Recently it’s been hard to be an anime fan. Well, actually it’s gotten easy…
Let me explain this better.
I don’t know what happened this past year or two, but somewhere along the way there was this entire new crop of anime waiting for me to watch.
In recent years (At least since 2007-2008 or so) I’ve found that much of the anime that’s surfaced well enough that I’ve heard about it hasn’t stood out in my mind. There are always occasional titles of note but mostly whatever reached my ear hasn’t been particularly unique or memorable.
So what the hell happened now?
The biggest standout as of this writing must be Attack on Titan simply for the number of adaptations the series earned. I can only imagine Funimation studios doing their best to get the DVD out on that one. But even looking beyond that we have series like Sword Art Online, Accel World, Magi… Free.
And it’s gotten to a point where people are starting to talk about titles that they’ve come across and introduce new people to them. Such was the case with me and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.
It should be no surprise to any of you that this is a giant robot anime and suffers from the very unique case of being instantly beloved by me. Now I’ll be the first to admit that most giant robot anime are remarkably similar in a way that typically only a harlequin romance novel could emulate. You will have your young protagonist who learns to become a pilot, a rival, a female love interest that’s standoffish at first (or what we in the business call a Tsunedere), a mid-boss enemy that will come to respect the hero and a final battle that will eat up the majority of the show’s budget.
Still, if you recall my Pacific Rim article you’ll know what a lot of the typical themes are for a mecha anime. As with any media there are those who chose to use stock archetypes.
Gargantia isn’t that.
I swear, if the only thing you see in this image are the boobs I’m going to kill you.
The premise is this, humanity has left Earth and now colonizes deep space. They’ve engaged in a perpetual war with a species known as the Hideauze which are able to survive easily in deep space without assistance. The story follows a young soldier named Ledo who is one of the infinite number of pilots who fight the Hideauze. As far as we know humanity has no culture beyond a lifestyle of fighting the Hideauze. Ledo, within the first episode is caught in a warp accident that sends him across the cosmos. Upon awakening he learns that he and his robot known as Chamber have found the lost homeworld of humanity: Earth.
And what’s more, he’s found other humans that have lived peacefully on the verdurous planet on a massive cruiser known as Gargantia.
If you can imagine it this series features very little combat. Rather it’s an interesting take on the concept of war vs. peace. To say that this theme is done to death in anime, especially mecha anime, is an understatement. Gargantia, however does so using episodes that force Ledo to survive in a society that does not view killing with the same emotionless detachment then he does. Moreso their society focuses on simply surviving and thriving through personal bonds. In order to survive this world and function (which as a soldier he is taught to do) he must form those bonds. It’s certainly a lot more effective than the long ass diatribes of most mecha anime. Looking at you Gundam.
LOOKING AT YOU!
As a result the thirteen episodes of the series are remarkably effective at giving you relatable characters with diverse personalities. Even the artificial AI for Ledo’s machine (Chamber) goes through a character development arc. Also, I mentioned before how in Mecha anime that the machine is often an extension of the pilot’s soul and a representation of himself. So let me ask you this question, what happens when the machine is intelligent and the pilot starts wanting peace?
Now at this point I can spoil things for you by discussing the series but I’ll be honest it’s only thirteen episodes. It’s like eating the top of a cupcake and giving someone the rest. I could go on about the arguments between peace and war, the themes of abuse of power and the overall theme of self-realization but without being able to give you examples I’m a titch hamstrung.
SO GO WATCH THE BLOODY THING ALREADY! IT’S FREE!
No not that Free…
So too does this work exist.