Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans (Japanese: Kidou Senshi Gundam Tekketsu no Orphans) is the fourteenth series instalment of the famous Gundam franchise by Sunrise. It’s a tale about family, vengeance, politics, and giant robots. This first season is directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai and written by Mari Okada, the two whose also worked on a couple of emotion-centric series known as Toradora and Anohana. Also, this was the first Gundam series I have watched, so this review will be bereft of comparisons to other Gundam series.
Not that comparisons are really necessary, because the narrative premise of this story is separated from the other timelines, most of which, upon minimal research seem to be connected indirectly to the original Universal Century’s timeline. But not this, the events in Gundam IBO take place in the era of ‘Post Disaster’, which is 300 years after the Calamity War between Earth and Mars that resulted in the segregation of the Earth’s land into four economic block and subsequent bad relations between the Earthlings and the Martians.
So 300 years later, Kudelia Aina Bernstein is a daughter of the representative of Chryse; a territory on Mars which belonging to Abrau aka. one of the nations on Earth. Kudelia is a popular figure who speaks up for the independence of Mars from Earth, and the story of IBO starts when a faction of CGS aka. Chryse Guard Security is tasked with the job of escorting Kudelia to Earth where the Martians hope that steps will be initiated for their independence. However, things go awry when a corrupt faction of Earth Military known as the Gjallarhorn intervenes..,..
And that’s all for the non-spoiler stuff goes.
By the synopsis above, you may have noticed that the story of IBO is very political-centric and demands a lot of exposition segments. However, IBO avoids over-exposition by not trying to cram in every piece of lore in the first episode. The essentials are set up, and the scope of the events get bigger and bigger *kind of— gradually as the story progresses, until the exposition is laid in between in relevant and digestible chunks. The general narrative structure of IBO is episodic, and this makes it easier for the events in every episode to have a tight pacing and the mecha fights more enjoyable. Then again, the episodic nature makes the overall flow of the story feel a bit hopscotch-y and disjointed when perspectives switch sides between Tekkadan —which is the Organization that jumped to fame from the battles involving the escorting of Kudelia to Earth— with the Gjallarhorn side and McGillis Fareed —a top echelons of Gjallarhorn with his own agenda. That’s to be expected, but I feel that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to the episodic approach that IBO takes in telling its story.
But the narrative structure isn’t as mechanical and uniform as I just described; there are places where things get rushed and disjointed due to the changing perspectives, the best example of this being the final fights near the end of the show. During that part, the perspectives had to constantly change across the battlefield as the different members of Tekkadan were in different places, the political figures had their own screentime to run, and there were the Gjallarhorn people to take into consideration too … so this high tension pacing really didn’t make the mecha fights really enjoyable for me, especially the final mecha battle between the legendary Gundam Barbatos and a prototype mobile suit known as the Graze Ein.
In general, though, I really enjoyed most of the show’s approach in telling its story which doesn’t over-rely on exposition and instead takes things slowly and methodically, making following the narrative much less of a burden and more entertaining. I think this methodical approach in storytelling is more of a feat because there’s no source material that the show was adapted from.
casts and their background settings.
Even though the pacing, at least on an episodic level, is tight and focused; the overall scope of the plot is pretty big with a lot of characters acting as important moving set pieces that provide branching detours that also provides the groundwork emotional development of themselves. These are, apparently, the parts where Mari Okada’s emotion-driven character narratives are set up. The best character chemistry come from the Tekkadan members; both Mikazuki and Orga have the typical brother-like relationship between them with their own tinge of nuance, which I really wanted to see more of but I guess there’s a second season to look forward to. The development of the camaraderie between Kudelia and Atra over the series’ runtime is cute and heartwarming. There are also a handful more of interesting and entertaining character dynamics among an assorted cast of characters that cements the idea of a family in Tekkadan.
The worst case of character chemistry on the Tekkadan side is probably between Kudelia and Fumitan; their backstories just pop up out of nowhere, and there was no indication of such in previous episodes where the writer could’ve hinted at Fumitan’s brewing betrayal. Even so, it’s not as bad as I describe, the story does take a couple more episodes in an attempt to compensate and delivers an adequate emotional closure to Fumitan’s character arc. The romantic elements feel pretty ham-fisted in the story and they don’t really go anywhere with it, which is a surprise since Mari Okada is quite adept at writing romances, or maybe I just feel that romance and socio-political drama don’t really go hand in hand. Then again, I think that Kudelia is a pretty boring character for me, I don’t think she is particularly an original character.
