Over three hundred years have passed since the Calamity War, the great conflict between Earth and its outer space colonies. Now Earth is ruled over by four economic blocs, and the military organization Gjallarhorn is responsible for keeping the peace. Mars, on the other hand, depends heavily on Earth's economy.
Horrified by the appalling living conditions that Mars' inhabitants have to bear, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, a young aristocrat from the Chryse Autonomous Region, gets involved in the Red Planet's independence movement. She hires the services of a local company, Chryse Guard Security (CGS), to escort her on the journey to Earth to negotiate economic conditions with the earthly bloc that controls the region. The Third Army Division—consisting of Mikazuki Augus, Orga Itsuka, and many other child soldiers—are chosen to protect her.
When Gjallarhorn attacks the CGS facilities to assassinate the young revolutionary threatening their interests, Orga and his comrades must not let the attackers accomplish their goal—in fact, Gjallarhorn's actions might turn out to be the unintentional catalyst that leads the children to be the forgers of their own destiny.
#1: "Raise your flag" by MAN WITH A MISSION (ep 1) #2: "Orphans no Namida (オルフェンズの涙)" by MISIA (eps 2-13, 21) #3: "Steel: Tekketsu no Kizuna (STEEL-鉄血の絆-)" by TRUE (eps 14-18, 20, 22-25) #4: "Senka no Tomoshibi (戦火の灯火)" by Yuko Suzuhana (ep 19)
The Gundam franchise is a massive universe. As another installment, there can be a lot of optimism for Iron-Blooded Orphans. I have to admit, getting into this show at first made me nervous. Some of the recent Gundam related series such as Gundam AGE and Gundam: G no Reconguista received very mixed reception. Furthermore, Iron-Blooded Orphans is spearheaded by Mari Okada, a director who is well-known for adding in melodrama into the story. But for this show, I can safely say that it’s definitely something worth investing time into whether you’re a fan of Gundam or not.
For timeline purposes, the show takes place after the
Calamity War, a war between Earth and Outer colonies. Actually, make that 300+ years. A major conflict involves Mars and its city Chryse. The people there seek independence from the government and make their own lives into something better. A young Martian woman named Kudelia Aina Bernstein hopes to secure independence. Her role in the story becomes more complicated as she gets involved with a group known as the Tekkadan, whom is entrusted to protect her life. So begins this story that leads politics, warfare, and a world of internal conflicts. As the show’s catch phrase, this is “the sustenance of life is on the battlefield."
In context, the show is a war story but also deals with a variety of real life issues. From poverty to child soldiers and imperialism, the show really offers a lot of insightful concepts. There’s even themes of experimentation as certain characters are fit with the Alaya-Vijnana System (Whiskers) to enhance their fighting abilities. Still, the show constructs a story that expands beyond just fighting a war for independence but also takes a look at the interpersonal conflicts of people in its universe. At the heart of it, we have members of the Tekkadan. Led by Orga Itsuka, the show capitalizes on their role to protect Aina. Their ace pilot, Mikazuki Augus (also known as Mika) pilots the mysterious mobile suit known as Barbartos. Throughout the show, we see his piloting and combat skills including his role to fight off Gjallarhorn, an Earth Military organization set up to capture Aina. Tekkadan also consists of other members including Biscuit Griffin (a strategist), Eugene Stark (former leader of the third army’s division), Norba Shino, Akihiro Atland, Atra Mixta, among others. What’s interesting about this group is that although they all come from different backgrounds, they are all united with similar purposes and treats each other like family. The family theme extends to not just the group but also Aina as she gets to know more of its core members. With such a colorful cast of characters, the show really can be appreciated for its characterization.
