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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.

Today's archival rec is Noah (2014).

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.

I'm actually surprised by all the hate that this anime gets. While it perhaps wasn't all that fans were expecting, I thought the level of hatred directed at it (which was unrelenting, vehement, and highly repetitive) was excessive and extreme, and perhaps even a prime example of Urobuchi Fan Syndrome, in which anime fanboys (and it is almost always fanboys doing this, not fangirls) become enraged that a product with Urobuchi's name attached isn't a carbon copy of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Or, in milder forms, they just get angry that a product with his name attached isn't very grimdark and bleak - and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet gets hit by the worst of that on account of, for the most part, being quite a perky, happy series. 

Which, to be fair, Urobuchi said outright that it was going to be, so I'm not sure why people were surprised. While the man has been known to distort the truth in interesting ways during press events, he doesn't usually lie. 

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is about Ledo, a child soldier in an intergalactic war between humans and fearsome space eldritch abominations, the Hideauze. Falling through a wormhole, Ledo and his giant robot Chamber end up shipwrecked on Earth, a planet now mostly covered in water, where the native humans travel about in vast fleets. As Ledo and Chamber attempt to integrate to life on the Gargantia, they form a friendship with a girl named Amy, get drawn into a conflict with other fleets, and discover the secret origins of the Galactic Alliance and Hideauze.

A Hideauze giant sun flower station thing.

There were a lot of interesting ideas at play here. A character travelling from a high-tech futuristic setting to a more peaceful and (relatively speaking) more familiar one was an interesting reversal of the usual anime fare, and the premise clearly had at least some thought put into it, with the language barrier being a major point in character development and establishing the two different cultures (notably, Ledo's language has no word for 'thank you', and the language the Gargantians speak is entirely insufficient for him to describe his revulsion and hatred for the Hideauze). 

Similarly, it was clear that a fair bit of thought was put into the dynamics of the Gargantia. While it's framed as a fundamentally happy place, one major plot point is dissatisfaction aboard it, with a split between a faction who believes in aggressively chasing powerful technology, and a faction who believes in playing it safe leading to tragic results. Nor does the series shy away from the idea that while the Gargantia is a fairly happy-go-lucky place, this is not necessarily the same for all fleets, with the characters encountering a cultish, brutal fleet at one point.

In all honesty, this series had its fair share of grimness lurking in the background, including things like implied murder of disabled children, it just never overwhelmed the fundamentally optimistic narrative. Which is good, I like optimistic stories. There's naught wrong with a good bit of optimism amidst the ever growing sea of needless grimdarkery. 

Lookin' stylish, Pinion.

The animation isn't really to my liking, but it's perfectly sufficient for purpose, utilising a lot of very sharp and vivid colours to create scene and mood; the characters are interesting, some (like Pinion, Bellows and Chamber) more than others (Ledo and Amy, unfortunately our leads - they're not terrible characters, they're just not as interesting as their older sibling figures); and the voice-acting is, for the most part, very strong, with the prize for best voice-acting going to Tomokazu Sugita for his work with giant robot Chamber, whose character undergoes the most development over the series and who very quickly became a fan favourite (and, at times, a candidate for main villain). 

This was clearly a series penned with a theme and a message in mind, that message being 'growth and movement forward into a new life', and the entire series is structured towards that, with numerous characters symbolically cutting ties with their old lives, culminating in Ledo rejecting (and being rejected by) his former life to fully embrace the more positive, boy-isn't-it-great-to-work-with-all-you-got-for-the-good-of-all life on the Gargantia. It fits, in a way, since this is meant to be a series about the transition from childhood into adulthood. Not my favourite theme, but I can respect a series that knows its message and builds itself around that.

Not looking stylish, Ledo.

So, overall, maybe not my favourite series - it won't be appearing on any top ten lists from me, at least - but I definitely enjoyed it well enough. It's a solid entry in Gen Urobuchi's body of work, and I'm largely confused by the people who hate it so much. Maybe they just really don't like water, giant robots, and culture clashes, I don't know. 

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