Suisei no Gargantia – Episode 1

Suisei no Gargantia. Finally, the last goddamn show I’m covering. Urobuchi. Mecha. Possible positive message. Ex-doujin character designs. Etc.

This was actually my most-anticipated show of the season, back when I thought this season was only going to be Pretty Okay. But now, after this first week? OreGairu had likely the best first episode of any high school romance I’ve ever seen, Maou had the most successful intentional comedy, Crime Edge the most successful unintentionalcomedy, Aku no Hana blew my muted expectations away with incredible direction and pacing on top of ridiculously human dialogue, and Titan lived up to its promise of being a fun, kind of ridiculous ride. This show is still high on my list, but it has competition now – and I couldn’t be happier.

By the way, I’ve been going with the play-by-play format for everything this week, but that honestly might not be appropriate for every show. Please, let me know in comments what you guys prefer – if it’s not fun to read the critiques, nobody’s gonna follow them or start discussions with them anyway.

Episode 1

3:30 – Echoes of Starship Troopers… and Kino’s Journey. Leave it to Gen Urobuchi to let one half-asleep conversation perfectly illuminate an entire social order. Which I assume is really critical to the point, since this world’s order will inform his Stranger in a Strange Land (except, you know, not incredibly narcissistic and politically naïve) experiences throughout the next arc of the series.

6:00 – Kind of clever that Urobuchi has set up humanity as the typical “space bug” enemy here – both their social order and these battle tactics/formations scream “we are colony, a single unit is of little significance, we live to serve the hive.” Again, I’m sure this is intended to set up a stronger contrast.

6:48 – “Perfect soldier.” The worker bee is asleep in his duties. He fulfills his part in the whole, and by surrendering his own agency entirely, he is able to face life without fear or regret.

8:30 – By disobeying orders, the worker bee expresses free will and independent thought. This is the precursor to his emergence into a new world of individual agency.

9:50 – But he gives up and submits in the end. He’s still a part of this system – he’s never seen any other way.

12:45 – Jumping immediately to the moment where the plot becomes relevant to the other protagonist is some snappy storytelling.

17:04 – They are really drawing attention to that tusk. No clues what it could represent yet, though.

And Done

YES! Ah, man, so goddamn excited. Everything about that was so… yes. The direction was solid, with some specific nice touches – I especially liked the way they shot the chase through the hallways, skipping between Leto’s view and Chamber’s, while also contrasting the position of the characters through highlighting one language or the other. I really liked the visual/costume design in general, and how much the backgrounds and those battle formations suggested about the cultures and lives behind them. The writing was sharp and believable throughout, with that single joke about Chamber’s interpretation of their remarks working really well in context, and everything else rife with character. I especially liked the animation of character movement – the head mechanic’s slide down the arm, into smacking the side of the robot, into wincing at it, seemed like a particularly good example, but in general it was both fluid and full of personality as well. The world and base plot seem interesting enough, the pacing already has me excited for where Urobuchi takes us next…

But yeah, this is going to be another show about how the way we construct our culture defines us, and the inability of strict systems to be compatible with human nature. Madoka did it (though it was less about culture than our own nature), Psycho-Pass did it (though I’m only a quarter way through that one, but its heart is already blatantly written on its sleeve), and this one’s going to tackle it from another angle – a member of one of those oppressive, systematized cultures meeting a world that is anything but. Urobuchi’s insights are always creative, well thought-through, and filled with his personality and opinions – his voice rings clear in all of his stories, and I for one am incredibly excited to see where he takes us this time.