Umm... ya I’m not sure where to start with this one other then wow. Seriously wow... needless to say there is quite a bit to talk about in this penultimate write up for Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Honestly this is very important go watch this episode NOW if you haven’t seen it. Stop reading and watch this episode as I don’t want to spoil anything - the episode is literally that good. It is the beginning of the end for this great season and I can’t be more effusive with my praise this episode was amazing and everything I was hoping Iron-Blooded Orphans was going to be. Anyways enough build up lets get into the heart of Episode 24 “A Future Reward”.
Normally here I write something along the lines of “picking up right where we left off...” then go on. Not this time no, this time we start with bloody and dying members of Tekkadan lying on stretchers with their caretakers being stretched to the breaking point. It’s here the viewer has to realize this isn’t going to be your happy go lucky episode of Iron-Blooded Orphans, this episode is going to be different darker then even last weeks already darkened affair.
Nope as the series jumped ahead in time three days since the death of Carta and Tekkadan arriving at Edmonton’s gates. Since then Tekkadan have been involved in a standoff with Gjallahorn forces that shows no sign of breaking. Despite being outnumbered Tekkadan continue to hold on due to Orga’s unconventional and some would say insane guerrilla tactics. However for the time they’ve only been able to match Gjallahorn and never break them as they have in previous encounters. Stretching Tekkadan to the limit as the deadline for getting Makanai to the Parliamentary elections quickly approaches.
Returning to the battlefield Tekkadan’s Mobile Worker units decide on a tactical withdrawal as their ammo runs low. However on a mobile suit battlefield outside the city limits Mikazuki, Akihiro, and the Teiwaz girls continue to dominate their Gjallahorn forces. They do this by forcing a close combat melee where their superior suits and speed have an overwhelming advantage.
Following the battles Tekkadan is repairing and resupplying their Mobile Weapons. However many members are injured, during this time Ride returns with word that the River has been blocked that its now possible for a Mobile Worker to cross it, he volunteers to drive to get into the battle. While in the distance Merribet overhears this and gives Orga a stern face of disapproval which seems to effect his resolve. However much like in Episode 22 an injection of confidence from Mikazuki drives him forward into another dangerous decision.
After a brief scene of political intrigue at the Parliament Orga gives another one of his rousing speeches to the troops. Inspired by Mikazuki’s “we bet on you now bet on us” idea he relays the message to his family. With the swelling music and Orga’s almost saccharine and inspirational speech its hard to not at least think Hell YA! The speech is reminiscent of something from Friday Night Lights as the coach rallies his team.
However every time Orga speaks about “family” one thing keeps popping into my head as it’s finally clicked what is wrong with Tekkadan. Tekkadan is a cult and Orga is its charismatic leader. Honestly it fits the definition a charismatic leader, an elite guard of yes men (Mikazuki) and an unnaturally loyal following. The comparisons become even clearer as Orga explicitly asks the children of Tekkadan to be decoys and to literally die so the survivors can be happier after.
That is Orga’s argument he’s asking children to die, so others can be happier. There is no other way to see this then as messed up. Once again much like last week Merribet plays the voice of reason and likely the voice of the audience, exclaiming what any sensible person should be thinking “THIS IS WRONG”. However the children so enamored and drunk on Orga’s sweet words volunteer for his plan that will likely result in their death leaving only Merribet and Tekkadan’s mechanic as the dissenting voices.
Following this things really pick up into high gear as the battles resume and everything goes to hell. I’m not going to lie there were times when I though characters like Atra could die, after a little over a month of thinking nobody would die the long awaited killing fields at the end was finally realized and it’s as bloody as we hoped/feared. Right now literally nobody except perhaps the main three characters are safe and even them I wonder about with one episode left.
On the Mobile Suit battlefield Tekkadan takes the offensive catching Gjallahorn off guard and quickly take impressive control over the field. However their dominance in Suit to Suit combat is short lived as Gaeleo arrives with the Kimaris Gundam. Being able to temporarily pull Mikazuki and the Barbatos away.
On the Mobile Worker battlefield just outside of Edmonton’s city limits Tekkadan is charging ferociously. To which pressures the Gjallahorn defense which they call Tekkadan’s tactics insanity. However despite their dedication which causes many members to recklessly throw their lives away in a kamikaze style assault Tekkadan doesn’t seem to have the firepower to break Gjallahorns line of defense.
However just as hope seems lost Eugine and the Isarabi Crew appear out of nowhere with rocket armed Mobile Works turning the tide of the battle in Tekkadan’s favor. This gives Orga, Ride, and the car (driven by Atra) with Kudelia and Makanai the chance to cross the dry riverbed.
