I’m really testing my luck here with these two part write ups. As once again over the past two weeks we have had another couple of episodes that flowed perfectly together. With Episode 31 “Silent War” and Episode 32 “My Friend” we saw the story of the “War With No Name” a short war with big consequences for the main story as four named character - yes four - died. The two episodes certainly held their fair share of surprises and emotional punches to the gut making them easily the best pair of episodes this season and near the top of the series as a whole.
Opening with a brief time skip two weeks has passed since Tekkadan launched from Mars to assist the Earth Branch. Where a small war has broken out between the forces of Arbrau and the SAU a rival Economic Bloc Nation. As orchestrated by Galan Mossa under orders from Rustal Elion, who wishes to use the ensuing chaos to humiliate McGillis showing he is unable to restore and maintain order on the Earth.
Despite the rather small number of combatants under the command of Mossa the war takes far longer then anyone expected. Showing himself to be a master tactician Mossa commanding Tekkadan and the inexperienced Arbrau Defense Forces drags out the battle for weeks.
Exploiting Tekkadan’s trusting nature to it’s “comrades” Mossa has discovered that they children truly can be trained like “dogs”. This is doubly so for Human Debris soldier Aston who follows commands with little regard for himself - making him very similar to Mikazuki in that regard. Despite this Takaki starts to question the merits of Mossa’s orders as he can see they make little sense.
However these doubts are quieted after Mossa saves his life. By this point Mossa on the Battlefield and Radice back at home by utilizing psychological conditioning and limiting communications have taken total control of Tekkadan’s Earth Branch. However Tekkadan’s Mars elites are quickly making their way to deal with the situation as Orga understands something is amiss.
McGillis also realizes something is off, while Tekkadan is strong they’re not know as great military strategists. Sensing a piece of information is missing he deduces a third power is behind the current conflict - somebody unseen from the shadows pulling the strings. Knowing his own standing is on the line he resolves to finish the conflict himself.
As the war continues Tekkadan is being pushed to their physical and mental breaking point by Mossa’s demanding schedule. As the war drags on Tekkadan is willing to do anything he says with little thought regarding the merits of the orders. However as McGillis enters the field of battle Galan Mossa understands the end is near - he only needs to checkmate the king and the war will be over.
As darkness fully descends over the series its clear by this point somebody will be paying the ultimate price. Takaki continues to raise death flags however Aston has by this point shown recklessness in regards to protecting his closest friend and surrogate brother. Displaying a disregard for his own safety it is eminently possible Aston could be the one to die which would be an amazing fake out on Mari Okada’s part.
As Tekkadan is raised from their beds Mossa announces the end of the war is near, they need only take out one more suit. Knowing the end is near Takaki forgoes his tradition unit commander role instead opting for a Tekkadan Mobile Suit. Along with Aston the two engage McGillis in battle.
McGillis over a public channel questions the two’s orders asking if it is Orga who’s orders they are following, knowing full well the answer to be no. While this stuns Takaki for a second reviving a flicker of doubt the resolute Aston correctly points out he should ignore this as its the enemy speaking. Pushing doubt aside Takaki launches a full frontal assault on McGillis.
McGillis though shows his superior skills and manages to out duel to Alaya-Vijnana equipped youngster. Sensing his friend is in trouble just as McGillis is about to unleash the final blow Aston steps in and takes the hit. However as his suit is gutted he binds McGillis forcing the General in place, completing his mission as Mossa arrives.
However before Mossa can finish McGillis off Tekkadan and the Barbatos Lupis engage throwing the battlefield into confusion as they break through the Arbrea collaborates blockade on starport landings. However the reinforcements are shocked to find their own forces fighting their newfound ally McGillis. Understanding that the jig is up Mossa makes for a quick retreat with his personal forces as the plan will quickly be found out.
While everyone is trying to understand what is going on. Takaki has found his way to Aston’s cockpit. As the young boy is dying in an extremely emotional scene he explains the only way a Human Debris can exist is to extinguish his soul, since Akihiro, Takaki, and his sister revived the fire of life he wishes he never met them as he for the first time wants to live. However as he passes on he says thank you to Takaki knowing his life had meaning and dies with a smile on his face as his best friend screams in pain.
Back at Tekkadan’s Earth Base confusion reigns as Radice is trying to understand the situation on the ground especially with reports of the Barbatos showing up. However that is a moot point quickly as he’s confronted by Eugene and Akihiro demanding to know what’s going on. Knowing his only chance lies in being honest the rat spills the beans on the entire plan.
Learning that Aston has been killed in the conflict Akihiro who effectively adopted the boy as a brother is overcome by rage. Vowing revenge he says he doesn’t care what happens to Radice at the moment, he only wants Galan Mossa. Launching in the Gusion Rebake Full City Akihiro heads to where Radice said one of Mossa’s hidden bases he discovered as he himself didn’t trust the man due to the ease of which lies come from his lips.
