Suisei no Gargantia Review

This is review number two hundred and nineteen. I lost my enthusiasm for anime after trying my hand at the previous review. If you plan on watching Zettai Bouei Leviathan then remember that it made me hate anime. I’m not being clever. I seriously stopped watching any anime and did nothing for close to a week simply because of the literal upsetting feeling I had watching that anime. Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is Suisei no Gargantia. It’s a thirteen episode anime about tentacle monsters, some mecha, a girl in a surfkite and a dude and his best friend robot. I know, right? It’s insane. Let’s read on.

Story

This anime is about a guy named Ledo. He is a soldier fighting the frontlines for the Galactic Alliance of Humankind against the alien creatures known as the Hideauze. Mankind has since abandoned Earth after a vicious Ice Age wiped it out and now they live light years away on a man-made planet forever threatened by the invading alien creatures. To achieve peace, Ledo and his fellow comrades must brave the battlefield. After a failed assault on the nesting grounds of the Hideauzes, Ledo finds himself fighting the aliens alone during an order of retreat. The Hideauzes managed to attack him. Instead of dying though, Ledo finds himself in a planet inhabited by humans. He is surprised to find himself on Earth. The fight against the space aliens still commence so he must find a way back to where the Galactic Alliance for Humankind is. Ledo is in a revived Earth though that survived after the apparent Ice Age. Stranded in a large ship called the Gargantia, Ledo must do his best to co-exist with the humans while also finding a way back home. He is a man of duty and lives to follow his duty at all cost. Could living along the friendly humans of Earth make him rethink his duties and his life altogether though?

Taking the Pants Off

This anime is written by Gen Urobuchi. That’s really the only reason to watch this anime. The dude that has given us some of the most pleasantly dark anime you can ever enjoy has once again teamed with Production IG to deliver another promising show. If that wasn’t good enough, this particular anime is being co-written by the f*cking guy that wrote the plot of Code Geass. If there ever was a chance for someone like me to have an otaku orgasm, this will be the perfect time. The man with a mastery for nihilism pairing up with the guy that specializes on crafting stories about mecha and war handled by a powerhouse like Production IG just really look like the perfect combination for a successful anime. This is the best way to guarantee a great anime but sadly, it’s only on paper. Suisei no Gargantia is an ambitious anime but it fits comfortably among those familiar anime that never fully utilize its potential. I’m a bit perplexed as well. How can two positives cancel each other out? It’s apparently possible and it is pretty shocking. I’m not saying this anime is bad. This was a great undertaking, actually. It has a lot of surprises in store for its viewers but the eventual build up the show created was also its eventual demise. There’s a lot to like about this anime but also a lot to be disappointed about. Here’s a great pitch for the anime though: Gen Urobuchi not relying on darkness to build the plot around. That’s right. Nihilism doesn’t exist in this anime. Well, to a slight degree, but not as potent as we’re used to coming from a man that basically built a legacy on dancing on the tears on his characters.

The setup of the anime is really complicated. It’s really layered deep and the direction is pretty muddled. This was one of the big problems of the anime. The overarching story seemed to be too large for the thirteen episode anime to cover. This also poses a challenge for me. Let’s take this one step at a time though and slowly discuss the plot points of the anime. The first one is simply about the fight of the Galactic Alliance of Humankind against the Hideauze. The anime opened with this. Hideauzes are like giant glowing space squids that attack humans. In the first few minutes of the anime, you are treated to a large scale war between the two forces. There was some grim destruction as it commences that really set the stage for the anime. Hideauzes are f*cking bad and must be eradicated. Ledo understands this as well. Along with his talking mecha, Chamber, Ledo has agreed to lay his life on the line for the greater good. He was suddenly caught by the Hideauzes though during a fierce campaign that ended in failure. He was good as dead but he somehow found himself in a black hole that beamed him straight to Earth. He then finds himself in a ship called Gargantia with a bunch of humans pretty freaked out that a talking mecha and a shady guy are in their ship. He must now find a way back home while trying to co-exist with the humans on this new revived Earth.

The first plot point just pretty much convinces us that Hideauzes are bad. The focus thereafter is simply on Ledo who wants to go back and defend his home from the invading alien scums. He can’t do anything right now though but just sit on his ass while trying to convince the people of this gigantic ship that he come in peace. The story is pretty straight forward after that, right? Ledo befriends some folks and maybe grow a beating heart for them which would conflict with his duties for the Galactic Alliance. It’s actually pretty good writing if done correctly but the show decided to take it a step further.

