「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.




      1. Also there is a weak bitch that need protection in most gundam series since the original

        p.s. a bitch always in the centre of the picture between most major character on opening / ending / etc, e.g. in gundam wing

    1. Let’s see there’s also Full Frontal from Unicorn Show Spoiler ▼

      . There is a former comrade of the protag in Wrecko that dons a mask and becomes an antagonist. I don’t think Thunderbolt has one yet. There’s probably many more examples.

    2. Gundam 00 MAD cb (from youtube) : Graham Gundam is intimidating Setsuna FF Seiei being a Gundam flaw copy, by putting a Gundam name sign on the head, then Setsuna gets MAD in believing in him.

      Setsuna don’t accept anyone to be a Gundam apart from himself.

  1. At first I was annoyed by nobody know what Kudelia even looks like but after some discussions online it seems that Gjallarhorn is probably enacting a lot of information and communications control, and there is clearly a lot of disconnect within Gjallarhorn itself and internal politics.

    Atra was certainly brave doing what she did and tough as hell. It may or may not have been the correct decision but it might have bought a little time. If they didn’t think they had Kudelia already, they might still have been looking for her when the real Kudelia hurried after Fumitan. Of course they might still be hunting after Atra who they think is the real Kudelia. Knowing what she knew it was probably the best decision she could have made and it kept her and Biscuit alive.

    It’s been a while but I feel vindicated for Atra finally showing her worth as a character and as a member of Tekkadan. Even without any kind of combat training she still managed to bite one of her captors and she’s got steely resolve. She’s more than just a moe little cook to us now, and she is also more than that to Tekkadan as a whole.

    As for the great Mythos surrounding Kudelia despite her not seeming to have done much, it’s probably the result of her actions, message, and efforts blown out of proportion by all her supposed benefactors, using her as a symbol and a martyr and creating a Kudelia that is not the character we know, but a whole other entity, a persona that now seems to have a life of its own through the hopes and ambitions of those affected by it.

    The next episode or couple of episodes will be important for the real Kudelia and might force her to finally step up and seize her role in the story. She hasn’t been much more than cargo since Tekkadan got into space, but now I hope we’ll see what she’s really got.

    Based on the number of “coincidences” regarding family in this show I’m guessing that’s the real theme of this series: family in many different forms; it means different things to different people. It is getting to be a bit much but at least it isn’t as glaring as in some other shows. I do hope they get a bit more clever. For example, I think they could have made Biscuits older brother a former close friend rather than an older brother to make it less coincidence and it wouldn’t have changed the story, just the dialogue really.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and really look forward to the next and as someone who’s been fond of Atra from the beginning I’m quite happy to have gotten an episode where the little cute girl showed she’s got iron beneath that soft adorable exterior. She’s tough as nails and isn’t afraid to show it. I’m glad we finally got to see it too.

    1. It’s kind of a tradition in Gundam for whatever the space-tech of the given setting is to interfere with communications. I believe they covered that earlier in this setting when they left Mars. At the time I didn’t really take it to mean that there’s little to no news, but I guess that’s what we now have to assume, and it’s not that much of a stretch given the usual communication-destroying-particle of the gundam multiverse.

    2. It’s been a while but I feel vindicated for Atra finally showing her worth as a character and as a member of Tekkadan. Even without any kind of combat training she still managed to bite one of her captors and she’s got steely resolve. She’s more than just a moe little cook to us now, and she is also more than that to Tekkadan as a whole.

      True. I didn’t like Atra very much the first time we saw her, but I must say that after this episode she’s become one of my favourite characters.

      This is one of the few instances I’ve seen of Damsel in Distress done right. Instead of weakening her character, it has empowered her. Trying to fight her captors as hard as she can? Misleading them where it hurts them most? Resisting torture without spilling the beans? And then shrugging it off by remembering she had it worse when she was younger? Kudos to her. And she’s just the cook. Tekkadan should be proud.

    3. Another point in consideration is the fact the Mars Gjallarhorn has a photo of Kudelia and not the Earth Gjallarhorn. There is a big rift between the two and I wouldn’t be surprised if they withheld information from each other. It is the same case between the Atlantic Federation and the Eurasian Federation of Gundam Seed.

      1. also, these Worker Adults are asking these Kids out, because this Workers are just Amateurs, while Tekkadan are Pros… and they are Kids.. so even here no one asked about that

    1. It’s not. Seeing a child being tortured is creepy and disgusting and seeing that in a show targeted at children and airing at prime time is even more so. What were they thinking?

  2. Damn, mad props to Atra for taking a beating from the soldiers and I love how Mika is out for blood when he finds out what happened to her. Nice call back to episode 4 when he nearly choked Gaelio to death.

    I think its funny that our “Char Clone” seems to derive some childlike enjoyment from playing dress up.

    1. I think McGillis has been playing the long game for most of his life. Every move calculated and always putting on a fake face. So he can only act like himself when he is not being himself, i.e. wearing the mask.

    2. I enjoy the simplicity of Mika’s character. He probably can’t save the world, or make that much of a difference in the long run, but if you mess with his friends, he will find you and he will kill you.

  3. Well what do you know, IBO CAN make a compelling plot when it doesn’t waste time on irrelevant padding. And considering this arc is still on its setup phase, I’d argue this episode and previous one should have been combined for better pacing.

    I have to say, Atra does get major plus points for her having balls of titanium, despite the fact that she doesn’t have any balls. I guess it says alot when the Ship’s cook makes a better impression than the girl who is supposed to be central to the plot. If anything Kudelia running out of the hotel just made everything worse because Tekkadan has to search for her. And it seems Fumitan is now setup to die so here’s hoping the writers will actually surprise me now.

