Suisei no Gargantia – 05

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Well, that was a bit of a shame.

I haven’t checked the credits, but I’m going to hazard a guess that Urobuchi Gen didn’t write this episode.  To be fair, Gen hasn’t been credited with writing an episode since the first one, but if there were any doubt that he’s not exerting his usual control over the tone of the series, this episode would seem to be it.  It certainly wasn’t terrible (mostly) but after the terrific run of eps culminating in last week’s moving and poetic masterpiece, it would be a lie to say I didn’t find this episode a considerable letdown.

To set the record straight, I certainly love a good swimsuit/beach/onsen episodes on principle.  When done especially well they can provide fanservice and comedy while still advancing the plot – Outlaw Star’s “Hot Springs Planet Tenrei” is probably the finest example of all.  And change-of-pace episodes – hell, this episode title was “Day of Calm” and we all know what “calm” comes before – are often a welcome change in otherwise serious or dark shows (though while serious, I haven’t found Gargantia to be especially dark at all thus far).

So why was this a rather “meh” experience for me?  First of all, it wasn’t an especially stellar example of the trope – compared to the first four eps, the execution was pretty ordinary.  Why was Pinion, so overtly hostile towards Ledo, suddenly concerned with cheering him up (maybe he just wanted an excuse to lay out)?  A few of the elements – like the lame attempt at mining comedy from having Ledo chased by a bunch of trannies in bikinis – were borderline embarrassingly bad.  Second, I think there probably was an opportunity here to advance Ledo’s arc meaningfully, but I don’t think that happened.  It seems obvious in hindsight that broad comedy isn’t playing to this series’ strengths, and Ledo’s concern about finding a useful place for himself – potentially a fairly powerful part of his arc – felt completely trivial, especially after last week’s emotional depth.  And third, it seems a shame for a show as smart and as full of big ideas and intriguing plot threads and characters as this one is to waste an episode – especially considering that the series is already painfully short at one cour.  Effectively this was as useful as a recap episode with fanservice – it didn’t advance the plot or character arcs in any meaningful way.

About the best I can say is that there were a few worthwhile moments.  There was plenty of swimsuit service featuring all the major characters – including Ledo and Amy’s two friends Melty and Saya, played by heavyweight seiyuu Asumi Kana and Kayano Ai.  It was nice to see that Bevel is actually able to get up and move around a little – it was depressing to think of him stuck in bed 24/7.  Chamber – as always – got off a few good one-liners, my favorite being “I agree that it is morning” as his A.M. greeting.  Apart from that though, I think this was pretty much a throwaway.  Apart from Chamber’s dialogue none of the humor really worked for me – the sight-gag with the fan, Chamber as a grill, the trannies, the Obaa-san with the sauce – very, very pedestrian stuff.  Presumably the decision to stage this episode in the first place was a calculated one based on a perceived need to do so in order to sell Blu-rays, which is a pretty sad statement about the anime industry (and in this case, I think, a miscalculation – I think the series was going to do just fine as it was).  Gargantia is certainly entitled to a down week, but with shows this good and only 12 episodes, you sure hate to see one wasted.

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33 comments

  1. M

    A shame you found this episode meh. While it was indeed the least interesting episode, I found most of the comedy funny.

    Then again, I am probably the worst person to ask when it comes to good comedy as I find some the most stupidest things funny.

  2. There's nothing like a great swimsuit ep. And this was nothing like a great swimsuit ep.

    Chamber may be the funniest character of the year after Ashiel, and he almost always makes me laugh. But apart from him the humor felt very stilted and awkward to me, mostly. Different strokes, I guess.

  3. K

    Though I wrote a pretty bright review, this was more or less an ehh ep for me too. Though, Chamber saved it from being boring; that last bit was particularly amusing.

  4. A

    "There's nothing like a great swimsuit ep. And this was nothing like a great swimsuit ep."

    Seems the majority seems to disagree with you. Huge spike in pre-orders

  5. Yes, just as there usually is every day an episode airs – and the 30-day chart for Gargantia shows it's no exception. The show was already doing well (#3 for the season's anime), didn't need to do this, and even if it did provide a spike in sales (which they were clearly hoping it would) that's a condemnation of the industry more than a justification for the decision.

