Japanese animation studio Sunrise brings us their fourteenth Gundam series with ‘Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.’ It is directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai and written by Mari Okada for a run of fifty episodes. Also known as Gundam IBO, it goes by the tagline, “The sustenance of life is on the battlefield.”
In the year 323 Post Disaster, the galaxy is still reeling from the “Calamity War,” in which Earth terraformed and colonized Mars, though they crave independence from Earth. In an attempt to stop Mars lawmaker Kudelia Aina Bernstein (Cherami Leigh) from implementing this, the red planet is attacked by Gjallarhorn who is targeting the headquarters of the Martian Chryse Guard Security, which works on child labor. The CGS abandon the kids who get a hold of Gundam Barbatos, piloted by Mikazuki Augus (Kyle McCarley), and defeat the invaders. Led by Orga Itsuka (Johnny Yong Bosch), the kids stage a revolt and rename their name company Tekkaden. Kudelia hires them to take her to Earth and back, but Gjallarhorn agents McGillis Fareed (Steve Cannon) and Gaelio Bauduin (Robbie Daymond) are hot on their trail. As a result, Tekkaden allies with people like the Turbines, led by Naze Turbine (David Vincent), who leads a harem of women. As Gjallarhorn and other forces attack Tekkaden, Gundam Barbatos does battle but soon learns Fareed has a hidden agenda.
The animation is superb for this Gundam. The character designs are all unique, especially for a series that has so many secondary characters. They did a good job of making them all have their own style and flair. Above all, the Mobile Suits were impressive. Barbatos and Bael were incredibly well-designed, having some cool features and weapons. The space battles were my favorite.
As for the plot, it is gripping. You see child laborers who are forced to become mercenaries in the fight to stay alive. Several of the characters have gripping backstories such as Mikazuki and Orga who grew up orphaned on the streets only to be forced to work for just a little bit of food. Even Fareed who you think is pure evil shows depth as a former child slave who was abused by his adopted father before adopting his way of life. All of the characters are jaded in some way, but we see light in Kudelia and Miss Atra Mixta, voiced by Cassandra Lee Morris. The two of them keep the show grounded and make the hard content easy to manage.
There is much hard content. Terrifying battles sequences, Mikazuki continual injuries, brutal content, and the dark themes that permeate throughout the show. All of the characters have to find ways to cope and bring some hope to their worlds.
A somewhat weird story arc is shown where Fareed is seemingly “promised” to a friend’s sister who is just a child. Fareed has no interest in her and treats her completely above board, as it is clear that their relationship only exists so he can take over her family’s fortune. It is just something to note.
That is what the show is about, how people can profit off the suffering of others and the consequences of those actions. A lot of Gundam media touch on these themes, but this one has so much tragedy in it that at times, it was difficult to watch. That was what made it so compelling, it was not just giant mechas fighting each other. It was a story on the human condition and how people are willing to die for a taste of freedom.
Check out the trailer below:
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong brutal violence, Inappropriate humor, Foul language, Sexual content, Disturbing themes and images
This review is based on the dub.
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This article has been updated from a previous version.