The iron flower that will never wilt.
What’s the Story?
Mikazuki and his friends live on a poverty stricken Mars, thought of as little more than ‘human debris’ they are expendable labour that their bosses use to do all the dangerous jobs, oh I should probably mention that they’re all kids as well. Things start to change though when the security company they work for agrees to take the head of a movement for Martian independence, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, to Earth. The corrupt Earth security forces, Gjallarhorn, soon attack to get at Kudelia. As Mika pilots a Gundam to save his friends, a journey begins. The kids will leave behind their old world in search of a place where they won’t die in vain. A revolution is beginning, but to reach their destination they must cross a blood-soaked battlefield.
Intense is one word to describe this anime, brutal would be another, so don’t say you weren’t warned before going in. It can be slightly deceptive at first, the anime starts out not exactly happy, but kind of hopeful. Here’s all these kids that are oppressed and abused and now they’re taking their stand. Now they’re in charge and are off on an adventure to find a place where they can belong and live a life full of meaning. Then people start dying, it never gets gory, but there’s blood in an overabundance and a darkness to this series, especially when people start shouting about revenge. Now Gundam doesn’t exactly shy away from dark subject matter, they are happy to look at the dark side of war, but never quite this, well like I said at the beginning, brutally. It is warranted though when you stop to think about the subject matter, our main characters are child soldiers, our villains are a corrupt military force and we hit themes of slavery, war and revolution. This won’t end well is all I’m saying, or if it does it will be a bleedin’ miracle (emphasise on the bleedin’).
All that being said I won’t hesitate to recommend this series. It’s not perfect I do have to admit that, but it comes damned close. The story runs the gambit between heart-wrenchingly sad to air-punchingly awesome. I have cheered and cried so much at this anime, there have been entire episodes were I’ve been locked in a permanent state of exhilaration. This anime is full of interesting and likeable characters, most of whom are stuck in a grey area where you don’t whether they’re good or bad (this especially applies to our lead character of Mikazuki). You root for all of them, even when they’re verging towards the dark side.
The animation is top notch. The multitude of settings are gorgeous to look at, from the dilapidation of Mars, to the cold expanses of space and finally to the beauty of Earth. You really believe that these are living and breathing worlds. Throw on top of that some mind-blowing action and you have an anime that is a joy to watch. Then you have the music. I wish I had a degree in music or something so I could properly describe the soundtrack to this series, all I can really say is its fantastic and I could listen to it all day. It’s not the music you expect from a Gundam anime, a lot of it has a Spanish vibe to it, but it fits the series so well.
I did mention that this series wasn’t perfect and there are a couple of issue, nothing that derails the anime, but its stuff that could be improved (hopefully in the upcoming second season). My main reservation is with the villain of the piece. Now every Gundam series needs its masked antagonist, and while I appreciate that he technically doesn’t appear until the halfway point he does come right the hell out of nowhere. I get his back story and what the anime was trying to do with him, but doesn’t get enough of the spotlight for me to be properly invested. There’s so much left to be explored with him and I think he could be a great villain if we get that, the ending certainly sets him as a detestable enough character. I really wish Mikazuki got the chance to punch his lights out, but I guess that’s what season 2 is going to be for.
The main cause of this spotlight issue is due to just the sheer amount of characters involved in the story. We’ve got the kids who make up the bulk of the main cast, the various factions of Gjallarhorn, the gangsters that the kids partner up with, politicians of Earth and many more inbetween, and none of these groups are small. It’s a sizeable company this anime keeps and for the most part it does manage to balance everyone. Of course some characters get more spotlight than others, but no one feels like fodder simply there to die at a dramatic point and the anime does a wonderful job of giving everyone a fleshed out personality.
Speaking of the characters, special mention has to go to probably one of the most interesting and possibly unique bromances I’ve seen in anime, Mikazuki and Orga. Individually these are two really interesting characters. Mikazuki is actually quite the little psychopath. He has an air of detachment about himself; he’s never overly emotional and sees the world in very straightforward way. You get the sense that his attention is focussed on a single point off in the distance all of the time, yet when his friends are in danger all that attention focusses in the person trying to hurt them and let’s just say you don’t want to be that guy. Also his budding relationship with Kudelia is a joy to watch.
Then there’s Orga. He’s the boss and sometimes you forget just how young he is as he struggles to carry the burden of leadership. You root for him all the way as he struggles to turn this group of ‘human debris’ into a family and find them a place where they won’t have to live with such inequality and die so meaninglessly. His relationship with Mikazuki is probably the most interesting part of his character though. At first it just appears like Mikazuki is a good soldier, following around Orga because he’s a good general, but as the anime progresses we start to see that these two need one another. Yes Mikazuki needs Orga to lead him, because otherwise he has no idea where he’s going, but Orga also needs Mikazuki. Mikazuki drives Orga to do more, to be better, to fulfil his promise and lead them all to a better place.
In the end Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans is probably one of the darker and brutal additions to the Gundam franchise, but it’s filled with great characters a rich setting and some fantastic action sequences. You get giant robots beating one another up and a great story, what more could you ask for? I can’t wait for the second season.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.