  6. M

    Agreed. I was really worried when I saw bikinis in that ending sequence, but the stereotyping and sexism was rather repulsive (the offensive depiction of trans* especially). I'm not inclined to heap credit on Gen for this show since every episode has felt shades different to the last.

  7. S

    This. I felt the stereotypes to be pretty bad. The scene of Ledo running from the trans guys is both out of character (I'm pretty sure that if he felt attacked he'd react with proportionate force – the problem would probably be keeping alive whoever tried to mess with him. I don't think after all the military training he has that 'nice body' for nothing) and in horrible taste. It also was painfully similar to an equivalent moment in One Piece, with the difference that One Piece being a mix of shonen action and totally nonsense comedy, it made it work (besides the fact that there are also perfectly respectable, if a bit over the top, trans characters in One Piece, and I don't think that's a common feature). The discussions between Amy's friends about getting fat or not were equally shallow, with Chamber to stress the 'illogical' way dem silly girls think which felt straight out of the 50s. I was disappointed by these elements, especially considering how the entire episode could have worked as a simple breather before the second part of the series (which I guess at this point will maybe have a shift in tone). Oh well, I guess this was Gargantia's equivalent of Gurren Lagann's infamous episode 4. Shit happens.

  8. M

    On another note what did you think of at least the concept of Ledo trying to get a job. I thought it was a perfect example of what it is like to be young and trying to find a job only to get frustrated that no one seems to want to hire for various reasons, something I relate to fiercely (Which in turn probably lead me to liking this episode more too). And I also thought it was indicative of what is like to try to get a job and integrate back into society after coming back from war.

    Any thoughts?

  9. As I said in the post, I think the concept of Ledo finding a place is potentially a fairly powerful part of his arc. I get the idea, but I didn't think it was executed very well. What does Ledo finding a place have to do with a bunch of offensively stereotyped crossdressers in bikinis chasing him? Especially given what Gen has said about wanting this to be a series for young adults just beginner that working lives, it's an important topic – but the way I saw the episode was that it was used as a thin excuse to show a lot of fanservice and try their hand at slapstick comedy (without much success, in the latter instance).

  10. .

    I'm quite sure Pinion still hates Ledo, otherwise he wouldn't have sent him on the errand. Something tells me Pinion knew exactly the type of people Ledo would encounter in that part of the flotilla…

    I find it more shocking though that Hawaii shirts, like cockroaches and germs, will survive the Ice age and global flooding…

  11. J

    I'm pretty sure that the "cheering Ledo up" is just some bs Pinion came up with in order to have that meat. Notice how he sent him away for a long time and didn't want anyone else to crash his party

  12. p

    I was pretty surprised by the offensive caricatures of cross-dressers myself. That, more than anything, made this the weakest episode of the five so far (or, rather, the ONLY weak episode of the five so far).

    I guess even Gen Urobuchi is not above making homophobic "jokes". Seriously, why do some people feel the need to create humor at the expense of another group, especially a group as poor, misunderstood, reviled and oppressed as cross-dressers?

    SNG is still the best show of the season for me, but that homophobia was just completely uncalled for.

    I hope the next episode is much better now that the show has gotten its mandatory fanservice/"comedy" episode out of the way.

  13. p

    I also forgot to add another thing that sort of pissed me off when I watched this episode. To quote Kairi from Random Curiosity:

    "If there’s one thing that struck a particularly bad chord with me this episode, however, it was the girls. Amy and her friends have always acted as the genki eye-candy (though Amy has far more depth than the other two), but one particular conversation this week really bothered me. When the three girls discuss body image, Melty essentially makes the point that she and the others have to watch their figures for the sake of getting boys to like them, rather than because they want to. Call me an annoying feminist [sic] or whatever you like, but whether you’re a boy or a girl, skinny, round, square, or triangular, you should never base your self-image on what anyone but you yourself want. If you change yourself for the sake of someone else, you’re objectifying yourself (and yes, I’m speaking to you boys too) and that’s just not okay. By all means, change yourself, but do it because it’s something you really truly want for yourself."