Individually, characters get fleshed out through their character chemistry. For instance, Mikazuki on his own is a highly skilled mecha pilot who doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeves and, on the battlefield, has traits similar to a psychopath. Orga is a troubled teenage leader who never is completely sure about what he’s doing but he still trusts his guts and believes in his teammates to get him through. They are like two peas in a pod.
For the Gjallarhorn side, I have mixed feelings. McGillis has a very strong presence in the series who acts unpredictably and changes sides for his own ‘noble’ pursuits to reform the corrupt Gjallarhorn by his own immoral methods, he even manipulates people who care about him to get his job done. Even though McGillis is an entertaining character, I think his motivations are pretty vague and incomplete as of the end of the first season. Once again, there’s still another season have to watch so I might be judging him a bit too quickly.
There’s also another support character called Ein, who maybe is the best example of an emotionally-driven antagonist in the series. He starts off as a loyal, inexperienced Gjallarhorn soldier only until he turns into a vengeance-fueled killing machine … literally, as he brutally loses his kind-hearted superior. This polarization of character traits and emotions makes him both a complete and entertaining character.
Speaking of vengeance, the notion of revenge is also utilized to bring about greyness in terms of the morality of the characters. Like, when Orga loses his childhood friend named Biscuit, all the Tekkadan members brutally kill one of Gjallarhorn’s top officers known as Carta, in the name of revenge, and at that moment the lines between good and evil get blurred. I think that’s one of the aspects that the show does a good job in presenting.
The other baddies, mostly the ones in superior positions of the military factions with child soldiers are pretty one-dimensional and act in comical ways. Not that it’s a bad thing, they just stand out in retrospect when thinking about the much richer characters the cast of the show has to offer.
There are real-world socio-political themes the show portrays that are related to colonialism, child labour, and corruption. Since there were barely any long expository segments at the beginning of the show, I expected the show to do a pretty skeletal job in portraying such nuanced themes. But to my surprise, the show adds enough detail to the colonialistic system of a state on Earth known as Arbrau, and the hierarchical corruption in Gjallarhorn that makes the drama more than just some moving plot devices in a vacuum.
visual and arts.
Gundam IBO features a diverse range of character designs, with the most memorable ones being Orga’s and Carta’s for me personally. The mecha designs are distinct from each other, with each Mobile Suit having different sizes and move sets *yeah, really insightful comments by a veteran Gundam fan … or not? The colour palette for the show isn’t as assorted as the character designs, but it doesn’t really feel monotoned —it’s adequate at least.
Speaking of adequate, I can say the same for the animation. The fight choreography in the mecha battles are good but the detail of animation isn’t consistent. However, I commend the show for not over-using CG models during the action scenes. So overall, in the visual department, the show isn’t really exceptional but it gets the job done.
And for the sound department, I think there’s this single track which features swelling orchestral music that’s used as a stock sound whenever the Tekkadan breaks through a tough situation … and I love it, it’s one of those tiny things I love in an anime. Otherwise, the rest of the soundtrack is pretty camouflaged into the background, and that can be a good thing in itself. The first opening sequence is one of my favourite of the ‘get hype’ openings; MAN WITH A MISSION provided a really strong anthem-like piece to portray the feeling of camaraderie and the fighting spirit that Tekkadan has. The ending themes are good, with the first song being the better one with a swelling, passionate, and dramatic vocal performance by MISIA.
closing – rodrovich’s final verdict.
In the end, the first season of Gundam IBO is a well-paced drama that features a solid cast of well-written characters, well-fleshed out themes with an emotional core that brings it all together to make it a fulfilling experience even though this is only the first season of two. I recommend you watch it if you want to get into the Gundam franchise or you are just looking for some well-written drama.
additional pieces of information.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans
- first time aired in the autumn, 04.10.2015 till 27.03.2016
- rodrovich’s review of an anime tv, 25 episodes
- from the studio of Sunrise
- tagged under the genre of #action, #drama, #mecha, #sci-fi, and #space
tagged under the subgenre of #science_fiction, #dystopian, #military, #politics, #war_drama, #new, #piloted_robot, #rotten_world, and #space_travel
- the age-rated as R – 17+
Rodrovich is back everyone! Yay, hype! *pfft. Anyway, thank you for reading.
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