Suisei no Gargantia – 07

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The main plot may have been deferred, but the debt has started to come due.

I don’t want to take up this post rehashing the last two episodes, but the two subjects are linked pretty closely and I think the question of what was accomplished in episodes 5-6 is an important one.  In one sense it seems like a very odd choice to have fully detoured for two episodes (minus the last 10 seconds of episode six) and then jumped back into the story as if nothing had happened.  And, well – it is.  But I think the issue isn’t that what happened was beside-the-point – the issue is with the execution.  Those two episodes should have been one episode (#6) and the transition between the Hideauze storyline and what happened should have been smoother, in both directions.

A lot of this comes down to what kind of series you think Suisei no Gargantia is, and a lot of that comes down to the involvement of Gen Urobuchi.  Absent hard evidence to the contrary I’m assuming his role is the conventional “Series Composition” one – write a few eps (usually the first and last), and supervise the general direction of the story.  It’s only unusual because that’s not the way Gen usually works, but then, thematically Gargantia as a whole isn’t either.  Again, I’ll take him at his word when he says this is a different sort of series – one directed towards teenagers and young adults just beginning their lives.

As such, I think what happens with Ledo (especially last week) is quite relevant because I think to some extent Suisei no Gargantia is intended to express the alienation of the current generation of young adults in Japan.  In this instance quite literally, as Ledo is an alien on his ancestral home world – but I think that symbolizes the way many young Japanese feel.  They have no connection to the world their parents made for them – their parents struggles and their prejudices mean little to them, and they enter a world where the virtual guarantee of lifelong economic security their parents and grandparents had is denied them.  Of course they feel alienated – they’re forced to make their way in a world someone else made, and they don’t share its values.  Japan is perpetually a struggle between the old and the new, between tradition and change, and I think the way Ledo feels as he struggles to make a life for himself is meant to express that.  The frustration at the way he’s “mismatched” to this world, the first feelings of serious romantic love, loneliness, intellectual curiosity – I think these are different themes for Gen to be putting on the front burner, and I think he should be taken at his word about what he hoped to accomplish with this series.

So where does that leave us now, as the plot has kick-started again?  I think those expected a quick turn towards conventional Gen brutality, nihilism and despair are going to be disappointed – not least because I don’t expect him to write another episode before the finale, but also because I don’t think that was ever his intention.  I do feel as if the way the two-episode meander was handled has robbed the show of some of its magic, and I didn’t find this episode to be as gripping as the first four (the last of which remains the best anime episode this year, probably).  Nevertheless, I think the series is in very interesting territory and I think the questions it’s posing are genuinely interesting, and worthy of a Gen series.  As we all know Gen loves to pose moral and ethical questions in all his works, and he’s very good at doing so – it’s my personal opinion that he generally punts on trying to answer them.  What will be the case here?

The fundamental practical question is the underpinning of the moral one – just what are the Hideauze?  The Gargantians call them “whale squids” and to them, they’re something between a sea monster and a Kami.  They’re feared, yes, but also worshipped and revered as Gods.  Chamber has confirmed that, genetically, they’re identical to the creatures the Galactic Alliance has been fighting in space.  So while it’s hard to blame Ledo for killing one on his salvage expedition with Bellows, it’s equally hard to blame the Gargantians for being horrified when he does.  After all, they have no reason to attack the whale squids, who apparently never bother humans unless they’re attacked first.  And being a relatively primitive culture technologically, they’re susceptible to real harm if the squids do become hostile (as we see hard evidence of later in the episode).

What’s the truth of the matter?  At this point I don’t think we have enough information to say.  It would be easy to say the Gargantians are right and it’s unwise to pick a fight, but Ledo’s theory that the Hideauze simply haven’t attacked the humans because they’re too primitive is not unrealistic.  The Commodore’s response when a shoal of squids come at the fleet (which suggests an intelligence at work) is to kill all the engines and declare total silence, which suggests the squids are attracted to energy or artificial light.  And then there’s the seemingly rampant belief that the whale squids’ territory is loaded with “treasures” from the ancient world – which in this instance could be conjectured to be technological advances (weapons or otherwise).  On the other hand, Chamber informs us that the language of the Galactic Alliance has no words for “co-existence” or “prosperity”.  Perhaps they started this fight in the first place, or perhaps the squids somehow left Earth when humans did (some kind of “arc” project?) and evolved into the enemies we see in the premiere.

What all this leads to is the alienation issue again.  This is not Ledo’s home, and these are not his people.  He sees the world differently than they do – for him, it’s survive or be destroyed, and peaceful co-existence is a concept beyond his comprehension.  The Garngantian way of thinking has worked adequately for them, but they seem to be running in place, and it’s the human way to want to move forward and expand (for better or worse).  The conflict over the whale squids brings this to a head, and the Gargantians’ feeling that Ledo has brought them big trouble is quite justifiable from their circumstances.  It’s only Ridget’s gun pointed at his head that keeps him from attacking the squids when they approach the fleet, and the implication seems to be that he’s reached a point where he can no longer stay with them without compromising his ideals to a degree he finds unacceptable.  But can they simply turn a blind eye and let him leave if his intention is to destroy as many whale squids as he can before they destroy him?

