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Monday, 27 February 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E20

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 20
If This Is The End

New time fans, long time fans, Shino/Yamagi shippers, others -- I have good news. Excellent news regarding Shino's total immunity to both fire and the screaming void of space. No, I'm not in denial. You're in denial. Please leave.

In this ongoing, I talk a lot about how Iron-Blooded Orphans controls expectations, utilising established tropes in fiction not as a guideline for how its story will go, but rather as a means to leverage audience expectations to either create shock or create a sense of crushing inevitability. This was, after all, the whole basis of the Tekkadan vs JPT Trust battle -- the show leaned heavily on tropes, utilising an audience expectation that Tekkadan would be the underdogs in order to highlight (and underline, and then stab with a knife several times) a point about war, brutality, and the nature of our protagonists.

This episode functions similarly, but it doesn't do so to make a thematic point -- instead, this episode twists about the filmic language of war films and the action-adventure genre purely in service of the narrative, and it does very simply but also very cleverly.

There's something in my eye.

Picking up during the battle with Arianrhod, this episode sees the battle turn sharply in Rustal's favour when he reveals that he kept Iok's Dainsleifs, the dangerous and banned railgun weapon that Iok used against the Turbines. As the combined fleets of McGillis and Orga are devastated, an injured Shino comes up with a daring plan to use his own one-shot Dainsleif to fire at the bridge of Rustal's ship.

I'm going to talk mostly about the latter half of the episode where Shino takes the limelight, because it's the most interesting part of the episode. The story sets up very early on that Shino is effectively advocating a suicide mission with astonishingly poor chances of success -- and therein lies the trick, because the standard narrative is that if something is a suicide mission with no chance of success, the more likely it is to then actually succeed. Fiction thrives off setting up the odds and having its characters overcome them.

Water, specifically. There's water in my eye. Salt water.

The episode then proceeds to shower Shino with death flags, including a near-confession between him and his not-boyfriend Yamagi, Shino swearing that he's going to survive, and a whole 'don't you dare die or I'll kill you' thing, which is so foreboding that the only way it could have gotten more death-y is if Yamagi had then driven a dagger into Shino's face.

Except the show is getting on to fifty episodes now, and it has established one very clear thing: Since Mari Okada likes her deaths to come out of nowhere, a death flag practically improves your chances of survival -- in fact, you're more likely to die if you're death flag adjacent. Think about it: Orga gets death flags, and Biscuit dies. Kudelia gets death flags, and Fumitan dies. Takaki gets death flags, and Aston dies. Nobody gets death flags, and Lafter dies. Naze and Amida are pretty much the only characters who have gotten death flags and then followed through on them. By the established logic, Shino should have returned to find that Yamagi had had a heart attack. 

Flauros is a nice dog.

The expectation that sets up is that death is unpredictable, and so when Okada dances across the screen carrying a neon sign saying 'Shino Is Going To Die, You Guys' while a funky techno version of Chopin's funeral march plays in the background, we are immediately given to two emotions: Belief that there's some kind of twist coming, and dread that we might be wrong.

Of course, we are wrong. We're told that the plan is suicidal and doomed to failure, set up to expect Shino to die, and then he fails, and dies -- that first one largely due to Julia throwing a sword at him, which is impressive but would in any other show elevate her to most hated character, and only doesn't here because she shares a cast with Iok 'War Crimes GamerGater' Kujan and McGillis 'Actual Paedophile' Fareed -- and it leaves a very, very poor taste in our mouths.

And we're back to water eyes.

As it should. This show is about how war is bad, I would be concerned if it was fluffy bunnies all of the time.

Next week, it looks like the battle is continuing, with Mika murderising some people, McGillis and Gali-Gali facing off (and you can find me next Sunday dressed in a purple and blue cheerleading outfit, chanting 'give me a G, give me an A, give me an E' etc), and Isurugi doing some things also probably. Maybe Julia will die -- I don't think she deserves to die as richly as some of the cast do, but I do think death is in her very near future.

Also, Iok, I don't know why you thought your body could shield Rustal from a railgun strike.

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