Suisei no Gargantia – 02

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If the question “What would it look like if Matsumoto Leiji and Urobuchi Gen had a kid and Miyazaki Hayao designed its wardrobe?” sounds interesting to you, then Suisei no Gargantia may be right up your alley.

OP: “Kono Sekai wa Bokura wo Matteita (この世界は僕らを待っていた)” by Minori Chihara

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Any way you look at it, the first two episodes of Suisei no Gargantia have been spectacular.  I’ve often wondered what would happen if Urobuchi Gen – who’s obviously a very smart and talented guy – put all that brain power behind a straight-ahead action or drama, without there having to be a point to everything he writes.  Writers willing and able to populate their anime with big ideas are rare, so I’m certainly glad Gen is around to do it – but maybe one reason his series always end up falling short of greatness is because he loses himself in all that navel-gazing when he doesn’t have the inclination (or ability) to answer the questions he raises anyway.  If he channeled his energies in another direction, perhaps his characters could rise above the level of archetypes and become real, believable people?

It’s too early to say if Gargantia represents a shift in that direction but for two episodes anyway, this is quite unlike anything else I’ve seen from Gen.  It’s a straight-ahead sci-fi epic with a compelling premise and it’s written with Gen’s usual intelligence, and that’s a wonderful combination.  There are a few things that don’t quite win me over – while the series is still gorgeous, the over-reliance on CGI is more apparent when the entire episode is Earthbound, where CG isn’t as seamless and impressive as it in space battles.  And there’s some of Gen’s usual otaku pandering, most obvious in the design of Amy, though she’s hardly the most egregious example of her trope (and the always winning Kanemoto Hisako behind the mic doesn’t hurt).

I really love the way the standoff between Ledo and the Earthers has played out – I think it’s handled in a quite realistic fashion (though of course we can only speculate).  From his perspective, Ledo has made perhaps the most important discovery in history, but he’s in a very odd position.  Yes, he could wipe out the humans pointing their primitive weapons at him with ease, but that would be morally and strategically unacceptable.  As Chamber slowly works out the mechanics of Earth language, the humans debate how to handle the situation, with some like Pinion (Konishi Katsuyuki) arguing to “sink” the stranger before he does them all in, and others like Amy pushing for communication.  The Fleet’s leader Fearokku (Tezuka Hideaki) rules for a wait-and-see approach, leaving the two sides quietly staring at each other.

Meanwhile, we learn a bit more about the situation of the humans.  Amy has an otouto, Bevel (Terasaki Yuka, who earned a special place in my esteem with her performance as Zushi in H x H and kid Arata in Chihayfuru), apparently unable to walk, who dreams of space and correctly guesses that Ledo in fact came from the sky, not the sea, and that he’s likely descended from the humans who legend says escaped the Earth millennia earlier and fled to space.  Something big has clearly happened on Earth – Chamber’s records show it as frozen and dead due to irregularities with the Sun, and indeed the entire planet apparently did freeze over once – but the ice melted.  That left the surface covered in water, with humanity surviving in “fleets” like the one Ledo landed near – known as Gargantia – surviving by salvaging old human artefacts from the sea floor and following the “Ginga Michi” – avenues of luminous sea creatures that provide them electricity.

The scourge of this ragged civilization, apparently, is pirates – and a band of them soon attack Gargantia, finding them woefully unprepared.  Ledo sees this as an opportunity to gain some leverage with the populace by acting in their defense, which seems like a smart move on paper.  However, his methods may end up doing more harm than good.  Taking the soldier’s approach that an enemy is an enemy and must be destroyed, he launches his mecha and in the blink of an eye utterly annihilates the pirate fleet.  Setting aside the issue that the pirates are humans, this display of raw power is surely going to complicate any chance he has of an amenable relationship with the people of Gargantia.  How can you feel comfortable in an alliance with someone who, by all practical measures, is effectively a God?   Chamber especially was already something they perceived as magic more than science, given the gap in their technology.

All this plays out in coherent and very feasible fashion.  Sugita Tomokazu is his usual brilliant self as Chamber, and 19 year-old Ishikawa Kaitou is delivering the goods big-time as Ledo, capturing his modest demeanor and sense of bewilderment at his current situation.  If Robotics Notes was like Adachi Mitsuru doing mecha, there’s an Urobuchi Gen takes on Matsumoto Leiji quality to Suisei no Gargantia thus far with its blend of futuristic tech and hardscrabble living-rough setting, and the contrast between Ledo and Chamber and the almost Princess Mononoke-like trappings and costumes of the Earthers.  Adding Gen to that mix is a pretty fascinating notion, and it’s exhilarating to imagine just how great this series could be if all the pieces fall into place.

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ED: “Sora to Kimi no Message (空とキミのメッセージ)” by ChouCho

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  1. K

    My one worry about this series is its only one cour. It feels really large and scope for that but I really want it to pull through because I loved the first ep.

    I have not watched the 2nd ep yet (except the opening) but have watched the first ep 3 times. This also worries me because if I like it this much chances are I am getting my hopes up.

  2. K

    *large in scope*

  3. E

    Are you watching the webrip as well? The visual is already gorgeous even though it's just 360p. I can't wait for the 1080p version to come out!

