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)
This is first and foremost a Gundam series that breaks the mold of the Gundam franchise. With that said, it was too ambitious for its own good. Iron Blooded Orphans removes the complex gray line that is war the past series had. It is straightforward plot where the good guys beat the bad guys in a one sided race. They even have the theme of "family" embedded in the story which falls off on its own with so many cannon fodders within their group. There's nothing that's really holding the members together except the few members that actually get screen time, bu even for
them their bond feels weak and shallow.
The characters are bland without any kind of unique and realistic character trait, yet they had the audacity to base the personality and development of a certain character on her FLASHBACK/BACKSTORY before getting rid of her.
The main character had less emotions and development, besides him being implied as a genius mobile suit pilot. I have no problem with cool and calm characters most of the time, but Mikazuki takes it to a whole new level that his actions can barely speak for themselves. This kid is implied to be a genius mobile suit pilot acting on his instincts, given his talents, the rest of his crew just stand back while he does all the work. Sure he had his friends behind his back, but they never really stood out so much to be actually relevant to what's happening around them or the story itself. Specifically for Akihiro's pointless and avoidable character arc that didn't really contribute to further the plot but was only there for emphasizing the exposition that we already knew about from the beginning of the series.
Comparing Alfred(0080) to the main heroine, Kudelia is just insulting Al, but this is the most appropriate comparison between the same character trope. Simply put, they're both naive kids. However, in Kudelia's case she tries so hard that she thinks her beliefs are pointing the right direction, it actually becomes more annoying compared to Alfred who was acting like a normal and realistic child that was unaware of the effects of war. To be fair, she gets the most character development within the series, and she does become more mature throughout, but the way they executed that transition of her character was the issue. her growth was like a snap of a finger after a few main events of the series.
From the Universal Century Timeline, we had Bright, an outstanding and well respected leader that picks his battles and makes sure his strategies will work using his mobile suit pilots and the rest of the ship's crew(except during ZZ). Orga on the other hand, just throws Mika out the ship and hopes he beats the enemies in a single blow. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
At first, I had high hopes for this series, it looked good. The mecha designs weren't the blocky aesthetic the past series had, there were no beam weapons in sight, the art was fresh and wild. Only to be disappointed as the story went on. By the end of the series the only good things I got from this were the Gundam Gusion( not Rebake....definitely not Rebake) and the Gundam Kimaris. I found myself rooting for the main antagonists by the end of the series because of how stupid the main characters handled things.
Season 2 is coming out soon so I thought I'd review the 1st half in hopes that the next one will make things right.
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 (9/10) Great
The art and animation in Tekketsu no Orphans was for the most part great. I couldn't give this second a 10 because there were obviously some art style derps here and there when it came to character only slightly in the background and the actually mech fights some Mech designs looked a tincy bit whanky at times but the scenes they were focused on and polished out are what is keeping it at a 9 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 Unicorn). 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 but until then it can stay at a 9.
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 (9/10) Great
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 (8.75/10) 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.
Sometimes when you look at a new season you find yourself despairing because all you see are a bunch of sequels to anime you've never seen. However I'm here to tell you that you should view this as a fantastic opportunity to catch up on all these anime you haven't seen before the new season begins!