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Monday, 13 March 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E22

Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans.
Series 2, Episode 22

It's another slower episode today, as the gang settles back in at Chryse and prepares for the coming storm, and that's fine, I think. After the big blowout battle a few episodes ago, including Shino's death, it's nice to have a couple of slower episodes, especially when those episodes, while slow, still have plenty going for them in terms of character development, plot build-up, and emotional stakes.

It also pretty closely matches this show's formula in general: Battle, falling action, rising action, battle. We're on 'rising action' this time.

Picking up immediately after the post-credits scene, in this episode McGillis learns that Rustal has exposed the truth of his relationship with Iznario, discrediting him and seeing him completely cut off from Gjallarhorn. With no money or resources, and only a handful of soldiers and Bael to his name, McGillis becomes the junior partner in his relationship with Tekkadan. Orga, meanwhile, struggles when Rustal brands them as criminals, freezing their accounts and ensuring nobody will give them money with which to repair their mobile suits. Facing the almost guaranteed destruction of Tekkadan, Orga betrays his own ideals to offer a deal to Rustal, only to be refused. Meanwhile, Mika reveals to Kudelia that Atra is pregnant, and asks her to help look after the child.

Okay. We'll start with Mika, Kudelia, and Atra, aka my least favourite part of this episode. I'm not a fan of the 'Atra wants to get pregnant' storyline, and I'm not a fan that it has, in fact, ended up with her being pregnant. It feels less like a genuine plot development that serves the story and more like the show throwing a bone to the slathering waifu-loving fanboys in fandom. It feels cheap, is what I'm getting at, and more like an odd spin into weird, creepy wish fulfillment fiction than anything else.

Also, here's Rustal.

Atra essentially saying to Kudelia that she'd love to be in a polyamorous relationship with her and Mika was sweet, I suppose. Mika asking Kudelia to look after the kid was also sweet. That's basically where the positive things I have to say about that subplot end, though -- although it gratifyingly only got about five minutes of screentime.

McGillis' plot gets equally little screentime, boiling down to one expository conversation with the Ares commander whose name I don't recall, and one conversation with Orga. We don't even really get to see his emotional reactions, which are key because I got the impression that the show was implying that Iznario had rather spitefully revealed that McGillis used to be a child prostitute. Instead, McGillis basically vanishes from the story, and returns at the end with a new coat.

I'm not complaining, exactly, I don't think his storyline needed much, but a split second emotional reaction would have gone a long way.

The main bulk of the episode, meanwhile, is Orga's plotline. In many ways, this episode just provides the final, killing blow to Tekkadan -- or so it seems, at least. With their equipment in tatters, and many of their members injured or dead, Rustal hits them in the only assets they still have left: Their personal reputation and bank accounts, leaving them with literally nothing. While it is still theoretically possible that Tekkadan could survive in some form, it seems unlikely that it'll be able to survive as it is now, and moreover, the idea that they'll ever be the King of Mars is now completely out of their reach.

Eugene and Orga.

In storytelling terms, this would be where Orga is at his nadir, and where he realises that what he wants isn't what he needs -- so for Iron-Blooded Orphans, what he wanted was to be King of Mars, and what he needs is just for Tekkadan to survive, which is a kind of grim twist on that particular storytelling convention. It's made all the grimmer by the fact that the moment after we get that realisation, and Orga coming out of that nadir, Rustal's army arrives to smack him straight back down into it.

Zack, after hearing that Dane is a murderer.

We also get some nice scenes with Zack, as he finally decides that he needs to leave and pleads with his friends to leave with him, even knowing that they can't and won't. Makoto Furukawa, who I've complimented before on this very blog, does an excellent job of portraying Zack's total anguish. Again, he doesn't get much screentime, but he also doesn't need it.

All in all, I did really enjoy this episode, despite a few bugbears. Next episode, it looks like Tekkadan will be trying to escape from Rustal, which is inevitably going to involve fighting his armies -- hell, we even get a nice shot of Bael attacking. It's looking likely that this final battle will stretch over three episodes, which is long for a battle in this show, but also means there's no time for things like McGillis betraying Tekkadan, or the like.

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