Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Bandai/Sunrise
Streamed via Crunchy Roll

Gundam IBO.jpg
With science fiction credentials that date back just as far as “Star Wars,” the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise has gone through its ups and downs across every conceivable kind of media.  From anime and manga, to literally hundreds of games, to more toys and models than even the most hard-core collector could hope to assume.  These offerings have varied wildly in tone, from the shocking, gritty depictions of war in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, to the “Street Fighter”-Inspired G Gundam, to the downright kid-friendly SD Gundam.
As the 40th anniversary of the franchise approaches, Bandai’s latest offering, “Iron-Blooded Orphans,” may be the most shocking and adult iteration of the series to date.  Nearly all of the Gundam series’ protagonists are in their teens or early twenties, but IBO certainly goes the farthest with a harrowing depiction of the child soldiers.
Set on a terraformed and colonized Mars, the series takes place about three hundred years after a catastrophic war that depleted Earth’s resources.  When teenage heiress Kudelia Aina Bernstein begins calling for Martian independence, she becomes a target of Gjallarhorn, Earth’s theoretically independent peacekeeping force.  She turns to paramilitary army CGS, and their unit of indentured child soldiers for protection.  After reviving one of the long-lost Gundam Frames, the children stage an uprising and form their own company, agreeing to take Bernstein to Earth, the one place where her voice can produce results.  As they travel, she begins to really learn how desperate the lives of these ‘human debris’ children really are, and grows close to Gundam Barbatos’ laconic pilot, Mika.
While Gundam has not shied away from serious issues before, this is probably the most consistantly dark and serious entry in the series, but it does an excellent job, for the most part, in addressing the themes of the show.  The character and mech designs are well drawn, and the plot, for all its darkness, is engrossing.  Season one recently finished and can be found streaming on the Crunchy Roll streaming service.

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