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Monday, 6 February 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E17

Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 17

With only about seven or eight episodes left, a lot of people have been asking whether this show could feasibly return for a third series, to which my answer is 'Maybe, but probably not with Mika. Or Akihiro. Or probably Orga, Kudelia, McGillis, or Gali-Gali.' 

My reasoning for this is simple: The plot itself and the universe it inhabits could go down a great many interesting roads after the events this series is leading up to, but it feels like the characters can only last for the duration of this storyline. Mika and Akihiro are both undergoing parallel storylines about losing their humanity -- more on that story later -- while Orga and Kudelia are too closely tied to Mika to really work in a story without him, and McGillis and Gali-Gali are both very much tied up in this arc about overthrowing Gjallarhorn.

Iron-Blooded Orphans has the structure of a Shakespearian tragedy right now, and as such feels very much like its winding its way towards the stock Shakespearian tragedy ending -- the hope of a future, maybe even a better future, but one which a lot of the cast aren't around to see.

Why does everyone insist on shutting only one eye in this show.

In this week's episode, Tekkadan enters battle with Jasley Donomikols and the JPT, and seems to almost effortlessly curbstomp them. As Jasley throws out more and more soldiers and Tekkadan cleaves through them, it becomes clear that the help Jasley was promised by Iok Kujan is never coming. Meanwhile, on Earth, McGillis puts his plan in motion to overthrow and remake Gjallarhorn, publicising Gjallarhorn's various wrongdoings for the entire system to see. As the stage is set for the final battle, Tekkadan cuts ties with Kudelia and Teiwaz both and heads towards Earth.

This week's episode is interesting because it takes a concept that by all rights should not work and spins out an interesting plot from it. 'The heroes get involved in a battle in which they severely outmatch their opponents, and their victory is never really in doubt, and at one point it looks like the villains are going to get back-up to change the tide of the fight, but they never do,' is an elevator pitch from hell, guaranteed to make anyone listening pause and ask if you'd maybe want to change that idea to one that has stakes, tension, or even the most meager possibility of our heroes failing.

Instead, however, the episode shifts focus away from the stakes of the battle and onto what it says about our heroes -- the idea that Tekkadan are both extraordinarily ruthless and extremely brutal comes up a lot in this show, and it's hammered in pretty effectively here, as they tear through an army of JPT mechs until, eventually, Jasley begs for his life, only for Mika to appear and crush the bridge of his ship. It's more of what we've seen before, but since the last time we had an all-out Tekkadan-are-monsters battle was the first series, we were overdue one.

McGillis being smug.

It also gives us a chance to see the repaired Barbatos, now the Barbatos Lupus Rex, in battle. It's got claws now, and a little third arm, and a tail -- and the tail is key, because afterwards, when Orga finds Mika connected up to Barbatos (another notch in the 'Mika is losing his humanity' table, as Mika is now literally tethered to an instrument of war more often than he isn't), Mika remarks that it felt so natural that he forgot he didn't always have a tail.

Mika's dehumanisation has been a recurring theme this series, as he has been forced to give up the farm (his only potential life after the war is done), and has accumulated injuries to the point where he can only really function when connected to the Barbatos (especially as nobody seems inclined to offer him, say, a wheelchair). The idea that Mika is forgetting that he didn't always have a tail -- a tail that came from a massive pterodactyl monster, no less -- is a clear metaphor for him drifting farther and farther away from his humanity.

This episode also sees Mika functionally cut off ties with Kudelia, which is another notch in the table.

Gali, why are you just randomly in the Vidar.

What this episode also makes clear, though, is that Akihiro is undergoing a similar character arc. Over the course of the show, he's lost both his brothers and Lafter, and we see the result in this battle -- Akihiro deciding that he won't be decent, because being decent leads to losing people. It's a development that's more subtle than Mika's, but nonetheless parallels it, as they both lose their humanity in drastically different ways.

This episode also sees McGillis start his revolution, broadcasting details of Gjallarhorn's various wrongdoings and sending his little gang of loyalists into action. We still don't know exactly what drives him yet, but we'll apparently be finding out next week, along with getting a battle between the Barbatos and the Vidar in the underwater vault where the Seven Stars Gundams -- including the long-teased Bael -- are kept.

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