「足跡のゆくえ」 (Ashiato no Yukue)
“Trail of Footprints”
Warm up the fan, because something is about to hit it.
While we’re following a pretty standard Gundam plot trajectory at this stage, the way Tekketsu no Orphans is going about it remains pretty interesting. I think it would be fair to say this is a more character-driven series than the typical Gundam outing (not surprising under the circumstances) but it’s definitely the advances in the plot that are ratcheting up the tension level in much-needed fashion now.
The role of coincidence in this story does try my patience a bit, but we have yet another fraternal drama playing out in unlikely fashion as a result. Biscuit’s brother Savarin Canule (Hirakawa Daisuke) turns out to be the fulcrum of the union revolt on Dort 3 saga, acting as the mediator between the company and the workers. He seems to have established at least a minimal trust with the leader of the workers, and indeed the evidence suggests that if nothing else he would genuinely like to see the conflict end without a massacre. But there can be no question where his loyalty ultimately lies, and it’s not to family.
That conflict is about to get very, very ugly it seems, and our heroes – split up and out of communication at the worst possible time – are fully caught up in it. The leader of the workers hides Orga and his party at his apartment in the slums while Kudelia, Fumitan and Mikazuki go back to the hotel, unaware of what’s happening on Dort 2. Drama is about to find them, but the first dramatic shots are fired when Savarin turns Bisky in to Gjallarhorn. He assumes Tekkadan knowingly smuggled weapons to the workers (though he seems to take Bisky’s surprise as genuine) but his otouto isn’t the real prize – that would be the young girl Savarin assumes to be Kudelia.
Atra’s decision to allow Gjallarhorn to think she’s Kudelia, while I did see it coming, marks one of the first watershed moments of the series. It takes a lot of guts, but this is a girl that’s lived hardscrabble from her toddler days so it’s not surprising she’s tough enough to survive being beaten by Gjallarhorn’s thugs. It does reveal surprising political acumen coming from a child of her background though, and strategically speaking it’s exactly the right move. Kudelia – while she’s done nothing in narrative terms to justify it yet – is the key to everything, and by keeping Gjallarhorn’s hands (and eyes) off her, Atra is making a smart sacrifice.
Narratively speaking the problem, of course, is that Kudelia’s importance so far is wholly symbolic. That’s fine in terms of plot mechanics but not so much for her as a character. Everyone around her is forced into significant character moments because of Kudelia’s presence but she herself has had very few. Fumitan perhaps most of all has been impacted by Kudelia’s role in her life, and now she’s questioning everything she’s lived that life for. There’s an interesting moment where she and Mika speak of responsibility – interesting in part because Kudelia interprets it to have been about the kiss, but Mika’s complete lack of social experience precludes his getting that drift. Also because it presages Fumitan leaving Kudelia – a move I took to mean she’s unwilling to facilitate Kudelia’s assassination, but feels unworthy to stay by her side.
That departure was also facilitated by the arrival at the hotel of McGillis Fareed, Char mask and all. He remains the most mysterious character of the lot, his intentions the most difficult to read. He confronts the trio in the hallway and wastes no time in revealing that he knows Kudelia’s identity, and warns her to flee before all hell breaks loose. He also tells her to live so she can become a “star of hope” for freedom-loving people. Just what does McGillis want, anyway? It seems to me that he, too, is intent on using Kudelia’s existence for his own benefit. But his goals may be rather more ambitious – no less than a reshaping of Gjallarhorn and indeed an upheaval of the political order in the entire solar system. Go big or go home, I guess – and it’s that kind of thinking that makes McGillis such an intriguing X-factor in Iron-Blooded Orphans.