In the year Post Disaster 315 on Mars, a young boy named Mikazuki Augus shoots someone and asks his friend Orga Itsuka what he should do next. Eight years later, Mikazuki finds Orga napping inside the secret engine room at Chryse Guard Security where the Gundam Barbatos is stored. Mechanic Nadi Yukinojo Kassapa walks in and tells Orga that company president Maruba Akei is summoning him. Maruba informs Orga that members of his Third Group have been selected to escort the daughter of the leader of the Chryse Autonomous Region to Earth. Biscuit Griffon asks Maruba if their client is Kudelia Aina Bernstein, who is involved with the independence movement. Maruba notes that this trip to Earth is about independence for all of Mars. Orga asks why the Third Group is getting such a big job, and Maruba explains that Kudelia specifically picked them. Outside, boys Takaki Uno and Danji Eirei work in the field planting land mines as a drill. Ride Mass complains that they’re doing all this work today and will have to remove them tomorrow. All the boys stop working when they hear the sounds of a Mobile Worker battle between Mikazuki, Eugene Seven Stark and Akihiro Altland. Mikazuki is able to outmaneuver his opponents and hit their units with paint rounds. Takaki wants to be a pilot like Mikazuki, but he gets slapped across the face by an adult for not working. Later, Mikazuki eats with Orga, Eugene, Biscuit, Akihiro and Norba Shino as they discuss their upcoming job. Mikazuki asks Takaki about the wound on his face, but Takaki just laughs it off as an accident. Eugene thinks a high profile job like this will let them surpass the adults of the First Corps, but Orga doesn’t think so because Maruba views them as expendable. Eugene thinks they’re treated this way because or Orga, so Mikazuki grabs him by the ear and asks him if he wants to fight. At the Arbrau Territory, Kudelia says goodbye to her mother Tomomi and is surprised that her father is supporting her trip. After leaving, Kudelia tells her maid Yumitan Admoss that Tomomi is naïve and doesn’t want to see what’s happening in the world. That’s why Kudelia selected the CGS boys so she can see things for herself. At Gjallarhorn’s Martian orbital base, Norman Bernstein meets with branch commander Coral Conrad, who comments on Kudelia’s politics. Coral says that they’ll help Kudelia be remembered as an icon, and Norman nervously asks them to be kind before leaving. Coral thinks that Norman is a coward for selling out his own daughter and asking them to be kind. However, he thinks this is an opportunity to do well with the Earth inspection that’s about to happen. Conrad puts Orlis Senja in charge of the mission and assigns veteran Crank Zent and rookie Ein Dalton to his command. On a Biscoe cruiser departing from Earth, Gaelio Bauduin speaks with McGillis Fareed about having to come out to Mars for inspections, and McGillis notes that the Earth Sphere’s economy depends upon Mars. At night, Orga tells Nadi that they’ll leave the day after Kudelia arrives for a trip that will take a total of five months. Nadi believes they should be glad, but Orga doesn’t think so. He says Maruba only sees them as being a bit faster than the adults because of the Whisker implants in their spines that interface with the Mobile Workers. Nadi thinks the Alaya-Vijnana System man-machine interface and its implants are horrible, but Orga notes that it’s the price for working at CGS.
In the city, a mass of protesters demand independence from Earth. A shop girl named Atra Mixtra thinks about the necklace she wants to give her crush Mikazuki. Orga, Mikazuki, Eugene and Biscuit report to Maruba’s office to greet Kudelia after her arrival. Kudelia greets them and asks Mikazuki to show her around the base. She takes off her glove and wants to shake his hands to be on equal terms. He declines because his hand is dirty and notes that they’re not on equal terms to begin with. At night, Biscuit sits with Orga, who feels suspicious about their mission. Biscuit sees that her importance could bring action from Gjallarhorn, so why did she hire a small company like CGS? Orga says that even if it’s a trap, they’ll crush it. On the Biscoe, Gaelio is annoyed by having to use the transponder to communicate, but McGillis notes that it’s the price to pay for using the power of Ahab reactors. Snipers kill two CGS guards, but someone manages to fire a signal flare to alert the others of the attack. Orlis orders his forces to attack, so Mobile Workers begin bombarding the base. Orga runs to the hangar and is told by Eugene that Mikazuki and Shino’s teams have already deployed. As the enemy moves in, Maruba rushes to stuff all his valuables in a bag and run away, but he forgets the combination to his safe. Orga asks what the First Corps will be doing and is told an obvious lie that they’ll attack from the rear while the Third Group holds them off. Biscuit tells Orga that he’s detected an Ahab Wave reaction beside their own, and Orga asks him for a favor. Danji asks Orga to let him deploy, but Orga tells him not to be reckless. Biscuit tells Kudelia that she’ll die if she doesn’t come with him to the engine room, where mechanics are rushing to prepare the Gundam Barbatos. Orga gives orders from the top of Eugene’s Mobile Worker as the Gjallarhorn forces press their attack. Danji gets into trouble and is saved by Mikazuki and Akihiro. Eugene complains that things are getting worse and demands to know when the First Corps is coming to help. Biscuit reports that the First Corps and Maruba are escaping from the rear, so he remotely fires their signal flare to turn Gjallarhorn’s attention to them. The Mobile Workers chase after the First Corps and run right into the minefield. However, the situation changes after the arrival of Orlis’ Graze Commander Type and Crank and Ein’s Graze Standard Types. Orga comments that there’s no place to run to because there never was, and Mikazuki asks what he should do next. Crank is upset because he thinks deploying mobile suits earlier could’ve prevented so many casualties. Danji is killed while attempting to attack Orlis. Orlis chases after Orga and Eugene to kill them, but he’s interrupted when Mikazuki appears in the Gundam Barbatos and smashes the Graze’s cockpit with a mace.
This series gets off to a great start with a debut episode that’s pretty heavy on characters and plot but balances them in such a way that doesn’t overload on expository info dumps. In this world, the Calamity War occurred between Earth and Mars 300 years ago, and Mars yearns for independence in the present. I can see elements from multiple Gundam timelines at play here, starting with the Gundam 00 aesthetic that naturally arises from the two shows sharing staff. The Ahab reactor sounds like a complete stand-in for UC’s Minovsky reactor, complete with communications interference. The fancy uniforms worn by Gjallarhorn officers remind of those worn by OZ soldiers in Gundam Wing. I also see vibes of Ryosuke Takahashi’s classic Fang of the Sun Dougram, in which the colony planet Deloyer sought independence from the Earth Federation that exploited and oppressed it. It’s good to see Mars get more focus, and the lived in feel of the planet reminds me a bit of Zone of the Enders. At the very least, it’s a better design style than the bizarre Vagan aesthetics from Gundam AGE. As far as protagonists go, Mikazuki is interesting in that he’s a child soldier, but he isn’t cold or detached like Setsuna F. Seiei and Heero Yuy. He’s got a close relationship with the older Orga, who has senpai death flag written all over him. We only get brief glimpses at all the boys in CGS, but it’s clear they don’t have an easy life since they’re worked hard and get no respect from the adults, who quickly cower in the face of danger. The plot for now revolves around Kudelia, who comes across as yet another naive “peace princess,” so I hope there’s more depth to her than that. She’s definitely a threat since her own father sells her out to get her killed for her beliefs. Because the Gundam Barbatos only makes a dramatic entrance at the end, it’s hard to judge its performance. I know it can change some parts, but I hope it doesn’t get overwhelmed by backpack gimmicks that were overdone in the SEED series and Reconguista. Overall, Iron-Blooded Orphans seems like a spiritual successor to Gundam 00, which is a great thing.