Gargantia is the series that began to make people realize Gen Urobuchi is just a hack who makes up cool ideas, stuffs them with pretentious dialogues that he steals from books, and then doesn’t give a damn when it comes to making sense out of them, since he knows the average anime fan considers Naruto to be an amazing show. Anything more thematically complicating or violent than Naruto is instantly being labeled as a masterpiece (Akame Ga Kill, Tokyo Ghoul, Future Diary), so why would he bother?
Themes and splatter are not enough to mesmerize the masses though; they also need lots of pretty colors for making their minds to go blank, and to be unable to understand the bullshit they are watching. If the animation is bad, they would surely bitch about every little detail, but if it’s good they will magically not find anything bad to say about it (Kimi no Na Wa). Which stands true for this series as well, since it’s very well animated and has lots of cute girls (a contribution of a hentai character designer). That is enough for making your average anime fan to begin waifu wars instead of booing the endless nonsense in the story.
It’s not like there isn’t a story and you are just watching a plotless harem. If you analyze it at face value, lots of things are happening and are rich enough in content for writing a thousand essays about. Because if you don’t, you won’t have much to go on, besides saying how untapped the potential is or how nothing really makes any sense. Many will rush to defend Urobutchi by claiming he only wrote a few episodes and that the rest are another writer’s fault. Such excuses don’t make the final product any better and even prove how much of a lazy hack he is for not bothering to write full scripts anymore, since he sells by his name alone. After all, that is what most were saying about the show. It is a masterpiece because his name is mentioned briefly in the production team.
As always, the setting is very interesting (a combo of Xenogears meets Waterworld, populated by hentai people), and just like in all the stories Urobutcher writes, it is never developed in any way, since he spends all his time in making up plot twists full of shock effect, and in having the characters being mouthpieces who spit superficial philosophy every 3 minutes. Thus the whole concept of mankind in the far future being in war with space squids is just hanging there as background decoration, while the audience spends the whole show in watching cute girls doing cute things, and amoral monstrosities butchering people over ideologies which have no ground in reality.
And guess what; it was more than enough for the majority of anime fans to like this travesty of a show, since it was making them go OMG THAT IS MAKING ME THINK SOOOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT MAKES US HUMAN. Too bad you get no real insight to any of that, since nothing is elaborated or explored, and in many cases is even contradicted in order to confuse you and make you think it’s all 2deep4u. Examples of the above include:
- The society of mankind in space. You get this infodump in the first 5 minutes regarding how they breed, fight, and aim to populate the galaxy, but don’t really see anything beyond that.
- The morals of the Earth people. They claim to show respect for life, when all you see them doing is constantly killing each other during pirate attacks.
- The logic of the Earth people. They blame the protagonist for killing their enemies, even though they ordered him to do exactly that.
- The intelligence of the Earth people. They blame him again for not appreciating life the way they do, although he has no knowledge about this, since he is from space, and thus can’t be accused of being wrong about something he was never taught.
- The perception of the Earth people. Despite the numerous times the spaceman effortlessly wiped out their enemies, they still think they can overpower him anytime they feel like it with mere sticks and stones.
- The abilities of the spaceman’s mecha. They are completely different in each episode; especially when it comes to radars.
• On episode 1 it requires from the pilot to walk around so the robot can map the area.
• On episode 2 it can map a huge area around it with perfect precision and no help from the pilot.
• On episode 3 it has a problem in scanning a few meters away from it.
• On episode 4 it can easily see what lies behind thick steel walls but not what swims a few meters in the sea.
• On episode 7 it can magically scan underwater just fine.
• It accepts to reveal top secret information to the spaceman just because there is nobody present with a higher rank than him. Meaning, all the security systems in the universe can be accessed if you simply fly away from your fleet.
• The robot follows commands only when it suits the plot, it keeps attacking even when the pilot tells it to stop, and shovels philosophical revelations down his throat without being ordered to do so.
There is this excuse going around, about not having enough episodes for properly exploring the themes. It does not stick when half of the episodes are filler, stuffed with fan service. We get stuff like a masochistic lesbian pirate harem, a beach episode, and a belly dance episode full of underage girls for no bloody reason other than masturbation aid. They are supposed to be there so the spaceman can integrate into the world by experiencing sexuality, but they are so goofy you just can’t take them seriously, much less treat them as thematic exploration.
