Review-Roundup: Subete ga F ni Naru 03/04, Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans 04/05

[C12] Mobile Suit Gundam - Iron-Blooded Orphans - 05.mp4 - 00000I should’ve known… That mustache… Man, I should’ve known… Although, I have to admit, it’s brave choice. I mean, that mustache… let me tell you, LOTS of bad karma. Not surprised AT ALL how his story ended.

This time I review:

Subete ga F ni Naru 03/04: One died and the murderer is still on the loose! Things look dire in the science-prison-cubicle! But Nishinosono is committed to figuring out just what the hell is going on! Of course she relies on her pseudo-lover Saikawa for this since he’s the guy who actually does most of the deducing in that relationship. Meanwhile, the victim’s sister has arrived via helicopter and the guy who flew the helicopter got killed. Yep, let’s not question that and continue figuring out what the deal is with Magata’s prison-cell.

Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans 04/05: Tekkadan is off to a rocky start in its business-history as its very first mission is fraught with people betraying them left and right and there’s a giant organization called Gjallarhorn hunting them down as well. Luckily they have a REALLY good mecha-pilot in their midst and nobody takes them too serious this far. Of course, things are just gonna bound to get worse from here on out after Tekkadan’s ‘Maverick’ has paved his way to Earth with slaughter and mercilessness.

Subete ga F ni Naru 03/04 Review:

_C12__Subete_ga_F_ni_Naru_-_04.mp4 - 00002Subete ga F ni Naru’s cinematography works a lot with empty spaces like in this shot. It’s too early in the series to tell where exactly the series is trying to go with this but I guess it could be a way to underline the isolation and loneliness you naturally feel in this science-prison-cube of an evironment.

With the third and fourth episode the series finally starts to delve into the mystery and the same elements that made the live-action-version of this so exciting exist here as well. With Nishinosono and Saikawa as the center of the story the mystery finds a very well-suited balance between exploring these two characters’ dynamic and exploring the crime they’ve found themselves in. Add to that how this isn’t just a locked-room-mystery but that the characters are literally trapped in this building and you got a very nice ominous atmosphere for a complex mystery surrounding Magata’s death.

I want to say it again that I already know the mystery’s solution in this case. It certainly has led to a very different experience than the one I usually have watching mystery-series. Usually I would try to get ahead of the mystery-series with my own observations and that’s the whole point of a mystery-series which tries to be an analytical detective-series. At every point the series is in a battle of wits with the audience and the better mystery-stories actually DO give you the chance to figure it all out right from the beginning. The best ones of course do that and still manage to outwit you. But knowing the solutions and all the answers to the questions of the story leaves me more with a curiosity as to how the series will lead the audience to these answers.

As far as mystery-stories are concerned the story-arc of the whole Magata-case is a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of angles and puzzle-pieces to the story and I do get the feeling that the more time you give the audience to obsess over all these angles the higher the chance is for the audience to deviate from the actual story in terms of expectation. It takes a lot of time to explain the story behind this arc and I understand why they would opt to use a whole season to tell the story. But as a mystery I actually think it works better with a less fancy version like in the live-action-series. The level of intricate storytelling you would need to do Magata’s character justice is something reserved for a novel, I would say. Or you’re some sort of genius who somehow comes up with an inventive way to solve this issue (which most people aren’t of course). What makes this arc so frustrating is that there’s a ton of story to deal with but not a lot of plot and stretching out the arc will only heighten that problem.

With that said, I think I will spoil something which I think will add to the viewing-pleasure of this series: The flashbacks concerning the adult getting seduced by 14-year-old Magata (or was she 13? Well, she was quite young, to make it short) are ultimately a dark mirror-image of what Nishinosono and Saikawa are going through. Although it feels like the arc has more to say about the former than the latter. But the bottom-line is that this series has a strange image of how romance works. That doesn’t mean the audience necessarily needs to condemn it on principle. What the series focuses on is rational love. There’s nothing spontaneous or sentimental about the depiction of love in this series. Here love is something you choose to do, it’s something you give to someone who’s worthy of that gift. But that choice exists outside of societal norms or sentimental relationship-planning. One of the most interesting aspects of Subete ga F ni Naru is what it actually thinks romance is. The romance-sub-plot between Nishinosono and Saikawa could be called anti-romantic actually because it presents the idea of romance as a rational agreement between two people. This will become a topic again once more details about all four characters get revealed.