    My only complaint this episode? Nobliss is morbidly obese. Thanks writers, I wouldn’t be able to tell he was a bad guy if I didn’t see cartoonishly fat cheeks.

  4. copied and pasted from my reddit comment because I’m lazy tonight:

    Ever since the suspicion of a spy in Tekkadan got started, I always want to deny that Fumitan was not one. So when it was spoken that the informant of Tekkadan’s movements was done by Todo, I was relieved.

    But I guess I already knew even before last episode since I was not surprised of our Macky Chocolate man masked man forced Fumitan to leave Kudelia. (and here’s my sole tear for that scene).

    OTOH, Mika, you really have to crash that truck as a diversion?

    And it’s time to RAISE YOUR FLAAAAAAAG (of uprising).

    Edit: And everyone has their own issues and things they want to protect, even if the course of actions as a result is total crap, like kidnapping. (Yes, Savarin, I don’t think you would survive this conflict; just my hunch, not my hatred)

    So everyone wanted Kudelia Aina Bernstein (Drinking game! A shot for every time her full name “Kudelia Aina Bernstein” is mentioned. And yes, drink thrice now). Some wanted her dead as a symbol, some wanted her to be a live as an example to everyone else that tries what she (unknowingly) did, and some (actually) wanted her to be the spark of change. Kinda hard for her to play hard to get now, right?

  5. WTF is up with that wig? I almost didn’t realize it was McGillis…I guess he has to hide his identity…but that is what a mask it for…right?

    Anyhow the show is ramping up and the drama is increasing at a nice pace. Looking forward to seeing how things play out. Fumiko is a goner fo sho.

    1. Well, the voice (and the preview) already gave him away. (For the viewers, at least.)

      But the only person in-universe who could confirm McGillis’s identity in an instant (Mika–see episode 04) was busy with rescuing Biscuit and Atra before regrouping with Orga and company.

      Anyway, really nice of this show to put some questions to bed. (Questions like, “Who sent those weapons to the workers of Dort 2?”) Although the answer to that just made me go, “I should’ve known…” On the downside, who knows what other kinds of torture would have befallen Atra if she wasn’t rescued?

      But smiling after being put through unimaginable amounts of pain? Atra just proved in this episode that she really is an “Iron-Blooded Orphan.”

  6. I love that we are seeing the beginnings of a war. In most of Gundam series, war is a reality by the time the series begins. But here we see step by step how one may begin.

    From the union leader talking in a resigned tone about the developments, to the harem master pointing out that one of the main problems is that the higher-ups in the colonies are all from Earth but that alone wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t also a bunch of incompetents, the captain manipulating things so the mecha don’t go out and the internal security forces take all the credit, or the big brother selling them out because he fears (not without reason) a violent uprising and a bloody repression, this conflict is more nuanced than I thought it would be.

    Also, I always thought that Fumitan was a spy for Gjallarhorn or at least McGillis, but she served that Nobliss Gordon. Interesting.

    1. I think there are some OVAs that have at least the first two (you’re not going to see Gundams becoming fodder, sorry), especially ones that take place in the UC.

      The rule for the Char Clone, is that there can only be one at a time. If Char himself is around at the same time as the OVA but not show up in the series, then you won’t see a masked person in the series.

  7. So McGillis is going to likely use Kudelia as a way to start his reformation of Ghalajhorn (yes, spelling wrong, I know). And I bet he’s doing it so that his fiance doesn’t have to live with the war happening during her time when she becomes older and needs to get involved. She’ll likely end up like Kudelia as well, since her family is probably just as important.

    As for Atra, I saw it and literally went “oh fuck no, don’t kill her”, but then realized she was getting beaten up something fierce. It was not what I expected, nor her just saying she had it worse when she was younger. I mean, holy ****. She’s really a lot older than her looks give her and that harem concept she had earlier, I thought was from a naive perspective, but after this… It isn’t. And from the reaction Mika had, I think she has a chance to get her wish.

    Though this is Gundam, watch them kill Atra off just to have Mika lose it. 🙁 Sadly, I can see it.

    Dorian S.
  8. ep 16:

    This Episode hit me hard, it hit me so hard that even my Veteran “firewall” received a big dent and touched nearly my heard

    Not many Animes got this deep in a long time

    Watch it, and hold tissues on standby

  9. Gundam’s been a bit stale for the last few episodes, but this episode felt like a step in the right direction. Atra gets major points for her bravery, and Cookie also gets his fair share of development with the interactions with his brother. Mika was also true to his character, it was nice seeing his sudden bloodlust when Atra got hurt.

    But yeah, I agree with everyone who says all the other characters BUT the supposed focal character: Kudelia, gets proper characterization. I don’t dislike her, but she’s kinda just there…like some kind of prize that everyone needs or wants to protect. I have some hope for her though in the last half of this cour, since Fumitan will finally be gone, which might of been the shackles that stopped her from becoming fully independent. If Kudelia gets proper development, then I’ll be happy.

    Looking forward to the mess that’s to come 🙂

  10. The issues still stay strong –
    Adopted family appears to be better than real family (the blood here is quite thin)
    They are still kids at heart and at the whims of adults..
    but finally Kudelia has the naivety wiped out and finally realizes ideals are not so simple (at least not as simple as going to Earth and giving some speeches).

    I have to admit I’ve been waiting for her to wake up. Time to put away the embarrassment of a first kiss and see how dirty the world of politics is.


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