Of course if all you want is fancy visuals, good ideas, and softporn, then the show definitely works. There is a lot of shallow entertainment in it, sprinkled with shallow philosophy and fancy action scenes for maintaining the interest of the casuals. The budget is very high, the animation is very lively, and as far as comedy goes, the interaction between dumb barbarians and super advanced spacemen creates lots of humorous moments. It’s in fact the best part of the show; it’s a shame they didn’t build on that, and instead opted for poorly inserted philosophies by a robot.
Characterization is paper thin as well, just like it is in all Urobucher shows, since it’s always concept based instead of character based. People are always treated as plot devices, unable to behave as normal human beings because they exist to serve a role instead of being part of the setting.
- Nothing in the protagonist’s shift from emotionless to caring feels natural because he is never allowed to change gradually on his own. Instead of giving the hero some time to ponder if his space culture is worth to go back to, he is instead given horrifying revelations that have him reacting by screaming, and the robot lecturing him as if it’s a wise sage. What you are actually getting is a blank self-insert protagonist with no personality, so he can be anything we imagine him to be, being bombarded with theories about morality by Urobutcher who speaks through the robot, and then having lots of dim-witted hentai chicks trying to befriend (and obviously bang) him, as if you are playing a porn game.
- The first time the female pirate leader appears, she is a typical bad guy. How did she manage to be a leader? We are never told. She disappears from the story and reappears close to the ending as a completely different character, again with no explanation. Her out of screen change was the result of having completed her first role, and then being given a new one, with no regards to how or if it makes sense. Why is she even wearing the same slutty outfit, if she is supposed to be in a cult full of joyless people? Why do they believe her or what is she even doing there? There is no answer because the scriptwriter doesn’t care.
- The robot ends up acting more realistically than any of the hentai bimbos or the stone faced protagonist. It’s as if there is no bloody way for a human to realize all that; we need an emotionless machine to force-feed us answers that all people should know, regarding what it means to be human. And even the robot is not an actual character to begin with, since it’s just Urobuchi in disguise, stealing quotes from other books and using them as his own, in a lazy attempt to show how smart he is at stealing ideas, without knowing what to do with them.
There are several plot twists in the show, and they are all a complete mess.
- One is about the alien enemies once upon a time being humans. It makes the protagonist to lose his mind when he finds out he was killing people all this time. But the thing is, those people had altered their DNA to such a ridiculous degree that they were no longer the same species. He wasn’t killing people because they are no longer people. In the meantime, when he was killing hundreds of pirates in the early episodes, he didn’t feel a thing DESPITE THEM BEING PEOPLE.
- Another one is Earth going through an ice age, which forces mankind to go to space so it can avoid extinction. If that’s true, how come the people who stayed behind survived this extinction-level ice age and are now having a normal life? It’s almost like the space people could have stayed on Earth.
- Another twist is the out of nowhere introduction of an evil robot from the spaceman’s civilization, doing obviously evil things in an evil place with evil people, so we won’t have to wonder if the space people were right to leave the planet. The show itself tells us what to root for, which makes it lazy and contrived since it takes away the dilemma.
Also, the final enemy is an evil counterpart of the protagonist and his robot. This is stuff you expect to see in silly fighting shonen and not in philosophical shows that are supposed to be analyzing the meaning of life, like Gargantia does so painfully. There is no sense of seriousness or depth compared to titles such as Haibane Renmei or Ghost in the Shell, it’s a parody of science fiction, with minors twerking their asses all over your face for further making it clear. And yet many viewers were still blinded and wrote essays about how mature it is.
"OMG I killed people!"
So what, you killed dozens of pirates in the first episodes.
"That doesn't count, I wasn't feeling like a human back then."
And now that you do, do you care?
"To hell with real humans, I only feel compassion for these evolved monsters which have no emotions or individuality."
They are technically not people, you know. They are now a different species, like we are to apes.
"We are still cousins!"
I am not sure if it means anything at this point, but did you notice know Hideause look like fish?
"Yes I did."
What have you been eating all this time on Earth?