A good part of the story involves the journey Aina and Tekkadan takes in order to reach their goals. Part of it feels like a cat-and-mouse story while other parts are calmer with even has a feel of slice of life. In addition, the show also introduces others factions, some who later become valuable ally of Tekkadan while others are against them. Now I have to admit though, the story itself may feel like it has some pacing problems. A few of the episodes are non-combat related and some lacks development with the overall presentation of the story. However, it also emphasizes on the characters because they really are something special. The director and producers are aiming high for with this TV show so everything constructed has a purpose. The main characters has an iron will with their goals so a few of the episodes examines at their personal lives. Throughout their on-screen roles and background storytelling, we learn more about them especially Mika. He is an orphan with poor social skills but learns throughout the show with help from Aina. There’s a change about his character through his acquaintance with her as he becomes more casual and more interested in his own future. Their relationship even has a taste of romance in it as time goes on and this doesn’t seem like a surprise. Aina’s a kind woman who cares about others’ well-being above her own. She is also a good role model for the children through her ways of teaching them how to write, in particular Mika. This opens up his interest to forging his own future someday. Similarly, Mika’s relationship with Orga is strong. Their friendship has already been established during their childhood and it’s evident that the two would risk their lives to protect each other and their goals. Now I don’t expect everyone to like Aina’s role in the story. Despite her aristocratic status and selfless nature, she is still a bit naïve at times. And furthermore, her insecurity to provide help during crucial moments of fighting can be a bit irritating. Because of the nature of the show, expect other characters to relive moments from the past that resurfaces in the present storyline. A prime example is Akihiro as he deals with a blast from the past. On the other hand, there are also lighthearted relationships such as Mika and Atra. Some may see her involvement with him to almost be part of a love triangle. However, don’t expect this show to be a love story. It’s still an iron-blooded war tale. In retrospect, the show really has an iron blood with its story and characters.
When looking at the themes of the show, it’s easy to notice how much it has relations with the past, present, and future. The poverty of the past influences people to try and find a better future for themselves. The present has an emphasis on neo-colonism as we see advanced civilizations expand through funding and technology. For the future, Aina’s ambition to seek independence is a hopeful vision for her people. This is a bit contrast with Gjallarhorn. In essence, they are a military organization who seeks peace but pursuits them with violence means. Some of its core members such as McGillis Fareed, Gaelio Bauduin, Ein Dalton, and among others has their own ideologies. But one thing they seem to all share is strengthening their nation’s own relations and wealth. On the other hand, there’s also Teiwaz, a business conglomerate. Their relationship with Tekkadan also a similarity about family as their representative member forges a pact with Orga. The amount of relationships in this show is really special and something to take by heart. Whether you agree with their goals or ambitions, it’s important to understand why they fight. And this show is pretty damn good at making its point about that.
Produced by Sunrise, the show’s visual quality is a unique piece of work. Michinori Chiba is in charge of the character designs but visually looks a bit different compared to some of Gundam’s previous predecessors. I guess it feels like a fusion of Gundam 00 and Gundam AGE as the characters looks both childish and mature the same time. This is especially true with characters like Mika and Biscuit. Orga on the other hand has the look of a mature commander. Aina has more of the look of an aristocrat but can also look like a simple lady when she needs to be. Character visuals aren’t the only thing interesting about the artwork though. The universe of the show has colonies that shows wealth with its rich technology and weapons of war As such, it brings legitimacy to their statuses. From the mysterious Barbados to Teiwaz’s Saisei, everything looks crisp and establishes the studio’s effort to craft them as technological innovations. This is further enhanced by the solid action with a great amount of effort during fight scenes. Be amazed. This is a show that can be will leave strong memories even with its action.
At first, I wasn’t much of a fan of the music or soundtrack. But after watching a good amount of the show, it’s definitely something to take in by heart. Masaru Yokoyama clearly invested a good amount of effort into producing the music for various scenarios in the show. From melancholic moments to intense combat oriented moments waged in space, it has everything that a mecha fan can wish for. The OP song “Raise Your Flag” is also a way that symbolizes the fight for independence especially with its catchy tone and choreography. And finally, voice mannerism is impressive. Characters such as Orga shows their commanding presence while Mika is known for his cold personality.
Iron-Blooded Orphans is definitely a show to invest time in. Whether you’re a veteran or a causal viewer, the experience after watching this show will be memorable for its story, characters, themes, world-building, and powerful action. Characters’ actions all have purpose and the show offers a balanced way to showcase their motivations. I don’t expect everyone to like all the characters as some may find them less likeable than others. Still, this show is not to be underestimated and is a triumphant one at that. Watch it with an open mind and you’ll see why.
Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans/機動戦士ガンダム 鉄血のオルフェンズ Review
Story (7/10) Good
More Specifically (7.75/10) Good+
The story for Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans like majority of the gundam plots attempts to juggle two main plots at the same time. One being about the characters and their goals they want to achieve and the second being the political side of things and they intertwine with each other. One would say if you want to follow the Gundam story plot formula both of these story plots need to be present and as synced with each other as you can possibly get. Like majority of Gundam alternate universes this universe
does indeed have a just a little bit more focused on the character side of things (which there's nothing wrong with that). The political side of things (kind of like Gundam Wing's and Gundam 00) can be a little be hard to follow if one is not paying full attention during the political scenes. I personally think it wasn't too hard to follow but I can't say I understand majority of what was going down during the political scenes and that's kind of the thing that may turn off a lot of people because it did with previous Gundam series. Luckily in my personal opinion even with it's political influence side of things Tekketsu no Orphans' character is something that should keep most people a bay because the are good ones.
Art and Animation (8.75/10) Very Good
The art and animation in Tekketsu no Orphans was for the most part very good. I couldn't give this second a 9 because there were obviously some art style derps here and there when it came to characters only slightly in the background and the actually mech fights some Mech designs looked a teensy bit whanky at times but the scenes they were focused on and polished out are what is keeping it at a high 8 for me. Another thing I appreciate is that it is hand drawn, not a lot of mech anime comes out these days and when they do most of the time it is all CG. And I don't mind CG mechs trust I'm not one of those people to complain about CG mech (I love CG in Gundam Unicorn and The Origin). And I think CG on Mechs is the only thing that looks acceptable to an extent when it comes to putting anything CG in an anime. BUT I do appreciate to a well hand drawn mech anime because that's how it all started and what I'm used to. And I'm sure all the scenes that I felt could have looked better WILL look better in the retail blu-ray release... one would assume and hope.
Sound (10/10) Masterpiece
The sound does not disappoint in any category and that's usually the case when it comes to Gundam. Voice acting (JP), BGM, both openings and endings are all outstanding.
Characters (8/10) Very Good
The characters like I said in the story category are very good and what will keep newcomers to Gundam staying and watching. Although there are not a TON of characters that this applies to the ones that it does like our MC Mikazuki Augus is definitely a character that I've heard nothing but positive things from. He's not like your typical whiny pilot that we've seen in the past. He's more in the category of Heero Yuy and Setsuna F. Seiei but calling him a clone of either of the two is definitely not what I'm saying either. Because honestly I think from a character standpoint Mikazuki is a better and more interesting character than both Heero and Setsuna combine. Yes he has traits from both of them but he also has his own flair of insanity which comes out in the heat of battle. I haven't seen a main gundam pilot with such a personality trait yet the closest I can think of is Haptism Allelujah but he's not an MC. They are either on the whiny, calm or dull for the most part so to see this definitely sparks things up. Majority of the other characters are very good and like Gundam tradition we have character deaths we didn't want but expect. I knew a hand full of people where going to die not because of the countless death flags we've been given throughout the anime but because it's basically tradition at this point.
Enjoyment (8/10) Very Good
I'm a Gundam fan if you couldn't tell I love majority of the series and I'm not your average anime fan that despises all mech anime expect Code Geass and Gurren Laggan. Some might say I give Gundam a little bit too much credit but that's all opinions and a discussion for another time. Going into Tekketsu no Orphans sadly I was already ready to like it because like I said it's Gundam. You have to really fuck up on some Reconguista type shit for me not to like you and it's definitely no where near as bad as that trash. Tekketsu no Orphans brings us a nice 8th MS Team vibe to the series. And I doubt a lot of people realize this but there was absolutely no beam sabers or laser guns in the series (as far as season 1 is concerned). Impressive because a lot of Gundam anime and other mech anime kind of have that as the requirement in their anime and it cool to see a series were as of season 1 is concern does not exist, it was enjoyable to watch the mech fights, characterization with the combination of outstanding BGM this series brought to the table.
