Captain Earth – 02

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To thine own whack be true, BONES…

If there were ever a show that was emblematic of the studio that produces it, Captain Earth is it.  Some of the top tier studios – Production I.G. is a good example – don’t have a signature identity, per se.  They produce all types of series will all types of vibe.  But others, like Brains Base and BONES, have a definite identity even if it doesn’t cross over into everything they produce.  There’s something instantly recognizable in a BONES sci-fi series especially, just as there is in the company that gave birth to BONES, Sunrise.  And they’re very different.

Captain Earth is pure BONES.  It’s a bit of a muddle at this point, a veritable flood of ridiculous terminology, conflicting factions and characters whose (mostly silly) names I mostly won’t remember till June.  But the peculiar alchemy of the studio (and not fullmetal, either) is that they can draw me in and make me care, even as I’m aware of the lapses into silliness and the distinctly earnest and idealistic worldview.  BONES is a sort of living embodiment of the original imperative of the giant robot anime, as a manifestation of the adolescent male psyche (which Ueshiba Riichi so fascinatingly reimagines in Nazo no Kanojo X).  It doesn’t always work for me – this writer and director’s Star Driver is an example of a time when it didn’t – but so far, Captain Earth does.

I certainly enjoyed the premiere, and I think this episode was definitely better.  I felt that even if the overall picture is still a bit of a blur, we got a much better sense of who Daichi is as a main character (and I liked what I saw).  The set pieces were once again fantastic – this really is a feast for the eyes if you love conventional animation and sci-fi.  And there begins to be at least a bit of clarity as to what’s happening here, even if the details are still a long way from being filled in.

We see a lot of favorite BONES themes present here.  The absent father, life on an island, alien threats being covered up by the government, warring human factions presenting a threat as great as that of the aliens themselves.  There is a certain Star Driver fabulousness here (and Daichi’s mecha is called “Earth Driver”) but in thematically I’m more put in mind of Eureka Seven (more A.O. than the original) and Rahxephon.  I’m frankly not sure how well this is going to play with an audience that’s grown used to a far more cynical take on these sorts of themes, but BONES is perpetually stubborn in refusing to be a weather vane.

What we can say for certain is that in addition to the Ark Faction (whose leader comes complete with a dirty-minded AI named Puck) – filling the Committee of 300 role here, it seems – there’s also an evil faction inside Globe, and that would be Salty Dog.  They’re using “the “designer children”, Daichi’s old pal Teppei (kudos to Kamiya Hiroshi for disguising his age better here than I thought he could at this stage) and the girl they rescued, Mutou Hana (Kayano Ai) far more roughly than Daichi’s Uncle Tsutomu would like, even planting “lead gears” on their heads to keep them in-line (Daichi later gets one of his own).  Acting as a fulcrum and keeping his loyalties shaded is science chief – and I could not possibly make this up – Peter Westvillage (Sakaguchi Kouichi).  And the screwy hacker girl we met last week is Yomatsuri Akari (Hidaka Rina), – codename Papillon – who calls herself a mahou shoujo, is an ally (and until now, a secret) of Westvillage (whose character design I really like, by the way), and who manages to help Daichi come back alive from his initial encounter with the Kiltgang (which I still say sounds like a band of Scottish bank robbers).

There’s more, of course.  Judging by the terminology used (“Orgone Energy”, “Libido”) sexual desire is clearly a crucial part of equation when it comes to the esper kids (on both sides) fighting power and controlling the mecha (the aliens appear to pass information or memories via tongue kissing).  But for now I’m not worrying about trying to sort out the spaghetti strands as much as enjoyable the overall atmosphere and visuals.  Daichi stepped up as quite an appealing lead this week, notably absent in self-pity and quite decisive in acting on his beliefs (which manifests in his freeing Hana and Teppei – not to mention himself – temporarily from Salty Dog so he can keep his promise to show Hana his boomerang, geh-heh).  Miyu Irino and Koyama Rikiya are two of the best in the business, and they get every ounce of pathos out of each of their roles.  Those two should provide a solid core to build around (though Tsutomu is already sporting a few death flags).  I won’t deny things could still go either way, but at this point I’m quite engaged by Captain Earth, and it seems to be in the early lead as the best BONES series of the season.

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  1. K

    Honestly I have very mixed feelings about this show. It could be because unlike you all the Bones elements do nothing for me (not a big fan of most of their series). Most of the mecha and sci-f aspects of this show bore me. It's like I've seen it all before and nothing stands out.

    The only reason I haven't dropped this show is I do really like the relationship and mystery of the 3 main characters.

  2. If you don't like BONES, I can't imagine this show will do much for you. I don't like Star Driver but I do like most of their sci-fi epics – both E7 series, Rahxephon, X'amd – so it's working quite well for me.

  3. l

    Then perhaps you can help me here. Like you, I didn't enjoy Libido Driver. Unlike you, I think both E7s and X'amd aren't worthy of being in the same sentence as Rahxephon (my second fave Bones anime of all time, behind Kurau Phantom Memory). Would I enjoy Captain Earth?

