Well… hi. Erm, a week late eh? Some credibility right there for the one-week old blog. I will not make an excuse. I’ll just handwave it, it’s called “Life”. Very well! Let’s get right to it!
Urobutchi Gen is an extremely divisive creator, that is nothing new. Urobutcher happens to flourish in the age of the moe boom. Over 70% of anime each season involves high school, club, imouto or some variation of a pandering orgy, Butcher’s butchings were definitely minty treats for twisted buzzards like me. However, just as moe cheapens itself by turning up at every facets of the Anime industry, Gen’s sadistic tendencies also begin to get tired. By the time Psycho Pass was conceived, there were cries of predictability. Which was true. To be fair, however, given the genre of which Psycho Pass established itself, it is much more obvious than Madoka that people are going to die and the little girl will become thoroughly broken and edgy etc… Psycho Pass was rather an uneventful ride for a sizable portion of its followings. Viewers know to expect people to die in horrific way, effectively undermine the impact. It had more serious problems than predictability, but that’s for another post on another day.
Many believe that Gargantia was somewhat a failure, and some of them even called it “Urobuchi’s worst to date.” I will assert that Gargantia of the Verdurous Planet was more like a minor success.
One may argue that Psycho Pass builds upon a very uninspired dystopian theme, a utopian-wannabe surveillance society. That was so over ten years ago. Gargantia seemed to head down the same path. It started out with a rather cliched scenario: child soldier who knows nothing but war, becomes stranded with a peaceful society. Subsequently cues character development and all sort of cheesy stuffs about war is bad, humanity is cruel and deep stuffs happen. However, what is unique about Gargantia that made it worked (at first) is the very nice contrasts between the characters and also thanks to the initial superb directing. Ever pondered why 90% of anime protagonists are third-year high school students? It is aimed towards wish-fulfillment for the primary demographic of the audience. In Gargantia, Ledo’s teenage age is fitting in capturing his impressionable innocence. Amy, the primary supporting protagonist, also belongs in the age group. She serves as the foil of Ledo. Her character, in every way, acts like your typical uninspired genki anime girl. But that is the very beauty of characterization! Her adowableness serves as the foil for Ledo’s uptight military formality, Amy’s archetype is the way normal teenagers usually act. It would not have worked anywhere near as well if Ledo was some old coarse-voiced disillusioned old man. It was a simple touch, not particularly clever, but brilliant regardless! Urobuchi’s characters are being more than just dull for once? I am not certain if it is an actual improvement, or if it was because there were other scriptwriters taking the helm each episode. I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
The first four episodes were superb, the best part of the series. I daresay that those were one of the strongest opening episodes I have ever seen and they went a long way in humanizing Ledo as a character. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet could have become something greater. Unfortunately, that did not last.
Episode 5 aired, and the writing took a huge dip. It introduced a plethora of issues to the writing, as well as being the worst episode in the show. A beach episode occurred in a show that had so far been rather solemn and sincere. It was very out of place and ruined the pacing and consistency for the rest of the series.
Following the turning point, the subsequent episodes consist of more world-building. I would have been fine if the world-building actually conveys some meaning, but it was inconsequential. Despite a nice set-up from the first four episodes, there were no real conflicts until episode 8 and even I ran out of patience for the show due to its incoherent plot. Consequently, a lot of fans started to jump ship (sorry). Even when the complication comes around, everything was underwhelming and unmemorable. The conflicts introduced are messy and didn’t go anywhere, especially anything that involves the whalesquid/Hadiauze.
The finale was actually quite decent, but by that point I just didn’t care anymore.
The most lamentable issues lie in the characters. Everyone besides Ledo and Chamber eventually suffers from extremely shallow characterization, typical of Urobuchi Gen. Amy started out great, but became an progressively flatter (yes, her chest too). She just becomes this background character who cries for Ledo every now and then, not the assertive girl who actively befriended him at the start of the series. After the series’ run, Amy was reduced to a pointless romantic subplot. Her dynamic with Ledo became stale and stereotypical of anime high school romance. The antagonists are rather silly. Pinion’s inconsistency with his actions were jarring. He felt similar to the villains in Sword Art Online, cheesy and shallow and not worth talking about. His redemption was acceptable, but still rather half-assed. There are good characters that have been left mostly untouched who would have greatly contributed to the story such as Bebel, Dr. Oldham, and Bellows. Wasted potentials!
