Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans
Episode 1: Iron and Blood
Release Date: October 4, 2015
Genre: Sci-fi, Mecha
Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans is the latest in the long-running Gundam franchise. The series has spawned over 20 different series, nearly as many movies, and countless manga all dedicated to the various stories within the timeline. This particular series is part of a new timeline in the Gundam series, the Post Disaster era, set 300 years after a conflict between Earth and the colonies on Mars. This sets the stage for a whole new host of heroes, villains, and mobile suits for this new arc in the much-beloved mecha series. So without further ado, here is my review of the pilot episode of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.
Synopsis: The story starts off with our two main characters, Mika and Orga, as they work with an escort company on the Chyrese Autonomous Region of Mars. Their job is to escort the princess of Mars to Earth, as she hopes to help negotiate for Mars’ independence with the Earth government. We are introduced to the rest of Mika and Orga’s gang, 3rd Group, a menagerie of teens and tweens who are seen as expendable soldiers by the company they work for, made to do all the dirty work and generally treated like trash by the senior members of the company. The story then introduces Gjallarhorn, the long arm of Earth’s law that is responsible for keeping the peace and making sure that Earth’s resources are protected. Gjallarhorn sends a few officers and a large group of soldiers to attack the escort company, as they’re supporting the princess who supports the independence movement on Mars. The battle begins, stuff blows up, and just when it seems like all is lost, Mika and the new Gundam Barbatos arrive to help tip the scales.
My Thoughts: First off, that episode was just AWESOME! That is how you start a sci-fi series: a perfect blend of new characters, an integral backstory that isn’t fully revealed but makes you want to know more, action scenes that capture your attention, and hints at the political and moral intrigue that we’ve come to know and love from the Gundam franchise. It’s a strong start to a new series, and I’m hoping that Sunrise will be able to keep the momentum going through the rest of the series’ run.
Right off the bat, we meet the “iron-blooded orphans” the series is named for. The initial flashback takes place during Orga and Mika’s childhood, and it seems to show the aftermath of Mika shooting someone. Orga looks like he’s in pain, leaning against a wall with a drawn face, so perhaps it’s hinting to past abuse they suffered as children? It reminds me of Setsuna’s backstory in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, so I’m interested to see how they address this in the series. We’ve seen similar themes in other Gundam series, as a lot of pilots seem to suffer from some sort of trauma or condition. Maybe that’s the best part of the franchise, seeing the pilots overcome great obstacles, and even themselves, in their journey to help those they want to protect.
Also, we see Gundam Barbatos fairly early on in the episode, within the first 30 seconds in fact:
Our cast seems to be fairly straightforward: we’ve got Mika the main character and Gundam pilot, Orga the older brother/leader, Eugene the temperamental guy, Ahki the muscle, and Biscuit the straight man. Biscuit seems so have a slightly different art style for his facial features than the other characters, and I think that’s intentional. Later in the episode he remarks that he can feel Ahab Reactors (the power source for buildings and starships), and he seems to be connected with the maintenance of the Gundam. I think there’s more there than meets the eye, and I look forward to getting to know his role in the story as it progresses.
Gang’s all here!
Also interesting to note is that each character has a port type thing that’s attached to the back of their neck; it seems important for controlling the Mobile Workers they use. We see a little flashback to one being inserted, but not much info is given as to what it actually does. Perhaps we’ll know more next episode.
Close to the middle, we’re introduced to a blonde-haired girl who works in a shop, and seems to have a thing for “a boy”. When it comes to anime (or any type of animated medium), side characters aren’t added for no reason. That’d be a waste of money, so I think she’s part of Mika and Orga’s backstory, and it’ll be cool to see the part she plays in their development.
She’s got that classic “embarassed-because-of-feelings” look down.
Also, the introduction of the Earth Sphere guys was interesting. This series seems to be starting from the point of view that Earth is the villain, which is similar to other series like Gundam Wing, but I don’t doubt that we’ll see heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict. One of the mobile suit pilots on their side, Ein, has that kind of young, shounen face that seems to imply that he’ll be a reluctant villain that will either turn into an awesome pilot for the Earth side, or he’ll defect over to the side of Mars.
Look at that young shounen face!
In fact, we seem to see all three main types of villains in the Gundam series hinted at here: the crazy maniacal guys that you just hate, the ones dedicated to their home and even though they’re bad you can’t help but admire them, and the misguided yet reluctant ones who aren’t sure of their place in the world. For a quick comparison to Gundam 00 (can you tell that I love that series?) you already have Ali Al Saachez, Lieutenant Graham/Mr. Bushido, and Aila, respectively. These are all familiar character trails that we’ve been down before, so I’m wondering if the series will bring anything new to the table in terms of character development.
Speaking of characters, one of the Earth Sphere Inspectors made a comment that I’d like to quote here: “It’s hard to let go of a power once you obtain it. Humans are like that. Even if it is a power that could destroy themselves.”
The philosophical villains are always the best kind.
While being a profound bit of wisdom, it does seem to hint at the overall theme that this series will address: what happens when people are given great power, and what they do with it. This theme was also explored in, you guessed it, Gundam 00, and it was a central tenant to the show: considering the actions of all sides of the conflict and how they dealt with not only the problems they face, but the way they dealt with their problems. This theme is one explored in the Bible as well, especially in the Old Testament during the reigns of different kings. Case in point: Rehoboam and Josiah. Rehoboam ruled Israel after Solomon died; he was encouraged to seek advice from the older men that counseled his father, but instead he went to those close to him, and in a blatant misuse of God-given power he channeled the entire kingdom towards making him feel good. In response, the people rebelled, and 10 of the 12 tribes rebelled against him. In contrast, Josiah was a king who took the power given to him as a way of pointing the people towards the only true source of power in this world: God. He anguished over the sins of the past kings, and did everything he could to help place Israel back on the right track towards serving God. As believers, we all too often fail to recognize that all power comes from God, and we put our faith in political systems or people, rather than in the One who created all things. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but one that shows a lack of faith in God on our part; we need to learn to trust God because of the uncertainties, not despite them.
Overall, I really liked this first episode! The pacing was smooth, the artwork feels like a nice balance between realistic and cartoony, giving it more of a hint than a taste of that “anime style”. I’m looking forward to the story of the relationship between Earth and the Mars colonies developing further as the show progresses: political intrigue adds an interesting new dimension to shows like this when done correctly. The characters all seem to have more to them than we know right now, and I’m definitely looking forward to more Gundam Barbatos action! All in all, if you like science fiction, mecha, or are looking for an anime that doesn’t “look the same”, I’d recommend that you come aboard and check out Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: it looks like we’re in for a good ride.