Anime Spotlight#6: Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (Suisui no Gargantia)

Gargantia 1-1

Name: Suisui no Gargantia (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)

Year: 2013

Episodes: 13

Studio: Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, Psycho-Pass, Guilty Crown)

Writer: Gen Urobuchi

Urobuchi kind of reminds me of M. Night Shymalan (except you know, his work hasn’t started to suck) because no matter how well crafted his characters and their worlds are, at the end of the day, viewers watch his work for the shock factor. You just know that at some point, Urobuchi is going to pull some crazy twist that changes the entire story and probably leads to lots of people dying (his nickname isn’t Urobutcher for nothing).  So before going into Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, I prepared myself for another rollercoaster story guaranteed to tear my heart out, stomp it into the ground, and leave me wondering how there could be any happiness in the world. 

It took about five episodes for me to realize that Gargantia was not going to be that type of show.  Our hero, Ledo, is a soldier in the Galactic Alliance, a colony of humans that live in space. He pilots Chamber, an AI mech, to fight against the Hideauze, evil squid-like aliens the Alliance has sworn to eliminate. While engaged in battle, Ledo and Chamber get sucked into a wormhole and become stranded on Earth. The Alliance believes Earth is an uninhabitable frozen wasteland, so Ledo’s surprised that not only is the planet something of an aquatic paradise, but humans have been living just fine there for years. He’s taken in by the people of Gargantia, a large ship fleet, and begins to navigate the strange waters of this world with the help of Amy, a native girl.

Gargantia is a straightforward tale of a “stranger in a strange land.
” There isn’t an overarching plot and though there’s a little bit of world-building in the first few episodes, that eventually takes a backseat in favor of a more slice-of-life story.

Gargantia 2

Festivals and barbeques = fanservice galore!

The show does get darker later on when having a plot becomes relevant again, but the story putters out without reaching a conclusion. When I look at Gargantia as a whole, I understand why the plot wasn’t as fleshed out as it should have been. Despite how it looks, Garganita is not a flashy, mind-blowing sci-fi show. This was an anime about celebrating life and appreciating the day to day things that people take for granted. Bogging that down by focusing on a war would not have conveyed that message, but if you are going to introduce plotlines like that, then you should address them, not just sweep it under the rug.

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Ledo, the steady soldier or…

Gargantia 3

…natural ladies’ man?

The slice-of-life part of the story was essential to drive home the message, but it would have worked more if the characters didn’t feel so shallow. For Ledo’s character, this was understandable. He fought aliens his entire life and now he’s in some strange world where those aliens don’t exist. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, so of course he’s a blank slate. Still, Ledo doesn’t really change after being on Gargantia and once he gets the chance to go fight Hideauze again, he leaves without a second thought. Amy’s not much better. She’s such a bland character that you could exchange Amy with either of her friends and it wouldn’t make a difference.  I’m not saying that all females need to kick ass or be a damsel in distress, but at least give her some personality.

The other characters are very one-note and the little back story we do get just feels half-baked. Whenever a dilemma arose, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why should I care?” Honestly, the best character has to be Chamber (YES, the AI), since he actually has character development.

Chamber FTW!
                                                                                       Chamber FTW!

Animation is standard Production I.G.,  consistently good with a slight dip in quality near the end, and there are a lot of bright colors that I think suited the tone of the show.  I didn’t really like the art style for the younger girls though, which made them look like cherubs. There is some CG for the mechs and ship fleets, which urgh, there’s just nothing visually appealing about CG to me, but I think it managed to blend in well.

The music is rather forgettable, though I did like the rather quiet ending compared to the chipper, bright opening.

Sora to Kimi no Message by Choucho

Do note that there are two OVAs that were released after the show finished. They’re not essential, but the second one does give more details about what led to the second part of the show, so I think they’re worth a shot.

Overall, Gargantia was a rather disappointing watch. I can accept that it wasn’t going to be the show I thought it was going to be, but it just never went anywhere interesting with it’s premise. On the one hand, I like seeing people experiment and I’m glad that Urobuchi is capable of writing a show that isn’t tragic and/or violent, but on the other hand, at least those shows had a good plot and actual characters. Gargantia is supposed to be getting a second season, so hopefully Urobuchi will have stepped up his game.

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