Image source: Gundaminfo on YouTube

The Gundam franchise has always been somewhat of a paradox. On one hand, it is filled with action-packed giant robot battles that make war seem awesome. On the other, it is a franchise with a strong underlying message about the futility and horror of war.

Moreover, Gundam shows that war is not a simple matter of just “good” versus “evil.” Good, noble people can be found on both sides of every conflict. There are also bad, detestable people on each side. But, no matter how good or evil they may look to us, any given character feels what they are doing is right—or if not right, at least justified.

[Note: This article contains major spoilers for the end of Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans. ]

That said, there tends to be at least one clear side to root for in general by the end—even if the the heroes with the purest motivations from both sides have to come together to create it.

Image source: Gundaminfo on YouTube

In Iron-Blooded Orphans, there is no good side in the war—not even the side our heroes are a part of. Nothing makes this more apparent than by looking at the leaders of each side.

The leader of the loyalists Gjallarhorn, Rustall Elion, is a horrible person. He starts a costly, bloody, and meaningless war for no other reason than to discredit his rivals. He kills his own men in a masquerade to have “just cause” to use banned weapons of mass destruction on his enemies. He even refuses the surrender of defeated enemies just so their corpses can serve as a symbol of his power. He is willing to do anything to see his goals come to fruition.

Image source: Gundaminfo on YouTube

Of course, McGillis, the rebel leader, is just as horrible. He is a man who fanatically believes in the idea that the strong survive. Thus he plots the path of his life so that he will become the most powerful man alive—the unquestioned leader of Gjallarhorn. He is more than willing to kill his friends, family, and those loyal to him to get him closer to his goal—and does so. At his core, he is simply selfish enough to believe that his path is more important than the lives of others.

Image source: Gundaminfo on YouTube

Even our heroes aren’t “good” in the traditional sense. They’re more naïve than anything else—which make sense, as they’re child soldiers with no adults to lead them.

They aren’t fighting for a noble goal like peace or justice, but rather an inherently selfish one: to make a place where they can belong. However, this goal is so ambiguous that it can become a rationale for any and every act—twisted in any number of ways. And, of course, the path towards this dream is paved with the corpses of the children that are supposed to benefit from the end goal.

Image source: Gundaminfo on YouTube

Orga is the man at the top who has set his “family” on this path. And in the final act, he decides to find this place of belonging by becoming “the king of Mars.” It is a goal so abstract as to be laughable.

Of course, Orga has no idea what being king would really mean—he is, after all, an uneducated, straightforward individual. He couldn’t exist in a political environment. Both the Tewaz situation and the Earth Branch problems show this.

Why [Redacted] Had to Die in Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

Still, naïve though they may be, Tekkadan are the heroes of the tale and those with whom we most strongly empathize. When they join with McGillis’ rebels, despite knowing how terrible he is, we are nonetheless rooting for them.

This only makes it more painful as Rustall and McGillis battle for the title of biggest bastard in the universe—with Tekkadan paying the price in blood for McGillis’ defeats. Tekkadan continues to fight on until most of the main cast are dead.

Image source: Gundaminfo on YouTube

All they have gone through—all they have suffered, all the compromises, all the bodies of dead children at their feet—has been for nothing. Afterall, Tekkadan itself was the place they belonged—though Orga and Mikazuki realize this only just before their own respective deaths.

Of course, the final nihilistic twist of the knife is that, in the end, the war itself was meaningless. The cause McGillis and Tekkadan were ostensibly fighting for—reform in Gjallarhorn—happens anyway.

Mars becomes somewhat independent. Rustal keeps power, though in a new form. Terrible people are credited as heroes—most never getting what’s coming to them—and all the good people that died are barely even remembered except in the minds of the survivors.

Image source: Gundaminfo on YouTube

This leaves us, the viewers, in a dark place—but that is the point, after all. For all the intense action, the message of Iron-Blooded Orphans is the same as many a Gundam before it: War is always a tragedy. But few Gundam series have made this point so strongly as Iron-Blooded Orphans.

The second season of Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans is streaming with English subtitles on Daisuki, Crunchyroll, and GUNDAM.INFO’s official YouTube channel.


Note: Both Sunrise (the makers of Gundam) and ACJ (the owners of Anime Now!) are subsidiaries of Bandai Namco Holdings.

Comments (2)
  1. Guess who ain’t watching the second season??? ME ! 😀

    • Not like you missed anything.

Anime News Newtwork Feed

    Close
    Prev
    Next