Director: Kazuya Murata
Writer: Gen Urobuchi
Animation Studios: Production I.G
Version Watched: Subbed
I was planning on discussing my love-hate relationship with Gen Urobuchi here, complete with a dig that “it turns out he can write decent stuff sometimes”, but as he apparently only wrote the first and last episodes of Gargantia I’ll have to settle for a far less satisfying introduction. Nevertheless, that Suisei no Gargantia is a production that would inspire such a phrase should tell you that I liked it. Its unique concept, refreshing visuals and endearing characters come together to form a fun production that also presents a thought-provoking view on one of humanity’s potential futures.
Ledo is a Machine Caliber pilot for the Galactic Alliance of Humankind. The purpose of his existence is to eliminate the greatest threat to his species, the terrifying alien race known as the Hideauze, and his entire sixteen years of life have been spent preparing him for combat. Any individual who cannot fight holds no value for the Galactic Alliance. So when Ledo is stranded on a foreign planet light-years from the battle, he finds himself at something of a loss. The people there survive by living on a massive collection of connected boats known as Gargantia, for the vast majority of their home is covered by ocean. Their speech, their customs and their way of life represent entirely new territory for Ledo, though he will need to learn to survive in this new place. For it is Earth, the planet his ancestors abandoned.
Suisei no Gargantia balances a couple of different threads with which to keep its audience interested. Naturally, there’s Ledo and the society he comes from, his values and the technology he brings with him in the form of his combat mech. Then there’s Gargantia and the people that make it tick, along with their customs and how life works when the ocean stretches as far as the eye can see (and then some). Finally, there’s how all of those aspects clash and eventually meld together. A friend told me the goal of this anime was to draw parallels between Ledo’s experience and those of young adults finding their way in the world to show them that they can succeed and that the future awaiting them is not one to be afraid of. For me, however, that push into a completely unknown society is simply a catalyst to explore empathy and the ability to understand another person’s point of view. Regardless, whether you care about text, subtext, themes or just plain old entertainment, Gargantia has something for you.
The plot the series follows is an interesting one with several twists and turns I can’t elaborate on here without spoiling the fun. Pacing is one of the show’s strengths, with those threads I mentioned earlier weaving in and out of the spotlight seamlessly and interacting to ensure that no one episode represents a weaker link. The characters are easy to like and contribute a variety of views and beliefs to the mix, though some could have used more screen time to break out of their two-dimensional shells.
There are several OVAs that follow after the main episodes, with the first two exploring smaller stories within earlier events and the second two being more like a sequel movie than anything else. While the latter gave some good closure and were easily worth watching, I can only recommend the former to fans who really enjoyed the series as they don’t add much, though that’s not to say they’re bad.
Gargantia’s art is everything you’d hope for given the concept: Fantastic sunsets, bright character designs and ships with personality (read: rust). The visuals are a major asset to the series. CG is used infrequently and is generally also fine, though the final two OVAs feature some particularly bad work on that front. The background tracks complement the overall production well but don’t stand out on their own, and the voice acting is of the usual quality you might expect (with the exception of Ledo trying to act like he can’t speak Japanese).
Summary – Suisei no Gargantia is one of the best 13 episode series I’ve seen to date. The show covers a lot of ground that doesn’t commonly show up in anime and is backed up with wonderful characters and visuals. It’s difficult to fit a fulfilling experience into such a short time frame, and I’ll admit that I didn’t form a lasting connection here, but at the very least I can happily put forward a recommendation for the main series and its follow-up OVAs.
Score: 8.5/10 – Good