It’s a fairly normal occurrence for series like Tekketsu no Orphans – my favorite episodes tend to be the ones the bulk of the audience yawns at, and the crowd favorites often leave me cold. Last week’s Orphans might have been the worst episode of the series in some ways even as it was among the most acclaimed, and this was definitely my favorite in at least a month – so it won’t surprise me a bit if it goes over like a lead Zeppelin.
The thing is, there’s an old saying in sports – “horses for courses”. Anybody is going to be more effective if they’re playing in conditions that suit their game, and I think it’s quieter episodes like this that suit Okada Mari and Nagai Tatsuyuki’s game. Nagai has proven he can deliver good action pieces, no question, but it’s not that hard to find those in the Gundam catalogue. How many Gundam series can deliver interior material as well as this episode did? I think it’s a much shorter list, at the very least.
Basically, this is a “fish out of water” story – not unique in Gundam, and one Iron-Blooded Orphans has been building towards from day one. The country bumpkins have come home – to the home they’ve never seen, and the one in which they’d be viewed by most as dangerous outsiders and even savages rather than prodigal sons on the return. This could have been saccharine or forced, but it was rather funny and quite believable. The boys (and Atra) behaved in a manner you’d expect them to behave based on their backgrounds. How could anything about Earth be more alien to them – I mean, even to Terrans like me a flounder (or was that a sole?) looks like a pretty alien beast. And you expect them to turn around and eat it?
I’ll allow that the confrontation between Orga and Bisky was a bit sudden, to the point of being forced. But that too is something the series has been building towards, I think, because these two have a fundamentally different approach to the world. Orga and Mika were initially presented as the twin pillars of Tekkadan but in truth, we’ve seen no evidence that Mika would ever go against Orga’s wishes – he’s Orga’s sword hand, in effect. It’s Biscuit who’s Orga’s true foil, the cautious and analytical speed bump to Orga’s big-dreaming and reckless ambition. This was a collision that was always going to happen – I just wish the specifics had been given a little more buildup.
The catalyst here is Makanai Tougonsuke (the timeless Mugihito), the exiled former Prime Minister who’s brought the Tekkadan boys to Oceania to try and use them to leverage his way back into power. He offers them protection from Gjallarhorn, but for a price – he wants Tekkadan to take him to the capital he’s been exiled from so he can make a play to re-gain power. It’s yet another situation where the Tekkadan are in way over their heads – it’s fascinating the way they’ve become such a political football despite having no experience in politics.
Orga’s instinct (once he gets past his snit at being used yet again) is to go big and take the gamble – if the old man wins, he owes them big-time. Biscuit’s is to play it safe, take the safest route for the family and head back to Mars now that their job is technically done. He has a reason to react this way – he’s just been told that his brother has committed suicide on Dort (and by the way, it’s highly suspicious that the workers on Dort have somehow gotten themselves a good deal – one suspects the involvement of the newly-shorn McGillis Fareed). But Bisky would have been inclined to advise that course anyway – it’s his nature. If Orga is the father figure of Tekkadan Bisky is the mother, and his gut tells him not to take risks with their lives unless there’s no alternative. The death of his brother influenced the violence of his disagreement with Orga, not the disagreement itself.
In the end I suspect Biscuit quitting Tekkadan (which he’d never have followed through on anyway) and Orga’s choice have been mooted by the fact that Carta Issue has decided to bull her way into Oceania and try to take Tekkadan out. This is fine with Makanai no doubt – Orga now has no choice but to take his side. Meanwhile Ein isn’t dead after all, but beyond the help of traditional medicine. This could hardly have worked out better for Fareed if he’d planned it, it seems – over Gaileo’s objections he’s going to make Ein a guinea pig for the Alaya-Vijñāna system. Fareed is whip-smart – he knows how powerful a tool it is, and how social prejudice has prevented Gjallarhorn from using it, and this gives him a chance to fundamentally change the balance of power. And fundamentally changing stuff is McGillis Fareed’s mission in life, which makes one think he’s the one ultimately moving more of the pieces than anyone else.