My Thoughts on Fixing Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans

Three episodes remaining and I am growing wary of my once favorite show from Fall 2015. This is my observation regarding the direction this series has taken and how I am going to drive the plot if I was a part of its writing staff. A lot of spoilers ahead so my apologies in advance.

First things first, this is my only Gundam show outside Gundam Wing which I saw about 15 years ago so color me unaware of the tropes this franchise does. I am pretty much judging it as a stand alone anime series which luckily fits given that it has an original story intended for the general audience.

I remember falling in love with Iron Blooded Orphans after its first three episodes as Tekkadan cemented itself as a monolithic group reminiscent of Full Metal Alchemist’s Briggs, albeit more humanized. Then these kids met Kudelia, a Martian princess who asked them for a job to deliver her on Earth. It turns out that her father plotted to kill her own daughter so Tekkadan was in a pinch of defending themselves and her.The earlier offerings focused on the dynamics of this group of children with Orga, Biscuit and Mika as three conflicting but really interesting major characters.

Then they went to space, and the plot got lost somewhere – it is not only slow but it is also uneven with disproportionate focus on developing Kudelia as a central figure in the series. Even worse, the main dudes from Tekkadan and whatever development they had in the beginning was set aside in its heavy-handed second half. Please note that I still like the series for what it is. It’s just, I felt betrayed by what happened recently.

So, how am I going to present this series in case I am the head writer?

#1 Reduce Kudelia’s screen time especially those times she said something about being useless.

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It is safe to say that the second half of this series is Kudelia’s arc. The moment they met the head of Teiwaz, her role was magnified as it was revealed that conflicting interests want her for various purposes on Earth. It is actually a very great premise but her inactivity until episode 16 is not exactly the best way to present someone with great importance. Her repetitive chants about her inability to do something is kind of charming at first but became irritating once we crossed the first cour. Man, these cover a sizable chunk of the second half until Fumitan was killed. Not every character is like Yona or Olivier Armstrong but her characterization is more of a plot device rather than a real one. Her forced romance with Mikazuki is nothing short of cringe-worthy too and her naivety is not something that tickles interest with the audience. Kudelia is mostly relegated to the background until these recent episodes but I do not know if the payoff is worth it because of the clunky middle portion of this series. Sure, I still relegate her the role of a naive princess but I will develop her character faster than the span of 16 episodes. That’s 2/3 of the series, you know.

#2 Revise death scenes – Akihiro’s subplot and Fumitan deserved better than that treatment.

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Or more like, remove Akihiro’s subplot at all since he is just back to the backseat since then. They can still defeat these space pirates even without including his brother and they will still get these suits without the melodrama given they defeated them. That’s three episodes that could have been used to develop some other lacking aspects in this series. Well, I have no beef with Fumitan and her involvement to the plot but her death scene made me roll my eyes in disgust because it is all hammy. My suggestion? The moment the top dogs knew she betrayed Nobliss should be also her death scene. I mean, kill Fumitan in the corner of a street or in a manner Kudelia wouldn’t see. Then, Kudelia will discover her lifeless body later. I think that will leave a more positive impression rather than using Fumitan’s body to shield Kudelia because God knows how many times this series implemented that trick I sighed in frustration.

#3 The intricacies of the political structure on Earth will be presented on Season 2, if there’s any. My other opinion is land Kudelia on Earth at episode 13 if they wanted to include this in order to be fully explored.

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Time constraints. You will not be able to insert and settle that amount of plot lines in a span of six episodes. In Iron Blooded Orphan’s case, the political parties interested with Kudelia was instantly included somewhere when they landed on Earth. What was that? In my opinion, I guess we can remove this or just give some hints in the last episode for a more haunting reminder that Kudelia’s advocacy is not as easy as she thinks. Or land Kudelia on Earth at episode 13 and start the second half of this cour tackling the political portion of Gundam. Nevertheless, it’s quite interesting but we will never be able to see its real potential. Sad.

#4 Give some meat to antagonist – the Gjallarhorn to be exact.

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Except McGillis, Ein and Gaelio, who else in this organization is developed to some extent? What else do we know with Gjallarhorn except that they are the bad guys and both Tekkadan and McGillis want to change (or destroy) them? Well, there’s Carta (who screams caricature too!) but Gjallarhorn did not change from episode 1. This organization is caricature-ish and antagonistic for the sake of being one without presenting their intentions. Well, a hallmark of a good series is we get to know both sides and Iron Blooded Orphans has given us none so far.

#5 Exploit the relationships between the members of Tekkadan

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Bokurano utilized a heck of characters and made each of them memorable while expanding the plot including commentaries and actions from the government. Saying this is not possible the case for Gundam is not true. Tekkadan is composed of interesting individuals that could have been utilized in portraying the hardships these kids have. Do you still remember the unhealthy dependence of Orga and Mikazuki duo that was brushed aside and was only brought again last episode because the plot brings so? Tekkadan was in the sidelines at the middle portion of Iron Blooded Orphans, which is quite understandable given the respective ruckus on Earth. Only that we had to suffer with an underdeveloped group which is sad because this is their series after all. I guess you will never know other members of this group whose importance is much lesser than Eugene’s. If I was the writer, I will capitalize on their relationships until Tekkadan implodes from the tension. Biscuit will still die but not without bringing a rift to the group as his pacifist nature conflicts with Orga. Mikazuki’s cold-hearted demeanor is also something I would like to explore given he hesitated one time on killing a mobile suit user. Yes. I am so much willing to explore the nature of this group rather than the political portion of this series that I am sure that will be half cooked because we are left with three episodes.

