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Monday, 20 February 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E19

Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 19
The Man Who Obtained A Soul

When this episode title showed up on television listings, it was actually really confusing. I thought, initially, that it was referring to Mika -- and it sort of is, for reasons we'll talk about in a bit, but moreso it refers to McGillis, who has now obtained Agnika Kaieru's soul (or the physical representation of it, at least). The implication here (and it's an implication that I'm not sure really applies to the episode's title as it regards Mika) is that McGillis was soulless before, that his experiences had functionally hollowed him out. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with that.

In this week's episode, with McGillis now wielding the ultimate symbol of leadership in Gjallarhorn, he calls upon the Baklazan, Falk, and Bauduin families to submit to his rule. When Baklazan and Falk declare that they'll be staying neutral, and Bauduin refuses outright, however, McGillis must approach Tekkadan with bad news: Deprived of the armies of those families, they will be forced to fight Rustal Elion's Arianrhod fleet while outnumbered two-to-one. Meanwhile, on Rustal's flagship, the Gundam Vidar has its disguise removed, to return it to being the Gundam Kimaris.

With a short Gundam duel last episode and a big blowout battle coming next episode, this episode falls squarely into the 'pre-battle prep/breather' category, and as a result is a fairly slow one, mostly involving people standing around and talking about what's going on. Which is fine, not least because we actually get some really interesting conversations out of it.

Also, several shots of Gaelio's face.

One conversation that a lot of people have been talking about is the conversation between McGillis and Orga (with Isurugi and Mika standing around watching) where McGillis slips up and implies that Tekkadan is expendable, and gets punched in the face for his troubles. In this case, it's not so much the dialogue that makes the scene, but the animation -- we get a moment where McGillis' mask briefly drops, and we also get the force of the punch in zero gravity pushing McGillis down and Orga up, so that Orga floats intimidatingly over McGillis as he delivers his speech about Tekkadan being family.

We also get a scene with McGillis and Almiria, and regrettably, I've had to endure the fan reaction to that, as various fanboys go 'wow, maybe we misjudged him, he really does love her' as if that's the issue here and not the fact that McGillis, a man in his twenties at least, is seemingly romantically interested in a pre-teen girl. McGillis' interest in Almiria is clearly both a result of the horrible things Iznario did, and intended to be deeply creepy -- but so much of the audience appears not to have picked up on that. I'm choosing to believe that's not because they're all creeps, and instead just can't reconcile 'McGillis is a paedophile's victim' with 'McGillis might be a paedophile, possibly because of the abuses Iznario visited upon him.'

Floating Judgement Orga.

In moving-the-plot-along news, Baklazan and Falk's refusal to back McGillis works well for shoving Tekkadan into the limelight again, but also exposes one of McGillis' key weak points -- despite his being a chessmaster with a good understanding of both politics and how people's minds work, he really can't fathom the idea that other people in Gjallarhorn wouldn't deify Agnika Kaieru the way he does. Which makes perfect sense for him: Apart from Agnika Kaieru's place in Gjallarhorn legend and law, he's also McGillis' inspiration, and the figure that allowed him to survive Iznario. For McGillis, Agnika represents the pinnacle of humanity, and it follows that the idea that other people wouldn't kowtow to him (or Bael, as the case may be, but McGillis clearly sees no difference) is alien to him.

There's actually a lot of different scenes I could cover in this review -- Gali-Gali's talk with Julieta, Rustal's chat with Iok, the stuff about how Tekkadan never really pushes back against Orga or thinks for themselves -- but I'll end it by talking about the scene with Mika and Atra instead. It's a scene which really surprised me, because so far Mika's story has been about his humanity and his ability to exist without war being sucked away, bit by bit -- but here we get a moment of genuine, earnest affection, and deeply human interaction, between him and Atra. A lot of people are saying this means Mika and Atra are confirmed as a couple, but honestly, it's pretty up in the air as to whether it's a romantic or sexual moment.

You just look so much like Jonathan Frakes, I just keep thinking 'why am I watching Star Trek?'

It is, however, a very meaningful moment, and it's why the title references Mika as well as McGillis: Atra, this scene tells us, is Mika's anchor to a world without war. In a story about how war tears you down and makes you soulless, Atra is Mika's soul. Which is nice.

Next week, we've got a big battle starting, as Tekkadan faces Arianrhod. This will be the first time all three of the big Arianrhod mecha pilots - Julieta, Gali-Gali, and Iok -- are out in the field, I think. I don't think Iok will survive past the next episode, and if he does, he'll probably die in the one after that. At this point, he's kind of surplus to requirements as far as the plot goes.

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