*TROLLFACE* UROBUCHI *TROLLFACE*
This anime got a 10 from me, but it takes some serious explaination. So this will be long and in depth. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, I hurt myself a couple times trying to say it at first. This anime was pretty good. so I was writing this while watching the last couple episodes, and sh*t got so real that I had to change everything, so here I go for the second time.
at first I was drawn into the anime, it was fun, kind of funny, cool, ect. It explored many different themes and, unlike many anime, actually did a good job of explaining things logically for me. I was impressed. Normally, I dislike themes about pacifism, it makes me feel less a part of the anime and it seems more like a lecture or some crap. GotVP had this theme too, but they handled it exremely well. Here is why:
--they didnt dwell on mistakes involving this theme
--they didnt try to cram it down the viewers throat
--they showed how it can naturally be a part of life, I guess you can say they rationalized it well.
I was very very impressed by how they took something that most animes do poorly and made it look good.
Now for a little while it seemed like it might be headed in the wrong direction, but it did not. I was worried up until the end, but my worry was unfounded. There are also several great twists which add even more themes to the series. They paved the way for some great character developement and some sick truths. Furthermore everything matched up. Everything built into the end. It doesnt seem like it, but trust me it does. now to the more direct part so you can gain a better understanding.
--started with simple themes of life and started building heavier themes up from that, everything fit and made sense, they explained every point very well. Extremely impressive
--similar to the themes, the conflicts and moods matched. Started light, but got heavy and weighed on the hearts of the characters, brought out great story development and finished perfectly.
Animation: Production I.G. made the animations gorgeous
Sound: the voice actors were very solid and the soundtrack was great, not Attack on Titan great, but still a 9.
Characters: I came to love the characters, and they had so many unique and great ones. Even the bad guys were interesting and well placed. They also focused on the right people. obviously the main character needed the most building, but they somehow gave every secondary and most minor characters a special place in the anime. Only the best animes are able to pull this off.
Overall: GREAT START, GREAT DEVELOPMENT, GREAT END, what more do you want?! Most people will enjoy the vast array of themes that come out in this anime, and they did it all in 13 awesome episodes. this gave me the same feeling as Fractale, but Fractale was done by A-1 Studios and they have a tendancy of screwing up, which they did to Fractale. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.
GO CHECK IT OUT!!
Gargantia, it has a nice ring to it
Well, another long overdue review at this point lol. I'm not gonna pull too many punches here, Gargantia is one of the best shows of the year straight up. You're initially drawn in by the beautiful scenery and the wonderfully novel concept that builds through the initial few eps. It's just a great person in a strange world sort of story that you really don't see enough of. And the mix of fantasy and plausibility I thought was really expertly done. After this bit of exposition, the story sinks a bit into that comfortable SoL mode where admittedly not too much is really happening plot wise and it's more about building that emersion with the world of Gargantia. It's the sort of thing that as an SoL fan I'm used to, but I know it unnecessarily turns some people off. Everyone wants those shows that never take the foot off the pedal, but a lot of those shows tend to crash and burn. Gargantia starts with a solid foundation, before it hits you with that knockout punch. And almost inexplicably, this apparent SoL gets a plot, and a damn good one at that. It's an incredibly strong 2nd half with surprises in store, and it just gets better and better as it goes along which is what you always want to see. And this is the point where you might be thinking, oh this all sounds very generic yeah you liked to show but so what? Well you want that so what factor, you've got it. This ending is FANTASTIC. I'm not talking best of the season, I'm not talking best of the year, I'm talking one of the best ever. Beautiful. Intense. Memorable. And that is what sets Gargantia apparent from just another good anime. Though, I did do a bit of a disservice to those surprises that are in store. Cause there were moments plural that I genuinely gasped, again not something you see very often. So I guess those are my general thoughts on the story/ plot. I'll go ahead and speak some on the characters. Overall not a big strength, but likable and the leads are pretty well developed. Ledo in particular has nice character development from being this person in a strange world to one of the gang if you will. But at the end of the day, it's Chamber the robot AI that steals the shows... and that's all I'll say about that. Amy is immediately and extremely likable, though she is fairly stagnant I'm afraid. I guess all that's left to say is that the music is very much appropriate to the series so no complaints there (and I like the ED). So yeah, Gargantia is a great show and a nice easy watch so go for it! 8.5 out of 10.
