Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 2 – Review
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – Season 2:
Original Air Dates: October 2nd, 2016 – April 2nd, 2017
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 half-metal mine.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Let’s get this out of the way now: Iron-Blood Orphans Season 2 doesn’t look great, not all the time. Sure there’s a mobile suit battle here or there that’s insanely impressive, and the others generally move so quickly, with so much going on you’d have to be really looking to see the lack of details. But any time the series slows and we’re given a ‘talking heads’ scene, characters go off-model like it’s no one’s business. Details take a dive and everyone looks like over simplified versions of themselves. The big episodes, the series most memorable and epic moments however, retain the high visual quality expected of the franchise, but it’s still disappointing how often the visual fidelity dips.
Linny: When it comes to the story, things get even darker this season as Tekkadan finds themselves embroiled in one controversy after the other, and are made the scapegoat for other’s political drama. There’s a lot more combat and a lot more deaths this season, so brace yourself for the tears and frustration. While last season was mostly focused on Tekkadan trying to get to Earth in one piece with Kudelia, this season is all about them having to navigate and survive the equally deadly business, social and political circles.
Tom: In addition to the narrative refocus, IBO devotes quite a bit of screen time to new additions to the Tekkadan crew. By the end of its run IBO does thankfully refocus back on our much beloved leads, Orga, Mikazuki, and everyone else you’ve grown to love and care for. But this means the early half of the season feels particularly weak against the back half as these newcomers aren’t nearly as engaging or interesting as the main crew.
Linny: The season introduces several new characters to play the role of antagonist in one form or the other but most of them are hard to pin down as pure evil so much as naive, stupid or misguided. Like Julieta Julis and Iok Kujan, two subordinates to Rustal Elion, one of the main council members of the governing body known as Gjallarhorn. On the other hand, Tekkadan’s ally this season, McGillis Fareed, IBO’s Char ‘clone,’ isn’t necessary a good guy either, as his means to achieving his admirable goals are rather twisted. There’s definitely a clear shift in focus when it comes to non-Tekkadan members, such as Kudelia, who was the centre of it all last season, but gets relegated to the sidelines for most of this one. She appears fleetingly throughout the season, but never really factors into the show’s major events.
Tom: When focused on Mikazuki, Orga and the rest IBO is at its peak. Each character has an arc and, seeing as IBO is more of a tragedy than many other Gundams, there’s a strong sense of failure with each of these characters often unable to take heed in how they need to change themselves and respond to the situation at hand. This makes the season incredibly moving and heartbreaking, more so than the first. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong and perhaps even overshadows mainline Gundam series known for bleak conclusions with frequent deaths. In fact, I think IBO also does a better job of blurring the factions here. Sure there are characters, particularly early on, who are clearly evil. But as the series progresses characters like Rustal, our primary ‘big bad’ for the season, don’t come off as conniving and villainous, giving a stronger sense of realism to this series than most other Gundam’s tend to offer.
Linny: Season 2 does a great job of muddling the lines between good and evil. Both sides end up shades of grey rather than black and white. While there are of course some characters and groups whose dealings are unmistakably despicable and selfish, there are a lot more who seem to be operating out of a misguided sense of justice or a desperate attempt to maintain balance in the society or shake it up to make way for a better one. It might be easy to vilify someone out of your own emotional compulsions but more logical viewers should be able to discern that IBO doesn’t have the classic good guys versus bad guys set up in the long run.
Tom: As narratives go, the first half of the season is honestly a bit of a mess. It tries to balance so many characters, particularly new comers, with the old guard, and advancing various conspiracies and side factions, that it comes off as more confusing than complex. Make no mistake, it’s still good, entertaining, and much needed for the events at the end of the season, but compared with how tight, gripping and impressive IBO’s final twelve episodes run was, the first set feels poor by comparison. But if you can make it through those episodes, and they’re not that bad anyway, what awaits is an incredibly strong conclusion.
Linny: There’s something I would like to warn/point out in the show that might make more sensitive viewers uncomfortable and that is the relationship between McGillis and his preteen fiance, Almiria Baudin. I’d like to make it clear that there is absolutely zero sexual interaction between them and their relationship is shown to be innocent and doesn’t feature that often in the show. Nonetheless, there might be some viewers who are extremely against any form or type of such a relationship existing between characters with a big age gap between them so this is my heads up.
Tom: Gundam Iron-Blood Orphans has always been a good Gundam series. It’s been a stand out for the Alternate Universe shows of the franchise, offering that bleak, politically and socially driven drama that Gundam is known for. But in its final six episodes Iron-Blooded Orphans rises far higher than any Alternate Universe Gundam has before it, offering a gripping, emotionally challenging, meaningful narrative that captures everything beloved from the Universal Century main series and adapts it fully into its own world. I’m hesitant to say Iron-Blooded Orphans is the best Gundam ever, as there’s so much to love and appreciate from the U.C., but I think IBO makes a strong case for it being the best Alternate Universe Gundam series yet.
Linny: If you generally find most Gundam shows boring, IBO proves to be the one that might still win you over. There’s such a heavy focus on character drama that it has a higher chance of appealing to those who want more than just cool mobile suit showdowns. It has the added charm of featuring the underdog trope though it doesn’t have the classic happily ever after ending normally associated with it. If you’re in the mood for an emotionally charged action series, this show deserves a spot on or near the top of your watch list.