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.