  4. Impossible to say till you watch it, but I do see elements of Rahxephon here (it has some staff crossover) in the thematic structure. It'd probably be easier if I knew why you don't like E7 (does that include AO) or X'amd.

  5. M

    So basically this show makes no bones (yawn) about being pretentious and featherbrained? Pure BONES indeed. Or Sunrise?

    I don't think a show like Captain Earth plays off the strengths of Yoji Enokido, and on the back of Star Driver, it honestly feels like BONES is prompting him and Igarashi to mail it in here.
    Satoshi Ishino's character designs do little to inspire aside from Peter Westvillage (lol), who provides the only glint of hope so far.

  6. M

    "so Daichi can keep his promise to show Hana his boomerang, geh-heh".

    That guy gives me the creeps.

  7. R

    Okay, this one is an expository episode, so i am fine with that.

    but one thing bugs me. How and when the heck did Daichi even know that he can summon the livlaster just like that. No one told him that it was something he could do and he wasn't even shown contemplating about it earlier in the episode (nor was he shown aware that he himself has some power of sort). that scene just came out of nowhere to get them to the beach scene.

    I also found it weird that that Peter Westvillage guy throws Daichi into a rocket without giving him a flight suit. C'mon, this is just a kid, and you get him into a rocket unprotected and launch him off into space where he could easily die.

    That core robot kinda looks like Stan Lee's Heroman though.

  8. S

    I guess he just… kinda… felt he could do it?
    Also, the sexual metaphor is strong with this one. It was implied that firing the Livlaster is something that requires you to have a strong dose of Orgone energy. So the adults thought they could put a teen's libido in a glass case and restrain it with their rules but hey, good luck with that.

    Also, Enzo, did you notice the Shakespeare references? I think the AI being called Puck isn't unrelated to his matchmaking tendencies…

  9. R

    I guess he just… kinda… felt he could do it?

    That's what i find even odder. Daichi wasn't even shown thinking (or feeling) "Yes, I can get my livlaster now".or the need to get the gun. that he just does it out of nowhere just baffles me (and wait, when did he knew that the thing could fire actual live shots?)

  10. Yeah, I thought the MND reference was pretty self-explanatory. That should prove interesting.

  11. M

    I never watched a Bones sci-fi series before this and I'm watching this only for Miyu Irino and Rikiya Koyama with the hope their relationship will become father-son like. Right now I can see this series play its theme out straightly or it can become wackier later on with all this libido stuff. But as long as it doesn't become over the top like how I heard about Star Driver then I'm going to watch this till the end.

    And I like to praise Maaya Sakamoto too, I was so used to hear her mature voice and didn't realize it was her when she sounds so young, sugary and crazy. Lucky bastard that Kenichi Suzumura to have her as a wife.

  12. Yeah, she is pretty great. Add Kayano Ai to the list and CE has 4 of the very best in the game.

  13. g

    Man, there is a lot of negativity about anime this spring on the net – the commentators on this site being no exception.

    Maybe people are just kind of getting burnt out on anime in general. I don't know, but I like a lot of what this season has offered so far.

    BONES is awesome – even their bad series still tend to have an air about them other studios wish they had. If not for them, last winter would have pretty thin.

    I don't know if Captain Earth is going to be great or not, but I have enjoyed it so far. Soul Eater NOT! is what it is, but maybe it will make them some money. Coffin Princess looks interesting too.

    To me, if you unilaterally don't like BONES, you might as well not like anime.

  14. K

    "To me, if you unilaterally don't like BONES, you might as well not like anime."

    Seems kind of a silly comment to make. No I am not a big fan of Bones (obviously there are exceptions) but I love anime and still am enjoying a lot of titles this season.

    Bottom line every one has different tastes.

  15. g

    My bad Kim. Just trying to bring some positive BONES energy here.

    "To each his own" is absolutely right. Anime fans probably know that as well as anybody.

  16. Z

    "BONES is awesome – even their bad series still tend to have an air about them other studios wish they had. If not for them, last winter would have pretty thin."

    "To me, if you unilaterally don't like BONES, you might as well not like anime. "

    That sounds dangerously close to fanboyism.

  17. R

    "To me, if you unilaterally don't like BONES, you might as well not like anime. "

    yep, that seems to be too much of a sweeping statement. I do love BONES (though to be honest, I still dislike how they ended Noragami), but they aren't the sole representation of what good anime is. there are a lot of studios out there making material on par with (or in some cases, better than) theirs.

  18. g

    Let me rephrase that – that was intended to mean: if you can't find a single BONES series you like, you might as well not like anime.

    At the time, I thought this would be an acceptable hyperbole, because they have done so many different types of shows. This includes plenty I have disliked. But as it seems I've ruffled some feathers, I will bow out of this discussion. Carry on.

  19. F

    I really couldn't tell you even a handful of the production companies responsible for the anime I enjoy; in the same way I couldn't tell you those making the ones I don't watch, either.

