First Impressions – Captain Earth

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That was more BONES than BONES.

The trickle has become a flood – Spring season has kicked in with extreme prejudice, and my backlog has become enormous.  Still, a new mecha sci-fi original from BONES is always going to jump the queue for me, even if – as I mentioned in the season preview – I had reservations about this one.   Add to the mix that Captain Earth marks the return of the peerless Miyu Irino as a main character in a TV anime after a too-long absence and you pretty much have must see TV for this blogger.

I’m happy to report that it’s so far, so good – though again, there are a few niggling concerns for me.  It would be unfair to dismiss director Igarashi Takuya and writer Enokido Youji as “the Star Driver team”  because each of them has done much more than that, their resumes peppered with BONES and Gainax classics from the last 15 years.  And of course if you like Star Driver that wouldn’t be a concern anyway, but I’m not a fan – it’s my least favorite BONES sci-fi original ever, by a good margin.

Again, though, so far all seems well – well there’s a ton of fabulous in the premiere of Captain Earth, it’s mostly the good fabulous – the show looks absolutely fantastic.  It’s a classic BONES sci-fi full of their trademark iconic imagery, adolescent angst, father issues and even Renton’s sweater.  In fact, rather than Star Driver if there’s any series that unpleasantly popped into my mind watching this it was Guilty Crown – another series that had an impossibly gorgeous premiere with creepy-pretty music and whose essence was a little hard to get a handle on.  It turned out with GC that there was a good reason – there was no “there” there – and I have no reason to think that’s going to happen with CE.  But we can’t help what pops into our heads as we watch these things.

What this premiere had, in addition to all the fantastic art and animation, was a staggering amount of exposition.  Clearly it was setting the table for a very big story, and almost half of it was spent flashing back to the childhood of Manatsu Daichi (Irino Miyu).  He’s a second-year high-schooler with a dead astronaut for a father, living near Tanegashima with a guardian who’s unnamed and clearly being looked after from afar by his Uncle Tsutomu (Koyama Rikiya), who’s a mission controller for JAXA (or the equivalent).  Daichi’s m.o. is pretty standard for this sort of show – a decent kid who’s adrift in life, great at games but ambivalent about school, mysterious past.  But it’s executed nicely – I especially loved the spot-on scene where Daichi’s guardian and his advisor were talking as if he weren’t in the room although he was right beside them – and Irino, as always, cuts straight to the humanity and decency of his character.

Man, is there a lot of back-story here.  A mysterious rainbow (“Albion”) that appears over Tanegashima, the same as one which a strange lilac-haired boy showed him during an encounter inside a locked facility Diachi sneaks into when they were small.  An alien threat to Earth in the form of the “Kiltgang” (a pack of angry Scotsmen?), with a bunch of esper kids who may be aliens seemingly the best hope of fighting it off.  A split on the human side between the “Ark Faction” and the “Intercept Faction” – their competing viewpoints should be obvious in the names.  A little girl with a recorder playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” like a moe Pied Piper of Hamelin (another E7 allusion).

That’s just the start, of course – it’s obvious that Daichi too is one of the special kids who can fight off the aliens – and of course, that will be with the help of (seriously) giant robots.  The purple-haired boy turns out to be Arashi Teppei (Kamiya Hiroshi?  Well – OK…) and Daichi hasn’t seen him since their fated encounter where they rescued a little girl with a big gun from a bigger tank.  Seems as if the esper kids start their “engine expansion” transformation with a shot of “Libido Power!”, but Daichi has the stuff to take it to another level.  He’s a “Captain” it seems – like his Dad – and in this series, that holds an altogether different significance.

With that much going on it’s frankly hard for me to get a handle on Captain Earth yet – my takeaway from the premiere is that it was incredibly well-made and very intriguing.  It has a fantastic cast – in addition to Irino and Koyama a spate of other A-listers (Kayano Ai and Sakamoto Maaya for starters, as good as any female seiyuu in the game) will be appearing.  And the seeds are certainly planted for an interesting story – I’m just glad it’s too-cour, because this seems way too big for less than that.  This is a BONES show through and through, riddled with their usual emotional themes and trademark visuals, and if you’re a fan of the studio’s sci-fi canon I think there’s good reason to be excited about Captain Earth.  I still want to see a little more of the beating heart at the center of the show before I let myself go that far, but I’m certainly more optimistic than I was before the premiere aired.