STORY – 9/10
It’s rare that I find an anime that really seems to stand out from the rest. This one’s technically a Mecha anime by class, but it doesn’t have the same things that define the other anime. Now, having watched Gundam 00 and Code Geass I thought I’d seen the full extent of different-style Mecha Anime. I was wrong. This story is completely different. The story follows the psychological journey of Lieutenant Ledo, and at the start of the anime you expect it to be full of action and blowing stuff up in space like your typical Gundam anime. Then, after about seven-to-ten minutes, the story takes a dramatic change. Ledo is thrown into, well, they never really explain where and how he got thrown into something. Anyway, he arrives on a ship with some people who are a lot more primitive in their technology. He then realises that he’s reached a post-apocalyptic earth where the entire planet is covered by water. People now live on fleets of ships held together by cranes (somehow). Ledo then realises that there is no way to return to his space buddies and has to learn to live a new form of life, finding many pleasures that are forbidden in his previous space life (such as spending time at the beach, playing video games, eating proper food, etc.). But then, the conspiracy side begins. It turns out that the aliens he was fighting are actually- well I won’t spoil it for you. Anyway, this anime provides a fantastic story that mirrors that of one Hayao Miyazaki would make. It has its flaws, though, Due to it only being thirteen episodes, there isn’t much time for character development. Still, it’s a damn good story.
ANIMATION – 8.5/10
Another way that this series takes from Miyazaki is in the drawing style. The backgrounds look fantastic, and the ocean (one of the show’s primary features) looks beautiful. Most of the backgrounds look as if they have been painted, and yet they don’t stand out from the characters. Also, the Mecha are awesome. They are done in complete CGI – something that many animators still fail to do in many series. But the style of CGI also fits into the rest of the world. It’s a really magical style, and it fits the part. Still, the characters could be a bit better. Most of the males are drawn fine, but the females are always the same. Their body composition seems too similar from one female to the next. It’s off-putting at times, but all anime has its failures.
SOUND – 8/10
I don’t really like talking about sound in an anime, but in this one something really stands out and makes it unique. In several anime, people wonder why alien planets always end up speaking Japanese. In fact, that’s pretty much a problem of most anime (unless they’re talking English, or Engrish). But this one breaks free from that trope. They openly show that Ledo and the colonists aren’t speaking Japanese at all. What this anime does is show the character they’re focusing on to be speaking in Japanese, but the others who are speaking in a different language talk gibberish. This switches around, depending on whose perspective you’ve got. It really works well here. Sadly, though, the theme song doesn’t do too well. It doesn’t really fit the style of anime. The soundtrack is okay, but it suffers from the usual ‘use the same songs every episode’ problem. Still, the voice acting’s good. Not too many problems here.
CHARACTERS – 7/10
The characters in this show aren’t too bad either. Getting past the bad female designs, they do the job well enough. Ledo isn’t the type that will make fangirls swoon, which is actually what’s supposed to be in this series. Funnily enough, most of the fangirls swoon over his robot; ‘Chamber’. For a robot, he’s surprisingly funny in the kind of way you’d find Data from Star Trek, or the T1000 from the second Terminator film. He is still trying to grasp the social implications of the world around him, and it’s even funnier because of his large size. In space it would have been great for Gundam-style fight scenes, but down here it creates comedy for getting in the way. The other characters are fine, however many of the people on the fleet of ships seem to have a similar personality; headstrong and sometimes rude. There are a few quiet characters, but there are too few to balance them out. I guess maybe it’s part of the colony’s culture, but it does seem a little off at times.
OVERALL – 9/10
Despite some flaws in this series, I’m really happy with it. It’s what I consider to be ‘an anime that handles its gene perfectly’. Fantastic story and beautiful artwork in the backgrounds is what fully drives this series. The ending is a bit rushed, but it gives you a good feeling when it’s over. But if the makes of this anime are watching this, heed my warning. I have heard many rumours about a second season of this anime. Now, this season was perfect and I think it has nowhere left to go. The OVA that came out proved it for me. But, I am open to surprise. Make this series good, for all our sakes. Make sure you don’t screw it up like Gundam Seed Destiny. Don’t be the killer of this franchise; MAKE IT WORK!