    I certainly hope that the writer was only trying to portray Saaya and Melty as shallow, and not applying this idea to women in general.

  14. Z

    "I guess even Gen Urobuchi is not above making homophobic "jokes""

    Urobuchi didn't write this episode, and has hardly been involved since episode 1.

  15. p

    Well, whoever it was that wrote this episode — Urobuchi or not — is not above making homophobic "jokes".

  16. Z

    Please direct your ire towards Daishiro Tanimura.

  17. A

    I still find it difficult to consider, but I think I really should get used to the idea that Urobuchi really did write nothing but the premise, and that there won't be any kind of major conflict other than a boy learning to value himself and others until the last couple episodes. At the very least, I think I should lower my initial expectations to about half…

    Anyways, I liked the panoramic view of Gargantia when the gliders reached the top of the tower, and I got a chuckle out of the comedic cut to credits at the very end. As for the swimsuits, I only paid attention to Ridget's, since she's the only one who dresses conservatively in the whole ship. Other than that, the only thing that caught my attention was how easily Chamber is being manipulated by the crew as of late, even ignoring a distress call from Ledo without really putting much of a fight.

    Then again, maybe I shouldn't think too hard about this episode…

  18. Athos, I'd be 100% fine with no major conflicts or Gen-style despair – if the story is of "a boy learning to value himself and others" the way it was executed in the first four episodes, Gargantia might still end up being the best show of the season.

  19. K

    Although it is indeed true that this episode doesn't have Gen's contemplative mystique, I can see myself clearly riding quite the enjoyment. Sure, this wasn't as spectacular as the previous episodes nor as momentous in terms of character developments, but this easily enamored me with the further exploration of one of the Gargantia's wonders through a cheerful beach episode.

    What worries me a lot on the other hand is SnG's episode insufficiency to expatiate everything on the remaining episodes. Nonetheless, this series remains extremely magnificent thus far.

  20. E

    Beach fanservice episode. Meh.
    Please hand over the script back to Urobutcher Gen.
    I would like to see him turn this into another Madoka.
    Push the characters to the edge of depression and sadness.
    Before pushing them off the cliff completely.
    :-)

  21. K

    Please can we not. Swimsuit episode aside, I like the way this is being handled; Urobutcher is not Urobuchi at his best, at least in my opinion (And this is coming from a sadist who loves angst).

  22. K

    Agree about this episode, especially disappointing after the amazing episode 4.

    I was also disappointed that they didnt do anything meaningful with Ledo's job search, that would have made a much more compelling episode, more in line with the previous ones.

    I am not big on swim suit eps but its not like I can never enjoy them (Gurren Lagann's one I liked)

  23. l

    Meh. Unfunny okamas, lame chicks in swimsuits, slice of non-life. not enough Chamber. Felt like I was watching some Kyo-ani crap. Weakest episode of the series.

    Also, it's probably just me, but I'm kind of disliking how the protagonist is becoming more "human" like – unpragmatic, emotional, listening to his "heart" and all that crap – as I preferred him at the beginning when he was efficient and German. His tone when speaking in Earth-language also grates me a little; sounds like the typical spineless anime dweeb (sans helium-filled vaginal voice, fortunately) compared the the confident, surefooted way he speaks his own Space-lingo, though I supposed they did that intentionally to show the difference.

  24. K

    I think the way Ledo talks is intentional, he's learning the language and not comfortable with it. In many ways he is like a child, experiencing something completely new.

    And the fact that Ledo was a soldier, doesn't make him less of a child. Being a soldier was the only life he ever knew and he felt comfortable and in control there. In space he had all the answers and he could accept life as it was. But here he is in a completely alien world and he doesn't know what to do and its scary. I don't think Ledo is becoming more "human" but he is in a sense growing up.

    Anyways I agree with you about this episode overall (except maybe the Kyo-ani comment) but not about Ledo's character development.