The actual mystery of Magata’s death (and I don’t want to spoil anything here) is more or less an affair of cutting through all the bullshit surrounding the mystery. It’s one of these mysteries characterized by a ton of obfuscation. Knowing the solution to the mystery makes it all the clearer of course how a lot of times the story will simply use flowery language to disguise something and the whole thing is less poetic and/or complicated than you’d exüect. But here’s what makes this arc so great: If you know the solution to the mystery you’ll realize that Nishinosono’s dialogue with Magata more or less spoiled most of the puzzle-pieces necessary for the solution of the mystery. And when I watched the live-action-version I didn’t figure out the mystery before the mystery revealed it to me. Mostly because Magata’s past has a couple worthy “Holy shit!”-moments. That’s why I’m disappointed that the series already spilled the beans on how she had an affair with an older gentleman as a 14-year-old (which is one of the “Holy shit!”-moments but that shit just gets even crazier after that, believe me…).

Neither the live-action-version nor this series so far have convinced me of their depiction of Magata. Her story is a big part of this arc and the live-action-series whose characterization was weak in general just assigned her a certain role and not much more. The live-action-version didn’t do a whole lot of navelgazing regarding Magata’s character. Of course, the anime has a little more time to delve into this subject but I hate the dude’s narration during the flashbacks with Magata. While it does acknowledge that he’s making some fucked-up choices the series portrays it like a tragedy he had no choice in preventing – since 14-year-old Magata was so seductive, you know (we all can relate to that excuse, can’t we…?!). I accepted the way the live-action-version treated Magata since it had only devoted 90 minutes to that arc and was weak characterization-wise in general but if this anime with 10+ episodes doesn’t realize that Magata is the real victim, I’m gonna be really pissed off. And I don’t give a shit that Magata’s crazy. She deserves better! Well, I will have plenty opportunities to rant about her background-story more as the series’ story goes on, I’m sure.

What defines the series so far is the montone lull of Nishinosono and Saikawa debating the mystery interrupted by the panicky explosions of the other characters or them being there to be exposition-dumps for the two main-characters. Visually the series nicely supports that by how sterile the insides of the building seem. It is essentially the ultimate prison except everyone tries to dress it up as some sort of great haven for geniuses. The mystery isn’t just a locked-room but a room entirely cut off from the outside world. There are so many interesting ideas in this series that it’s kinda too much. But there isn’t a whole lot happening in this arc and character-wise most of the cast are just there to deliver exposition which makes the series feel even emptier than it already is with its locked-room-status. At the same time, though, if you’re a fan of good mysteries this series’ story offers a really compelling one. It’s one of those mysteries where even as an experienced mystery-stories-reader you’re surprised by the logical ending just because you never could’ve imagined the story would go this far. I wish Nishinosono and Saikawa had better banter but since this isn’t happening I can only tell you that the story behind this mystery is fucking bonkers and for that alone it’s worth watching this series.

Episodes-Rating: 8.0/10

Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans 04/05 Review:

_C12__Mobile_Suit_Gundam_-_Iron-Blooded_Orphans_-_04.mp4 - 00001I pity whoever wasted his time writing this timeline on the left. It’s a timeline with a lot of exposition… and the series just throws it at you only allowing those who can press pause to read it. As far as world-building is concerned this isn’t the most elegant solution…

It’s surprising how little this Gundam-series is actually moralizing its story-developments. I would even go so far that this is the first Gundam-series that cares more about its characters than its morals. The choices characters makes aren’t some grandiose lessons delivered to the audience on behalf of the storyteller. Here, characters just make decisions and with the lack of a moralizing angle you can’t be sure whether there’ll be any sort of payoff. What’s kinda shocking is that this series finally feels like something that belongs into the 21st century and isn’t just some series that rides on the waves of nostalgia from yesterday or ends up being a colorful, crazy mess (like Gundam: G no Reconguista). Finally, you get a Gundam-series that not only has a diffuse sense of morality but also doesn’t make a difference between “good guys” and “bad guys” in how destructive and hurtful both sides are.