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OP: “Believer’s High (ビリーバーズ・ハイ)” by flumpool

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25 comments

  1. B

    well this could be promising. A bit of cramped premiere if you ask me, but if it's cramped at the beginning and not at the end i'll be satisfied.
    I wonder witch mecha show will be the most interesting one, this or Sidonia no Kishi (sadly in this one they'll be using CG for everything, but it could work)

  2. J

    Calling Sidonia no Kishi a mecha show is really not giving it its due. It's more like actual big-time space opera (in the positive sense).

  3. U

    ^^ This. Especially when Sidonia no Kishi was authored by Tsutomo Nihei, creator of the cult cyberpunk series BLAME!/NOiSE. The Morito/Guardian mecha in Sidonia are treated like fighter planes, and within the greater story are largely disposable, and amid the extremely gritty everyone-dies-action, its a character drama at its heart, especially with all the transhuman/posthuman themes (ie: an asexual reproductive society where people can live for hundreds of years or be batch-grown as clones, or people need to rarely eat as they generate their own energy through photosynthesis). The Manga is quite good, so here's hoping for an accurate adaptation ^__^

  4. t

    it's all so BONES – flashy and gorgeous.

    premier indeed was pretty good – animation is on high level and great OST. although we didn't really have a real time action scene, it seems that when we get to it, it's gonna be explosive. and I love good mecha. even the premise and the characters are working here – I like the interaction between the characters when they were kids and all.

    however, it's working only to a certain extent. I already sense the possibilities for troubles. first is the sudden change in MC. all of a sudden he has become captain, that's legit. but then when he "I wanna save the world" and so and so…he doesn't know anything but all of a sudden he know the earth gonna be destroyed..I don't know, it made me feel uneasy with the change. not really a change in narrative, but something didn't feel right with him becoming too much aware of things that are still fuzzy for us.
    second, the rivals and all organizations in the background. still not quite clear who against who exactly. but again, it's..legit. to some extent, but legit.

    all in all, premier was pretty good despite certain issues and other things. I definitely see it very very similar to star driver, but better for now. only the time will tell whether it will end up as show that empty besides flashiness, or something much more worth it. so far animation does worth it, but they can't rely on it alone. I believe they won't, but we will see how they will do things.

  5. D

    It was an alright-ish premiere, didn't catch my interest as much as it could've but I've never been big on bones mecha. Did you catch Soredemo Sekai and Mahouka? The former because I think you might like it and the latter since I'm interested for your take.

  6. Both those are queued up for today.

  7. G

    Omg, now that you mention it, it DOES look similar to Renton's sweater. The pattern is slightly different, but close enough to give me a nostalgia kick. Honestly, I thought the show looked more Sunrise than Bones at first, though I think my concerns for that bit is dispelled after this premiere. It's a Bones show alright, complete with rainbow. Like damn, the studio really likes rainbow doesn't it.
    A very very packed first episode. The intermission card says things should become obvious eventually – okay, let's do keep in mind "obvious" in Bones term could be way more mind-screwy than what the word usually implies.
    Anyways, let me just woo and ahh at the animation for a second – it's so beautiful I could cry. Sometimes I wonder how Bones manage to lavish so much budget on their productions when they don't profit enough to justify it. Hand-drawn animation FTW.

  8. There was no way they were slipping that sweater past a confirmed E7 geek like me…

  9. K

    That's awesome of you Enzo. I didn't spot the sweater until you told me!

  10. F

    Not just a pack of angry scotsmen – a pack of angry SPACE scotsmen that drive mecha. Srs bzns indeed. XD

  11. s

    Who didnt notice the sweater in this premiere hahaha…well what do you know, we have Kenichi Suzumura and Maaya Sakamoto tag team. As soon as i spotted Kenichi I said to myself, wouldnt it be funny if Maaya co-stared with him (since their married to each other in real life); and what do you know i hear her a few secs later….amazing.

