It’s heerrreee! The blu-ray release of Iron Blooded Orphans has finally made its way to the States thanks to Funimation, and I’m so glad to have it in my personal collection. While there is a deluxe set, we weren’t lucky enough to receive a review copy of it, so instead we’ll be checking out the standard blu-ray releases.
Unfortunately, the non-deluxe edition is pretty bare bones when it comes to extras. When I say bare bones, I mean it only has some bonus trailers on it. This is disappointing, because once again it seems as though Funimation missed an opportunity to include some voice actor/director commentary. Especially for a show as big as Gundam, you would hope that there would be something along those lines, but unfortunately not.
The cover art is simple enough, but still does well to represent our major protagonists.
The alternate cover art features Gjallarhorn pilots McGillis Fareed and Gaelio Bauduin.
Again, with slim pickings when it comes to bonuses, there’s not much else to comment on. However, if you haven’t watched the show yet, check out our series review below!
NOTE – This review will have spoilers for the series. Read on at your own risk.
Since my first look at this series a couple months ago, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans (IBO) grew and matured as a series in many ways. While my interest was certainly piqued, I could not have predicted the avenues that IBO would eventually work down, ranging from slavery and child soldiers to polygamy and space mafia ceremonies. Now that the finale for this season has aired, it’s time to take a step back and take a look with a wider lens:
The animation didn’t really improve significantly from my first look through the end of the series. Granted, there were some great action sequences, but given that the majority of the series happens in a spaceship or in space, there weren’t many dynamic or engaging environments to appreciate. The characters themselves look great, most of the time. Overall, the animation is decent, but it doesn’t blaze any new trails or break ground in terms of its quality.
For me, the quality of the story in IBO goes hand in hand with the quality of the characters it creates. As I mentioned in my first look, what caught my attention early in the series was the construction of IBO’s two primary protagonists: Orga and Mikazuki (Mika). Gundam series are known for their young, often militaristic protagonists often swept up in a fight that they don’t quite understand; or, if they think they understand, they ultimately realize that they’ve been played/manipulated at some point. IBO takes a fresh approach to the series from the start with the concept of children who work in space largely being slaves, and follows the long and hard journey of these oppressed children from slaves and “human debris” to an independent Private Military Company (PMC) known as “Tekkadan”. Their first job is transporting a young woman by the name of Kudelia Aina Bernstein, who is seen as the face of Mars’ revolution, to Earth. Standing in their way is the mighty military entity known as Gjallarhorn. Armed with their instincts, stubborn attitudes and a trump card in the form of a 300-year old Gundam Frame known as “Barbatos”, this rag-tag group of lost boys attempts to make a name for themselves and create their own family.
Orga is among the oldest of the group, and is often looked to by Mika and the others as a guiding light. If Orga says to do something, his comrades trusts that he has the best interests of the group in mind and will often comply without question. Despite his natural leadership qualities and mutual respect with his fellow “space-rats”, what makes Orga a really great character are his flaws. While he may be the oldest of the group, in many ways he’s still a kid, naíve to the ways of the world and often believing that aggression will solve most of his problems. As the series progresses and more adults enter the picture, Orga’s weaknesses are exposed, and his emotional growing pains are laid bare as he works to become the best boss and leader he can be. Witnessing his growth in this way was very satisfying and real, as IBO avoided taking the easy way out of following the well-worn path of the boisterous, extroverted and fearless leader, and instead opted for a leader willing and able to be molded and influenced positively by the adults around him.
Sharing the spotlight with Orga is the quiet and unassuming Mika. The two have been friends since they were both very young, and from the start Orga realizes there’s something different about Mika. While most of the space rats who work on Mars have an extremely painful surgery done to implant a single receptor on the back of their neck in order to pilot the necessary equipment for mining and other assorted tasks, Mika has three. He moves quickly and with deadly efficiency in and out of a mobile suit; an effective soldier in the frame of a young teen.
What really stuck out to me in the early episodes was Mika’s relationship with death, namely his ability to deal it out without much remorse or emotional ramification. In episode 2 he executes a couple of adults without blinking an eye. By the end of episode 3 he finishes off an enemy officer by emptying his gun into him following a dramatic mobile suit battle. For a good 5 or 6 episodes following this I was almost certain they would reveal that the officer was in fact alive, hanging out in a jail cell or something to reveal that perhaps Mika wasn’t as cold blooded as he appears. No such revelation ever came. Mika understands that there are enemies that stand in the way of Orga and his goals, and has no problem disposing of them. This is an interesting and refreshing departure from most of the other Gundam protagonists, who typically are at least confronted with the concept of guilt over their past murders and/or succumb to their emotions dramatically as a turning point in their development. Granted, we may yet see a season 2 and so Mika still has quite a bit of growing to do, but it’s still fairly safe to say that among the many Gundam protagonists we’ve seen since 1979, Mika is certainly among the coldest.
One final note on the story/characters, and that’s regarding the finale. Episode 13, titled “Funeral Rites”, is probably one of the strongest finales I’ve seen in a while. Sure, there’s a good amount of action in the first 10 minutes, but the emotional weight of these boys not understanding the concept of being reborn when they die, or the idea of having a “soul” packs more punch than a finely-tuned mobile suit. The funeral scene itself is also beautifully done, and highlights a particularly powerful moment in Orga’s growth as a leader as well. Overall, it wraps up the series well without relying on a cheap cliffhanger or manufactured drama to keep viewers interested.
Personally, I found this to be one of the better Gundam series I’ve seen in quite some time. With the quality character development, opening and ending songs and intriguing story, IBO is certainly worth a watch.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans
- One of the best Gundam installments in recent years
- Mikazuki resists falling into stereotypical protagonist mode
- Orga is a compelling character, and his arc is fun to watch
- Fantastic animation
- Kudelia's arc is sometimes painfully predictable
- Blu-ray extras are painfully absent