I know the complaints about Captain Earth are never going to stop, and Lord knows it’s not a perfect series (though I would question why someone would want to stay with a series for 18 weeks just so they can repetitively bitch about it every week). But on some level with every “bubble” series it comes down to one question – do I care about what’s happening? And with Captain Earth, the answer is undoubtedly yes. For all its flaws, I am invested in the story and characters, and I do want to see how the series concludes.
There are many probable reasons for that, but for me a lot of it comes down to this: even when their shows are flawed, BONES sci-fi series always have a great humanity to them. That’s what sets them apart from Sunrise and other studios – there’s a certain earnest genki attitude and idealism to every BONES mecha show, and they’re always primarily driven by the characters. They may not always be great characters, but making shows about people is, as a general rule, a good thing in my view. Captain Earth has had plenty of peaks and valleys, but the characters are distinctive and generally likeable. And that goes a long way towards keeping me invested even when the valleys are a little deeper than I’d like.
Happily, of late we’ve had more peaks than valleys – and the valleys have been more like foothills. In its second cour CE has been quite a good series, and this was one of the strongest episodes yet – nicely and logically plotted, briskly paced and featuring some very strong character moments. In fact narratively speaking it might have been the smoothest ep of the entire series, touching a lot of bases and delivering lots of action and exposition without being rushed.
Things start out on the Tenkaidou, where Daichi and Teppei are undergoing tests to determine their readiness for the Intercept Faction’s “Phase II” and about to escort Hana back to Tanageshima. Hana is bonding with Tsubaki, Teppei is calmly ignoring the cluster of wannabe girlfriends scoping him out, and Daichi has a “chance” meeting with Canis, one of the scientists on-board and apparently the inventor of the Kivotos project. He shakes Daichi’s hand on the grounds that Daichi is a hero, but somehow in doing so he manages to sabotage the Flugel, the re-entry shuttle the trio will use, and re-direct it to crash-land in Australia. It’s all part of a plan to “pluck the flower” – as far as the Kivotos Faction is concerned Daichi and Teppei are wholly expendable annoyances.
We’re starting to see the chess pieces all over the board sliding into place for the endgame. Puck is revealing an essential weakness, his Achilles Heel – a lack of critical understanding of human nature that even the Planetary Gears have. He’s baffled that his relentless rutting with every female in the building is going to have repercussions for “Kube”. For the first time we hear the Livelasters referred to (by Puck) as “extra-dimensional beings” who are incompatible with the P.G.’s. Both Kivotos and Intercept are pushing towards their final solution, each incompatible with the others and each relying on (differing) members of the Midsummer’s Knights. And doubt and dissension are growing inside the ranks of the Planetary Gears. It’s a good setup, and gives CE a chance to execute a very compelling final act.
The conclusion of the episode itself takes place in the deserts of Australia, as Daichi, Teppei and Hana fight off a range of unmanned Kivitos tanks and planes and the Aurora Engine is badly damaged in the process, and raises the question of who the real enemy is. It’s excellent and engaging stuff, and strongly foreshadows the moment when Daichi is going to have to face the choice of killing humans or losing something precious to him. It also gives Daichi his most GAR moment since the start of the series, as he chooses to stand and fight rather than leave Teppei behind and flee with Hana – in the process displaying the firepower that will be needed for Phase II, and has eluded him in testing. The only option is to escape to Australian Globe HQ – which will, of course, have those loyal to both factions manning it. Managing to safely return to Tangeshima is going to be quite a challenge, and it should be interesting to see it play out.