Overall (8/10) Very Good
More Specifically (8.50/10) Very Good+
Tekketsu no Orphans in my opinion delivered what it was suppose to which was a good spin off adaptation to the Gundam series and can be recommended proudly when the franchise Gundam is brought up in conversation. Tekketsu no Orphans had people worried not only because the series before it Reconguista was trash but because the Main Director Episode Director, and Storyboard creator Nagai Tatsuyuki had his hands on it and people were extremely worried that this was going to flop because of his past works. It even had me a bit worried when I heard that. But that wasn't the case as Tekketsu no Orphans in my opinion is a successful and very good alternate universe to the Gundam franchise. And with the announcement of the english dub a couple of months ago I hope Toonami grabs it and airs it on there so that the western toonami viewers can possibly get into the Gundam series like what happened back int the good ole Gundam Wing days.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is an original series not based on any other work like manga, novel or a game. It's quite a rare to see original anime these days and most of them are poorly made. But this one may surprise you.
An easy-to-follow story with flow and focus, exciting space combats, strong both male and female characters, some well-placed plot twists and a little bit of romance and comedy just to spice things up. But above all this story present the human side of characters while not neglecting the plot. We can see strong friendships, trust, how they all deal with tragic
deaths of their families, friends and comrades, how they try to find their place in this messed up world and not losing hope. Not very original but interesting to watch. Animation is also very smooth and nice.
Downside is that the story was rushed. Especially in the last few episodes. There was that “last battle” where they all went on a shooting rampage and all was over just in one episode. I felt like the main message was lost. Not to mention some of the so called good guys turned bad all off a sudden, like McGillis. Also one of the main characters Orga went downhill from a strong confident leader to someone who doesn’t think rationally and makes rush decisions. The political background of the story was a little bit confusing too and hard to follow. And some of the dialogues were just meaningless and boring.
To sum up, this anime has big potential and the story is not about typical battle of good vs. evil. More like a fight to make things better. If you ignore some minor flaws in concept of characters, parts of the plot which are not clearly explained and rushed ending it’s really fun to watch. So give it a try.
Gundam has always been a franchise that focused on the horrors of war. It is the nightmare of existence, the human race being in a state of perpetual conflict. Throughout the franchise's history, the effects of war have been tackled from a variety of different angles. From those with autism (kamille) to brown skinned traps (Loran) but there has never been a Gundam entry that focused specifically on child warfare. The real world is rife with conflict, and in lesser developed countries, children are on the frontline. There is a saying that in war the truth dies first. This is true but there is another
important piece missing from that saying, innocence is also the first to die. Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans is the first in the franchise that focuses on a child army and the effects that war has on children. My initial hype for the premise led me to believe this show was going to be something very special. However, in actuality the gravitas of the subject was much too heavy for famed melodrama/romance writer, Mari Okada, to handle competently. Although this series spans 50 episodes, you leave with the feeling that the show was never finished.
It is 300 years after the calamity war, a conflict that utterly decimated human civilization and led to the death of billions of people. The effects of that war are still seen in the destitute conditions that our protagonists live in. Iron Blooded Orphans focuses on a group of rambunctious youths who work in a mining facility on Mars. These children were either abandoned at a young age or forced to work to pay off their family's debts. The conditions at the mining facility are brutal; the adults verbally abuse the children and beat them if they do not perform adequately. It isn't uncommon for kids to fall dead from exhaustion. The tone is well set in the beginning episodes. This changes when the mining facility is contracted to protect (for some reason) a young politician, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, who seeks to rid both Mars and Earth of economic inequality and exploitation. Unbeknownst to the kids, her life is threatened by forces who want to maintain the status quo. These people are gjallarhorn, a paramilitary organization created to prevent conflict and corrupt politicians. These kids, while mining, find an ancient Gundam frame, a mobile suit model that helped to end the calamity war. After finding the Gundam, the children become embroiled in war much bigger than themselves with their freedom and the fate of humanity rides on the success of the newly formed army, Tekkadan.