    For me, if I like the series I watch it; I don't enter into watching a series based on who made it. If the show doesn't connect with me I don't care who produced it I won't watch it. I end up watching so few anime as it is that I'll have even less to enjoy if I start playing favorites.

    I thought one of the great things about having so many choices was so everyone could find and watch what they liked without feeling the insecure need to bash others' tastes.

  20. I understand why Giga's comment ruffled some feathers, and it's definitely too sweeping a statement. In his (her? Sorry…) defense, though, I sort of get the gist in that the sense that I do find BONES works often seem to exemplify "anime" in my mind. E7 is a perfect example – it's a deeply flawed show, but somehow, that represents anime spiritually to me in some fundamental way. That's a very BONES-y thing that's hard to put into words.

  21. G

    Turns out "Orgone Energy" is an actual thing, read this entry here

    "Orgone was closely associated with sexuality: Reich, following Freud, saw nascent sexuality as the primary energetic force of life."
    "Reich took an increasingly bioenergetic view of libido"

    We all know Bones is a bit of a sci-fi geek, but looks like they didn't pull that one of their ass either.

    Anyways, Bones is an acquired taste. For me personally, I'm not a big fan of mecha in general but I love Bones sci-fi offerings. I love the emotional height they reaches. I love their ambitions and nuanced character development. I admit, Bones shows can be maddening to watch at times, and you sure won't understand everything they've explained (and not explained), but they carry a distinct flavour that consistently remind me of what I love about anime.

    Captain Earth has all the elements I like, so it's definitely a keeper for me. I find Daichi pretty fascinating. He doesn't get intimidated by authority and he seems to have no concern for things at large, much of his action is driven by personal beliefs (as you commented Enzo). He piloted the Earth Engine because he wanted to stop the Kiltgang, he destroyed the tower because he wanted to show Hana his boomerang. There was no angst, just simple, straight forward desire. I find that so refreshing.

  22. g

    William Reich was a well known quack – but it's funny/awesome they are using his terminology here.

    Below is a link to a podcast that goes into decent detail about him and his sex box.

  23. G

    Also, on your comment about studio slant. I would consider Production I.G mainstream wholesome, they don't seem to ever produce anything controversial. They have a good grasp on the market and understand mainstream appeal. They just never produce anything that divides opinion or remotely offensive. Well, I consider that a distinct vision on its own…lol

  24. Blood-C was certainly controversial and divisive. GC too in its own way. They've had their moments over the years though generally, they do tend to be mainstream. Is lack of accent an accent?

  25. G

    Oh yeah…I forgot Blood-C was I.G too. =/..But yeah…that's the gist of it. Being mainstream is certainly profitable. Then there is Bones…too cult to be mainstream but too mainstream to be cult.

  26. s

    Captain Earth, while it truly hasnt shown its colors as being a distinctively great series, is only 2 eps in and while i agree with the opinion that it doesnt seem to be doing anything to break the mold, Im all for giving a series the chance to build up and sore higher than anyone ever expected (series' that do that are in my opinion one of the most memorable). Will Captain earth be one of those series that do that…only time will tell and since i love BONES ill be sticking around even though im not that invested.

    As for the quality of the spring season, I think its very solid; there have certaintly been better Spring Seasons, but it's still a good one. It's just that for my money, the only series i truly care about this season is Mushishi. It's the only one i want to spend time with and truly invest myself in while the other series airing, im just tuning in because of the fact that i just love anime and i find some of the series airing this season to be really entertaining.

  27. M

    That's sort of where I'm at. I just hope CE comes into its own sooner rather than later. With all its peppered silliness and talk of "Orgone Energy", maybe there will be enough room for Enokido and co. to go crazy.

  28. s

    I think as long as the characters stay fresh and relatable, the series will remain quite entertaining; and im sure BONES is going to deliver with this one…,this is their comeback year after all

  29. K

    What has and always matters is if an anime works or not. Mainstream or cult – that's immaterial. Is it interesting? If you can make people care and do it well then it works!

  30. n

    I do hope they stop giving foreign people in anime strange names cuz they're simply distracting. Not in defense of the writer though, I think I should tell you that there's actually a Japanese name "Nishi-mura" which in translation means "West-Village" and is a fairly common name in Japan.

  31. m

    Dude how do you like the character design of no eyebrows? Its the same thing tht cause Eureka to creep me out for a large chunk of Eureka 7. As a general principle of life eyebrows > no eyebrows.

  32. Dood, they have them. They're just subtly drawn, or whatever.

  33. That's a very good point. I'm staring at a Japanese sensei named Nishihara right now. It just sounds very odd in English.

  34. w

    …West Belly? Could actually be a great surname for a member of the Kiltgang.. Well, your imagined version of it anyway

  35. w

    I have no idea what's going on, yet I don't really mind and am kind of compelled? If there's one thing I've understood so far, it's that Daichi is kind of a baka. But in a likeable way. That and the cast is great.

    Also, I know choosing a favorite character by design alone isn't an ideal way to do it, but I really like Codename Papillon's for some reason. And Hidaka Rina's performance.

  36. Heh, with names it generally means "West Field".

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