Worse still, Ledo’s presence seems to have fundamentally altered the dynamic in Gargantia and shattered their unlikely stability.  The designated asshat character, Pinion, has a more sinister role than it appeared – his brother was likely killed by whale squid, and in Ledo’s hatred of them he sees a natural ally in exacting some payback and getting rich in the process.  And this has emboldened Flange (Tsuda Eizou), who controls enough ships so that his departure would cripple Gargantia’s defenses, to likewise petition to leave.  In  this we see how tenuously Ganrgantia’s survival is balanced on the head of a pin, and how little it would take to effectively destroy it as a collective body.  It’s been telegraphed for a while that the Commodore, in failing health, would give way to Ridget at some point – and the crisis seems to have brought us to that moment.  She’s going to effectively face the dissolution of her country if she allows the others to leave – and it all starts with Ledo, who she likely could only prevent from departing by killing him.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how Gargantia manages to tie the larger plot in with the central theme over the next few eps – more than in most series, they’re quite distinct from each other, and we’ve already seen evidence of the narrative difficulties that’s caused.

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19 comments

  1. l

    I've figured it all out now. All this doesn't actually happen in the future, but in the past. Squids and humans fought a long, brutal war which ended in some major catastrophe that reset the planet. Now, in the current 21st century, we have Ika Musume, a descendant of Amy (who somehow copulated with a squid back then) back to exact revenge on humanity.

  2. T

    I really wish this website had a like button because I would have plus 1 ed this as many times as possible.

  3. J

    C85 FatalPulse where?

  4. That would explain an awful lot.

  5. o

    This is too much. Perhaps you can all see who is the aggressor now. This episode is just brutal, but intersting in some way.

    As for me i want simply to punish Ledo for humanity ignorance and evilness.

    @litho: Nope, he is gone neither to the future not to the past. Merely it is the present.

    You do not understand? Let me explain my theory.

    After the battle Ledo has gone, it is the fact. Hideauze (also known as whalesquids) went to Avalon and destroyed it completely. Avalon has gone into the same thing as Ledo lost (the distortion of time/space) and crashed with Earth some centuries before the things happening to Ledo are taking place.

    As Ledo awakening, he finds himself in the present day, without any communication with the base (Avalon is lost forever). The time before the battle the people in space and the people on Earth co-existed at the same time. But it was the battle changed it all.

    People of Gargantia mentioned of lost technology.

    1. Because of Sun irregularities people has gone to space (in a very ancient times). This fact is mentioned in the anime.
    2. The advanced technology of Avalon is mentioned in the anime as well. It is not said to be Avalon, but i suppose that. I think it has to be.

    About whalesquids: the DNA of squids and whales must be mixed at some time as experiment. This experiment went out of control. The whalesquids evolved and adjuste4d themselves to the environment they are existing.

  6. A

    I do just want to mention that I don't think Ridget intended to or thinks killing Ledo is a good idea because her- or anyone for that matter- killing Ledo would likely be an instant death sentence for the entire fleet. Chamber would have no reason at that point not to annihilate them.

  7. E

    It's not only Chamber, but trying to killing Ledo may create a divide among the Gargantian factions that would be exceedingly difficult to heal. Her priority is not really whether Ledo leaves or not, but whether she can hold the fleet together, or at least, enable a reunion should the separation occur.

  8. p

    This show has created a lot of dissenting views, but one thing I think there is a general consensus of is the one that you pointed out about how episode 5 (and, to a lesser extent, episode 6) really destroyed a lot of the narrative thunder of the first four episodes.

    In retrospect, what did episode 5 accomplish that episode 6 didn't? Nothing. Episode 6 managed to express the themes of Ledo feeling useless in society and trying to find his place much better than the previous one. Hell, it was even better as a fan-service episode, as is evidenced by the way that so many reviewers and online users constantly repost the animated .gifs of the three teen girls shaking their asses (a quite disturbing scene when you really think about it, considering that these are 14/15-year-olds erotically dancing in front of sailors and citizens in their 20s-50s). Plus, episode 6 actually advanced the plot and the character relationships, compared to episode 5, whose non-existence would have had no impact on these two things.

    Most important for me, episode 6 also didn't have the appalling transphobia of episode 5. Jesus, I'm still heartbroken that the show stooped that low with vulgar caricature of transgender men.

    Anyway, I'm interested in seeing where the show goes from here on out. What happened in this episode would usually be the climax of any other series, occurring maybe in episode 9 or 10. Here it is happening much earlier, so the possibilities for the show's climax are even greater.

  9. E

    Ledo is certainly heads on with his remark that the Gargantians do nothing to fight against the Hideauze, but instead fight among themselves. Unfortunately, conflict is a byproduct of having free will, a virtue that the Gargantians have been trying to teach Ledo. I would not be surprised if Ledo has to face the same thing on a personal level in the near future – his current decision to leave Gargantia is likely not a difficult one for him.

