Iron Blooded Orphans is a brilliant subversion of peace loving protagonists in mecha anime. Our protagonist Mikazuki is not only a child soldier who has no moral qualms with killing other soldiers, he takes it to a reductio ad absurdum and murders unarmed civilians and prisoners of war.
After a certain event, Mika goes as far as to directly reject the ideal of peace that the archetypical princess is trying to bring to life, and intentionally chooses the path of endless violence.
This is truly a refreshing change to the Gundam series. Other Tomino Gundam usually have unwilling soldiers that hate war and are trying to end it. But in IBO, war is not treated as an evil. Instead, it's a Clausewitzian means of negotiation, with battles waged for political and economic influence. One battle even involves an intentional stalemate of perpetual skirmishes to bring home the point of calculated carnage, not as a senseless evil, but simply as another tool to accomplish one's goals. Our ace pilot Mika takes this elevation of violence to its highest form and embraces war as a ritualistic self-defining pursuit, an end in itself.
IBO breaks the mould with several main characters embracing war. One unnamed masked pilot is obsessed with revenge; his Gundam Frame is named Vidar after the Norse God of vengeance. Another character, which up to this point had been accomplishing his goals through political schemes and underhanded tactics, recognizes violent force as the true power that can accomplish his ideal. The commander Orga always takes the straightest path to his goal no matter the bloodshed. And Mika, who had struggled with the idea of peace in the first season, now gives up any hope of having a peaceful life. He can now only exist as a shinigami: a death god.
Even the fight scenes are more brutal. The director's choice to reject energy weapons is a brilliant thematic choice. Unlike other Gundams (with the exception of 08th), IBO has the most realistic mecha action sequences. Instead of impersonal beam weapons and extravagant pink explosions, the mobile suits fight with heavy melee crushing weapons like axes, maces, and a giant wrench. Mika's weapon cannot even be called a sword, it's a giant slab of metal. There are no laser beams or energy shields, only cannons and steel against steel. Suits do not explode after being destroyed. They lie instead with crushed cockpits, their metal faces horribly disfigured, floating like carcasses in the silent graveyard of space.
The second season's mecha designs are a huge improvement over the first, with very creative choices like a Mobile Suit transforming into a stationary quadrupedal railgun, or Vidar having a built-in mechanism to unsheathe his spear. There is even a terrifying mecha which looks like a dinosaur.
The fight scenes are fluidly animated with awesome directorial choices, such as a mid-fight pan from the perspective of Barbatos's cannon. The OST has great tracks like the upbeat "Aspiration" and the bittersweet "Shounen no Hate". It's a very well-rounded anime that fixes the pacing problems of the first season and brings focus to the plot.
In S1, peace was still tentatively touted as an ideal, but S2 does a complete reversal. If you are tired of Tomino's mecha anime which preach how war is bad, then you will love IBO.read more
(At the time of writing, the second season is 11 episodes in.)
The more the series progresses the more it tries to victimize the Tekkadan as people who are being used by everyone around them, there are no decent adults who are genuinely their ally except Naze who has placed an unusual level of faith towards them just as McGillis does. The problem with no other adult being a decent human being is that it becomes hard to want to see the story from another perspective because the only thing you are going to get is a person fueled by greed. It's pretty much impossible to differentiate what kind of person the boss of the Teiwaz is from any of the Gjallarhorn leaders because they're all the same: greedy old men who want more power.
On the opposite spectrum of goals we have the Tekkadan, who want more power so they can have farm and live peacefully...or something. The predictable and way too telegraphed deaths of multiple of its characters doesn't help how the series really wants to drive in how unfortunate their situation is and how they're always being played with. A simple solution would have been to introduce other factions who were treated similarly and actually focus on them or even just their interactions with the Tekkadan because at this point it just seems like they're the only ones who have it that bad.
From it's allusions to Jeanne D'Arc to its aforementioned predictable deaths, this anime lacks any kind of subtlety or even expects ay kind of intelligence from its viewers, one of the most recent episodes has a scene where a woman from Gjallarhorn spends a minute theorizing why a certain character wears a mask and is actually spot-on, this takes away any opportunity for the person watching to analyze or interpret the masked man themselves. It even goes very over-dramatic for the most banal of scenes, including one where the leader of the Tekkadan refuses to eat his food microwaved because "he just deals with whatever in front of him as it is" as if any viewer would actually consider this a good reason to not get off their ass and heat up their meal for 20 seconds, though with how highly rated this series is maybe that is the case.
The mobile suit designs are the worst they've ever been, from the most boring mass-produced unit "Graze" to even the main unit "Barbatos", who is a an anorexic sheep. even the gimmick of it constantly being refitted is pointless and unmemorable because the things that distinguish each different form aren't important and only used once or twice. It's sad to see G-Reco with it's great designs and most inventive main unit be a flop while this is even considered a success.
G-Tekketsu is a very boring war drama, the kind where there is visibly only one side to root for, that side being the oppressed children of mars who were treated as space trash, other than that there isn't any complexity or subtlety to them because the anime itself goes out of it's way to explain exactly how the characters feel and what drive their actions, even if those actions make absolutely no sense, leaving nothing to the viewer to chew on. It fails to create in interesting world that has different nuanced factions that aren't just there for the plot: I still can't tell what exactly Teiwaz do when their not gathered at the table doing nothing but drive the plot in a predictable way. read more
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!