The lack of a very solid sense of morality remains as one of this series biggest strengths. There isn’t anyone in this story so far (except the female characters) that seems righteous and completely good in a narrative sense. If there’s one reason why the whole Tekkadan-faction with Kudelia seem like the good guys right now it’s because they are the underdogs currently. In theory this orphan-mercenary-brigade shouldn’t be able to do all these doings but one big part of the series’ plothook is that there’s more to these orphans than you’d think. They slide into this hero-role simply by virtue of constantly being attacked by Gjallarhorn. And as the obvious underdogs the orphans seem more sympathetic as well.

At the same time, though, the lack of moralizing makes it hard to figure out where exactly the series is going with all of this. It certainly creates suspense and not having watched the preview I would be hardpressed to tell you what’s about to happen in the 6th episode. A series shouldn’t feel somewhat directionless after six episodes. There should be at least some sense of direction regarding the story. But this series has been so ambiguous so far in how it portrays both sides of the conflicts I can’t really tell where exactly the series is going with its story. Things reach a melting-point here morality-wise where everything just becomes a gooby mess sort-of.

And the best example for this moralistic odyssey is Mikkazuki who doesn’t seem to have any sort of moral compass. Normally the lack of motivation and solid morals leads to these angsty scenes where the star-pilot flips out or is just frustrated with how little control he seems to have over what’s going on around him. But Mikkazuki never seems very involved in what’s going on. He’s like a robot with some very simplistic directives. He cares about Orga and the others, he cares about doing his job and there’s this very cold anger he shows towards those who stand in his way. He doesn’t seem to care about his enemies in any relatable way. For him they’re nothing but obstructions to doing his job. It never seems like a very personal affair to him when he’s killing off his enemies and he also isolates himself emotionally when he’s around his friends. This characterization is especially strange when compared to Orga for example who does talk about honor and tries to be good whenever he can. Even when the officers from the first division were killed, it was Mikkazuki and not Orca who pulled the trigger. It certainly feels like Orga acts like the honorable leader who makes the tough choices but it’s always Mikkazuki who actually gets his hands dirty when such a tough choice is made. And this weird relationship just adds to this image of Mikkazuki as this unrelatable sociopath.

Of course, that makes the blossoming of a love-triangle all the more questionable since Mikkazuki has nothing to offer except of being a very broken person and being a very talented Mecha-pilot. But without delving into Mikkazuki’s past I guess this is what the series has chosen to do with Mikkazuki instead when he’s not out there fighting. The scene between Kudelia and Mikkazuki in the fifth episode proves, though, how little either character has to offer in terms of depth. Mikkazuki is a sociopath for the most part and Kudelia barely has evolved as a character since her discovery that Gjallarhorn is trying very hard to silence her (or at least turn her into a marionette for their own goals).

The series still works best if viewed as an adventure whose focus is on the immediate present. Whenever the series starts to talk about its bigger story-elements like Martian independence for example, the series gets broad to the point of meaninglessness. I mean, is Martian independence good beside some hypothetical idealistic notion of more freedom being kinda great? It’s strange how little helpful exposition we’ve gotten so far regarding this. There was this scene between Fareed and Bauduin at the beginning of the 4th episode and there was this talk between Kudealia and the old guy talking about how her journey seems like a mythical tale of heroism but the bitter conflict has yet to come into focus here. Right now, it feels more like the attacks keep coming because the “bad guys” are past the point of no return with this assassination-plot. They either make it work or they’ll suffer horrible consequences. The world-building is very faint so far because every character is either not significant enough to have a clue what the big picture is or is just following orders which aren’t directly involved with the big story. And Kudelia who’s the character with the greatest significance story-wise also seems like an idealist. She’s intelligent but she also seems very naïve. For once it would’ve been great for this type of character to have been someone who actually knows what she’s doing. At least she’s not delivering speeches constantly about how bad war is, how everybody should be friends and so on and so forth.

The action remains as satisfying as ever and the characters are pleasant as always to watch as they struggle with their respective lot in the story. There’s some compelling darkness to how Mikkazuki acts and the story remains ambiguous to a certain degree as well. Neither Fareed nor Bauduin seem dislikable despite being the greatest threat to Kudelia’s ambitions for example. But the ambiguous nature of the story starts to get a little old and I hope the series starts to comment a little more on what’s going on. Like, how many more people is Mikkazuki gonna kill before someone notices how remorseless he is.