    In terms of the premiere, it laid enough ground work for an interesting series; I found some of the exposition (just a tad bit of it) to be clumsily handled and a few scenes could have used a bit of tightening up in the dialogue department but we have what could potentially be another great sci-fi from bones; spring is starting to light up just a little bit.

  12. "Kiltgang" is probebly reference to http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiltgang, not to the Scotsmen. Especially knowing how Freudian Enokido can be.

  13. Yes, I was making a joke…

  14. Sorry! My bad.

  15. Z

    A wee bit too iconic BONES for me. Cliche after cliche after cliche. I was waiting for that little something that sets it apart from everything else. Next week perhaps?

  16. S

    Only just got around to watching it, was pretty much thinking the exact same thing. Cliche's aren't necessarily a bad thing, but they aren't really doing anything different with them. But hey, only the first episode so who knows. I'll definitely give it a few episodes.

  17. w

    There's a whole lot of pretty going around this season, those backdrops are wonderful. This episode has made me realise that I'd really like to visit Tanaegashima one day. It feels like a sadly underused setting for anime despite having great potential; such a beautiful, peaceful, sleepy area.. that also happens to have a space station.

    Now as for the episode itself; I really liked it a lot, but I totally see where you're coming from with the Guilty Crown vibe. They've opened an awful lot of plot threads and left us with an awful lot of questions for just a single episode. That said, I highly doubt BONES haven't got answers prepared for us. Also, 'Libido power'? Doesn't that line belong in Daimidaler? Still, great animation, gorgeous imagery, and plenty of plot to work with. I'll be sticking around for this one.

    One other thing: I liked Daichi from the very first shot of him getting up out of bed. Introducing a main character waking up isn't exactly an original way to do it, but something about the shot composition, the music, and the cinematography made it all work. That got me thinking; when everything is formula, how do you make your character likeable without having them do much? Obviously having a great actor helps here, and like myself I think you're predisposed to liking someone played by MiyuMiyu, but there's more there. I really think little things like the way a character is framed by the camera adds miles to how we in the audience engage with them. There's plenty done really well here; the way Daichi slowly rises from his bed, him silhouetted against his fathers grave at sunset, the shiver as he hits the ground after hopping over a fence, all very lovingly shot and all contribute to a so far likeable lead. Hats off to the staff there, because they're doing a great job.

  18. C

    Some elements of this series reminded me a lot of Eureka Seven: AO. The island, the intermission card, the cuteness of the characters, the girl with brown skin (just like Naru) etc. This is so BONES.

  19. K

    The early scenes and set up were really good and pulled me into the story but then when the protagonist got into the mecha and started fighting…it was all abrupt and pulled me completely out. So really I am on the fence with this one.

  20. H

    "and even Renton's sweater" Oh god you're right, giggling now. "An alien threat to Earth in the form of the "Kiltgang" (a pack of angry Scotsmen?), with a bunch of esper kids who may be aliens seemingly the best hope of fighting it off. " I think you got it wrong, the "esper kids" are in fact the aliens who are invading Earth, although where exactly they are right now I have no clue.

  21. Really? Didn't seem that way to me, but there was a lot going on.

  22. H

    It just occured to me that you might have meant the lavender haired boy/the singing girl were the espers, I thought you meant the blue haired boy and pink haired girl who are pretty clearly attacking Earth. XD

  23. R

    mmm. I didn't connect at all with captain earth. I feel it rushed, and that make all a little uninteresting (even boring in certain parts). I think direction was the main responsable (I love star driver but this isn't the best start of a igarashi-sensei work)

  24. M

    If this is classic BONES, then classic BONES is very shit.

    Clunky scripting and bland character designs, fuckyeah!

  25. m

    Earth. Fire. Wind. Water. Heart. By your powers combined I am Captain Planet!
    Am I the only one who keeps thinking of Captain Planet whenever they see the shows title? It's such a strange title for a show. I don't know if it's just something that gets lost when Japanese creators try to use English titles or what, but type Captain Earth into google and you get a ton of Captain Planet pics showing up….which is reason enough to watch the first episode.

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