BONUS: I am not against Naze’s harem because I think it was well presented but I am on the verge of being irked with it as that was employed like an ornament to the series.

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10 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Fixing Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans

  1. Hello Samui. Firstly I would say that I like your blog and your reviews. Secondly, I’m not a native English speaker so please excuse the sloppy language. I just wanted to discuss the points you brought against Gundam IBO.

    You say that you’re not a Gundam specialst and that you consider this series as a standalone – which is correct. However it should be noted that Gundam is a long-running saga that have its own tropes and gimmicks, and a lot of the choices made by the staff were made as an answer to these tropes. You brought Gundam Wing for example, which is a show IBO borrows a lot from. But again, it’s not that important.

    #1 – Reducing Kudelia’s screen time
    The problem with Kudelia is that she is very important for the plot, but not very important for the viewer. I guess the writer wanted to give her some sort of cute/naive personnality a first but it doesn’t add up with her role as a revoultionnary politician. Her screen time feels like a waste of time because the writers didn’t want to give her a deep enough personnality.

    #2 – Revise death scenes
    I’m OK with everything you said here. Actually the whole Dort colony subplot needs to be rewritten, so many things didn’t make sense during thoses episodes (random protesters recongnized Kudelia in the crowd while Gjallahorn soldiers didn’t know what she looked like ?). Also we haven’t got proper closure about Fumitan, for how long has she been working as a spy, and why ? And how did McGillis know about it ?
    But the lamest thing is that all of this was quickly resolved off-screen when beard man said the workers on colony got equal rights. After all this slaughter, really ?

    The Akihiro subplot is also clumsy, especially when we know now that it hasn’t changed anything in his character. It could have been removed entierly, there wasn’t any need to make this whole pirate encounter a personnal issue.

    #4 – Give meat to antagonists
    This is the one I’m not with you, because I think Gjallahorn has been thoroughly explored through the series. I won’t get in details, but we already know where they come from, what their goal is, what are their methods and how they are problematic. Gjallahorn not changing is the whole point of the series, it’s a mirror of real-life politicians who work in keeping the status quo, are afraid of change, and grow weak and petty.
    I’d also like to point out that the grudge between Gjallahorn and Tekkadan has never been on personal level (until recently), it’s all about business and trying to fulfill the mission. It’s one of the most interesting aspect of the series.

    #5 – Explore the relationships between Tekkadan
    Well there’s only so much you can put in 25 minutes of an episode. Adding a layer of intrigue by making Tekkadan clash with each other would be make the plot very messy, unless yo have an extremly comptetent screenwriter. The reason it worked in shows like Evaneglion is because the was no conflict on the enemy side, while in Gundam all the conflict is on the enemy side (wuth McGillis conspiring against his friends and family).

    To conclude, I’d say the the thing I would change the most in this show is the level of quality in animation, which is not up to the current standards. This is a shame because the mech designs are excellent, and the fact that battles focus on melee instead of beam weapons is nothing short of revolutionary in Gundam.

    Well, that’s all for me. Thanks Samui for the article, and keep up the good work.

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    1. Thank you for reading my insights. Worry not, I am not a native English speaker too. I will give my reply to you in detail come this weekend since I am still at work. (Why can’t anime lovers earn just by watching and blogging these shows?! )

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  2. Great breakdown, it’s refreshing to see legitimate criticism on the series outside of its baggage as a ‘Gundam show’. I pretty much agree with all the points there.

    Show genuinely have some good themes and ideas, but it needs serious editing work. Too much going wide, instead of deep; some plot threads and about a third of the cast should’ve been cut off in order to free up development and screen time for the really important ones. I wonder if there’s going to be future seasons, because only three episodes left don’t really make sense with the current pacing and the amount of stuff they keep introducing.

    (*Bokurano is a terrific series, yeah).

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    1. Thanks for your insight. I honestly love this show but…. the sluggish presentation man. Just how much this series is going to expand its plot – I hope for a second season to see the fallout of Kudelia’s action beyond this ‘We are interested with her’ premise. I haven’t seen the latest episode since work but I will do so my tomorrow.

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    1. They could have fixed the mid parts though. I don’t know. I am not a fan of the heavy handed writing on these portions. Other than that, I like this show enough to create a separate post.

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  3. this anime was for me very important, every episode was better than the previous but (attention SPOILER) the ending is the worst that I EVER seen…
    that gjallarhorn, the stupid blonde that kills Mika, it’s impossibli to accept…
    I’m very disappointed…
    p.s.
    compliments for your blog ^_^
    regards from Italy

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    1. Thank you. I was not the only one who muttered obscenities when the ending of this series aired. Crap. This really jumped the shark. no?

      Oh. Thank you for the kind words.

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