I approve of the harem in Gundam: Iron-blooded Orphans
However, the reason I approve of the harem is not just because I’m a pervlord who likes harems. The harem in Gundam: Orphans says something interesting about family structures – and how they change in times of conflict.
The world of Gundam: Orphans contains a distinct lack of conventional families (at least by modern Western sensibilities). The Tekkadan and Naze’s harem are the most obvious examples of this, but we also have Fareed and his loli fiancee as well as Kudelia’s uncaring parents. Ironically, Kudelia’s situation most resembles the typical nuclear family but is strongly implied to be the least happy family out of all the examples I have given.
I’m not here to preach the virtues of any particular kind of family structure, but I will note that polygamy has been the norm in many cultures throughout history. Quite a few societies still practice it openly today, such as Iran and South Africa.
Polygamy makes sense when you take into account the unstable population rates of many agricultural societies and war-torn countries. It hasn’t been explained yet why Naze has a harem, but it seems very likely that he grew up in a war-torn area itself. He alluded to “not being able to protect others” when he was younger, and I suspect that the other members of his harem must have had similar experiences that enabled them to band together.
The fact that people have different cultural assumptions helps make the world of Gundam: Orphans feel like a society where people actually live in. Admittedly, this is not a society I would want to live in myself for a multitude of reasons. Still, it’s probably for the best that the show doesn’t moralise about Naze’s harem, because it’s all too easy to project one’s personal views of the practice onto a story. Likewise, there’s not much moralising about how Fareed is engaged to a nine-year-old girl. It’s simply a political necessity.
(As a side note, it is curious how the society isn’t hyper-patriarchal, considering that polygamy and child marriages are associated with patriarchal societies.)
The different families in Gundam: Orphans form the backdrop of the Tekkadan’s “family” story, which is depicted in a more overtly emotional manner but is no less logical in its reason for existing. It’s not that uncommon to encounter stories about people who are not blood-related calling themselves family, but it makes particular sense in this universe, where dead parents are the norm.
I think that this careful worldbuilding is what makes Gundam: Orphans so affecting. The Tekkadan is not the only group of people struggling to survive throughout all the conflict in this show. Knowing how fragile and impermanent families are in this world, it was clear to me why the members of the Tekkadan share such a deep bond. I breathed a genuine sigh of relief at the end of episode 11 after spending the whole episode worrying that the Tekkadan would be torn apart, and I’m still anxious about what may happen to them next.
In conclusion, I approve of Naze’s harem because it’s an excellent foil for the Tekkadan family. Just don’t try to copy it, Atra.