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