most heartbreaking deaths of the series, both because of how pointless and cruel it feels from an in-universe perspective, and because it deprives both Tekkadan and the Turbines of the most solid and dependable adults in their lives. Arguably, the fact that Naze and Amida were so good and dependable marked them for death very early on.

Of course, the other big status quo change this episode gave to us was the reveal about Iok's personality. The show did a pretty excellent job of misleading us there, deliberately and meticulously drawing parallels between him and Carta, who was if nothing else unflinchingly and unfailingly honourable. The show sets us up to see Iok the same way, somebody who is unsuited to the story but who is, at least, well-meaning and honorable -- and it does so without ever showing him do a single honourable thing, because it relies on allusions to a character we already knew was honourable to act as a substitute.

Ah, the bloodied forehead of death.

Thus, it came as a genuine surprise to me when Iok revealed that he was more than happy to fire on surrendering and fleeing civilians (with illegal weapons, no less). As the episode wore on and Iok revealed more and more of how much of a terrible person he was, racking up sins from 'war crimes' to 'cowardice' to 'insulting Julieta,' it was like watching him revealed to be everything wrong with Gjallarhorn, like a living example of why McGillis would want to tear it all down.

Something tells me Rustal isn't going to be happy with Iok implicating Gjallarhorn in the use of banned weapons to fire upon fleeing enemies, and there are a lot of witnesses, who will probably end up with Teiwaz and McGillis throwing their social weight behind making sure they get heard. Given that Rustal's position within the Seven Stars is clearly very important to him, he surely won't be especially amused by this turn.

Kudelia, who is politically powerful and well-connected, will definitely be out
for blood.

We did also get to see Julieta's new mech, the Julia, and it's -- fine, I guess? A bit underwhelming for what we were built up to, but fine nevertheless. It's effectively a custom Reginlaze, and honestly I was hoping for something with a bit more pizazz.

Next week, we have Naze's funeral, and hopefully Jasley will get what's coming to him. If Iok's still alive -- it was a bit ambiguous -- hopefully he'll also get what's coming to him. Unforeseen consequences for all, is what I say.

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