Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – Season 2 – Mid Series Review
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – Season 2:
Original Air Dates: October 2nd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Some time has passed since Tekkadan defeated Gjallarhorn during their mission to aid Princess Kudelia in her quest to reach Earth. Since then Tekkadan has risen as a military/warfare hero, expanding their influence and recruiting new soldiers to their force. Meanwhile Gjallarhorn struggles to maintain control of the general populace as more fighting breaks out due to Gjallarhorn’s defeat by Tekkadan. As the rise of child soldiers begins, and more and more Mobile Suits are unearthed to take part in new conflict, Mikazuki and Tekkadan find themselves again commissioned to defend Kudelia as she comes under attack by space pirates during her inspection of a halfmetal mine.
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Iron-Blood Orphan’s second season has been a mixed bag when it comes to the animation. While the series started strong, there’s been a near constant stream of disappointing art since. Characters looking simplistic, under drawn and off-model, leaving the series looking weak. Thankfully the Mech battles are still generally on point, with passable art, or even the periodic eye-catching sequence that’s bound to appease 2D mech animation fans who are increasingly disappointed with the continued trend of depicting giant robots in 3D.
Linny: When it comes to the characters themselves, Orga and Kudelia have clearly grown into and filled roles that put a lot of responsibility and new duties on them, forced to mature and handle matters they’ve never faced before. However, with the latest arc, Orga himself seems to be switching back into his role as an experienced fighter rather than the official and administrative head he has been forced to be this season. If you were wary of McGillis last season, he continues to be a gray character, his true intentions mired in secrecy and it really does not help that he seems to be getting a lot more intimate with his child bride to be. There is some sympathy to be found as we get glimpses of his unhappy past for those of you pulling for him. Speaking of odd characters, this season also introduces a female character that’s working for Gjallarhorn, named Julietta Julis who is first introduced to us as she eats a bug that’s flying past her. It makes her come off rather strange but then as the series progresses, she reverts to just being another hot headed and passionate fighter for her organization. It almost feels like her initial introduction was an awkward attempt at humour, which was then quickly abandoned.
Tom: We’re actually introduced to a small handful of new characters alongside Julietta including her partner, Iok, a rather inept villain alongside a masked individual who has some undisclosed beef with McGillis (Although more weathered viewers can probably guess his identity the second he appears on screen.) But the additions don’t stop there, as Tekkadan has a few new members as well, offering brief side plots and stories peppered between the series larger beats. This includes taking a few characters who appeared last season, and allowing them to feature prominently from time to time. Though the grander narrative still remains largely in the hands of Kudelia, Orga, Mikazuki and McGillis. That said, Julietta, Iok, the masked man and their master remain decidedly underused, with much of the focus early on having to do with a return of space pirate conflicts and intense political intrigue. Even now, half way through Season 2’s run, Iron-Blood Orphans is only just refocusing on its major conflicts.
Linny: This new season feels especially slow when it focuses on the internal working and administrative matters of the new Tekkadan as it strives to make a proper name for itself. Watching this rebel group trying to mature into an actual organization that has the respect and business it needs while it tries to become a successful and self sufficient organization can feel rather boring after the high of last season’s combat oriented high tension storyline. And because of the introduction of new characters, plus the shift of focus from last season’s mains, some viewers might feel disappointed especially if they’d grown rather attached to the regular cast.
Tom: Indeed the first half of this season is a bit slow, bogged down in a wealth of bulky narrative twists and turns that may prove a bit too confusing for its own good. There were times when even I, a Gundam aficionado, felt a tad lost. Thankfully, the series has moved past its less narrative friendly elements, and onto grander plot lines, finally answering questions about the great Calamity war and the role the Gundams played in it centuries ago. These give the series an epic quality not seen since its Season 1 conclusion.
Linny: Just be warned that even when the action starts onscreen, the show seems to be really dragging out its big showdowns. It teases and builds up, only to postpone things to the next episode, or perhaps even the one after that. It’s not unusual for a show to really build up to a big fight but when it became evident that it would take two whole episodes for the encounter to even begin, it did feel like a bit of overkill. Not a huge flaw but definitely a bit trying. My other criticism is how it broadcasts a lot of its ‘mysteries’ from a mile away. To be precise, this is in reference to a particular mysterious character whose identity is hidden behind a mask, but anyone watching the show should be able to guess his identity sooner rather than later. Thankfully, the show makes up for the lack of mystery with drama. As Tekkaden made a splash last season, it’s still evident that it is a newly emerging organization that has a lot of opposition to face and fighting to do, all taking its toll on its young members who either pay with their lives or have to step away from the organization for their own sanity and happiness.
Tom: Season 2 is at its best when focusing on the emotional turmoil of its characters, or when our heroes find themselves caught up in an epic struggle long thought dead. These moments stand out from the rest of the series. That’s not to say Season 2 is lackluster, or even bad, but its strengths lay with the emotional struggle and epic battles rather than the political intrigue, which this time around feels a tad less engaging.
Linny: For those of you already struggling to enjoy whatever emotional and character driven parts Season 1 had, this new season will be even more of a challenge as so much of the first half is laden with confusing narratives, new characters, and our favourite leads from last season taking a backseat. However, for everyone else who enjoys the show for its engaging character work, there is enough of it to help you stick through the more boring exposition. If you’re missing our original cast in action, hang on until mid season when things will start to feel a lot more familiar.
Tom: Iron-Blooded Orphans has always been wrapped up in political intrigue, heck it wouldn’t be Gundam if it wasn’t. But Season 2 has had trouble making that feel approachable for less weathered audiences, with multiple factions, secret deals, and fractioning alliances with bit players that can make it tough to remember everything going on week to week. That said, if you’re able to keep up, the story is wonderfully complex, and if you’re not, you can still appreciate the heartbreak and epic battles as the world of Orphans is gradually torn apart by burgeoning conflict.