I tend to be rather selective in my anime. Some of my friends like to experiment and try watching whatever, I tend to reserve myself for series which I either know will be worth watching. There are a few series that have a special place in my heart, namely Fullmetal Alchemist (both versions, I am a savage monster).
There is a distant memory, far in the depths of my mind, of an amine which I watched when I was a wee little lad. Lone images and sounds lingered dormant in my brain until almost two years ago when I decided to rewatch Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. Sometimes, you just need a show that you enjoy even though you know it to be sub par. The obsessively reused animations, groan producing dialogue, and illogical “gundanium” was all gleefully absorbed within a matter of days.
And that was that. I had renewed my joy for the mecha genre but my reluctance to start new shows still held. I tried to watch newer Gundam series, and I even was able to watch all of the fan acclaimed Code Geass, but in the end I was let down. Shows where the main character is written to be smarter than the viewer *cough*Death Note*cough* and all of those around them simply annoy me because it’s not difficult to do from a writing perspective; details just have to be left out.
Fast forward to December of 2015. I was laying in bed at home surfing YouTube, and I came across a video highlighting some of the best shows of the current season. One of them, and the one to best grab my attention, was Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. It seemed to take a more gritty approach to its subject matter over the more idealistic tendencies that other entries tend to have (I’m looking at you, Relena Peacecraft).
Within a few days I binged all of the 13 episodes that were available online. With that being all that I could watch, and with 13 being a normal season length, I thought that the show was over for the time being. This upset me because I genuinely enjoyed it. Imagine my surprise when the following Sunday saw the release of a new episode on Daisuki.net, the website which was broadcasting the series online.
It’s now 13 weeks later and the first season is officially over, with season 2 being slated for the fall of this year. Going week to week with only one episode being available is not something I’ve experienced since watching Fringe on Fox, but it was something I had been missing. The show wasn’t perfect, but it pleasantly surprised me.
The characters of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans were, for the most part, like a breath of fresh air. The peace-loving idealist of the series, Kudelia Aina-Bernstein, began as the typical Gundam female does but over time became a character I saw grow. Her idealism was shattered when she saw the sacrifice which was required, and that idealism transformed into resolve.
The members of Tekkadan, the private military corporation which is run by the protagonists, each had their own paths to take. Orga Itsuka, the commanding officer, had to learn to tone down his bravado when faced with the fact that his orders could lead to the death of friends,. Biscuit Griffin had to leave his family behind in order to become Tekkadan’s strategist, but soon faced unease because of everything that was being asked of them to sacrifice. Akihiro Altland had to come face to face with his own past and embrace it in order to move on. And the main protagonist of the show, Mikazuki Augus, started off as a stone cold killer and ended up as a stone cold killer with two girls loving him. Somethings never change about anime.
Mikazuki brings to mind some aspects of Iron-Blooded Orphans that I feel could have been done better. While it was nice to see the typical idealism take a back seat, it still was a prominent aspect of the series. I realize that it’s something that is at the core of what makes a Gundam series, I still felt like it could have been done better. Kudelia and her message was still full of cliché rhetoric, all the while being attacked by an evil organization that is bad because the series decided it.
I did appreciate the fact that Iron-Blooded Orphans was able to confront an idea like child soldiers, something that seems taboo in modern culture. The series did not take the topic and try to take an idealist stance, but showed how these war orphans were placed in this situation and were able to make the best of it. They were seen as space rats and looked down upon, but in the end were able to band together to achieve the impossible, just like in any good anime.
While not perfect, Iron-Blooded Orphans kept my attention from week to week and left me excited for a second season. An uncharacteristic lack of beam swords and a cast of characters that I could relate to resulted in a show that I can easily recommend to my friends to watch, as long as they’re not totally adverse to giant mechs beating the crap out of each other.
Oddly, those people do exist.