During the first half of the anime, it’s primarily focused on another plot point. The second plot point is basically the society within Gargantia. Ledo tries to befriend the people of Gargantia and he is introduced to the unusual life of the humans on Earth. The basic functions of the ship, the various people operating it and the colorful culture found within the ship. Ledo experiences the daily routine of the normal humans. He is introduced to things new to him like money and family values. He even discovers the superstitions and traditions of the people on the ship as he slowly tries to understand them and vice versa. If I can sum up this second plot point, it’ll be “laidback”. It’s really just about the normal happy lives of the people on Earth. The societal structure is also introduced as life on the ship can be hectic but nothing is really too serious. Even slight hints of a political power struggle and an impending war against pirates slowly fizzle over in favor of a more relaxed approached to the story. As you watch the first half of the anime, you are really just treated to the colorful post-apocalyptic world on Earth and the warm hearted everyday life in Gargantia. I think the point of the second plot point is to establish the status quo of the anime. The dos and don’ts that prove vital to the life of the humans on Earth but without being too serious as you are embraced the laidback atmosphere of the anime.

I personally felt weirded out by the approach of the anime. This was written by the Uro-butcher. This guy wrote about depressing magical show and a sadistic spin on a cop show. Now he is co-writing a laidback and relaxed anime. I’m really perplexed and automatically scared because his M.O. tells me he’ll fuck this setting up pretty fast. Or will he? I guess this is a testament to his flexibility in writing but it’s still pretty awkward for me. The second plot point also proved to be a bit confusing since it seemed to dull out any chance of a gripping story that can be pulled from the show. Any form of conflict or tension seems to be negated by the relaxed atmosphere of the show. The impending doom that the first plot point established seemed to be pushed to the side as well. As the anime progresses, it feels a bit muddled on how the anime will continue the story. I am a bit fascinated though by the various rules and cultures the anime presented. The viewers are in Ledo’s shoes as they also slowly embrace the world of Gargantia. It’s always entertaining to see what other fun stuff regarding this world that Ledo is about to discover. I’m fine with a laidback anime. The problem though is that you started out with an intergalactic battle involving mecha and aliens. A soft served story about the life in Gargantia feels like a step backwards.

The first and second plot point seems to be nothing but structure for the anime though. This all make sense once you figured out the focus isn’t on a single story but more on a single individual. The anime is more about the main character, Ledo, and his personal journey. At its core, this anime is simply a coming of age story for Ledo. I know. It’s weird. Ledo is a hard boiled intergalactic mecha pilot primed to be a tentacle ass kicking machine that fully devotes his entire being to the Galactic Alliance of Humankind and their beliefs. Imagine a guy that literally lives to fight thrust in a world that lives in peace. Throughout the first half of the anime, the story is pretty much on Ledo trying to adjust and find a place in this world without any tentacle menace. His personal beliefs are slowly questioned and his outlook on life is also put on the spotlight. As the anime progresses, Ledo is pretty much on a journey of self-discovery as he try to co-exist with the people of Gargantia. He started out as a fish out on water but it seems that being among them is a natural phase that he must accept. It’s a refreshing take on a coming of age story. These kinds of stories are usually made up of teenage frustrations and a feel to rebel against society. Ledo’s story is different with a deeper look on his core beliefs. There is a personal struggle between his self as a tentacle ass kicker and a guy that prefers a life of peace with the people of this revived Earth. It’s really nothing remarkable, especially with how open ended the anime is with the approach, but it’s pretty entertaining nonetheless. This personal Journey of Ledo is met with haste though when the two worlds he believes in suddenly collides.

