Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans – 25 (END)
The worst-kept secret in anime is officially out, and Tekketsu no Orphans has its sequel. As to whether it deserves one or not, I suppose that’s up to the individual viewer to decide. What stands out more than anything for me is unfulfilled potential, because this was a Gundam incarnation with a better than average premise and an outside-the-box staff. In the end I think the series largely bogged down under its own weight and the chemistry never seemed quite to mesh, and only one or two elements really felt fully realized.
The first thing that must be said about the finale is that it answered the question Iron-Blooded Orphans raised in the penultimate episode – that nauseating speech by Orga was being played straight, and not for irony. Poor Merribit was not only shoved into a demeaning cry-on-cue situation, she wasn’t even given the dignity of being right – she was just being a soppy female for the purposes of the plot. I didn’t want to believe that was the case but the events of the final episode seem to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what Okada and Nagai’s perspective on all this is.
Fundamentally, the biggest problem I have with this ending is that stupidity has no punishment – in fact, is rewarded – and that pretty much invalidates any meaning to the story as a whole. I like happy endings as much as the next guy, but they have to be earned. There has to be consequence of some kind, or else nothing means anything – it’s all just plot noise. If your character had a name, you survived this finale as long as you were playing for the home team. And all of Orga’s bad decisions were meaningless. I would call the fact that the only senior Tekkadan leader who showed any real sense was the only one that died in the series ironic, but I just don’t think irony is in Tekketsu no Orphans‘ vocabulary.
Now, the usual disclaimers apply. The action sequences were, as ever, really good – and well-integrated into the story itself (which was not often but not always the case with Orphans). It basically broke down to Ein vs. Mika and McGillis vs. Gaileo and while there was little mystery to either outcomes, both death matches were quite interesting existentially as well as visually. Ein was basically the ultimate stooge on every level, a character forever being used for the convenience both of the villain and the writer, but that gave him a sort of pathos that made his long-overdue (presumed) demise rather poignant.
Also really strong was McGillis Fareed. He was the one character and his the one plot thread in Orphans that was fully realized. In a series full of cartoonish villains Fareed was a guy with real nuance – someone fighting for what I would argue to be worthwhile goals using unscrupulous and cruel means. The degree to which those means were cruel and just what a stone-cold scoundrel he is were really hammered home in the finale, and that so-called duel with Gaileo was easily the most emotionally effective thing in the episode. In the end everyone on both sides, up to and including his own father, were dancing to Fareed’s tune. And he was the reason Orga’s tragic leadership wasn’t rewarded with more tragedy than it was. I dare say McGillis Fareed might just rise to the title of magnificent bastard.
As for Kudelia, she was an appendage to the end – someone who never had any role in driving the plot through any action she initiated. Her only influence was symbolic – but like Orga, her ending proves things like that don’t carry any weight. She’s rewarded for her passivity and myopia and winds up where she was hoping to be all along – in a position of influence and a symbol of change. Well, I suppose that’s what real-life “revolutionaries” often are too – mere symbols – but that doesn’t mean they’re worthwhile protagonists for a drama.
Whatever that second season turns out to be, I certainly hope it focuses heavily on McGillis because a season of him screwing over people sounds like Tekketsu no Orphans‘ most compelling option by far – not to mention that the internal politics of Gjallarhorn are its most intriguing plotline. The thing is, the plight of the Tekkadan is compelling and interesting too – it’s like every Gundam theme over the decades distilled down to its purest Absinthe-strength essence. But no matter how much one might feel the plight of the cast, I needed to see some semblance of reason and responsibility in the plot – and honestly, I think Tekketsu no Orphans punted that in the end. It seems a lot to ask for that to change in a sequel, but there’s been too much worthwhile in this series over two cours not to at least give it the chance to prove itself. Hope isn’t expectation, but it’s better than not caring.