Aug 29

Anime Review – Gargantia

Not pictured – The millions killed by Chamber

If you’re a fan of mech shows, Spring was surprisingly good for you. Both this and Valvrave were some of the seasons finest offerings, and if you’ve been at Anicom over Summer you might’ve seen the first episodes of each being shown.  I’ll talk more about Valvrave next week, so in the meantime let’s go over Suisei no Gargantia, or Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, to use its translated name, and see how the series as a whole fared.

So, the plot. The first half of the first episode suckers you into thinking this’ll be epic space battles, as pilots exchange technobabble and neon lasers fly in every direction, with the plant-like Hideauze fighting the Galactic Alliance of more tradition humans and mechs, and the whole affair looks damn pretty. However, as the attack fails and our cast retreats, poor lead Ledo fails to make it back and is catapulted off into deep space.

Cue the second half of that episode, where it’s revealed he’s landed on a now very water-logged and technologically regressed Earth, where he meets and abducts lead girl Amy, and is unable to converse the situation with the locals because weirdly, he can’t speak their language. This is a series full of neat touches and surprising depth in places, with a lot of foreshadowing to later events for the astute.

Such a happy life they lead

And so the series begins its arcs, starting off with Ledo getting used to life on the ship fleet of Gargantia, and the massive differences in culture (what do you mean I can’t just vaporise everyone whom gets in the way), while they get used to having a mech millenia ahead of any technology they have. You meet Amy, whom besides being Ledo’s crutch throughout as he adapts to what we’d call civilised society, actually has little relevance to the plot. There’s her friends who are… even less relevant, and her brother, a sickly child whom in Ledo’s world would have been discarded, so in many ways provides the most stark contrast between societies for Ledo. Then there’s Bellows whom… is a Yoko lookalike, Ridget, whom goes on to lead the fleet and struggle with being thrown into power, but also ultimately has little impact on the main story, despite her fleshed out character.

And then there’s Pinion, one of the big driving forces behind the later arcs. Obsessed with treasure and technology, he leverage’s Ledos skills and mech to assault an old burial ground guarded by whalesquid, and is overwhelmed by the treasures he finds. Excluding Ledo, Pinion has by far the most character development in Gargantia, and in a way his story is much more interesting to watch unfold. The star of the show though, is Ledo’s mech, Chamber. With a personality of his own, Chamber helps to verbalise the moral compass throughout the show, questioning the choices of Ledo and aiding his interactions while they learn the language and behaviour of Gargantia’s residents. Add in great design and fluid animation on him, with a splash of humour, and any scene involving Chamber is a riot.

Chamber putting Babelfish and Rosetta Stone to shame

Back to the plot arcs. With a fair chunk of the series penned by the now infamous Gen Urobuchi, writer of Madoka and Psycho-Pass amongst others, the later episodes are far from happy happy fun times at sea, with revelations aplenty about how the Earth came to be in its current state, the origins of the Hideauze and the nature of people and society towards godlike figures such as Ledo. Sadly, with only 13 episodes, a lot of these developments don’t get much time to be discussed, resolved and digested before you’re flung into the next section as the show races towards a fairly safe conclusion.

These problems are exaggerated by several fairly irrelevant episodes in the middle, including… a fanservice filled beach episode! On ships at sea. Where there are no beaches. And everyone is already wearing fairly skimpy clothing because of the weather. It makes no sense whatsoever, and in a show where time is at a premium, its inclusion is all the more dumbfounding.

Even ships at sea have a red light district…

And ultimately, that’s one of the fundamental problems of this show. It establishes a great world and has some brilliant ideas, but they’re often confused or just left to fizzle out. It looks pretty, the soundtracks perfectly fine, if nothing special, and the ending is an alright way to resolve everything, even if it is utterly predictable. The problem is more what it always is with shows that have so much potential, you want them to realise it, and when they don’t, its bitterly disappointing.

To summarise, Gargantia isn’t a bad show. Far from it, as I said, it was one of the few Spring shows that got me to give a damn and tune in each week. I just wish it would’ve done more with what it had. And if you’re a big mech fan, Valvrave’s probably more up your street with actual mech battles, while Gargantia is more of a regular series that involves mechs. But hey, if you wanted something a little more or a little different from your mech anime, this’ll probably be right up your street.