  25. Yeah, I'm with Kim on this one. Ledo is still a child – just about so chronologically, and very much socially. His language skills are a metaphor for that. It was brilliantly depicted in episode 4 – not so much in this one.

  26. l

    I never said it was wrong. I just said it was an annoying (to me) development. Think F1 driver suddenly going to a Nascar series. Might make sense financially for him, but it's still lame. A year in, he goes from speaking proper English in interviews to "well gaw-lee" just to appeal to drunk rednecks.

    That's the main problem I'm having comparing this with the previous ep. Everything was just… lame.

    Last ep, the catalyst (for lack of better term) was mostly the conversation with Amy's little bro, and the doctor and the salvage chick to a lesser extent. It made perfect sense, and was somewhat deep. This ep seemed like a bratty I-wanna-fit-in-school more than a mature conform-to-culture thing in comparison.

  27. H

    I actually looked at the writer/director for the episode, the writer is the same guy we had for episode 2 (which was a perfectly fine episode) and the director wasn't a newbie, although it seems like they've done mostly fanservice stuff in the past ( http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/people.php?id=81163 ). And agreeing with just about everyone else here, I liked where the episode started, Ledo trying to find a job and the awkwardness of it, and the fanservice started out okay but then with the girls talking about their bodies (guys I thought you were on the right track there and then you weren't, WTF?!) and the uncomfortably unfunny sequence with the transvestites (I haven't seen that in so long I was hoping it had died), yeaaaaah this could have been much better. At least we got some nice overhead/to the side shots of the Gargantia (and some really moe shots of Ledo >> ) so it wasn't a complete waste for me, just mostly.

  28. s

    i thought this was a pretty alright episode; not as "meh" as most people thought it was; it was a nice "fun in the sun episode" and the fanservice all around this episode was handled very well and not all up in your face like most beach episodes. There ws no intentional close up on boobs and ass or guys falling into girl's chest; just good ole fashion swimsuits. Though i will admit that the dialogue wasnt as sharp as the previous eps and the execution could have benefited from being a bit better, but you know what, to me, this ep didnt need to. This was a "chill out and relax ep" to which everyone was doing and when the shit hits the fan in the future eps (assuming it does) im going to appreciate this peaceful time a lot more.

  29. S

    Most of you are saying meh, some of you are saying it was alright. I think it was shit. Pure and utter shit. I don't particularly like Swimsuit episodes, mostly because they feel so out of place and so unbelievably tired.

    Anyway, I can't find a single moment I particularly liked. No gag was fun, most of it off-putting. Whoever wrote that bit about weight concern is a wanker and made every character very shallow. I already knew Amy was as deep as a puddle, and now I know her friends are too. "That's a pretty nice body". tut tut.

  30. K

    i personally liked this episode, not for the fanservice, but because i was kinda surprised with seeing such a light-hearted episode in an Urobuchi series. in my point of view, it helped making Ledo a little more human and likable (last episode he was questioning the point of view of the people in Gargantia, and in this one it was the first time we actually saw him trying to fit in). since Urobuchi is writting this, i have no doubt that Sh*t is gonna go down sooner or later, and when it does, the fact that we saw such a light episode will have make that coming conflict much more impacting (an Example of this is Steins;Gate. the reason we can feel so sorry for Okabe in the second part if because we had him being goofy in the first).

    I think it was a good episode. the fact that each episode is showing differently Ledo's interactions and his reactions was an interesting change of events. and it had a good comedic effect.

  31. Z

    To me there is no such thing as a good swimsuit episode. Most plot events that take place in such environs could happen in almost any other environment, rendering them pointless.

    I suppose the creative people in charge of this series didn't want those Naruko(ero)designs to go to waste.

  32. i

    Finally got around to watching it. And I actually quite liked it. I would have hoped for the character development of Ledo to weave itself in a bit more with the story so its a shame it didn't but overall as a solitary bit of slice of life episode it wasn't too bad. Swimsuit episodes can be fun but when the Gargantia is such an interesting vessel I would prefer more exposition on it and its characters daily routines as Ledo did a Gintama to find some work over it. I've seen worse animated and written fanservice so I'll take it.

    But bring on the storm.

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