Monday 3 October 2016

First Impressions: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2

Following its brief hiatus over the past few months, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has finally returned for its second season! Comprised of another 25 episodes to bring the total count up to a comfortable 50, this latest instalment in Sunrise’ landmark mecha franchise continues the story of the rebellious child soldiers Tekkadan and their struggle for freedom in the era following a catastrophe known as the Calamity War. Like the first season it is written and directed by Mari Okada and Tatsuyuki Nagai respectively – a pair that also previously worked together on shows such as Toradora! and AnoHana.

It’s been some time since the finale of Iron-Blooded Orphans’ first season and a lot of things have changed for our heroes. Makanai successfully became Prime Minister, Gallajhorn’s corruption has been exposed and Tekkadan have been made an official part of the Teiwaz Corporation – giving them access to half-metals and a spot as the official military advisor for Arbrau. Both Orga and Kudelia have had to adjust to new lives behind a desk, while Tekkadan continue to train new recruits.

Not everything has changed for the better though, as Tekkadan’s rise to fame has led to an increase in the number of child soldiers being used by various military groups. With this undisclosed time skip offering up some big changes, the season two premiere (or episode 26 if you’d prefer) is more about bringing the viewer up to speed with things than properly setting out the direction the series is about to head in.

Given that IBO has already established itself as being more about the characters and how events affect them more than the events themselves, this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. But despite the lengthy exposition required to kick the episode off, it’s soon apparent that despite the different playing field the characters themselves are still pretty much the same as we left them. Mikazuki is still the quiet soldier ready to follow Orga’s lead at the slightest word, and Orga himself hasn’t grown into a man suited to sit behind a desk. The same can be said of Kudelia, who seems to be doing her best to shy away from public appearances despite having helped to open an orphanage on Mars. The episode pays an interesting amount of attention to newcomer Hush Middy, suggesting that he might be a figure to follow in the coming weeks.

However while Tekkadan might not be the underdogs anymore, the political scenario hasn’t changed so much that they can rest easy. McGillis now sits at the head of Gallajhorn, as morally ambiguous as ever and with his motives still unclear. Gallajhorn’s disgraced state has led to a rise in terrorist attacks, which ties in with the increase in Human Debris (child soldiers) as well. The introduction of new Gallajhorn members suggests there may be a plan afoot on top of McGillis’, and as Tekkadan come face to face with a new pirate faction at the episode’s conclusion it seems that multiple parties may be at work this season.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Gundam premiere without some look at the Mobile Suit action to come, and after spending most of the episode in maintenance the episode ends with Barbatos' debut in its latest form – the Gundam Barbatos Lupus. Although we don't get to see it in action, Barbatos' new armoured frame suggests an even more heavy duty Gundam than how we've seen it before. What we do get in this episode though is some great Mobile Worker action - something that the first season's premiere supplied in a very similar fashion.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has already proved itself to be a somewhat divisive series, albeit a very popular one at the same time. Hopefully a second season will be enough to alleviate some of the complaints previously held about it, while further developing Okada’s great style of character profile and development. At the very least, it’s always great to see a Gundam series back on screens every week.

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