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Monday, 3 April 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E25

Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 25
Their Place.

Man, we're finally here, at the end of this series -- with, I think, the events of this episode pretty thoroughly sinking any notion of a direct sequel, although we could still maybe get a film about Ride, or a film or series about the Calamity War. I'd like it if we did, because this is a really interesting universe, and I think an opportunity to explore more of it would be deeply appreciated.

(Incidentally, there have been some severely outraged fanboys over this episode, and their criticisms all seem to boil down to them believing that the quality of a series is directly proportional to how much the protagonists 'won.' Which is weird, kind of reductive, and really childish, but does, at least, explain why those same fanboys keep trying to convince me that Sword Art Online is a good series.)

Picking up immediately after the end of the last episode, this episode sees Mika, Akihiro, Eugene, Ride, Dante, and several others fending off Rustal's armies in a last ditch attack. As the rest of Tekkadan finish escaping through the tunnels, Mika and Akihiro send the others away, leaving just the two of them and their Gundams to buy them time.

Man, if it weren't for his crown, Barbatos would be barely recognisable.

So, I'll start off with the biggest problem with this episode, and one of really only a few problems with it, which is that it seems like there was a missing Gaelio scene somewhere. We don't see him at all in this episode until one scene late in the epilogue, where his neck is bandaged and he's in a wheelchair -- I'm guessing that the effects of overusing Ein and the AV System caught up with him and paralysed him from the waist down, but it's never really made clear.

(Although the epilogue does also basically confirm that Gaelio and Julieta are dating now, which is nice. It's what Ein would want -- in his more lucid moments, at least.)

A lot of the episode is taken up with Mika and Akihiro fending off Rustal's endless supplies of soldiers, and it works great, both as an extended action sequence and as an emotional sequence that conveys to the audience Tekkadan's desperation and the ultimately suicidal nature of Mika and Akihiro's last stand. The show doesn't try to hide that it's suicidal -- I mean, it was obvious from the start, but if anybody missed all that foreshadowing, then I'd hope that seeing bloodied, half-wild Mika and Akihiro flinging their irreparably damaged Gundams at people, taking as much damage as they give out, would clue them in.

(This battle also gives us Iok being crushed to death, which I'm sure was cathartic for a lot of people.)

Just a really nice shot.

We get a timeskip, showing the aftermath of the war: Mars has gained independence; Gjallarhorn has become a democratic organisation -- with Rustal leading it for now, but Julieta likely the next leader; Tekkadan have taken new jobs in Admoss Company; and Kudelia is leading Mars, and with Rustal's help is signing into law measures against child exploitation. For some reason, a lot of fans seem to view this as the bleakest possible ending, despite Gjallarhorn being reformed, a hopeful end to the exploitation that made Tekkadan possible, and with most of Tekkadan alive and happy.

A lot of that fan reaction seems to be down to Rustal surviving, because fandom has collectively decided to imagine him as a cackling, megalomaniacal evil sorcerer, and not a deeply flawed but ultimately pragmatic, Machiavellian, and even -- when it suits him -- compassionate person whose ideals just put him at odds with McGillis and Tekkadan. Rustal's not a good person by any stretch of the imagination, but then, neither were Tekkadan, and McGillis definitely wasn't.

All in all, I think this is a good ending, and it's one that very much fits the tone, story, and characters we were given, while still having a hopeful note: We were set up for a tragic ending in basically the first scene of the second series, and since then the show has built on that, making it entirely clear that Mika, and probably Tekkadan as an organisation, weren't going to achieve their goals or get out of this intact. The show followed through on that admirably, where many writers wouldn't have -- not least because, as we've seen, there are large chunks of an audience that will condemn your story to hell if you deviate from what they see as an absolute formula for all fiction. 

The sticking point for a lot of people is Rustal's survival and his decision to reform Gjallarhorn, but Rustal's always been basically the living incarnation of Machiavellian ideals, and it makes sense for him to look at a system which has only caused trouble and cannot possibly continue (since the Issue, Kujan, and Fareed lines have all died).

I sense trouble in Ride's future. Also, his past, probably.

The biggest problem with the ending itself, for me, is Kudelia -- as audiences, I think we all spent a while thinking she'd have a bigger role than she ultimately did, so at the end of it all, she came across almost like a plot device, an idealistic character who the writers could shuffle into the role of Mars' leader. Seeing Kudelia wield her political power more across the series would have made that part of the ending make a lot more sense, I think.

Still, I thought this was a pretty brilliant ending to a show that has been the highlight of my week for the past however-long-it's-been-on. As I said before, I do hope to see something else set in the same universe (but not, I think, an actual sequel), but for the moment, it looks like Sunrise probably has their hands full with Twilight Axis and Thunderbolt.

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