Often with OVAs there’s a bittersweet quality because they might very well be the last incarnation of the series we’re watching in anime form. Not so here, as Suisei no Gargantia has been confirmed for a second season. My mixed feelings then are for a different reason, because while I liked Gargantia quite a bit I’m not certain that a second season is a good idea. Of course I’m not at all certain it’s a bad idea either – it depends on whether we get the good Gargantia or the mediocre one, and the gap is about as wide as it was for any 2013 series. There are more than the usual number of unknowns with this show, too – will Gen Urobuchi even be involved, and will it follow the same cast of characters? For now it seems best to take a wait-and-see approach.
If you’d told me after four episodes that Gargantia might not make my year-end Top 10 list I’d have either said you were crazy or that 2013 was a great year. I can’t speak to the former but the latter certainly isn’t true (closer to average, I’d say) so it boils down to the series simply not living up to the potential it displayed in its brilliant start. But this OVA represents both a pretty nice return to form for Gargantia and a bucking of the usual trend with OVAs these days – either one-off side stories (as the first OVA was) or episode-length comic omakes. If it’s an indication of what we can look forward to in the second season, I’d say it’s encouraging.
There are lots of gaps in the mythology of this series, which is not a criticism but an acknowledgement of the expansive premise Gen created, and the role of Ledo’s commanding officer Kugel was one of the biggest. This OVA basically accounts for his entire time on Earth, from his unexpected arrival to his untimely demise. Nothing that happens is too different from how I imagined it would be based on the finale of the TV series, but it’s still interesting to watch the downfall of a good but conflicted man, and to reflect on how his path took such a different turn that Ledo’s. How would Kugel have reacted if he’d encountered Gargantia, and Ledo if he’d landed on top of the pirate fleet?
This being Gargantia, it seems we’re contractually obligated to have busty wenches in ridiculous outfits and so it is here – namely the four daughters of the deceased captain of the pirate fleet. The most important of them is Linaria (Chihara Minori, who also sings the TV OP), the youngest and the “virgin consecrated to the Sea God”. That of course ends up being Kugel, whose noodle arrives on Earth with Striker just as Linaria is about to be downsized permanently by her sisters. She’s the sympathetic figure here, but she’s still a pirate and she still has no qualms about using Kugel to bolster her power. We see some strains of idealism in Kugel – he’s not so wedded to the ideas of the Alliance that he automatically agrees with Striker that they should be implemented on Earth (like eliminating the sick and weak, though he seems to have had a change of heart on that point unless Striker begun the culling after his death). But there’s also a strong fatalistic streak running though him – like Ledo he knows this is a place where he doesn’t really belong, but unlike Ledo he seems to world-weary and cynical to get past it.
What we know, of course, is that Kugel would meet his end soon – and it seems that about Kugel having a disease (probably tuberculosis) at least Striker was being truthful. It was endemic in the fleet and Linaria succumbed to it before infecting Kugel. We see the first examples of Striker using the words of the dead to influence the living – a sinister reminder of things to come – and while the line to the intersection of Kugel’s route with Ledo’s isn’t drawn completely, it’s pretty easy to see the path it’s going to take. Kugel more than anything comes off as a tragic figure – a guy who believed who was doing right even if he was backing the wrong cause, and ultimately another casualty in an endless war and a tool to be used for doing evil.