Iron Blooded orphans are divided up into several arcs with the overarching conflict of the show holding everything in place. The quality of these arcs is consistent in their mediocrity. Rarely are there any episodes which make good use of the darkness of the subject matter. There is always a feeling of levity in contrast to the direness of their circumstances. The arcs revolve around a conflict that focuses on a specific character. So the quality of the character writing directly impacts the strength of that arc. Sadly, the characters are milquetoast to say the least.
Iron Blooded Orphans has a rather large cast of characters with Tekkadan, the child army, having about 10 or so important characters and Gjallahorn having about 3 or 4. The front men of Tekkadan, Orga and Mika are the weakest protagonists in the Gundam franchise. Orga in particular is a very forgettable character. He is tasked with being the Leader of Tekkadan meaning he has to make difficult decisions that could get him or his comrades killed in battle. Although this is a reoccurring issue throughout IBO, these scenarios seldom leave any emotional impact. Orga is just boring. He can be confident when he has to be, but other than those moments he is so indecisive. IBO fails to delve deeper into the psychology of leader struggling to make decisions. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is a show that in merely four episodes, we can see the internal struggle of being a leader where Claudia, a fleet ship captain knowingly has to send untrained children to their deaths for the sake of the Federation. She breakdown and does drugs to cope with her guilt. There are no moments that are as nearly as impactful as that in IBO with Orga. He lacks any defining character traits that put him beyond that mold of characters of the same archetype. Every arc that he is the focal point of struggled to hold me interest merely because he is not compelling enough to be a main character.
His counterpart, Mikazuki Augus is a case of wasted potential. He behaves in a sociopathic manner. Mikazuki has no problem killing entire groups of people if it for his comrades or Orga specifically. However, the relationship that he has with Orga is never sufficiently elaborated upon so I could never understand why their bond is so close. This is especially frustrating when the entire cast get some flashback episode while the faces of Iron Blooded Orphans, Mika and Orga, never do. It feels as though the writers did not know how to making their backstory tragic enough so opted out of trying to explain it.
Despite the breadth of the cast, there are very few characters worth mentioning. We have Akihiro Atland, whom I affectionately call “Space Guts” due to his brooding aura and character design. He would have to be my favorite character out of the bunch. His backstory, where he was given up by his family to slavers to pay off their debts gave him and other like him the title of “human debris”. I would argue that the show would have been a lot better if there was a singular focus on Akihiro and others like him since they have the most interesting backstory and their stories parallel those in the real world. But, like many other characters, after Akihiro’s character arc was finished, he never got any more focus. His character remained unexplored which upset me because they could have taken him down a lot of interesting character routes. Mcgillis Fareed or “The loli lover char” could have been better if he was fleshed out more beyond his initial charm and cunning. And then we have the quintessential loli character, Atra, who is best girl.
This is where the show feeling “not finished” comes in because characters are never explored efficiently. Mari Okada is not talented enough to write a varied cast like Yoshiyuki Tomino is. She does not know how to juggle subplots and can only focus on one thing at a time. This also ties in with the show’s issue with world building. The lore of the world is not sufficiently fleshed out, meaning there are a lot of gaps in the history of the show. For example, we do not know the philosophy of Gjallahorn nor why the calamity war occurred. These things are mere afterthoughts and you know the same amount of information from the beginning to the end. The Gundam franchise, more specifically Tomino’s Gundam, had a big emphasis on political philosophy. The series were a dialogue between fascism, monarchism, and democracy. Iron Blood Orphans is brain dead in this department. The underlying philosophy of the show is literally “muh equality” with no deeper examination of why equality is good or how to realistically achieve it. Apparently, all you need in the world of IBO is naïve idealism and you can accomplish anything.
Iron Blooded Orphans is a show that I was desperately hoping to be good, considering that good entries in the Gundam franchise are far too few and between nowadays. Sadly, Mari Okada was not up to the task of living up to Tomino’s legacy. She should stick to her melodrama and leave war to someone who has the talent to survive it.
For many Dragon Ball fans, Master Roshi is an absolute legend! He's one of the coolest and most colorful characters in the Dragon Ball universe. However, this old man has a roaming eye that's easily distracted by the younger ladies, which can lead to more problems than simply a nosebleed.