The overarching story of the anime is not just about Ledo’s journey though. There is a lot of subplot in this anime that really felt a bit crammed just for the sake of it. They all share one common thing though. The anime puts certain attention on the status quo. The status quo of the world Gargantia was given a pretty heavy focus on the anime. This was done in a very confusing way though. Throughout the anime, you are introduced to certain subplots per episode. The anime had a non-episodic format concerning the subplots while also developing the overall story. I personally felt a bit lost at times because I wasn’t sure what the anime was aiming for. There is an episode concerning the dangers of pirates in the open sea. There is an episode about the wonders of salvaging treasure from the lost civilization below the sea. There is an episode regarding the hierarchy of power in Gargantia and the influence of different people. There is an episode about the way people fish in Gargantia. It feels like shaking a tree and just watching whatever falls down. This muddled the anime greatly because you’re not quite sure which of these subplots are slowly incorporated into the actual story of the anime. I’m all for a barbeque episode with light hearted implications but what about establishing the groundwork for the second half? Again, though, this was all for the overall status quo of the world in the show. This was important to the plot because things get a bit serious towards the second half.

Yeah, the second half was where the anime truly shined. It lacked the appropriate build up but it was able to slowly make the anime a lot more interesting. This is where Urobutcher’s brand of darkness was nicely implemented and Kazuya Murata’s expertise in creating a battlefield was nicely presented. It just got a bit heavy towards the second half and it’s the kind of tension that the anime really needed. It’s a shame the anime never really gave it a decent build up but the amount of craziness in the second half is pretty amazing. Ledo’s personal conflict between being bound by his duties and recognizing the peaceful ways of Earth was heavily strained as he tried to face the heavy problem by himself. It was really nice how the anime managed to turn the whole personal conflict upside down to the point where you just can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy. Ledo’s journey to finding himself was really exciting at this point and I commend the anime for really shaking things up. Granted, the whole progression was a bit predictable but the experience was still pretty sweet. Ledo’s ultimate decision is also something that the anime nicely build up despite its messy progression. The status quo that was heavily emphasized on the first half was also given a nice shake come the second half. The reintroduction of the first plot point made the story really interesting. It was unsettling how the status quo of the society of Earth was harshly treated come the second half. This all culminated in a pretty satisfying climax where you truly felt the handiwork of Urobuchi, Kazuya and Production IG nicely coming together.

It could’ve been a whole lot better though. There are a lot of things that really made the anime a bit subpar. The first and obvious culprit is the 12 episode format. The anime’s pacing and story felt a bit uneven as it progresses simply because you can truly feel that it was trying to fit everything into such a small time. Certain twists didn’t have much on an impact that it should’ve and certain moments weren’t as satisfying because of the uneven pacing. The overarching story of the anime just felt too big to be covered in just thirteen episodes. It lacked some proper build up in some scenes and it lacked an obvious clear direction during most of the episodes. It just felt like there is a checklist of things to do before the anime ends and the anime was crossing them one by one as it rolls along without giving the viewers a more satisfying experience. In thirteen episodes, we are treated to some tentacle action, a microscopic look at society and a subtle point on the greed of humans, a relaxed focus on the life of everyday people and the personal journey of our main character. In twenty four or more episodes though, we could’ve been treated to everything that was presented but also a more detailed look at Ledo’s personal background including his life before he crashed on Earth, a more unsettling story about humans and their unpredictability, a romantic entanglement with the supposed leading lady of the show for Ledo, a more gripping political struggle aboard Gargantia and the personal journey of the captain, a more stable development of the side characters and a more satisfying finale. I’m sorry I can’t spoil much of the story but let’s just say the anime was “good enough”. It could’ve been “great” though. The 12 episode format felt like the anime was heavily butchered that the anime experience that could’ve been felt was dulled down. It’s a shame.

The characters are all pretty decent. Ledo is really interesting. He has this “fish out of water” personality going for him in the first half that felt pretty refreshing to watch. He has a really battle hardened personality though that I also admire. Imagine this kind of army centered guy suddenly forced to co-exist with a bunch of easy going folks. He is a bit resistant at first but he slowly gives in. His transformation is pretty interesting as well. Like I said, his personal journey was a heavy focus in the anime so he really had a wonderful development as the anime progresses. It’s nothing that remarkable though. It’s actually a bit cliché but it’s also a bit endearing in a way. It’s not every day you see a guy try his best to fit in and then slowly question his very purpose. Seeing him grow in the anime was one of the highlights of the show. The other main character is Chamber, Ledo’s AI mecha partner. He had a nice focus as well since he is often the one that Ledo confides in. Chamber has a pretty cut and dry personality though and only see things in black and white. He is a robot so he doesn’t experience things that Ledo does so it’s often a bit interesting to see Ledo and Chamber talk. You have a guy that is going through a crisis talking to an AI that believes in nothing but his predetermined duties. It’s interesting to see Chamber have a decent transformation as well though. While spending time with the people of Gargantia, it seems that this AI is slowly seeing this from a different light. How much it affects him is something that you’ll just have to watch for yourself.

