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Annotated Anime: Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans episode 3

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When Iron Flowers Bloom

Back when first wrote about Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, I noted that the show's more morally ambiguous, grittier approach seemed to set it apart from its peers in mainline Gundam fiction.

As of the latest episode, that sentiment continues to hold true.

Now, don't get me wrong: Gundam fiction is no stranger to dark plots or gray morality. I didn't forget that Gundam shows have traditionally been war stories. Plus, it was in the early UC Gundam series where Yoshiyuki Tomino earned his reputation for killing off most of the cast. And yet, despite having many superficial similarities to Gundam shows past, Iron-Blooded Orphans' particular brand of grit seems rooted in a subtlely different set of grievances than before, exemplified by the attitude and interactions of Mikazuki and Orga.

But before we break that down a bit more, a quick synopsis. This week's episode involves the Third Company taking advantage of the recently concluded battle by orchestrating an uprising of sorts, wresting control of CGS from the higher-ups. Crank Zent, the older survivor from the Gjallarhorn attack, returns, challenging Mikazuki to a duel. Mikazuki wins handily, killing Crank and granting him an honorable exit. Motivated by the orphans' struggle, Aina opts to hire CGS - renamed the "Tekkadan" ("Iron Flower Brigade") by Orga - to help her finish her original mission, and escort her to Earth to appeal for Martian independence.

So far, so Gundam. Even with a simple synopsis, veteran viewers can see the seeds of future developments being planted. The honorable elder veteran getting himself killed will surely animate Ein, the last survivor of the first attack, to seek vengeance against Mikazuki, and turn him into a worthy/tragic rival. Aina's mission to Earth will bring the cast to space and straight into a series of much more consequential developments than trying to make ends meet as a mercenary company. Heck, even the roots of a predictable romantic triangle are laid down here, as local girl Arta seems to share Aina's eye for our taciturn, shirtless protagonist.

Where Iron-Blooded Orphans feels different, though, is in the way it presents and frames some of these common plot threads, filtered through less conventional character dynamics. Take Mikazuki, for example. Sure, a he's a match for your average emotion-free hero, a dead ringer for Setsuna F. Seiei or Heero Yuy. And unlike those two, he's a stone-cold murderer, not even flinching as he plants two slugs in the back of an unarmed, restrained prisoner's head during the takeover of CGS. Sure, Setsuna and Heero were no strangers to killing and soldiery, but they were often framed in their stories as being pawns of the causes they worked for.

And yet Mikazuki, through repeated emphasis that his decisions are his own, owns his actions a tad more than those two, and much more than the traditional common Gundam every-teen who thinks that Killing Is Bad and whining about people not getting along. Sure, he's been letting Orga tell him what to do, but has, each time, done so of his own will. It's an interesting dynamic, one that reinforces how critical Mikazuki's support is to Orga, and leading us to dread the moment that he decides Orga's plan isn't the right one.

That's one way Iron-Blooded Orphans stands apart from some of its franchise peers.

That, and all the pilots being shirtless, their abs and strangely absent nipples exposed to the elements. 

[Check out Iron-Blooded Orphans airing each week on Daisuki!]

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures


 


 


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