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review
The following is a review for the thirteen episode series Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, its two TV Specials, and the two sequel OVAs collectively called Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: Meguru Kouro, Haruka. The original series and specials were released in back in 2013 and animated by Production I.G. The sequel OVAs were released a year later. It was written by the well-known Gen Urobuchi, famous for being the main writer behind esteemed titles like Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass, and Madoka Magica. It was directed by Kazuya Murata in his directorial debut, though he was involved in a subordinate capacity as an episode director and storyboard artist for classic titles like Eureka Seven, Code Geass, and Planetes. A unique tidbit about Gargantia is that it is an original anime with no source material. So what you see in the anime is pretty much all you’re going to get. I streamed the whole 15-episodes of the core series subbed on Hulu courtesy of Viz Media, but the last two sequel OVAs are not licensed and I had to find them online.
The bottom line spoiler-free summary of Gargantia is that it’s worth watching if you are looking for a somewhat straightforward action-adventure story that’s more heartwarming than thrilling, which is fine. My main hesitation in recommending Gargantia is that the story just seems a little too content to retread safe territory. (With the main derivative title being Eureka Seven) But if you’re content with a series that isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, you will probably be satisfied with your time investment in Gargantia. Just know that the 15 TV Episodes and 2 OVA Episodes are not conclusive by any means with its story, and this series is one of the few instances of any anime I know where a second season was announced, had a definitive release date, and was successively cancelled by the studio thereafter. My best guess? A combination between underperforming sales/reception and an unwillingness to go against Knights of Sidonia, which funnily enough I could not stop thinking about as I watched Gargantia. The implemented and seamless quality of the 3D animation, the premise, and—for just the first episode’s space battle—the qualities of an advanced human population fighting a battle of survival in space against an anamorphous, biologic, ever-adapting antagonistic force. In Sidonia’s case it is the Guana. In Gargantia’s case it is the Hideauze. These similarities are strikingly similar, but only superficially. The two shows go in tonally and abruptly different directions from their respective premises with their plots. As a rather quaint fan of Sidonia (especially its first season), I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I felt disappointed with the result. At least, just a little.
Spoilers follow from this point.
The premise is somewhat confusing if you go into Gargantia knowing nothing except the genre tags. (Action, Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction.) If you’ve followed along with what I explained in my commentary above, you’d almost be forgiven for thinking that this is a science fiction space action thriller of sorts like Guilty Crown or Knights of Sidonia or Blue Gender. Almost. Much like Knights of Sidonia, the first episode actually starts out as very good military science fiction with its space battle. Our titular protagonist, a teenager named Ledo, deftly utilizes his Mecha and its AI named Chamber to participate in an epic-scale military operation against an alien race called the Hideauze. The mission goes sideways and becomes a failure, and a lot of military personnel are killed in action. The entire human force is ordered to retreat, coming under heavy fire. He goes to rescue his military commander, named Kugel, who stays behind to buy his squad time- but is knocked unconscious by a near-fatal attack and falls into the artificial wormhole. Fast forward six months, and Ledo wakes up on—of all places—Earth! He fell to this planet by complete accidential chance and is thousands of light years separated from his military forces in space command. Ledo was retrieved still in his mecha, called Chamber, from the ocean floor by a salvaging crew of the giant ship-city Gargantia. This crews’ attempts to disassemble the mecha awaken the AI in Chamber to bring Ledo out of his cyro-stasis. These humans are much more primitive than Ledo’s version of humanity aboard his space station under the Human Galactic Alliance, and they speak a different language than him. This pretty much is used as a catalyst to tell a Robinson Crusoe-type story where he builds a new life on this world, which obviously foretells all sorts of fun dynamics.
The story is mostly centered around two primary topics from this point.
First, the day-to-day interactions and struggles of the crew/population of the floating city Gargantia. For the early part of the story, Ledo struggles to adopt to a “normal” human society that isn’t under the extreme pressure of trying to survive a war of extinction out in space. Second, the mystery surrounding humanity’s history and events that lead them to leave the planet Earth, as well as their conflict between Humans and Hideauze, the latter of which are also present on Earth in a very primitive state of living much akin to the humans on the planet. (More another part of everyday aquatic life than anything else.) The story itself, despite having more than half of its content focused on various states of external conflict, doesn’t really feel like it has any sort of stakes until the final two episodes. You see, Ledo’s mecha Chamber is something of a super weapon, and nothing on Earth has any semblance of a chance of defeating it. This is established in the second and third episodes where we see the introduction of the pirate commander, Lukkage, and her entire fleet—called the most fearsome in the entire ocean—is essentially defeated with minimal effort on Ledo’s part. In fact, when his mecha selectively targets and kills dozens of sailors with targeted laser beams that disintegrate them- the crew of Gargantia lectures Ledo that he has to hold back his power as to not cause unnecessary human suffering in a way they can't fight back against or understand. This becomes a common theme for the Mecha throughout the remainder of the series. It’s a nice, if somewhat intuitive, change- but I would have maybe liked to see there be some kind of constraint on Chamber. Maybe energy, or ammunition. Something. As it stands, he pretty much is the walking deus ex machina that can accomplish anything between Ledo piloting his mecha and its ai running it.