The rest of the cast is pretty disappointing though. They have the potential to be great if the anime took the time to flesh them out but they were really nothing more than plot devices during the course of the anime. There are some stand outs though but the side characters of the anime are all pretty weak. Basically, it’s like planting seeds and watching them sprout. How it affects the show is really up to you since they all had the same time to grow and you really are just tasked to favor one over the other. Some of them were prominent in the first half while others got their time in the second half. There are a lot of them though and you often think they don’t matter to the story yet they often do things that make the story a lot more interesting. One standout though is Amy. She is the brown skinned heroine of the anime. She was supposed to be another main but the anime manages to take her out of the loop come the second half. She is a messenger that flies around Gargantia in her cool surfkite handing letters to people. She is the supposed partner of Ledo as well but it was only hinted. The most she did was giving Ledo a chance to fully enjoy life on the revived Earth and slowly question his very being. Ledo facing his problems alone was nice and entertaining but I bet it would’ve been better if we see Amy hold his hands tight during some of his vulnerable moments. It’s a shame because she does grow on you but the anime never found a use for her later on.

Other members had very little role outside certain subplots of the anime. They mostly served to establish the status quo of the anime but some of them also had some misplaced flashbacks from time to time. Certain standouts include Ridget, one of the high ranking personnel in Gargantia that struggled to maintain power once tension started building. There is also Pinion. He is the hard headed engineer that wanted to obtain some cool treasures despite other people thinking it’s not smart to do so. He had a nice villain appeal going for him but it’s interesting how his little salvaging expedition affected the status quo of the world they are in. There are a lot more that had a part in the progression of the story. Some of them were nothing more than clutter though as they seem to just muddle up the already confusing setup of the anime. Certain dialogues and events in the anime really didn’t add up on the overall progression of the show and I was a bit confused why they even bothered getting the input of certain characters. They took the time to introduce worthless characters yet they denied the story to have a proper focus. It’s infuriating. The second half could’ve meant a lot more with some proper editing on the creator’s part.

This was a really entertaining anime. It had enough to keep me wanting more and plow through the rest of the episodes. Despite the fact that it really could’ve been better, there was a decent balance in the anime. The focus on Ledo and the status quo of the world was smart as the sequence of events that happened in the anime is all pretty good. The creepy fact that Uro-butcher made a calming anime will also forever haunt me. The lack of episodes really just crippled this anime but I bet this calming element would’ve been more prominent if given time to develop. I really enjoyed this anime and I wish there was another season just to see more of the wonderful world of Gargantia and Ledo’s journey in it. Production IG seems to be on a hot streak for 2013. It’s pretty surprising how much high quality anime they’re producing and the year is just half way done. Let’s just hope they stay consistent. Anyways, Suisei no Gargantia is a pretty good anime but I do have my complaints.

Sight and Sound

How adorable is it to have the creator of Kamichu do the character design? Seeing Hanaharu Naruko’s character design after all this time makes me feel a bit nostalgic. It’s pretty weird that among a lot of recognizable mangaka in the sea of mangaka, they decided to get Hanaharu. His character design usually has big emphasis on the characters looking young. Most female characters in the anime usually have chubby cheeks but it is accompanied with a sexy body. They often look “fat” but in a cute and sexy way. With the emphasis on looking young, they characters really look attractive and unique in its own special spin. The facial design is also pretty great. The characters usually have big expressive eyes and it looks great with the wide face of certain characters. His design works great in the anime since the show was keen on a laidback and colorful world. The characters all have pretty big range though and it thanks, in part, to their outfits. It’s the typical thing you’d expect in a colorful world like Gargantia. There is a wide range of colorful clothes the characters wear that really makes them stand out. The way it compliment their personality was also a nice touch. Ridget is an uptight woman so she has this uniform that expresses her uptightness. Pinion looks like an adventurer rebel that nicely captures his personality. The obvious standout though is easily, Amy. She is the brown skinned heroine. Hanaharu’s design works great in giving her a wonderful personality with the chubby cheeks and the sexy body.

gargantia14

Ledo is also pretty awesome. He has a simple look. He is the bishie type but his young look is more prominent. He also has a muscular body that looks just pretty sexy with how his spacesuit wraps around it. I particularly love his white hair and his expressive face. Throughout the anime, there are close up shots of Ledo’s face as he undergoes his changes and it’s pretty easy to fall for the guy because of how his face tells the story. He has the tough guy with a soft heart routine down that it really is pretty easy to connect with the character.