Episodes-Rating: 7.5/10


About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on November 2, 2015, in Anime, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Reviews, Subete Ga F Ni Naru and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. One, we looked at the current state of Mars in previous episodes under the present administration after 300 years of apparent peace with little boys being shipped off to fight wars and little girls selling themselves out on the street, so was that apparently not enough of an indication of how bad things are for Mars? Were those images pointless and meaningless in terms of giving perspective about the larger story? Second this last assessment on Mikazuki’s character having nothing to offer/is relate able in any way because he’s a sociopath is utterly ridiculous, one because many people ARE sociopaths, nor does that mean they can’t be fascinating in their own right, as one Doctor Hannibal Lector proved to me in his recent television series. Next, that there was no character development, before there was a contrast with Mikazuki providing the hardened veteran knowledge, now he wonders idly about something we take for granted like the Moon and what that’s like, which is where his name is derived from, symbolizing his own lack of knowledge regarding his identity, in many ways Mikazuki embodies the listless fate the Orphans have to deal with as they strive to scratch, claw, and survive in a world not of their making. Kudelia herself has made GRADUAL progress in that she’s more aware of what’s at stake and more committed to her goal after her initial naivety was shattered.


    • Okay, the thing which currently bothers me the most about this series is its moral uncertainty. I don’t think the series is very clear on what it thinks is good and what is evil. At first I thought the series was trying to show us a story with shades of grey but it never feels like the characters are really aware of this ambiguity. And so you get these tonal shifts that happen suddenly and aren’t commented upon really.

      Like when the orphans take out the adults of the First Division and present them with the choice to either serve Orga or leave. But Mikkazuki just executes the leader in cold blood and when one guy says he wants to leave someone from the Orphans say he can’t because he’s the accountant. Or when Mikkazuki wins against Crank in the mecha-battle and still ends up killing him despite having the chance to show mercy. The Orphans are this sympathetic bunch of characters who shine with a lot of natural camaraderie but then you constantly get these very brutal moments undermining that warmth. And the series becomes directionless because the Orphans literally seem two-faced. Orga talks about honor in the fifth episode but then has been fine with executing prisoners. These two sides of their existence never seem to coexist in a scene. They’re either a bunch of kids on an adventure or they’re merciless soldiers with a mission.

      This is important because the uncertain moral compass of the show makes it hard to figure out what one should think of the larger story. Sure, the series’ exposition has extensively covered that Mars is a shitty place but it seems faint as the orphans’ escape from misery happens so swiftly that it makes you think “Oh, I guess, they just haven’t been trying hard enough until now to have nice lives.”. Sure, you can make the story about the orphans escaping the misery and trying to have a nice life but then what’s the point of Kudelia?

      Kudelia is this figurehead of a Martian-Independence-movement that right now only exists because she says so. I mean, does Mars need to be independent? Will it be really better off if it’s independent? What are the stakes supposed to be here? And I hate just how deep-seated Kudelia’s naïveté seems to be as the determination that put her on her path seems to be limited to her wanting to get to Earth right now. I don’t want her to be preachy but the way she treats Mikkazuki like some sage on a mountain that she can’t reach. Sure, I understand that his school-of-hard-knocks-perspective can offer her new insights in how life works but the whole point of her endeavor is that she believes in more than merely surviving another day. But all you get in terms of her idealism is her constantly talking about how she has decided she really wants to go to Earth – despite the dangers. And she wants to be “useful” which so far has merely led to silly stuff like her trying to cook for example.

      And as far as I’m concerned Mikkazuki is an automaton with a bunch of directives. He isn’t even close to being a compelling character like Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter in the Bryan-Fuller-show. This moment of curiosity when he talked about the moon seems like the little tip of an iceberg just coming to the surface for little while before it submerged again in the dark depths of his usual emotionless persona. I mean, that character needs some flashbacks to give him some sort of nuance at least. He’s TOO detached from what’s going on to have any sort of presence in this series. If he weren’t the Gundam-pilot and if he weren’t the object of a love-triangle (for some inexplicable reason), then he would just be lost in the background because he has little to offer in the quieter scenes.


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