    The robot (Chamber) is definitely my favorite character so far. The writer has done a good job in making him "inhuman", which I applaud.

    "Hey, what the hell is that?"
    "A corpse of water organism."


  4. There's a 720P version out there, or so the rumors say. I wonder where someone might find screencaps from it…

  5. l

    It's no rumour. I have that 720p raw. I can upload some screencaps from that raw for you guys here.

  6. Um…

    I should have included a wink with my comment, because I was suggesting that one might have to look far at all to find 30+ caps from that 720P raw.

  7. G

    Well, this is a product created from the combined efforts of Kazuya Murata and Urobuchi, so while Urobuchi clearly has a hand here, we can't dismiss Murata's influence either taking his brilliant track record into account. It's going to be another one cour series, so I doubt it'll launch into an ideology debate in the next remaining episode.

  8. R

    Two episodes in, and I am liking this series. So far it's quite unlike Gen's usual work, and this is a nice change. I also like the chemistry between Chamber and Ledo — the dialogue between them feels real and is interesting. It seems to me that as the story progresses, we will see some character development — Ledo's already surprised by Amy's giggles in this episode — and some interesting dynamics to be developed amongst the cast. The only thing is that Amy, being the female protagonist, is quite a stereotype, but it's only two episodes in…

  9. m

    Can't get enough of this show (and the music), though my only thing is I have lost track of which character naturally speaks japanese. Its seems like they Ledo and Amy go back and forth between two languages sometimes. This is a very SMALL nitpick though. My jaw just about dropped to the floor when Ledo does his thing to save them.

  10. c

    What? Neither of them speak Japanese. Whatever futuristic languages they speak are simply translated into Japanese for the viewer depending on whose perspective the scene is being viewed from. This is a pretty standard way to deal with foreign languages in fiction. Not just anime, it's common in Hollywood movies and whatnot too. It takes a particular kind of artsy to make a movie about a foreign culture where they always speak in a language the audience doesn't know.

  11. j

    One of my two gripes with the show so far is the music. It's really bland and often times makes me cringe a bit.
    Also, the CG of the mech makes it look like a toy being hung by wires

  12. Actually I agree – considering how every other part of the series is so pitch-perfect and seems to have been the beneficiary of exacting detail work, the music (including the OP and ED) are a bit plain. It's not a big deal – just not as impressive as the other elements of the show.

  13. W

    You didn't like the music, even in the first episode? I personally loved the music in the first episode and thought the music for the 2nd episode was decent. I'll agree that the OP and ED are kind of bland, but after SSY's ED and also PP's ED…expectations are high. xD

  14. It didn't make much of an impression of me, to be honest. That also means it wasn't obtrusive, as it didn't bother me or distract from the story – it just felt a bit generic.

  15. j

    During the battle scenes and the earlier scenes with Amy running around, I felt like they used the same if not VERY similar songs that were so boring and sometimes cheesy that it sounded like it was on a loop.

    Story so far is good though, so yeah, the music is not too distracting.

  16. e

    @enzo are you going to do first impressions to to aru no riolugan after it will air tomorow?

  17. l

    Speaking of Matsumoto Leiji, will you be blogging Yamato 2199? I recall that you mentioned seeing a couple of episodes and were interested in following it.

    Personally, I am enjoying the new adaptation. It's up to Episode 14 now (or Movie #4 in the cinema series).

  18. I was waiting for someone to do subs of the TV version, to be honest. I'm rather dismayed that no streamer or subber has picked it up. I suppose I could cover it anyway based on the BD releases.

  19. H

    My guess might be that noone sees a need to sub the TV version at this point with subs already out for the first 10 or 12 episodes. When the TV version gets to where the BD subs are out, someone might pick it up.

  20. e

    I quite like the little culture clash details so far and how Ledo/Red is baffled by the people's customs 'she's asking me to eat a corpse!', ahah. I wonder what kind of food he's used to beyond whatever juice he was having. Vegetarian? Cattle and animals in general might be too resource-intensive in his culture.
    The Ginga Michi part was cool. It reminded me of the lightning clusters I used to stare at in fascination while at my grandma's in the summer as a child.
    Anyway, between the mentality and the techno gap – how does Chamber keep its 'batteries' charged so to speak anyway? – displayed in such dramatic a fashion by the end of the episode I'm pretty eager to see where this is going. For Red this was standard procedure after all. Enemy? Exterminate. Can't envision the Gargantians feeling any less wary of him by now… and how Amy will deal with all that.

  21. 1

    The Alliance doesn't seem like the kind of society that will worry much over what the inhabitants of Earth think, and the members of technologically inferior cultures almost always take it in the shorts. It will be interesting to see how the authors deal with this.

  22. .

    Pirates of the Gargantia!!

    But who gets to be Jack Sparrow?

  23. J

    I love the scene when the squirrel is sucking on the "artificial" food Red drank earlier

  24. Z

    "And there's some of Gen's usual otaku pandering, most obvious in the design of Amy, though she's hardly the most egregious example of her trope."

    Just for the record Naruko Hanaharu designed her not Urobuchi.

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