The Gundam series has always, as a trademark staple, given us humanizing and engrossing portrayals of war and human conflict. In almost every iteration and entry in the franchise, we see a futuristic society in or on the verge of conflict. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans is no different. However this may be one entry with the darkest premise yet. This is an era that sprung up from the very ravages of conflict and it shows. The very title of the show hints at it after all. Thus, with that in mind, is it a good anime? Is it worthy of your time? Read on to find out.
To reflect the darker setting, this isn’t the ‘Cosmic Era’ or ‘After Colony’ era. Instead this is the ‘Post Disaster’ era. Society has been so defined by conflict that the years are counted around it. In this case, a destructive war known as the ‘Calamity War’. During this time earth and space colonies came into conflict and the results would scar both the land and the psyche of people. Planets such as Mars are now host to thriving human colonies. Yet, they chaff under the hegemony of earth, craving freedom for themselves. Despite having a great degree of individual autonomy, their economies are heavily dependent on earth. Realizing that the people of colonies on Mars may soon rise up, the factions of earth seek to take preemptive action. Another conflict is brewing and the results may once again prove catastrophic.
Story in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans takes a welcome departure from the series norm. Where we usually see the exploits of a prodigy or a team of them and their ace allies, we see things this time through the eyes of the common grunt. Though terraforming has made it more habitable, Mars is still harsh and economically vulnerable. This has led to many, particularly children, suffering from neglect and starvation. As a result they gravitate towards para-military companies where they face exploitation and abuse as perpetual child soldiers. As children, they are still developing and this means they can handle the nanomachines and implants needed to pilot worker mechs where adults can’t. Known pejoratively as ‘space rats’, these youths basically occupy the position of expendable fodder.
This new perspective can lead to some powerful story moments. From the very first episode the audience is made familiar with many of these child soldiers only to see them perish in battle due to the cruel machinations and greed of others. Seeing the average, everyday commoner bleed and suffer on the battlefield gives even more meaning to the series’ standard of focusing on war, politics and conflict. It provides a stark contrast to the scenes of higher ups engaging in intrigue as they mostly see the bigger picture. Thus, this entry into the Gundam series may be the most well rounded and humanizing yet when it comes to war and conflict.
In Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans we tend to see things shift continuously from the perspective of a number of characters. Some of them are protagonists and antagonists while others blur the lines and wholly occupy no single side of the fence. As with any human struggle, it is more a matter of everyone pursuing their own interests and values. Its not always a pure struggle of good vs evil. Despite this, things tend to focus around the duo of Mikazuki and Orga. They have known one another as child orphans and became mobile worker pilots together.
Where Orga is the loud, talkative but caring leader, Mikazuki is more reserved and a boy of few words. Yet they are fiercely loyal to one another and Mikazuki will follow Orga through with anything. Indeed, Mikazuki is both the best pilot out of the boys and the one most willing to sacrifice everything. At times this leads to him sustaining numerous injuries that he just shrugs off. Supporting them are their friends in 3rd Company of their private security outfit (CGS) and a few friends from the colony. Their lives are forever changed as well when they come under attack from earth forces pursuing Mars independence leader Kudelia Bernstein. Having come to CGS for escort protection, she finds herself maturing and learning from witnessing the trials and tribulations of the young fighters.
As usual, the mobile suits and the action involving them take center stage. They are well done and the fight scene animations are spot on. The rendering of the characters is also great with sound and audio of a suitable standard. Both the English and Japanese cast have many familiar voices that series and anime fans would quickly recognize. As such which dub you gravitate towards is mostly a matter of personal choice. While relationships and romance also plays a role in this series, there isn’t much fan service to go around. That might make you cheer or frown.
Telling a humanizing tale of war, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans gives something everyone can enjoy. It has the action but also prompts the viewer to stop and think about the costs wars incur on everyone.