Episodes 4-6 are entertaining slice of life episodes.
Episodes 7 through 9 detail the background of the earth versions of the Hideauze, which are now called whale-squid by the human denizens. Seeing that Ledo and Chamber can wipe through whale squid without much trouble, a political two-episode melodrama ensues where a significant portion of the Gargantia’s political elite want to push into whale-squid waters and mine it for lost human salvage. The “fans” of this sentiment are flamed by the bad-boy two dimensional character Pinion, who has a brother killed by the whale-squid, and encourages Ledo’s murderous intent. (A kind of hilarious flashback occurs somewhere in here too, as terrible as I feel saying that, given the latter revelation that hideauze are sentiment and evolved humans.) Add to that the timely passing of Gargantia’s main leader Fairlock and you get an arc that isn’t too dissimilar to the now-infamous “Hitler” arc from Guilty Crown. Two episodes are spent over this internal conflict between Gargantia’s various characters. Amy wants Ledo to stay with her and give up on his revenge and duty as a soldier. Hot adult figure Bellows wants her rival Pinion to stop being a bad-boy and fanning division amongst Gargantia's important players. New commander of Gargantia Ridet wants the subordinate lieutenants to keep their ships with Gargantia. After they all inevitably split, one episode is spent showcasing Ledo (again, somewhat hilariously in hindsight) wiping the floor of the hideauze and foreshadows the final “big” revelation regarding the fact that they are evolved humans and have a shared history. They spend an episode showcasing Ledo’s guilt and near-mental breakdown at discovering this conspiracy and cover-up by the human galactic alliance surrounding his lifelong conflict. Finally, their salvage operation attracts the attention of a new and powerful fleet run by none other than Ledo’s military commander Kugel. The final three episodes are spent showcasing the final and climactic conflict between Kugel and Ledo, the former of which wants to use their mechas to create a reign of terror for the purpose of implementing an alliance-indoctrinate society on the Earth population, with the ultimate goal of creating of a second Avalon and second human military government controlling it. Naturally, a genocide of the weaker humans and denizen earth Hideauze would be the cherry on top. Which devolves further into the antagonist having a literal god complex. Ledo naturally comes to reject this notion. Ledo ultimately wins and destroys the rival mecha in an entertaining battle, albeit the destruction and “death” of his mecha and AI Chamber and the surprise revelation that Kugel had long been dead inside the armor and their mechas' AI are more sentinent/automatous than initially believed.
