Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans at a Glance

relena expat g-tekketsu

My breathing grew heavier as the episode queued up; only one thought kept zipping through my head – “Please don’t let this suck.”

Well, if someone had told me that it was the Gundam show that’d have the strongest first episode I’ve seen so far, I probably wouldn’t’ve believed them. I’m a Gundam fan, and, as a Gundam fan, I just expect the opening episode to a Gundam TV series to be bad. Since the very beginning of the franchise, these episodes have followed a pretty standard format, and haven’t generally strayed very far from it – and, when they have, it’s usually because its a non-standard Gundam to begin with (see: Build Fighters, SD). G-Tekketsu (as people have been abbreviating it; original title is Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans) doesn’t itself break this mold, but it does manage to avoid making it feel rote and stale, something which I’m tempted to say hasn’t been the case since Turn A aired sixteen years ago (granted, Turn A still does end up executing the ‘set things up, blow shit up’ approach – it takes two episodes to do so, though, so it’s rather deliberate and fairly creative about it). Then again, I’m probably the wrong person to look to for an unbiased opinion here since I haven’t really liked any TV Gundam post-Turn A…

But, yes, this was a really good episode. It introduced our main players, gave just enough details about their circumstances and their world to give us an idea of what sort of story we’re getting into without getting bogged down, and gave it all a firm push to get things going. There were some obligatory jargon moments, but they weren’t enough to induce confusion, and I got the sense that its jargon that will actually matter in some manner, so I wasn’t inclined to do an instant memory dump of it (a la Symphogear and K). We haven’t spent a huge amount of time with any one character, but there were little touches that filled them out enough for the early going, such as when one of our primary leads, Mikazuki, has an awkward pause when he introduces himself between giving his name and saying “desu”.

Although Tomino isn’t working on this one, there were some moments here and there that brought to mind his particular approach to Gundam. Some of the character designs are a little goofy, for example, in a manner that reminded me of the original Gundam. There’s a sense of his humor as well – while under bombardment, a man desperately tries to punch in a lock code for a safe, only to exclaim aloud in dismay that he can’t remember it. For the latter, I realize that this sort of thing is what annoys some people about the franchise, but I’ve always liked this aspect to Tomino’s Gundam as to me it lends a sense of realism to the proceedings, and its something you never see in other war/conflict shows.

Speaking more generally of Tomino, G-Tekketsu in this episode was taking the best bits of the franchise while also discarding the grimace-inducing bits, something which Reconguista in G wasn’t able to do. There were a lot of people feeling apprehensive about this one given the production staff involved (I like Mari Okada just fine – she did the scripts for Red Garden, Simoun, and Wandering Son, after all – but including the Anohana director was plenty to give me pause even if I’ve liked a few other things he’s worked on), but they’re off to strong a start with this episode, and it feels very Gundam.

Of additional note, wow, this show looks good! Then again, I still find the idea of a Gundam TV series not looking like absolute garbage pretty novel, which you can blame the 90’s for! But, really, this had very fluid action sequences, and didn’t drop the ball at all in less animation-intensive moments. And the soundtrack was excellent; it brought Ace Combat Zero’s OST (which I own) to mind.

I watched this episode on Daisuki’s iOS app and didn’t have any problems with it, although I’ve heard a lot of complaints about it. It didn’t play any ads for me, which sounds like an unusual experience. However, when I tried to stream it on my laptop to get a screencap for this post, I hit a wall – it won’t play at all (had to grab a screencap from the months-old PV), and I tried it on three different browsers with no luck (Opera, IE, and Firefox). For the stream that did work on the app, subs were on the small side, and certainly smaller than what Crunchyroll, Viz, Viewster, Viki, and Funimation utilize. They also read slightly awkwardly at times – nothing was ungrammatical or misspelt, but there was a lack of colloquiality to them. There also wasn’t a single usage of contractions in the entire episode, which contributed to the weird phrasing that popped up throughout. They aren’t bad subs, mind you, but they did trip me up several times since it didn’t read very naturally. (For the record, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and AnimeLab are also streaming this show, but their streams are delayed a week and all of them have region-locking, so Daisuki’s your best bet; hopefully the issues with the website are just unique to me…)

So, I loved this episode and would strongly encourage Gundam fans to give it a go. Here’s hoping it keep this strong pace going for the remainder of its run.

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