There’s a certain “what might have been” quality to Suisei no Gargantia, even more so than the natural one that goes along with any series that started out looking like it could be great and ended up being very good. What might have happened if Gen Urobuchi had written more than the first and last episode? What could have been if so much of the middle of the series wasn’t meandering and occasionally outright mediocre? What would Gargantia have done with two cours to develop it’s stellar premise and appealing though largely under-delivering cast?
None of that can be changed, though, and in the end I still think things are looking pretty good. This episode – far, far better than last week’s effort – does a very nice job of clearing the decks for next week’s Gen-scripted finale. Things feel a little rushed just as they have so often in the last month, but that’s to be expected with a series that’s too short at 13 episodes to begin with and frittered at least two of those away on trivialities and missteps. Unlike episode 11 the tone here was spot-on for most of the episode, and it was a tense and tightly-scripted effort. The only downside, really, was a noticeable drop in animation quality (background and character model detail was especially off) that I hope signals a saving of budget for a grand sendoff next week.
There’s been some disagreement in the audience, but I always felt it was likely that Col. Kugel was dead, and Striker (boy, Fujimura Ayumi sure has been nasty the last couple of days) was actually running the show.The way “Kugel” laid out the details of the plot was just too similar to the circular logic Chamber used to justify the excesses of the Galactic Alliance. If I’ve any complaint with the way this played out it was that it was too predictable, and that Chamber gave in to Ledo’s reasoning a little too easily. I thought a fundamental disconnect between Chamber’s worldview and Ledo’s was set up rather brilliantly, but there doesn’t seem to have been any payoff to it apart from demonstrating the gap in their perspectives. It now appears all but certain that Ledo and Chamber will be fighting side by side right up until the end.
It also doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Rack and Pinion would end up revolting against the revolting fleet they’d found themselves allied with. Rackage’s impending treachery was a given, but while Pinion’s whipsaw mood swings have stressed credulity at times, he was never set up to be an outright villan. And after having seen what they saw this week, it’s hardly surprising that they would walk away from the Cult of Kugel. The scene where several dozen members of the cult fleet were “sacrificed” (including one small boy) – culled is a better word in my view – was a taste of Gargantia at its best, for all that it was horrifying. This is a series that’s very good with dignified sadness and moments of awe – the rain-collection scene (recalled in this ep) being another good example. It was that kind of dignified and even elegant style that exemplified the series’ first four eps but largely disappeared after that, and it was high time to see it return to prominence here.
I would like to think – I’m very confident in fact – that Ledo had already decided enough was enough even before that atrocity, and that if Kugel had lived not even he would have stooped to that (though I’m not as sure). This, however, seems not so different from S.O.P. in the G.A. to me – the weak are regularly sacrificed in order to serve the strong, and I can’t escape the notion that machine calibers are making most of the decisions. Ledo was referring only to himself when he said he’d “never really made a single decision in his life”, but I think the line was also a larger comment about the state of affairs in the Galactic Alliance. if the Hideauze surrendered their human forms in order to survive, it seems to me that the G.A. surrendered their essential humanity, and that was happened in the cult fleet isn’t so different from what happens there.
I don’t know what happens in the finale, but the key that Dr. Ordum speaks of – and the “stairway to heaven” it opens – is surely a crucial factor. Perhaps this is directly connected to communicating with the whalesquid, or perhaps it even relates directly to mankind’s escape into space – I don’t see a single obvious answer here. But I sincerely hope that the practicalities of the conflict are settled early on, and there’s some time for connection between Ledo, Amy and Bevel. That element of the series has been sorely missing for the past several episodes and while the larger plot certainly needed to be fleshed out, it would feel wrong to me if the human element were not a major component of the final episode. More so than with many series I think the legacy of Suisei no Gargantia is going to rest on its ending, and endings are not normally a strength for Gen-sensei. Hopefully he’s been storing up some of his genius just like I.G. has been with the budget, waiting to spend it on a really splendid finale.