Tack on two TV specials which work like filler episodes. The first episode is another slice-of-life that occurs sometime before the destruction of Chamber and the second is a prequel from Kugel’s perspective about how he died and why his AI in his mecha is rampant. Turns out, the reason the AI in hsi mecha had a rampant god complex is because he had a god complex, too! Then we get to the actual meat of the extra content- the two episode mini-movie OVA series Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: Meguru Kouro, Haruka. These two episodes work as a direct sequel to Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet’s first season. To me, this was actually the most entertaining portion of Gargantia’s entire series. For one- they are longer than I expected. About 50 to 55 minutes apiece, and seem to operate more like a sequel movie than a couple of extra of TV episodes. Chamber has been destroyed, and now the story has to get intuitive about how the plot and conflicts will play itself out going forward. (As well as Ledo’s role in those conflicts.) We get some much-needed details about our main cast of characters’ lives following Kugel’s defeat. (Good news! Everyone is living happily.) The first half of this OVA centers around a rescue operation of Ledo when he gets buried in an underwater rock avalanche after saving a fellow crewmate, as well as an entertaining flashback of Ledo with Chamber where he saved the ship during a massive storm. The second special can roughly be divided in half with the common focus on the “Land” agent named Reema—introduced in the previous episode—whom acts as something of a foil to Ledo and Amy in that she is a double agent for the “Land” nation and her mission is to retrieve Ledo to help develop/pilot a recovered Mecha found on the ocean floor. The first half showcases her being “won” over by happy life on Gargantia. The second half is full of action as the characters deal with the repercussions of her actions. Given that chamber is destroyed, this plot actually feels like it has tangible meaning and stakes between the new political factions introduced and character actions in response to the Land Nation navy’s surprise attack on Gargantia. I enjoyed it, and really thought these specials worked well in setting up a good transition into a theoretical second season. I admit, I was looking forward to a Break-Blade type story where we got to witness some entertaining politick combined with heroic actions by a pilot limited to merely being slightly more skillful, determined, and intelligent than those around him. I looked forward to seeing Ledo have to utilize his superior training and knowledge about Mecha suits, rather than a raw technological quantitative advantage. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Season 2 was cancelled and, though we were promised a final novel to shore up loose ends, that 2015 novel was never translated into English. Furthermore, from what I understand that novel didn’t even follow Ledo or Amy and instead brings the narrative focus on two new parallel characters based in the land nations. So I highly doubt it works as a conclusive end to Gargantia’s story. My best guess is that it was a pilot to create a spinoff series of light novels that would take the story in a new direction.
While I did enjoy the more tame nature to Gargantia, as I already mentioned I think it would have been very fruitful to limit the role of the mecha Chamber somehow. (Without removing the AI.) As it stands, Ledo and Chamber are a unilateral weapon of mass destruction that simply kills the stakes of the story by working as a giant deus-ex-machina. The stakes didn’t really become engaging again (past the first episode) until the final three episodes of the regular season, Episodes 11 through 13. And then the sequel OVAs. And even then, the final episodes of the main series plays out almost exactly as you'd expect it to. It’s for this reason that I really felt I enjoyed more the OVA episodes released a year later following the conclusion of the main series. Those OVAs really capture the more heartwarming, Eureka-Seven esque direction that brings the focus of the story down to the character-on-character scale. Think more Break Blade than Gundam.
Likewise I think that that Eureka Seven direction was ultimately what the show wanted to shoot for. With its ocean asethetic and whatnot. It doesn’t surprise me given Eureka Seven’s continued influence and the fact that the director, Kazuya Murata, was so involved with Eureka Seven. But if a Eureka Seven direction was the case; I almost think that the first episode was a counter-intuitive setup. Why not just go full isekai and start the story with when Ledo wakes up? Which brings me to my quintessential point: I do also think that the first Episode was a little too good for its own good. That space battle was actually pretty damn impressive and, likewise, daring. Especially when one realizes that this sequence was released an entire year before Knights of Sidonia and is anime-original. But it ruins expectations for what we as viewers actually get with the rest of the series.
It highlights how 3d animation could work for a space battle. Certainly, the scale and execution was much more exhilarating than anything that comes after it. My only focus for the rest of the series (until Episode 13) was looking towards what was probably the story’s end game, a linking up of Ledo back to his galactic fleet and a way for the humans to win in their conflict with the Hideauze. Alas, that isn’t even in the topic of discussion with the story that we get. As the show’s story continues to progress this point is made abundantly clear to be impossible. Thank you Gen Urobuchi for your trademark sadistic twists. Ledo himself develops out of his badass soldier state of mind after massacring hundreds of earth Hideauze and discovering that they’re sentient/human, and the story itself makes clear that life under the human galactic alliance would not be a good thing for the denizen earth humans who don’t live under the constant pressure of external annihilation. This is something of a shame, because between the excellent 3D animation and action choreography and character designs and conspiracy-driven plot twists…I was getting granular notions that Gargantia could have worked as a contemporary to Knights of Sidonia or Blue Gender had it wanted to. The distinct irony here being that Knights of Sidonia’s first season wouldn’t even come out until about a year and a half later in the U.S. The writing seemed much more well-suited and geared towards something along that titles’ lines more than anything else. But it ultimately didn’t even seem to have the intention or inclination to do so.
