Thanks for the thoughts and info, everyone. It really will depend on how the characters affect me going forward, I suppose. While I generally like a balance and rhythm between action and character development, I am fine with action used as more of a punctuation and character development being the focus so long as it is executed in a way that feels natural and engaging. I mean, I am a big fan of RahXephon; probably my favorite recent mecha show (from start to finish) was Argevollen; and I’ve also been slowly catching up on Gargantia. RahXephon was all about peoples’ intersecting lives, Argevollen was IBO-like in the sense that it was a small group of grunts in over their heads dealing with interpersonal and political matters, and Gargantia has been very much a slice-of-life show so far. Even so, I have found all of these more engaging than IBO up to this point. Also, I recently rewatched Gundam X, which had a lot of character-led plots, and I found that cast a lot more relatable to this point.
A lot of IBO’s cast come across as just hard-luck, tough kids acting tough and trying to survive, with minimal extra background information, and therefore strike me as somewhat bland. Mikazuki’s mix of underlying caring but apathetic sort of outward attitude isn’t very inspiring. Kudelia and Atra are kind of earnest observers. Even Orga, who first seemed to have some unknown layers to himself, has so far shown himself to be pretty one-note so far. I get that he’s trying to keep the “family” together and live up to Mika’s expectations, but you could stick almost any character in the cast in that role. (Why has Orga, in particular, taken this role on; perhaps future episodes will tell us.) As such, rooting for the underdog has been the most engaging aspect so far for me, and therefore, I think this is trying to work on a more thematic and emotional level.
I think I’m still trying to wrap my head around what IBO wants to accomplish thematically. I get that it doesn’t want to be an action series, and that’s all right. So, I assume it wants to be a series about young people finding their independence and humanity. It presents that often enough that I understand its general message, but the way it flows from scene to scene has felt awkward at times (Episode 8 went from backroom dealings with the mafia to the female characters playing with babies), and the dialogue sometimes has this canned or forced vibe to it (like when one of the female pilots was talking about her burning interest in the Gundam’s pilot). Or maybe I’m just reading into things too much.
It’s not that I dislike the series, but again, I can’t find a lot in it that has me fully engaged yet. It has had moments of greatness/cleverness, and I do like how it’s switched up some things from traditional Gundam stuff. I like the sense of teamwork in it. I’m trying to get a handle on why it hasn’t gotten me yet (and also perhaps what audience they were going for). Maybe it is partially that is seems to sit heavily on subplots that have minimal significance for too long, in my opinion. (i.e. Crank’s guilt-ridden, three-episode death wish; Coral’s self-destructive dealings; Todo’s subversive grumbling and scheme against Tekkadan…).
All of that noted, I like the sense of mystery in the background regarding Kudelia and Nobliss, Gallerjhorn, etc. I'm interested to find out what's up with McGillis and Gaelio as I watch on. I’m engaged enough to stick with it and see where it goes. And in general, I'm trying to just watch this for what it is, with minimal expectations. For once, I'm trying my best to just unplug and just take what this Gundam series gives me. (It has provided some good variety for Toonami, I think.) I’ll wait several more episodes to comment again, I think, to see what I assume are its character/world development episodes. I’m meandering here, and I’m not sure I’ve been able to clarify anything further than in my previous post, so I’m out for now.