Check-in Station: Gargantia ep1 (planet of the hicks)
Alright, it’s time for a ANOTHER Spring 2013 anime, and ANOTHER mecha series starting this same season. I’ve already previewed the first, Majestic Prince. And it was a fun, goofy ride that hinted at being more serious down the line. Now for me to enjoy multiple anime series from the same genre, there’s going to have to be some distinction. And anime is the sort of medium that is diverse and creative in its concepts. It’s also the kinda medium known for tropes and traditions as much as any other, if not more. So let’s see if this next new mecha series, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet can not only distinguish itself; more importantly, can it be entertaining?
Well there’s already one thing that has recurred, humanity getting its butt handed to it. Though I’d say this beating is of a much grander scale. In a scene that reminds me a bit of a Gainax style anime, more so than something from Production I.G., humanity in the far future is fighting aliens for its existence in space. In usual alien anime tradition, the aliens are immensely powerful and resemble bugs… and flowers. They may bring back bad memories for some Gundam 00 fans (don’t worry, I’ll try to keep the “in” jokes to a minimum for now). Our hero, Ledo, is woken up from his long hibernation given a battle plan, the promise of freedoms such as, “sleep (whenever you want?), food (however you like it?) and sex (both?). Stirring incentives I’m sure when your race is about to be wiped from existence. The clever human plan, which involves shoving all of humanity’s might in the alien threat’s face with the use of wormhole, doesn’t get the traction it needs and the surviving forces are forced to bid a hasty retreat.
We’re given some hints into how the aliens work, they seem to crave and sense energy for one. Perhaps that’s why their base sits perilously close to a star? They, like I said before, resemble flowers and snails for some reason. And unlike in Majestic Prince, they aren’t given any humanizing figure for exposition, motivation, or even to focus on in eventual hatred. They seem to be that classic undeniable force of nature that appears to just dominate any humanity can come up with through their sheer evolution. Man, these circumstances sure make me wish Nono (from Diebuster) were here.
In the hasty retreat, Ledo is apparently left behind just as the fleet slips through the wormhole. He passes out for what appears to be six months and is awoken by his “companion”, the computer whose name I believe is Chamber (see, I’m slowly doing better with these names, I’m still staring and Wikipedia right now though). Here we’re introduced to a several characters who all appear to be at least somewhat important. Though I can’t remember any of their names. There’s a young, hyperactive girl with a flying squirrel companion (god, I hate these mascot characters so much), a blonde mechanic who at least has a good work ethic. He never gives up trying to break into the mecha that Ledo is inside of. Some cute mechanic chick with big boobies (sorry) and a lady named Ridget also stick out, but I still can’t figure out how important any of them aside from the girl is going to be to the overall story. I mean the girl has a cute mascot character, so she’s damn near a main character herself at this point.
Once Ledo thinks everyone has left the area, he slips out of the mecha with Chamber to scout around. Both he and his mechanical companion are confused as to where they are as none of their extensive galactic navigation seems to give them one damn hint. Too bad they don’t get to look around for long. The blonde mechanic returns with the girl and her damn squirrel, and Ledo thinks it’s a great idea to take her as a hostage and escape. At the very least, this furthers exposition as we see Chamber slowly figure out the natives’ primitive language and structure. And Ledo finds his way outside. The experience of realizing he’s in an atmosphere freezes him for a bit as he takes in the sight of something he thought was extinct, a planet with a breathable atmosphere for humans. The episode pretty much ends with everyone in the building pointing a gun at Ledo and his newly reawakened machine.
Not a bad first episode, though I’m conflicted in my opinion as to whether as much time and exposition was needed for the battle in this episode. I guess I wanted to see a bit more of the “ancient” Earth Ledo found himself on. But I suppose that’s what the next episode is for.
I have to say that my first impression is that this is a wonderfully well animated series so far. There’s a ton of CG, and it seems to work rather smoothly for me. It’s not cheap, obtuse and jarring like it was in a series like [C], for example. And I’m sure anyone who has seen Production I.G. work is saying I’m pointing out the obvious, but it still needs to be recognized and commended. The mecha and alien designs I’m not terribly fond of, though even in a “mecha” series, that’s not a damning thing. I just think aliens that didn’t glow neon or look like bugs would have been a nice change. Though I think calling them bugs may be a little inaccurate. They seem to be more related to snail, slugs and squids of all things. The grunt machines in this show look a little too cutesy for my taste, but they’re not terrible either. I just prefer my machines a little more intimidating. My Gundam experience make me think that the mechs in this show are roughly the size of the ones from Victory Gundam, which were noted for being quite a bit shorter than their fellow Gundams.
And finally and most importantly, the characters who usually in first episodes don’t get much of a chance to do anything except give off a very strong and grating first impression, or be relegated to a foot note until they actually become important. Ledo seems to be a bit bull-headed, and quick to judge, but he’s also brave. They’re good traits for a mecha pilot carrying a series, but not so good if you want to meet people and make good first impressions. The hyperactive little girl has shown me nothing so far besides what I prejudged her to be. But I better get over that fast because she’s sure to be around for the majority of this series, her and that damn squirrel. And like I said before, everyone else is everyone else until I figure out what the hell is going on.
The most intriguing part about this series so far seems to be the possibilities of where it may be going. Either he’s been whipped to the original Earth, that for some reason has been lost to the rest of humanity for eons; or he’s traveled back in time to when Earth still existed/was a viable place to live. If the latter is true, he may be the key to changing history or ensuring that history repeats itself. All of this makes me very weary, because I generally don’t like it when anime or most forms of entertainment try to screw with time. It just doesn’t work most of the time. And it has a tendency to turn a series into a convoluted mess filled with “shark-jumping” twists around every turn. Despite those fears, I have some trust in the studio making this. And some hope that this will be an interesting series. It will get a five episode test, though unless it really screws up I’ll probably be watching all the way through.