Fault Guilty Crown or Blue Gender all you want, (especially with their conclusions) but at least those shows were entertaining in that they were daring and unpredictable and, most quintessential of all, exciting. They covered new and (literally) unexplored ground. Even in Gargantia’s buildup and climactic fight between Ledo and Kugel in Episodes 10-13, its such a been-there, done that scenario and execution to me. Of course we’re going to have a caricature one-dimensional evil villain to act as the mirror image of the protagonist Ledo. Of course the series is going to decide to make the mecha suit and AI the primary casualty. Of course all the named characters are going to come together to save each other and win. I’ve repeated numerous times across my reviews that the worst thing an action story can do is make it a cliché story about saving the world. Well. That’s what Gargantia did in its final six episodes. I’m going to add an asterisk to this rule: a show can become about saving the world when the world if it’s really freaking unique and well-executed in showing how it does so. For case examples: please refer to Attack on Titan or Knights of Sidonia. Gargantia’s main plot arc isn’t really that unique. It’s only after this climax does the story draw down the scale to just Gargantia. It is only after this climax does the story try to be intuitive with its ocean-centric post-apocalyptic world, and the limitations that come along with that. And its only after this battle that the story becomes truly engaging to me again in its unique niche/element/aesthetic. Like a solid variation on Last Exile. Because, I will say, an anime depicting a steampunk-type setting, an islander based egalitarian society, and crew going on an action-adventure is very interesting to me in premise. I just think that its somewhat ironic and disappointing that the best takeaways from Gargantia are its slice-of-life, a misleading first episode with an awesome 3D action sequence that foreshadows the coming greatness of Knights of Sidonia, and its 100 minute two-part OVA sequel that finally captures the formula long after almost everyone stopped caring. I mean...I can't even find anyone out online or in the community that's seen those OVAs, let alone reviewed them or discussed them.
And on a final note, the slice-of-life romance works only somewhat. Its heartfelt and entertaining and easy to buy into because of the amazing animation, competent writing, and seamless 3d integrated visuals and ocean-centric aesthetics. (Who can't relate to the idea that beautiful oceanic views aren't romantic?) My main complaint is that, once again, the love interest between Ledo and Amy seems to me a little too convenient, conventional to tropes, and one-dimensional. Not to mention one-sided. For one, Ledo acts like almost every anime protagonist does and is, for the most part, an emotional vegetable. With almost no instances of visual attraction towards Amy of any kind, I left the show almost frustrated by their lack of progress. Once again, the OVAs seem to improve on this issue, but its a too-little, too-late situation. Even by the end of the OVAs the most titulation/fanservice we viewers get is a couple of tender hugs.
I understand Ledo's background in a militaristic and futuristic society. And that we’re also talking about an action-adventure anime first and foremost, so I’m sure someone could make the what did you expect argument. ["Go watch Clannad or Toradora if you want romance, you goof!"] But I refuse to give up on the notion that anime can aspire higher in the romance department, particularly in a science fiction story. Knights of Sidonia does with its asexual and multifaceted presentation on gender. I’m not a proponent of dramatic realism or speculation or deconstruction, per se, just for the sake of having it. I commented this in my review of Scum's Wish. But there has to be a better balance than what most anime are settling with. We’re living in a post-apocalyptic society and we’re still holding onto defining anime relationship norms and conventions? Come on. Even in the OVAs where its arguable that Ledo came his closest to dying, there still isn't a re-evaluation [or development] of Ledo and Amy’s relationship? This point is really just a microcosm that encapsulates just how much this show seemed to be content settling into retread territory. Gargantia does exactly what it aspires to set out and do, and it does it well in many ways, but it does have its share of faults. And when the cieling of aspiration if just above-average; you end up with a product that's, at best [shocker!] just above average to even the most engaged of audiences. I haven’t even delved into the numerous plot holes. (Two of the bigger ones are "What are the cosmological chances of being sent to Earth after falling into a wormhole thousands of light years away?" and "Why does Chamber stop working with the destruction of the mecha Suit?") But I digress. I enjoyed Gargantia despite its faults, albeit with a slight adjustment to my expectations upon the realization that the first episode was just a formal prologue and not a true beginning to the story. The animation is beautiful, which is a rare commodity amongst anime that heavily use 3D, and is a case example of how to properly integrate 3D animation with 2D hand-drawn characters. I recommend it if you have nothing else on your watch list and enjoy action/adventure or Isekai.
Thanks for reading,
- Blitzburns4 out.