Hello readers, today I’ll talk about Gen Urobuchi’s newest original anime, Suisei no Gargantia. Last week, I concluded Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince was kind of a huge mess in many ways. I wasn’t expecting much out of it, as I mentioned, but I also mentioned I was looking forward to Gargantia! In fact, I was probably looking forward to it more than any other show this season, mecha or otherwise. With these sorts of expectations, I was actually half-expecting disappointment. Surprisingly, it’s been pretty promising instead.
Urobuchi, from what I can tell from his recent works, has read quite a lot of fiction. In Madoka, we see allusions to Goethe’s Faust everywhere. Though Psycho Pass subjected its viewers to copious amounts of name dropping, there were still quite a few parallels to famous cyberpunk works like the Sprawl Trilogy, Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell (though mostly the latter). With Gargantia we see a number of influences from the Big Three of science fiction, Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke.
Gargantia seems to be different in how it approaches its associated literature, however. Rather than sticking to its inspirations too closely, Urobuchi has allowed Gargantia room to breathe by introducing conventions pretty far removed from your standard Big Three sci-fi. Normally, I’m not sure this is the best decision Urobuchi could’ve made, as Gargantia is essentially a boy meets girl with some classic sci-fi backdrops. Now, I’m not a really big fan of boy meets girl stories, so I was dreading this to some extent. Fortunately, Gargantia resembles what I consider an actual good boy meets girl story.
One of the reasons I don’t really like boy meets girls fiction is because one of the pair is usually a lot more interesting than the other, often creating a blatant imbalance in characterization and development. Gargantia cleverly avoids this by making both the guy and the girl pretty interesting in their own ways. Ledo is a mecha pilot who fights in a very Starship Troopers-esque war against an alien enemy that threatens to wipe out humanity. He’s very competent and skilled, and in almost all of his interactions with just about anything, he clearly knows what he’s doing. Amy, on the other hand, is a resident of the Gargantia ship. I’m not exactly sure what her job is aboard the ship, but it’s pretty clear she’s pretty good at it, too.
At first glance, it seems I’m actually pretty wrong in my evaluation. Ledo is a super soldier, and a pretty great male lead, and Amy is just a cute girl. However, Gargantia does a pretty good job of making them both seem pretty interesting and mysterious in their own ways. After what should have been a decisive battle against the aliens went south, Ledo fell into a wormhole and winded up on a planet whose inhabitants are human, though he can’t communicate with them at all. Ledo is effectively a fish out of water.
One way the show conveys this is through the lack of a common language, which Gargantia accentuates through alien gibberish representing language we, the viewers, shouldn’t be understanding in a particular scene. In Gargantia, this goes both ways. Sometimes we’ll follow along with Amy and someone else (and not be able to understand Ledo), sometimes we’ll be with Ledo (and not understand Amy and co.). This leads to an equal amount of interest on both characters and “worlds,” so to speak.
As you can imagine, yes, I’m liking this show a lot. Aside from doing boy meets girls correctly, Gargantia’s “fish out of water” plot is hitting all the right notes, with it flowing quite smoothly (with the noticeable exception of the first episode’s midway point), not falling into stupid pitfalls, and generally being quite interesting. Its setting is so far pretty believable, seeing as it takes some cues from good sci-fi, which makes the show more engaging by default. The animation is amazing, and a complete surprise, too. I definitely was not expecting all those intricate patterns, for instance, which legitimately made me question why space battles usually a lot more chaotic (though it was a nice touch when everything went to hell eventually). The art itself is quite pleasant, and the mecha designs happen to be notable without being too over the top. Though I think the opening doesn’t fit the show well (at least at the moment), the rest of the music has its place in the show.
Overall, I think this show has some potential. It started off pretty good, so far, and I can easily see it getting better from here. Still, I’m a little worried many of Urobuchi’s quirks will show up in Gargantia. They give his stories a unique edge, but I don’t think he can just shove them into everything he writes. Hopefully, Urobuchi decides to branch out with Gargantia, if only just a little. I’m not sure if I should be too afraid though. At its worst, at least Gargantia will still be very entertaining, which is usually more than I ask for.