I’m somewhat torn after watching this episode. It was good, don’t get me wrong – not quite as good as the superb first 4 episodes of the series, but very good indeed. But what sense does it make for a 12-episode series that’s too short as is to take two eps to do exactly the same thing? In effect, this was a replay of last week’s episode except it was good. It was like a do-over – and it makes last week’s misstep even more unnecessary (apart from the most crass of considerations) than it already was.
On the other hand, the subject of Ledo trying to take his first steps into making a life for himself on Gargantia is an important one, and it certainly deserved a better telling than it got last week. Especially given what Gen Urobuchi has said about this being a series targeted at young adults trying to enter adulthood at a very difficult time in Japan’s history, this is an important topic. Ledo makes a very interesting metaphor for those people, who feel alienated in a society that no longer offers the security it offered their parents and grandparents and not especially motivated to conform to the expectations being placed on them. It might even be argued that this symbolic journey of Ledo is the underpinning of the entire series – though at this point I think it’s too early to say.
So we can pretty much pretend last week’s ep never happened (there are certainly parts I wish I could forget) and view this as the chronicle of Ledo trying to find a useful place in Gargantian society. This takes place against the backdrop of the fleet’s matsuri, which means a massive fishing push and ritual dancing, among other things. It does seem that Gargantia has an obsessive interest in using Amy’s body (and those of her friends) for fanservice purposes, to the point of an excess that’s a bit beneath the dignity of the series in general. At least in this episode it served a function, which was to highlight Ledo’s growing awareness of human imperatives. And it shows up that in many ways this series is very much a throwback – there’s a lot of Matsumoto Leiji in its bloodlines, and not just his – in some ways it feels very much like a product of Leiji’s era (he’s still around, but was at the zenith of his popularity in the 70’s and 80’s). And while Leiji had more than his share of powerful and intelligent females in his work, that’s not always going to be politically correct.
We begin to see why Pinion might have started to take more interest in Ledo – he’s seen the potential of Ledo (more crucially, Chamber) in the salvage game. Bellows has too, of course. This makes sense on several levels – salvage is obviously an area where Chamber’s skills could be put to tremendous use. But there’s also the fact that in the Gargantia mythology, the sea – and the sea floor – is almost surely where the answers lie. That’s important from a purely narrative standpoint – we need exposition and the series is half-over – but it’s surely important to Ledo too, for obvious reasons. And the sense I get is that he’s figured this out as well – this is what he wants Bellows to “teach” him. And I suspect it’s why he chose Bellows’ offer over Pinion’s – he’s seen that she’s clearly the more serious of the two, and more likely to help him find the answers he seeks.
And even now, we’re starting to get a few answers. Almost unnoticed in the episode is the passing mention that the Swirling Galaxies are actually nanomachines, a product of mankind’s ancient technology – surely a very important revelation. There’s also the continued hinting that the Hideauze may in fact be of Terran origin – the first instance when Ledo panics after seeing a cooked octopus revealed at the dinner table. In the final scene, as he’s learning salvage on the sea bed from Bellows, when Chamber announced with “99.7% probability” that he’s spotted a Hideauze. My money is on it being a giant squid – or “whale squid” as Bellows refers to them jokingly in that very scene in the restaurant with the octopus. I don’t imagine she mentioned that coincidentally, but I also don’t think Chamber is going to say 99.7% without good evidence – he probably has the ability to profile a target’s DNA or some such futuristic technology. Lots of “ifs” there, but if those guesses are right and giant squid are related to Hideauze, it certainly is a game-changer.
The other major development is Ledo’s growing awareness that he desires Amy, and that he’s starting to have familial feelings towards she and Bevel. This, again, ties into the notion of Suisei as a series speaking to young adults discovering themselves, each milestone a life-changing moment. The scene where Amy and her friends danced in the restaurant was a bit crass and in my view unnecessary, but the one where she did a “private dance” for him was much better. In his playing the flute for her and she doing a ritual dance for him, it felt like a moment where they really opened up to each other – and the fact that she was 80% naked and he clearly liked it is not incidental. There’s also the matter, of course, of his instinctively protecting her physically when the veils of light from the Swirling Galaxy surprised him (they provided a lovely backdrop to her lovely dance). Ledo even brings Bevel a present – a wind-up crab and a candy – and there’s a growing sense of domesticity between he and the siblings. We see Ledo smile more in this episode more than in any other, by far, and it’s no coincidence – he’s finally been able to “support someone”. In the journey to adulthood, finding a sense of belonging is perhaps the ultimate goal, and that seems to be the heart of Ledo’s personal journey, and of the story Suisei no Gargantia is trying to tell.