Notabilities: Whenever a new Gundam series airs, its a big deal in its own right, but this new AU (Alternate Universe, meaning it has no relation to the existing Canon, UC) Gundam is a bit of an anomaly because of the key-staff helming it. Mari Okada and Nagai Tatsuyuki are quite big names in their own right, with many successful series to their name, but they’ve also worked together in the past with hits such as Toradora and AnoHana, and with that, you’ll probably see that this is kind of a big deal. A gritty Gundam series delivered by staff who’re more well-known for romantic-comedies and light-drama is well worth keeping an eye out for.
Anyone checking out the first episode of Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans would be forgiven for thinking that they were missing out on some prior knowledge, especially if new to Gundam. However, I can assure you that this series is a fine entry point, what you’ve just experienced here is the shell-shock of being thrown into a new Gundam show. Tekketsu’s premise could be mistaken for that of the recent Aldnoah.Zero by looking at a synopsis, but the way these initial episodes play out couldn’t be more different. Where Aldnoah tepidly welcomed viewers by mapping out the entire history of its setting via a series of disjointed, long-winded “as you know” conversations, Tekketsu displays confident screenwriting from the get-go, tossing viewers in on the deep end. There’s no debriefing here, viewers will be expected to stay on-top of things by absorbing information where they can in the chaos of this explosive premiere through incidental dialogue and the purposeful lens of the camera they’ve been provided.
What’s accomplished in just the span of one episode here is quite impressive. Off the bat, the atmosphere that our main characters of the Third Division, Orga and Mikazuki are living through is made apparent. These kids are “space rats”, expendables, without a family or a country to their name, free to be exploited and used by the adults of the CGS, whether as drones for menial labour, or as their front-line shield, should a battle ever break out. The attitude of the adults could not be spelled out more clearly than by the way Princess Kudelia is spoken to, and about, by the people around her. Her mother speaks to her as if she were a child, and the officers to which her father is selling her out to ironically praise “the beauty of her youth and innocence”.
And thus, the conflict that comprises the latter half of the episode unfolds like a sprung trap, as suddenly as a sniper bullet through the helmet of a soldier on watch duty. As chaos ensues, Tekketsu gets to show off its slick animation and mech designs, all while putting into motion all the threads and ideas that had been established so quickly already. The adults of CGS are ready and willing to use the Third Division as a distraction to ensure their escape, while the orphans themselves demonstrate the tenacity that’s ensured their survival so far, holding off the enemy long enough with their inferior tech, before launching a Mobile Suit of their own and diverting the enemies attention to their cowardly, fleeing superiors. As the dust of the first battle settles, the casualties are young and many, but the Iron-Blooded Orphans have seized their first victory.