Ledo’s growth as a character was the most enjoyable part about Gargantia. I can almost compare his growth to that of Waver from Fate/Zero. His kindness is pure innocence and self-awareness, rather than a bland self-insert that plagues every other anime nowadays. He possessed a childish obsession over Amy’s well-being. He wants to protect her not simply because he is a generic nice person, but because Amy is his first treasured companion. His love for her was subtle, and non-sensual. Ledo’s romantic interest in Amy is depicted not as between a man and a woman, but bears more resemblance of a family love. His conversations with Babel were very nice touches that serve to make the family motif evident.
Chamber is my favorite character in the show. He is the ultimate bro! Well, probably inferior to Rider, but still a bro! Throughout the course of 13 episodes, he is always the voice of the reason and at the same time, a snarky sidekick who is comically serious. Urobuchi has always been terrible at exposition, and his dialogues tend to be on the boring heavy-handed side. This time around however, Chambro was perfect for info-dumping and conveying the theme to the audience. Gargantia is seen through Ledo’s and Chambro’s perspectives. Ledo ponders about his surrounding, and Chambro forms his conjectures about the world. Everything flows together smoothly and more naturally, as opposed to being obligatory and obviously shoed in. It is definitely more engaging than listening to pretentious dudes quoting famous literature while preaching about Sibyl. The best aspect of it all, or maybe rather sad, is that Chambro felt more human than everyone else, bars Ledo. He was able to develop a certain degree of empathy, sentience and free-will in a much more believable way compared to Yui from SAO. Through a series of accumulated data, he came to his own conclusion, overcoming the restrictive protocols of the Galactic Alliance. If everything else sucked about this show, Chamber is extremely well-written to somewhat compensate.
In the end, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is not a deep show written by Butcher Gen. Its light-heartedness and the exploration of its themes just ring more true to me as a futuristic slice-of-life than anything else. In that respect, Gargantia is a pretty respectable slice-of-life.
Editorial: !SPOILERS AHEAD!
So enough about the technicality of the story. I was planning to focus more on the composition, but got carried away. Why did I call Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet a relative success after all the major problems I have with it? For one, the death count is zero, in a Urobutcher show. Well, if you count Chamber then it’s a grand total of one from the main cast. Even then I don’t consider Chamber’s destruction as an actual death as to being relieved from duty. The show ends on a hopeful future and peace. Not sure if that last 20 seconds footage was a sequel hook of some sort, but definitely a change in Urobuchi’s overall inclination. This is from a man who have once said that happy endings are unrealistic and that he will never write such bogus. You may argue that Gargantia is a very safe show that did not take risks despite its outstanding premise. You are absolutely right. However, I give Urobutch credits for venturing and experimenting with new styles. The problem of the anime industry as of current is stagnation. Gen tried to do something new to his work and out of his usual depressing forte. That mindset is a healthy one, and it is what the industry really needs.
Then again, there is no way for me to know about the hierarchy in producing an anime. There were multiple assistant script writers in this show after all. I see some people putting all the blame on Butcher when he is not the sole effort in creating the work. Going with that logic, I am not even certain if his shift in tone was deliberate, or as a result of executive demands. The characterization was rather decent, but the other writers are also involved. So did Butcher Gen really improve? I’d say to wait for his future works. For now I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Another thing that I notice with his two most recent works, Psycho Pass and Gargantia both features dystopian themes. Free-will and the evils of fighting for utopia were definitely predominantly features in both. Both tyrannical society force their members to align their thinking to better benefit the government. Ledo and Akane, through the story, develops the ability to think for themselves, and not what their higher-ups tell them. These two works would have been classic have they been written in the 80’s. Remember how I said earlier that Gargantia was a venture in a new style? At the same, time, his new style retains the fact that he is just ripping off themes from other literature now. Gargantia managed to be rather and daring and fresh, staff-wise, and yet frustratingly cliched content-wise at the same time.
Score: 7/10. Don’t get me wrong, I like this show. It was my favorite show of the Spring season, mainly because the other shows were also underwhelming
Sequel or no? You cannot kill this show more than you already have, so no, I prefer not.