Gundam Thunderbolt and Iron-Blooded Orphans: Body Wars

SPOILER WARNING: Gundam Thunderbolt and Iron-Blooded Orphans

narutaki_icon_4040_round From the beginning the Gundam franchise has shown us the cost of war. We’ve seen it through a range of human emotions, mental strain, death, and destruction. Two of the latest Gundam anime have focused on a physical cost as well as mental. Daryl of Gundam Thunderbolt and Mikazuki of Iron-blooded Orphans lead their fights despite a continued cost to their bodies.

Every episode of Gundam Thunderbolt is like being punched in the gut, often leaving me speechless, and Iron-blooded Orphans wasn’t been far behind. Both series bring us some of the darkest depictions thus far in the Gundam series and amazingly they have come out very close together. (Although it should be noted that Thunderbolt is based on an ongoing manga that began in 2012.)

hisui_icon_4040_round The Gundam franchise has been running for 38 years with multiple iterations, spinoffs, universes,  reimaginings, and sequels. While it is one of the most important foundations of the real robot genre Gundam has had entries all over the spectrum from rather realistic interpretations (or as realistic as one can get about giant robots) to iterations that are pure super robot and everything in between. In that 38 year span, Sunrise has tried to adapt the series to the tastes and expectations of the times. How successful they have been is up for debate, wildly variable depending on the version you look at, and highly subject to revisionist interpretation but they wisely keep tweaking the formula each time. That said there are a few key pillars that are almost always part of the Gundam DNA.

One of those pillars is that Gundam is a series is the constant antiwar message of the series. You can argue the franchises effectiveness in that regard. There is the idea of attributed to Francois Truffaut that there is no such thing as an antiwar film by the fact that no matter the underlying message cinema often makes war look noble and cool despite what it otherwise wants to do. Usually, an antiwar film’s most powerful weapon in the face of that argument is showing the cost for the soldiers and civilians caught up in the conflict. Since Yoshiyuki “Kill’em All” Tomino’s iconic run of the original series Gundam has never shied away from killing characters in order to prove how horrible war can be. But as Gundam is always evolving it has started to try a new approach to show the horrors of wars.

When you think about the toll a war takes on the combatants it is easy to conjure up the simple deaths of the battlefield. These sorts of casualties are often visceral and horrific. But it is easy to forget all the other ways wars rob the life of those it touches. While the body counts were huge during the bloody battles of Gettysburg, Antietam, and The Wilderness in the American Civil War it is important to remember that 2/3 of the casualties of the war were due to disease as opposed to bullets and bayonets. And that also ignores all the soldiers who survived the war but were emotionally and physically scarred by the fighting.

Gundam Thunderbolt and Iron-Blooded Orphans deal with the price of war in ways more than just killing off characters. Although they also still kill off characters. Recently Gundam has also been slowly crippling its main characters as a recent way of showing of the price of war. It is one thing to see a character die heroically in a fiery blaze of glory. It is another thing to see them slowly lose pieces of themselves as they are forced back to the front time and time again despite the fact that each time they go back they are slowly disappearing.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin – The Fascinating Journey of Casval the Sociopath

hisui_icon_4040_round I have said it once and I will say it again, “Streaming has changed everything about how people watch anime.” The ease and convenience have made it that watching things legally streaming has become so simple that shows that are not streaming pretty much disappear from the general consciousness. In the past , there used to be some notable exceptions. There were titles that were so popular that they retained a viewership despite the fact that they were hard to find through anything other than illicit means or importing. Now even titles with evergreen fandoms have become almost invisible when they are not streaming.

The prime examples are Macross Delta and Dragon Ball Super. Compare the conversation around Macross Frontier and Macross Delta. Macross Frontier was the talk of the town with anitwitter and Macross Delta was really only discussed by the hardcore of the hardcore Macross faithful. You could argue this has to do with something like a difference in quality between the shows but the general silence surrounding Macross Delta was present even before a single second of Delta had aired. Even the evergreen Dragon Ball series could not avoid this. Whenever anything Dragon Ball comes out through normal means the fans come out in legion beyond even the familiar faces of fandom. Just look at the turn out to the new Dragon Ball movies in theaters. So when something as monumental as the first new Dragon Ball TV series in 18 years (Dragon Ball Z Kai is not new material) comes out like a ghost in speaks volumes. It would have been the ONE series that I assumed this would not happen to but even Goku could not defeat the beast of invisibility that comes for a series without a streaming component.

In between the world of no streaming and shows with a footprint in fandom lies Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin anime. Much like a phasing card in Magic: The Gathering it seems that Gundam: The Origin spends parts of the time visible to fandom and then disappears for a time. Whenever a new episode of Gundam: The Origin comes out the previous episodes will stream for a month and the go back into Sunrise’s version of the Disney Vault. It means that Gundam: The Origin is not normally available to what you think of streaming anime but it also has a visible footprint.

If you have ever owned a Netflix account and used it actively you have probably put something in your queue and put off watching it until they day you realize it is not longer streaming through the service. It is VERY easy to put off until tomorrow what could easily be done today until it is too late. That is why we are talking about Gundam: The Origin today. With the release of the 4th episode, we wanted to muse on the OVA series while the iron is hot. In this current window of streaming in probably the best time to discuss the show. It lets everyone who might have otherwise overlooked the series a chance to sample it for free while also reminding people who have forgotten to watch it the last time it was available that they have a second chance.

narutaki_icon_4040_round Ahh, the Gundam 0079 story is the best with an incredible cast of characters. Trying to add to that narrative could be a dangerous tightrope walk but Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s storytelling is impeccable. The flashback arc that The Origin anime covers is so much less about robots than you would expect in a Gundam series, it is a dramatic, compelling story of the road to war.


  1. There may be spoilers for Gundam 0079 since this is a prequel story.
  2. To keep things from getting confusing: Casval will be the name used for the rest of the post no matter what phase of his identity he is in.

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The Speakeasy #081: Gundam Build Fighters, Crunchyroll + Funimation, Kitaro, Anime NYC

Ongoing Investigations: Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon by Shigeru Mizuki,  Kumamiko vol. 1 by Masume Yoshimoto, Gundam Build Fighters: Island Wars special from Sunrise.

Food for Thought: Who is Your Favorite Miko?

Topics: Anime NYC, Crunchyroll teams up with Funimation, KochiKame is Ending, Detective Conan 2-hour Special.


And now your helpful bartenders at The Speakeasy present your drink:

Honey Bear

  • 8 oz bourbon
  • tablespoons honey, warmed
  • 2 oz Tuaca
  • 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
  • 2 oz maraschino cherry juice
  • 8 dashes orange bitters
  • 4 maraschino cherries, for garnish
  1.  In a small bowl, stir together the bourbon and warmed honey until the honey dissolves.
  2. Pour the honey-bourbon, Tuaca, Meyer lemon juice, and maraschino cherry juice into a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice.
  3. Shake for 1 minute and divide into four half-pint glasses filled with ice.
  4. Top each drink with two dashes of orange bitters and garnish with a maraschino cherry. Serve.