Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet review


Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: the mecha, sci-fi anime that I didn’t actually need to be so sceptical of. Of course, it came naturally: from previous reviews, you can probably get a sense of my opinion on sci-fi and big robots and the likes. Safe to say it’s not a positive one. However, I was delighted to find that Gargantia had far more to offer than the endless outer space pew-pew battles that I was expecting. What I found instead was a story much more relatable and sweet. Ledo is a young man living in a very distant future and is also a member of the Galactic Alliance of Humankind. In this alliance, and in this futuristic mind-set overall, humans are valued based on their skills and efficiency within the eternal battle against a strange space squid race (that’s literally the only way I can describe them) known as the Hideauze. If a human is born with any sign of genetic weakness, they are labelled useless and treated as such. Paired with his mecha robot, Chamber, which he pilots through space, Ledo travels around as a soldier in constant battle, until one particular fight knocks him into some sort of wormhole and he is cast away into a completely new and unfamiliar dimension. Ledo finds himself on a new planet which appears to be a very primitive version of ‘Earth’, completely covered in water. He awakens to see a huge fleet of various ships gathered together to form a kind of industrial yet underdeveloped floating island called Gargantia. In this new world, Ledo must come to terms with a society very different from his own and live and learn alongside people he can barely understand.

gargantia13-3The best elements of Gargantia are those that relate to Ledo and how his understanding develops throughout the anime. It could be said that half of the story is predominantly a coming of age story. As Ledo is pretty much the alien of the series, he can’t even speak the language at first, and watching him change from an ignorant, clueless loner into an understanding and very cute member of the society is both heart-warming and interesting. It is also very rewarding to watch Ledo overcome his hardships, and although he can appear quite arrogant and childish at first, I still couldn’t help but love him. The charming nature of the typical fish out of water character made me want Ledo to succeed, accepting the world around him and being accepted in return.

As light and chirpy as the story may sound based on this, there is definitely a twist that adds a whole different dimension to this series. Without ruining anything, you can expect some complex and very odd twists in this anime which make you question the meaning and moral of the whole series. These twists are introduced very late in the show – a little too late for my liking – and although the anime is interesting enough without them, it can sometimes feel as though the story is going nowhere other than explaining how an alien finds his feet. However, if you’re familiar with the mind of Gen Urobuchi, who’s known for twisted stories like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Psycho-Pass, then perhaps you won’t be too surprised to see that this particular anime turns out to have a slightly darker twist and is not all that it seems to be on the surface.

4200_SuiseiThe likeability of Ledo was majorly enhanced by secondary character and all round cutesy, energetic girl, Amy. Their relationship is nothing short of endearing and although I wasn’t a fan of viewing their relationship as anything beyond a friendship, it was easy to appreciate why the idea of something more than that might appeal. The two epitomised the idea that ‘opposites attract’. Ledo was perplexed and fascinated by Amy, as she was by him. There was a real connection there, despite this being a relatively short anime where character development can easily falter. The anime did a perfect job of presenting the two characters and their continuously growing bond. Plus, amongst the many insufferable background characters who saw Ledo as a mere gimmick, I valued Amy much more highly as she was the only one who cared for and tried to protect Ledo from beginning to end. The only issue was that too much time was wasted on all these insignificant characters, whose appearances often made no sense. A key theme throughout the anime is the sense of what is wrong and what is right and the experiences one goes through to learn this. I’m sure that, by anyone’s standards, annihilating a group of notorious and threatening pirates would be something to be applauded. However, on the floating metropolis of Gargantia, this appears to be a no go. No matter how much those on board cry and holler about the threat of pirates, you mustn’t help them because they’ll just get rather mad. It is quite nit-picky of me, but I couldn’t get my head around a lot of the criticism that Ledo received for doing things which anyone with a bit of sense would have deemed to be ‘good’ and ‘right’. It sometimes felt as if the writers were trying a little too hard to ostracise Ledo. Perhaps it was to gain more sympathy for him, which it admittedly did. However, it just wasn’t necessary, and I would have rather seen a lot more of Ledo and Amy than the frankly far too expansive cast of other characters who were easily muddled up and forgotten.

The winning aspect of Gargantia – the setting – was clear to me from a very early stage. TheHadena-Suisei-no-Gargantia-03-720p-9A1E13BA.mkv_snapshot_01.44_2013.05.04_06.04.00 ships and buildings that form Gargantia are beyond anything my own imagination could have invented. It was expansive and immersive, and I really did want to be on a paragliding kite with Amy to explore the whole scene. For a city that clearly had limits and borders and only so much space, it felt like its own entire world. It was like a floating country and was something I just found very fun. To best describe it, it reminded me of a very well thought out level in a game, or a themed dungeon from The Legend of Zelda. It was full of individual personality and well thought out with perfect attention to detail. Everything from the mode of travel used to the foliage dotted around the largely a metallic landscape had been perfectly considered. In the simplest language, it was just… SO COOL.

Hand in hand with this is obviously the art and animation. As usual, Production I.G. deliver the absolute best in terms of visual appeal. Gargantia is full of engaging colours and complex details from edge to edge of the screen. I found the animation to be reasonably fluid but it wasn’t anything amazing that’s caught enough of my attention to be mentioned in detail. One thing I loved, though, was the rosy cheeks of all the girls in the anime. It’s such a silly little thing but it added so much to their overall appearance. The outfits and entire design fit in perfectly with the background and everything just complimented the overall feel of the anime. It was also nice to see a great variation of skin tones in Gargantia, giving it a more realistic edge. Being in a very open and exposed area in the middle of the sea is bound to cause tanning of the skin over time, and the creators didn’t even skip the tiniest detail of that. It also worked in providing a physical contrast between Ledo and the natives, with his very pale features standing out from their darker hues. In all, I was a fan of all things pretty and colourful in the anime and I was completely won over by the incomparable creativity, appreciating much of the work of the production team that I would not always notice.suisei-no-gargantia-9088

If anything, the mecha look of Gargantia is merely an addition to all the rest, and the use of Chamber and the other sci-fi technologies are enjoyable rather that something ridiculous, as I expected them to be. Although it takes a while for the plot twists to occur, I came around to this a little as I found the earlier stages of Ledo’s learning curve to be the more fun for it. In summary then, this series is very lovable, rewarding and well-balanced. It was interesting from beginning to end with plenty of laughs and ‘awwws’ along the way.

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