「まだ還れない」 (Mada Kaerenai)
“Not Yet Home”
One week after Biscuit Day and Iron-Blooded Orphans returns with a rather low-key and somber episode. That’s not entirely unexpected given the circumstances – and just for the record, it appears that the circumstances are that Biscuit is indeed well and truly dead. Still, to call it an especially powerful or gripping episode would probably be stretching the truth. I don’t suppose you could have written an ep with the Tekkadan grieving over Biscuit and not had it be sentimental on some level, but I don’t feel as if this offered anything above and beyond what was inherent in the situation.
Therein lies the rub with Tekketsu no Orphans, a show full of fits and starts. It’s not the development that matters so much as what you do with it, and that’s where the inconsistency comes in. Where will it go with this latest development? I don’t feel showing us Orga sulking in his room before the inevitable broment with Mika accomplishes much, nor do shots of the girls coping by cooking, laundry and doing their nails does either. It was all pretty formulaic stuff, and while I guess one could argue that’s a pointless criticism to level against a Gundam series, I don’t buy it.
That leaves us to rely mostly on the political intrigue for interest, and thankfully it does continue to be fairly interesting. Not Carta Issue and her histrionics – she’s just the latest in a string of moustache-twirling straw men set up as villains in this show – but definitely the Machiavellian McGillis Fareed. He’s a good antagonist, this guy – he almost never raises his voice, he thinks big, and he never lets you see his hole card on his face.
It’s been clear for a while that the Chocolate Man had in mind a total refresh of Gjallarhorn from the inside, and that he was pretty much OK wth whatever he had to do to accomplish it. Still, it’s striking to see the way he includes his best friend and future brother-in-law in his scheme without a trace of conscience. If those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it Fareed seems pretty safe, because he seems to understand Gundam history better than anyone else in the cast. And he’s skilfully moved the pieces – propping up Tekkadan and Kudelia into real threats, fomenting a power struggle over the Prime Minister’s role, stirring up labor unrest in the colonies – to the point where he’s ready to make his move.
And that move is to push Gaileo to have Ein (and possibly Gaileo himself) undergo the Ālaya-Vijñāna surgery “for the good of Gjallarhorn” – to clean up the mess he himself created (or at least exacerbated, and certainly exploited). He even ruefully tells Gaileo that there’s “a spy in our midst” – damn, this guy is stone cold. Fareed understands the power in this technology, its potential long-suppressed (for good reason, I think) by prejudice. There’s still a certain consequentialism to Fareed’s actions, at least a possibility that what he’s doing might be in service of what he genuinely sees as the larger good rather than simply for personal power. But he’s going about it so insidiously that it’s hard to see him as anything but an out and out villain at this point.
As for our heroes, for now at least the reaction to Biscuit’s death seems to have been to step into the dark side, twisting their purpose into a quest for revenge. That’s understandable when a bunch of kids have just lost one of their own, but it comes off as a bit of a childish tantrum – which is fine, really, since they are children after all. As I said last weel I think something like this had to happen for the sake of the plot – these kids have been flirting with danger for too long with no one of importance to everyone in the group to have been lost. But again, it’s not in the development hat’s the key, but the response – both for the characters and for Tekketsu no Orphans itself. And so far I would expect better from Orga than what he’s delivered – sullen retreat followed by bloodlust. Mika is going to be swept along in whatever Orga does, and now without his conscience to nag him at his shoulder Orga really needs to step up – and grow up.