Captain Earth – 21

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For a show who’s strength is its characters, Captain Earth is starting to prove mighty deft with plot.

Captain Earth certainly isn’t going to stake out a place in the top echelon of BONES sci-fi shows, because that’s an extremely elite group.  But damned if it hasn’t turned out to be a very good series, and one which is revealed to have had an interesting endgame in-mind all along, even if it occasionally took unnecessary detours along the way.  It’s as if it were a river of many channels which really only gained a powerful current once they came together in a single flow, as they have in this final act.

I really liked this episode, because as most of them have lately, it had a strong and insistent narrative drive and the events were executed with clarity and precision.  It was good storytelling, plain and simple, and Captain Earth has a strong enough cast that it always succeeds when the narrative itself rises to the occasion.  We’re at the point in the story now where we pretty much know who everybody is and where they stand, and the fact that what results is a compelling story is a vindication for the series as a whole.

What we have on the Tenkaidou is essentially a three-pronged battle, with the Intercept Faction, Kivotos and Planetary Gears each trying to manipulate events to their own ends.  Just when things seem bleakest for the Tenkaidou because of Hirosue and his bomb, the P.G.s (via Ai) intervene.  And just when things seem bleakest because of what she does, Hirosue is prepared to release Hana in order to prevent the worst from happening.  It’s an interesting dynamic, and it especially casts the conflict between the two human factions in an surprising light.

The Gears have certainly figured out what Operation Summer is, and their actions are in-effect self defense – though certainly from a human perspective, Operation Summer is self-defense in the first place.  Essentially, Kivotos is ceding the battlefield to the enemy – they’re surrendering the Earth as part of their plan for “victory”.  It’s a defeatist approach, though no doubt their “Committee of 300” goals are a major part of it.  It’s interesting to ponder – would the leaders of the Ark Faction willingly accept a scenario where the Intercept side won, saving the Earth and almost all its people?  Is their plan predicated on the notion that the Intercept Faction is doomed to fail, or on taking advantage of the situation to build a new elite society to their own specifications elsewhere?

Whatever the leaders would do, Hirosue (why they seem to treat as something like an attack dog) reveals his true stripes via his actions here.  His plan is a good one – he’s rigged a Netero-style trigger to his vital signs, with bombs planted all over the Tenkaidou to detonate if he dies.  And it would have worked, too, if not for those meddling alien kids.  It’s Ai’s plan to launch a veritable avalanche of space debris at the Tenkaidou that fundamentally changes the dynamic.  First Teppei goes out in the Nebula Engine to destroy the debris, but it keeps coming in greater and greater numbers and eventually escapes him, leaving the Nebula crippled and silent.  Daichi is forced to suspend the hunt for the kidnapped Hana and launch in the Earth Engine, planning to use the experimental “boosted plasmagnum” to destroy the hundreds of hunks of debris hurtling towards the Tenkaidou.  Unfortunately this also means taking out Teppei, who’s in the line of fire and unable to move or communicate – and there’s no time to launch a rescue mission.

This is a good, solid sci-fi climax – but it’s all the more interesting because of the chain reaction of events it causes.  Convinced Daichi will be unable to fire Hirosue decides to release Hana so that she can enter the Blume and stop the debris field before it destroys everything (including the Ark).  But Daichi does fire, knowing he’ll be taking Teppei’s life if he does.  There’s a part of me that says the dramatic impact would have been greater if Teppei had actually died (not that I have anything against him) and I‘m still not quire sure how he survived – he references “DC”, which I assume still stands for Designer Children, apparently it was “Dream Catcher, his Livelaster, that saved him).  But the event is artfully used to shake up the series, with Hirosue being so taken by Daichi’s resolve that he allows himself to believe that sacrificing everything (including his family on Earth) may not be the only hope.  And of course, despite Teppei’s lack of reproach this will always hang in the air between Daichi and he, and perhaps change their relationship in a fundamental way.

There are certainly still some cards to be played here.  We had nary a mention of Puck this week, but what role will he take when the battle between the two factions reaches its climax with the launch of Operation Summer?  And what will the Planetary Gears themselves do, with what seems almost to be a shared interest with the Kivotos Faction?  And of course we still have the potential for a divide within the alien side, with Baku and Setsuna (both of whom were conspicuously absent from planning sessions this week) clearly engaging in a level of introspection and hesitation that the others are not.  It’s a pretty damn good setup if you ask me, and offers the potential for a more interesting conclusion than we might get from some flashier and more popular series.

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  1. m

    This was an amazing episode, possibly the best yet. I do agree that the impact would have been a lot larger if Teppei had actually died, but I really never thought that was a possibility. At least not with the themes of CE, and certainly not based on the fact that the 4 main characters fall into that "can't be killed off until MAYBE the final ep" category without it throwing things out of whack. He could have killed Akari's Dad, but not Teppei. Unfortunately there's no character small enough to kill off yet big enough to have impact who could've been out where Teppei was. It wouldn't work within the parameters of the world or narrative that CE has created. Maybe back at the end of cour 1/start of cour 2, or if there were more people on the MK team. You do bring up an interesting point though about how the fallout will effect their friendship. If taken that route it is a very interesting storyline, and it fits too seeing how Teppei always reacted when Daichi chose to save him over making the safe/logical choice. Hopefully it plays out in the upcoming eps, but I have a feeling it's really going to be a nonissue for Teppei and at best only an issue for Daichi.

  2. m

    Finally everything is coming together perfectly and even the wasted time is something I don't much remember. Maybe it's bc of the vast difference in interest level with this show that everything feels so much more interesting, or maybe it was planned out to be a slow build and that's why it's peaking so well. Either way CE seems to give off this feel of if someone fused Star Driver with Astral Ocean. I know that sounds awful, and I can't say exactly what parts specifically remind me of each, but if someone was able to fuse those two shows I feel like CE (or something very similar) would come out. I don't even think it's a case of AO's level being brought down by the parts that are similar to SD, aspects of CE that remind me of both have worked/not worked for me, and while it's not nearly on the same level as AO (I know a lot of ppl don't agree with me about AO being an amazing show [lack of afterwards aside]) or other BONES classics, I think a show that builds slowly (even if it completely stalled for a stretch) but finishes with everything firing on all cylinders (obviously this is dependent on CE nailing the ending) is better than a show that does everything right until it botches the ending (I'm looking at you original FMA). Hopefully CE ends on this "getting better each week" path they've been on throughout cour 2, and if so I think it would certainly close the gap between it and BONES's top tier shows a bit.

  3. Well, from a quality standpoint I could just about see it – with AO being at the very top echelon of BONES sci-fi and SD being probably at the very bottom. I think CE will likely fall right in the middle of that catalog – and considering just how good that catalog is, that's nothing to sneeze at.

    I'm very happy I stuck with it. It's turned into a very good series.

  4. J

    While I don't agree necessarily that AO was amazing, I was pleasantly surprised that BONES were brave enough to take the series in that direction. I did enjoy it though and I would put it near the top of the BONEs sci-fi ladder.

  5. .

    The production quality for Captain's been VERY consistent, especially for a 2-cour show. There's little to no off-model moments or bad animation, and everything is so crisp and smooth. Clearly a lot of love and well-allocated budget was poured into this.

    Also surprised to learn the character designer is erotic manga artist Fumi Minato. Didn't Gargantia have a similar setup to this, IIRC?

  6. Yes, Hanaharu Naruko. He also did the designs for Kamichu.

  7. E

    DC is the name of Teppei's Livlaster – it stands for Dream Catcher, not Designer's Child – and it was what saved him.

  8. Thanks – I'd totally forgotten that.

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