Now that is what I’m talking about! This is Gundam, pure unadulterated Mobile Suit Gundam and it is about damn time. After a bit of a drought, the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise returns to good form with an uproar and a fist rebellious pumping into the air. Iron-Blooded Orphans is the Gundam series we have been dying for since Gundam 00. This is the series we had wished Reconguista in G could have been. This is Gundam at its finest.
Right out of the gate Iron-Blooded Orphans sets the stage and over the course of a glorious 23 minutes builds up to a climactic conflict boiling over all of the political and personal drama in grand fashion.
The series takes place in the distant future in which Mars has become colonized and serves as essentially a mining planet for Earth. One of the Martian royals feels that Mars should become an autonomous state separate from Earth’s control and as it often goes in typical Gundam fashion, you know what hits the fan.
Iron-Blooded Orphans goes to great lengths to explore this Mars setting throughout this first episode. From all levels of society we come to see how the people of Mars live and the lives they have led. Be it the slaves that shovel dirt or those forced to pilot the Whiskers with some kind of mechanism physically inserted into their spines (Ouch!), Iron-Blooded Orphans explores these people and gives you a reason to care when it all comes to a violent climax at episode’s end.
Our protagonist Mikazuki is far from your typical Gundam hero but quickly proves his worth of that prestigious claim as he shows he is a capable and thoughtful. Rather interestingly I found the bond between Mikazuki and Orga to be reminiscent of the connection between Simon and Kamina from Gurren Lagann. An odd comparison considering Gurren Lagann is the other end of the mecha spectrum but there was enough similarities between the two that it is worth a mention. Both are orphans without parents or family and forced to work as slaves before ultimately piloting a powerful mecha and vowing to escape the lives they have been born into.
Interesting to note is that the dynamic director and writer duo of Tatsuyuki Nagai and Mari Okada are back together working on this series. Now regardless of what you think of Okada’s writing it is hard to dispute that these two together are a brilliant combination having previously worked together on Anohana and Toradora. How that will play out in a Gundam series is anyone’s guess but so far so good. Okada hits the right emotional beats in this episode and Nagai’s direction is impeccable.
The final action sequence is especially impressive with the action never becoming cluttered and each moment have a sense of place and time within the setting. I was particularly fond of the sequence which saw Orga taking on the Mobile Suits alone as he recalled his past with Mikazuki. The inter cutting scenes gave the emergence of Gundam Barbatos so much more of an emotional punch that I couldn’t help but jump out of my seat a little bit feeling the power of the moment.
It has been a long time since a Gundam series has come about that has gotten such a reaction from me but Iron-Blooded Orphans feels so rebellious it is hard not to find it infectious in a way. It breaks down convention all the while remaining faithful to what makes the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise so great. Be it the complex political landscape, the detailed characterization and tight plotting, the epic action sequences or the emotional journey we know these characters are about to embark upon, Iron-Blooded Orphans is everything you could want from a Gundam series and more. Better strap yourself in because Iron-Blooded Orphans is going to take us somewhere we haven’t been before.
You can check out Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans on AnimeLab.