Iron-Blooded Orphans

You know what makes people cry? Dead children, sure. But also onions.

Spoilers ahoy! Both seasons!

I think, after watching Gundam IBO’s gruesome finale and thinking about it a bit, Tekketsu’s narrative lies mostly within one layer of the thing. Like many good anime there are different layers to this story, but the ending seems to talk about one: practical justice.

There are a lot of bullshit that the Gjallarhorn (never letting Gundam creators name real things ever please) end up doing. Some of it is relatively innocent but pissant, such as anything that Iok did. Some of them are shady and scumbag-like, like blanket-firing on combatant and civilians alike, or using proxies to do dirty work/commit war crimes (hello hige ojisan). Are they all “bad”? Is any of it “good”? I think the key here is to be able to discern what set of values IBO is trying to tell us that are important.

For example, McGillis foolishly pursuited pure power, while not really solidifying his political base. He is swiftly removed from power after being outed that he’s gone coo-coo. Rustal did what he did, in some way, as a proxy for “what really happens.” The adult’s reality. The either. The fish that’s always going to be bigger than you in the fishbowl of the world. I don’t think he (or really, Gaelio) hold McGillis to be a bad guy because he wasn’t a bad person. He merely tried to do what he believed in, even if it was a foolish way to accomplish that. That also did not cloud the decision making progress on Rustal’s end, coincidentally. In the same way the drama within Teiwaz was played out, so did the things play out between the Gjallarhorn and the Earth’s econ blocks regarding Mars: adults making backroom deals.

Which is why the ending all makes sense. It’s like peeling an onion–the more you do it the more tear you shed. And each layer is consistent thematically. Even down to Tekkadan themselves. We can agree that Orga is not the smartest or best leader, and it’s clear that Tekkadan survives by the skin of their teeth and seemingly endless supply of cannon fodder made of children. It just happens sometimes reoccurring characters with names die, while sometimes it’s nonames. This is the outer layer of the onion when people care about death flags and all that nonsense. Criticizing Tekkadan making Orga into its religious leader in terms of the trust Tekkadan members put in him is a sympathetic angle, as we hear towards the end, but it betrays the truth. It’s kind of like a child trusting her guardian, is that a form of religion? I think it’s here that McGillis’s wife’s devotion fit in. That is what makes the children in IBO worth crying for. They don’t always make rational choices, but that’s why they’re so adorable. It is why orphans are among the most vulnerable members of our society.

I like it, because ultimately IBO is saying the bullshit Iok and Carta and others did is just that, bullshit. What moves the world are the quiet, behind the scene things that Kudelia and Naze have separately built are what truly make a difference in the lives of people. You could even say that the Gjallarhorn had a crisis, and McGillis happened to expose those elements (inadvertently) because its ruling nobles were full of people like Carta and Iok: too busy playing house while actual children (and adults!) suffered. It’s not about how much power you amass, because the littlest of these things, these practical improvements in the life of the abandoned orphans, that you do, is what makes the difference. This is how the last episode of IBO kind of wrap things, and it is well.


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