Returning to the Mobile Suit engagement Mikazuki is still locked in against Gaeleo and his Gundam however the other fighters are able to continue on. Deciding to aid the other field of engagement Akihiro leaves invoking a cry of protest from Lafter. However her attention is drawn to a giant black Mobile Suit which entered the battlefield, likely at least 40% larger then a standard Graze the viewer gets our first look at the monstrous Graze Ein.
The battle turns up to an eleven as the Teiwaz girls and the Ryusei-Go! engage the new threat and nothing goes well. Quickly Azee is felled by a powerful blow obliterating her cockpit from above by a Graze Ax equivilent in size to the one Akihiro wields. Trying to get revenge for the death of Azee Lafter duels with Ein however his massive Alaya-Vijnana system allows him to perfectly synch with his machine making him as Lafter surprisingly exclaims even stronger then Mikazuki.
Her struggle against his overwhelming strength is short lived and her machine takes a drill hand to the cockpit. Before returning to Mikazuki we see a flash of blood inside the cockpit implying Lafter was impaled and was Killed in Action. I’m personally hoping as we don’t see the body or bloody cockpit as we did with Azee there is chance of her survival but that is little more then on a wing and a prayer for one the more entertaining characters. It’s likely we didn’t see the death as the scene would be too gruesome to get through the censors.
Finally Ein turns his attention to Shino and the Ryusei-Go! which if you remember is a retrofitted Graze taken from Ein’s commander Crank. The one Mikazuki killed in Episode 2. Well Ein has not forgotten and takes bloody and brutal revenge for his fallen commander as a he takes an ax through Shino’s cockpit before literally hammering the point home absolutely obliterating the rest of the suit.
While watching this scene I was literally stunned. In under six minutes we lost three named characters more then doubling the death count of the series. In a kind of ironic twist of fate my predicted death of Akihiro was actually one of the fighters to survive it was literally everyone else that was killed. Showing the writers though quantity of death over the quality of the death was the way to go. As I wrote above it was probably a smart decision as I know feel literally anyone can die and god damn it they used that feeling next scene.
Following the slaughter, Ein positively revels in finally achieving his revenge. This along with Tekkadan’s complete disregard for life both their own and other it brings to mind an old story of the Alaya-Vijnana system; that the users become less then human. Indeed Ein’s actions very clearly mirror Mikazuki’s as while previously he was out for revenge we was never as psychotic or angry as he is at present. Being the only person we have seen both with and without an Alaya-Vijnana implant this could be important.
We return to the caravan with our main heroes and they are quickly making it through an undefended city after breaking the siege. However the electronic equipment within their unit and outside starts to go off signaling a fast approaching Ahab Reactor. Ein quickly catches up and dispatches a helpless Ride and his Mobile Worker, when he comes face to face with Kudelia who as he’s about to strike down dead has Orga and Atra running in to help. Just as the blow is about to kill our three heroes Mikazuki blocks the blow coming from out of nowhere. To which the helpless three witness state they knew he’d save them in the end.
This is because back at the Mobile Suit battle ground McGillis pulled Gaeleo away freeing Mikazuki. He unmasks and challenges his friend to a duel revealing his true nature to his one time friend. Setting up a battle for the final episode.
How on Earth do I wrap this one up? What more is there to say really other then wow. This episode had everything somebody could want out of a Gundam series unexpected deaths (I’m holding out hope for Lafter as Lafterhero can not set sail!), amazing Mobile Suit battles, surprises, rousing speeches, literally everything. However it even got you thinking as last week made it clear Tekkadan is sick and now their sickness has gotten likely more then half their forces killed.
To say this is a good outcome is to really stretch the word. It’s an outcome one could have seen coming from their actions since Biscuit’s death but was their any way to change it? With one episode left one has to wonder how this ends as clearly this feels like an ending but to what? Honestly what was the point Kudelia’s revolution hasn’t commenced, Makanai even if he’s elected is totally unworthy of trust and McGillis has yet to truly remake Gjallahorn in his image. I expect their to be a second season as god damn it their is too much up in the air for their not to be. Until next week guys.
“The sustenance of life, is on the battlefield”
Gundam Music of the Week:
Considering the high body count and all the youths of this episode I don’t think their is any better song then Gundam Victory Second Opening “Don’t Stop! Carry On” as seriously this is what every fan of Iron-Blooded Orphans is screaming at Sunrise right now!