Back on the battlefield with Tekkadan’s elites engaging the enemy, the war is quickly ending as Mikazuki is mopping up the opposing forces. Hush too has gotten what he wanted and became a Mobile Suit pilot, however as he’s fighting a real MS battle for the first time he’s over come with fear and a sense of his mortality. As he’s about to be killed Mikazuki saves him and Hush has the sudden realization; it’s not the Barbatos, it’s not the Alaya-Vijnana System that makes Mikazuki better then him - it’s just that he is better period. A revelation that will likely have big ramifications for his character going forwards.
With the net closing around Mossa he abandons his allies and tries to flee however Akihiro catches up to him. In one of the most raw and brutal battles ever seen in a Gundam Akihiro engages Mossa in a fight so one sided its amazing as the Gusion Rebake Full City unleashes its full power - showing why the Gusion is likely one of the strong in terms of raw strength Akihiro demolishes Mossa who himself has been shown to be an ace pilot.
Mossa understands that Akihiro is motivated by emotion fueled by loss. However he starts to give advice that the good ones, those that feel are always the first to die on the battlefield. Akihiro says then that Mossa is one of the good ones as it is clear he’s feeling something at the moment.
As Akihiro holds Mossa down in a vice grip with a near literal vice the aged warrior does the only thing that is left to him. As Lafter flies in to witness Mossa self destructs attempting to take Akihiro with him. However the stalwart warrior is unharmed as his mission of vengeance is complete.
In space with Galan Mossa’s failure his patrons are trying to make sense of the situation. Not understanding how such a great warrior could fall Julietta mourns his loss. However Rustal Elion his friend understands the man, for he had much like Aston given up on feelings and life. He lived for battle, by battle, and he died in battle. So mourning him is a pointless endeavour as he never truly existed. Raising an interesting point regarding our heroes as well, who seem to be very similar to Galan Mossa.
As the war ends the only loose end left is what to do with Radice who has been fully exposed as a traitor. The Tekkadan elite deliberate among themselves on what to do as the sniveling rat tries to explain what he did was really for the best of Tekkadan. Despite Tekkadan having the very contract that guaranteed Radice money and safety from Mossa...
Explaining that this is a job for Tekkadan’s Earth Branch and as acting leader it is up to him, Takaki takes it upon himself to decide Radice’s fate. Taking Mikazuki’s gun nobody actually believes the young man will have the stomach to actually do what comes so easy to Mikazuki. However showing who much of a toll the War with no Name took on the once kindhearted boy Takaki kills (off screen) execution style his former comrade.
As I said above four named characters died and no I wasn’t talking about that random Mobile Worker pilot. No Takaki did indeed die this episode, the young kind hearted boy we knew is now gone along with Aston - in his place is a colder man then we once knew more in the mold of Mikazuki then he was before. Takaki’s innocence died this episode and it was so much more powerful then if he had literally died. To that I say bravo Iron Blooded Orphans, not only did I not see things play out like this the way it happened was so much more satisfying then anything could have been.
The episode then comes to a close as Mikazuki is talking to Char - I mean McGillis who in a callback to their first meeting offers the young man a chocolate. Yup The Chocolate Man is back! He says Mikazuki battling in the Barbatos reminds him of the founder of Gjallahorn.
However McGillis is really reminding me of Char. Already one of the most Char-like Char Clones McGillis’ character arc is following the legendary characters arc to a tee. As we are now in Zeta Char territory as its clear McGillis is assuming a mentor/ally role with Mikazuki. However we all know how this arc ends, the only question does McGillis continue to Char’s Counterattack Char or divert somewhere along the way?
With the episodes in the rear view mirror and have watched them twice. I can’t shake this feeling that these episodes reminded me strongly of one of the quintessential Gundam stories the beloved 8th Mobile Suit team. Showing the horrors of war at its most clear IBO this past two weeks really nailed that as well, focusing on the grunts the mental toll it takes was so clear.
Tekkadan’s greatest weakness - it’s trusting nature was abused and exploited and people died from it. In the place of that innocent naiveté now is a harder and more real organization as embodied by Takaki. How his character will go on from here is anyone’s guess, however this being Iron Blooded Orphans I have a feeling it will involve pain for everyone.
“The sustenance of life, is on the battlefield”
With these two episodes how could it be anything but this one? If you haven’t yet seen The 8th I’d say stop what you’re doing now and watch it. As one of the best Gundam OVA’s along with The War in the Pocket it is Gundam at it’s finest. Furthermore I’m lucky I haven’t used this Opening yet as it’s also one of my favorite from the 1990's.
PS: If you have any favorite Gundam music I’m always taking recommendations.