    With Pinion going full Ishmael, Amy's role in the story is going to become as important as ever. Even while the other Gargantians tolerated Ledo's presence, they more or less sees him as a curiosity or a tool. Amy, and to a certain extent, Bevel are the only people to view Ledo as a person. Ledo does not care about Gargantia nearly as much as he cares about his mission, and Amy might be only person that is capable of changing his mind on this. She better hurry – I am not sure that even with Chamber, Ledo will be able to succeed in finishing off the Hideauze on earth.

  10. o

    Apsolutely agree on this.

  11. E

    Finally. Finally. FIRST BLOOD. The Commodore is the one who kicked the bucket first. Probably. Good trannies and dancing loli in underwears. Welcome Ika Musume's ancestors.

    Killing Ledo won't do them good, really. THey know that Chamber is the Galactic Alliance's AI which can take decision for himself. He will just perform senmetsu on them.

    Gargantia can only be saved with Ledo changing his mind. Amy should just confess and kiss him already.

  12. s

    Mm, I hope i'm not going to have to spend the rest of this show's run hearing lamentations about a mere two episodes-not just from Enzo, but many. There was certainly so meandering, but I feel confident the hits are going to keep on coming from this point forward. Gargantia remains a thunderous ride for me.

    I will be disappointed however if the series winds up following the standard trope for this kind of thing and reveals the Hideauze to merely be a misunderstood/antagonized group just like the Vajra, ELS and many other aliens before them. Having them be the implacable threat Ledo considers them to be would be a far tougher issue to deal with no easy answers.

    I think Ledo also made an interesting point in this episode-for as many pains as the show has gone to portray the Gargantian way of life as superior to the Alliance, Ledo astutely observes that they don't do much more than exist-drifting from place to place, following the galaxies and scraping just enough to give by. A subsistence way of life that may or may not at this time be directly connected with "whalesquid" territory and it's inaccesibility to humans.

    In this respect Bellows and Ridget come off as fairly obstructionist-they aren't interested in advancing their people or improving their lot in any way as they are concerned with just keeping what they already have, which isn't much. The show's perspective has thus far only shown us a relatively positive side of life on Gargantia, but it doesn't take much thought of the logistics involved to consider the compromise, sacrifice and everyday hardship that life on a floating ship fleet must entail.

    I'm not gonna call Pinion and Flange noble-they are clearly scheming for their own personal gain-but at least they're willing to challenge the status quo. I can't help but think a protagonist from a certain other anime airing right now would be as disgusted with Gargantia's society as he is with his own, and I would not call it unjustified.

  13. A

    Would that be Eren Jaeger from Shingeki no Kyojin?

  14. s

    I was trying to be coy, but yes.

  15. I think those touting Ledo as noble for wanting to pre-emptively destroy the whale squid and calling the Gargantians worthless because they aren't looking to advance themselves are off base. Gen doesn't like providing clear-cut moral judgements and I don't think this situation is any different. Both sides are justifiable in the way they've responded, but there are serious flaws to both ways of thinking. We've intentionally not been shown enough of the Galactic Alliance to make a real judgement, but we've been shown bits and pieces that suggest a society with serious ethical/moral deficiencies. We've seen plenty of Gargantia,, warts and all, and there are obvious good and bad points to their system. It's not a black and white issue – if anything, they're both societies that are doing what they in their judgement need to do to survive.

    As for Shingeki, while I certainly find human society there suspicious and probably morally bankrupt (far worse than Gargantia, from the evidence we've seen) I'm not going to be persuaded by an argument that holds Eren Jaeger up as a model of good judgement.

  16. s

    hahaha cuz as we all know, Eren is a psychopath….he's probably a sociopath too…maybe even both…from what i can see, he's gotta be one of those "paths". I'd be shocked if he wasn't

  17. Z

    The damage has already been done. Even if the rest of the series turns out to be brilliant, which I doubt, you already have effectively 8% of your show dragging the rest down. If anyone gave this series full marks I would be in disbelief.

  18. E

    I'd give this show a 9 as of now, but the lost mark wouldn't be because of episodes 5 and 6 alone. I've always thought Episode 1 was very heavy-handed and the characters feel pretty shaky to me. Yes, all of them.

  19. H

    I will go farther in what I think the symbolism of the Whalesquid show of strength was. I don't think it's suggesting an intelligence, I think it's concrete evidence that they are sentient and intelligent, especially when combined with the existence of the same species in space that is presumably sentient and intelligent. Just like Ledo and the Earth humans are the same species but with different philosophy and values, it's easily possible that the Space and Earth Hideauze have different philosophy and values.

    I also don't think that Gargantia's shutting off lights and engines was a hiding mechanism. To me, that was assuming a submissive posture, an acknowledgement of the prior wrong (Ledo's killing) and communicating that they do not intend to continue bellicose acts and wish to continue peacefully co-existing.

    I don't know if such co-existence could be transferred to the space versions of both species, and it certainly wouldn't be quick (and I would fear that would again veer too much into a Star Trek TNG style solution).

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