The mecha designs are also pretty awesome. I’m not a big fan of mecha but I love how they created those seen in the anime. It has the familiar gundam-like design but Production IG’s high production values certainly added a lot. The little details on how the head and the body are shaped along with the wonderful arsenal of weapons really made them pretty interesting. Even the design inside the cockpit is pretty bad ass. I was a bit disappointed that the anime didn’t put much focus on these awesome machines. The Hideauzes are also pretty great. They’re the typical monster creatures that look pretty menacing. They resemble squids but with a fanged mouth that looks pretty deadly.  There isn’t some variation of them though. They all look the same but that’s OK. Just seeing them attack, kill, be attacked and be killed is entertaining in by itself. It even got a bit gory towards the second part regarding the slaughter of these awesome creatures.

Animation is pretty amazing. It is Production IG. They make crappy anime because of story not by animation standards. The movements of the characters are all pretty smooth. From how they run to how they simply stand, the animation was great and it really gave life to the characters. The ways the facial expressions are handled are also a nice touch. The way the characters smile and express powerful emotions really elevated them despite their lack of development. The mecha battles are also a nice touch. It was pretty awesome even though they were short. It’s your familiar mecha battle but I just can’t help but admire two giant machines dancing in the sky. Kazuya had a nice eye with how the battles are done where he implements wonderful camera angles that captures the sheer beauty of the mecha and the sky they are dancing in.

The background is also something to be noted. The colorful world of Gargantia really comes to life because of the vibrant presentation. The way the characters move about the place is really wonderful. It came to a point where I was even enticed to roam the giant ship. There are bright and vivid areas while there are also dark and dank ones that capture the flexibility of the society in Gargantia. The beautiful sceneries in the ocean are also pretty outstanding. The endless color of blue and the way it interacts with the cloud looks pretty cool. There is also that wonderful glowing part of the ocean that just looks outstanding. It captures the laidback and relaxed feel the anime was aiming for and Kazuya did a great job translating his vision of his. The various ships and the way the people move about it was nicely presented in the anime that living Gargantia really looks like a cool idea. Let’s hope an Ice Age that hits humanity can give us the depressing opportunity to ride one of these bad boys.

The anime’s OP is “Kono Sekai wa Bokura wo Matteita” by Minori Chihara. This is a wonderful song brimming with positivity. It is an energetic song that tells about never losing hope and pushing on forward. Minori’s voice is also really nice in this song. It sounds really wonderful that it gave the song its warmhearted spirit. This accompanied by a breath taking OP. It features the various characters in Gargantia and the colorful world it’s in. The flashy camera angles and the cool movements really made this OP special. It nicely captures the spirit of the anime and it’s also a nice guide map if you ever feel lost on the direction of the anime, like me.

The anime’s ED is “Sora to Kimi no Message” by ChouCho. This is a romantic song with a nice theme of hope. It’s a really comforting song that nicely captures the emotional nuance of the anime. It’s a nice slow paced song that nicely stands out because of Choucho’s amazing voice. The ED sequence features Amy riding her surfkite in the water. The CG water below her and the sunset with Gargantia behind her nicely captures the mood of the scene. It rolls into night fall and ends with Amy riding the wind hitting dawn. It’s a really wonderful ED.

Overall Score

7/10 “The anime had a decent progression but the lack of direction hurt it a bit. 12 episodes also seem to be too short for something as amazing as this one.”

This is an easy nine if it was handled properly. The idea is there and the creators did a great job conveying it but it could’ve been a whole lot better. There are ways the anime could’ve reached its full potential but sadly, it just didn’t. It’s still an enjoyable anime. The individual parts are certainly better than the whole in regards to this anime. If you enjoy a laidback anime with some interesting cast then you’ll enjoy this anime. If you’re a fan of Urobuchi then you’ll enjoy this one. Wait until the second half to feel his presence. If you enjoy stories about societies and basic human values then this anime might intrigue you. I recommend it.

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