I promise I won’t be posting OPs every time I do a review, but Gargantia‘s does such a good job of sonically explaining the whole show in the first 20 seconds of the song that I just had to post it. The song sounds just like the setting looks, and unity of that sort is always impressive.
So, a quick plot summary: A space soldier named Ledo and his incredibly advanced robot suit/companion Chamber get knocked out of the galactic battle for the survival of humanity and wind up on Earth. However, this isn’t the Earth you know. There’s no land left. The entire planet is one huge ocean, with the remnants of the previous civilization resting at the bottom of it. The current inhabitants live on fleets of interlocking ships, where they grow their food, work and live their surprisingly beautiful lives. This isn’t your typical post-apocalyptic world; but a world whose people found a way to survive and now live pretty awesome lives. And when you see how beautiful the land…erm, ocean…they inhabit is, you’ll understand why.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (a mouthful of a title) or Suisei no Garugantia has a number of good qualities, but the stand outs are unquestionably the music and the animation. One might think that the scenery for a story based on a planet of nothing but water might be a little bland, but the animators of Gargantia do a wonderful job milking the ocean for all the potential beauty it has to offer. Combined with the sparkling soundtrack, the atmosphere of the show fits perfectly with the setting: no small feat. The show only has three true slice-of-life episodes, but they seem to occupy a much bigger space in the picture of the narrative, and it is in these episodes that the lush soundtrack really shines.
With that bit of gushing out of the way, I now want to turn to some of the show’s weaknesses. Having completed the show, and now looking back on it, Gargantia’s primary weakness is glaringly obvious. I usually like to write about themes, but it’s really difficult to pinpoint the ones that the show’s writers have chosen to highlight because there are just too many. I noticed on wikipedia that Gargantia had three different writers, and I’d like to think that maybe had a small impact on the consistency of the show thematically. As a writer myself, I find it difficult to imagine writing a story with two other people. Anyways, is Gargantia about the beauty of the simple life the current inhabitants of earth have created and Ledo’s experience of it? Is it about Ledo himself casting off his soldier’s mentality and learning to live a life that values life for its own sake, not just the sake of the mission? (This is what I’d like to say the anime is about.) Or is it about what truly makes humanity human? Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is about all of these questions, and the kaleidoscopic effect the multiplicity of themes creates makes the anime just a little difficult to grasp. Given the ending dialogue between Chamber and Ledo, I’d like to say that the story is trying its hardest to be about Ledo finding a new perspective about life, but then I think back to episode 10, and Chamber and Ledo’s dialogue there calls this into questions.
Now, let’s return to another positive attribute of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. Despite the identity crisis the show deals with, what I would call the overriding theme (Ledo learning the value of life) is definitely a worthwhile one. Having played games like Tales of Symphonia, and watched anime like Attack on Titan, which deal heavily with the topic of worthwhile sacrifice or the value of life by seeing it lost, it is refreshing to find a show that celebrates the value of life for life’s own sake and steers the protagonist away from the occasionally dangerous solider mentality: the mission is all that matters, the collective before the individual. As Ledo says late in the show (paraphrased), “How empty must I have been to be fooled by such emptiness?” (To be clear: I do recognize the necessity/value of such mentalities in the world of war.) The lush atmosphere that I wrote about earlier breathes of being alive. This is why, for me, the highlight episodes of the show with 2-6, and then 13. These episodes are all about life, and with the surrounding water, always a symbol of fertility and growth and life, the setting is perfect for such a discussion.
While the fan service in Gargantia doesn’t necessarily intrude on the show unnaturally, the clothes that the animators have given many of the female characters, while fairly natural within the context of the show, aren’t going to be the most modest getups you’ve ever seen. As someone who is really bothered by intrusive fan service, I appreciated that it wasn’t being forced into my face (with a few exceptions), and that the outfits were reasonable given the context of the show.
Gargantia is a good show. Not a great one, but a good one. Despite it’s shortcomings and identity crisis, it still manages to deliver a welcome message. It’s never a good sign when a robot is the one holding up the entertainment factor of the show, but Chamber does so with aplomb. Gargantia isn’t a must watch, by any means, but it’s not a waste of your time either. It’s probably a low Tier II show.
Reasons to Watch:
- Many thought provoking questions raised, even if most aren’t adequately addressed in the show itself.
- Gorgeous soundtrack, excellent animation and expert use of both to create a vibrant atmosphere.
- The fundamental message of the show, though blurred by an excess of themes, is a very positive and welcome one.
- Chamber. Is. Hilarious. And quite smart. And has the best line of the entire series.