Anime Corner: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2 Review

Blog Gundam Iron 2 Review Title

The iron flower that shall never wilt

What’s the Story?

The former child soldiers of Tekkadan have finally carved out a life for themselves. Now a legitimate organisation with wages and everything, they’ve finally built the home they never had, but is that enough? There are still those who look down on them, who see them as nothing more than human debris or pawns in other people’s schemes. Unfortunately they only know one way to get what they want and that is to fight, charging from one battlefield to the next in the hopes that this will be the last one. As a civil war erupts in Gjallarhorn, Earth’s peacekeeping force, Tekkadan is drawn into the conflict, though they may have picked the wrong side. Can the kids find a way to live in this world, or will the iron flower finally wilt?

The Review

The first season of Iron Blooded Orphans is not only one of favourite seasons of the franchise, but just anime in general (check out my review here), this second season though, I don’t know. There are parts that are fantastic, so many moments that are thought provoking and heart wrenching, the same great characters that we fell in love with before as well as a couple of interesting new characters. The series is just as dark and brutal as before, more so in some instances. But then there are other parts that are meandering or pointless and in some cases just downright wrong. Honestly it feels like two different writing teams wrote this series, with the good team having to deal with the utter junk the other team was forcing on them.

Now there will be plenty of spoilers ahead as I’m going to need to drag up some examples to sort out my feelings about this series, so if you want to go in blind, skip to the Verdict at the end.

We’ll start in the good camp with Mcgillis Fareed. Now it’s hard to classify Mcgillis because he’s kind of both a protagonist and antagonist at the same time. It goes with this whole series’ outlook that there are no villains, just people with different goals. I mean from certain viewpoints Tekkadan themselves can appear to be the villains, mercenaries with ties to organised crime, ruthless in battle and with a higher body count than most mortuaries. It’s a message I appreciate, but it does hurt the series. Because there’s no grand villain or major goal, the plot just kind of meanders around the place, with Tekkadan lurching from one random battle to the next. Which I guess is the point. These are child soldiers, fighting and violence is all they know, they don’t know another way to get what they want. (Spoiler!) It takes the utter destruction of Tekkadan for them to begin to move past their upbringing and become a part of a better world, though not all of them can escape the life of violence. Still would have been nice for the plot to feel a bit more cohesive during the beginning and middle sections.

Anyway, I was talking about Mcgillis. This season does a great job of letting us inside his head more. I mean season 1 kind of left his motivations a bit vague, other than Gjallarhorn’s corrupt as anything and he wants to remake it. In season 2 we get to learn how messed up a person Mcgillis is, he’s a child who was mentally, physically and sexually abused (I mentioned this season got darker in places right?) as such he believes that power alone is the only thing that will change the world. He’s also a master manipulator, using everyone around him until he can rise to the top. Honestly most of the time I don’t know whether to root for him or punch him. I kept expecting him to turn into the series’ villain, he certainly did some bad things, but he did it for a good cause, to reform Gjallarhorn. It’s just that his way wasn’t the right way, like Tekkadan he was trapped in the thinking that violence and brutality were the only answers to the world’s problems.

Okay, bad thing now. This show and women. It’s weird, sometimes it gets it right, sometimes not, but then I guess Iron Blooded Orphans has always has a weird view on women. I mean the child bride and the criminal with a harem of women, all of which are his “wives”, was iffy for me in the first season, but it managed to just edge the line, I mean there were some good female characters in there. Season 2 takes it across the line though. I’m assuming the term “women in refrigerators” is used frequent enough on the internet that it doesn’t need an in depth explanation, in short, it’s when a woman is killed off purely to effect the story of the male characters. Season 2 has one of those moments, the villains behind it even openly admit that’s why they’re doing it. I was so angry I nearly stopped watching at that point, it’s pointless, I take that back, it does have a point and that point is manipulative and a waste of a good character (doesn’t help that it happen to someone who I’d really grown to care for across the two seasons).

Good stuff. Think of good stuff. Yes, new characters, haven’t talked about them yet. While there are a bunch of new faces, a lot of them get the short end of the stick, with very little development or time to shine. There is one that I think is a brilliant addition to the cast, and that is Julieta. At first she wasn’t all that great, she was standoffish and cold, a pale imitation of Mika for the Gjallarhorn side, but she grew on me. Unlike Mika she wasn’t a born badass and had to work hard to gain strength, though I think the moment I really started to like her was when she was fighting Mika and came to realise that she wants power, but not at the expense of her humanity. She matured and by the end had a grudging respect for the kids of Tekkadan, but she was able to leave the violence behind and remain human.

The Verdict

The second season of Iron Blooded Orphans isn’t as good as the first. It has some great elements, the characters are just as engaging as ever and the animation is gorgeous and action-packed (the battle between Mika and the Mobile Armour stands out as a highlight just for how jaw-dropping and brutal it is). The story is thought provoking and has a real heart to it, though it will smash your heart to pieces by the end. This is a bittersweet story, with these characters and this world it couldn’t really be anything else, but the plot has a tendency to meander too much and several of the new characters never get a chance to shine. There are also several questionable elements that stop me from liking this series as much as I want to. I’m half-tempted to say to skip this, but if you can put up with the questionable stuff, the moments when this series is on point are really worth the slog to get to them. Just remember to pack the tissues.

fish stamp watchable

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

Anime Corner: Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans Review

Blog Iron Orphans Review Title

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.

The Review

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.

The Verdict

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.

fish stamp unmissible

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.