In my opinion, this is a really good show. I love the environmental design and general visual aesthetic, I love the subtle but persistent themes regarding identity and society, and I love the confidence and experimentation displayed through these linked but semi-episodic slices of life. I don’t think it’s the most consistent show I’m watching (probably Aku no Hana), nor the best (OreGairu), but I think it’s regularly excellent, and I would happily watch many more like it.
But there are persistent complaints against it, and some of them are well-founded – unwelcome fanservice, uneven pacing, and, in particular, the accusation of moral simplicity.
I don’t think this is Dances with Waterwolves. I think it has a lot more to say than “war is bad, natives are good, Ledo is wrong.” And I’m hoping these next couple episodes will vindicate my faith in this show.
Let’s get right to it.
2:16 – “I can’t go home.” Interesting. I like that they’re closing the book on that particular plot thread (I don’t think involving the space conflict would really contribute anything to this show’s ideas, and we don’t have enough episodes for that to be effective anyway), and this will force Ledo to actually find a permanent role in his new society. For him, the war has actually reached that “if you don’t have any more orders, what then?” point – but of course, for now he won’t see it that way, and will probably all the more fervently latch onto attacking the whalesquids to maintain some sense of purpose now that his center has been taken from him
3:03 – Thinking about that also made me kinda realize the likely futility of proving this show’s thematic purpose. While I see the conflict with the whalesquids as a stand-in for his hierarchical and single-minded society, anyone who wants to could even more easily just see it as a stand-in for the idea of war itself. Phooey
5:55 – “A fleet commander with lax regulations is a ripe target for pirates.” See? SEE? Man, I could go over a line like this all day. First, they’re drawing a direct comparison between strictness of government rule and success or failure as a society – the Flange/Gargantia split wasn’t being paralleled to the Ledo/Gargantia disagreement as far as societal structure went before, but it sure as hell is now. Because of this, the likely failure of Flange’s separation will point to the idea of mutual co-prosperity being preferable to a singular goal-oriented society, not just “war is bad.” Finally, Flange is actually right, and like Ledo’s reaction to the whalesquids being born of a frank and believable reaction to the circumstances of his life, his opinion here is practical and with strong merit – nobody is fully right in this situation, and a prosperous yet humane society requires more of a balance between pragmatism and idealism than either side is yet willing to accept.
8:13 – “I’m glad we shared this journey together.” I really like that they’re spending this much time to humanize Flange. The problems here are legitimate differences of ideas, and characterizing any of these people as villains would destroy the legitimacy of any points they’re trying to make (in addition to just being bad writing)
13:04 – “What you have to think about is who to rely on, and for what.” Which ties directly into Amy’s decision to abide by her commitment to her brother – this episode’s riding one thematic point pretty strongly, though I guess we’re just getting to the point where the pieces start fitting together. This Ridget stuff is also the most clearly directed towards young, uncertain graduates. Growing up is hard to do
13:13 – “You make good use of the things I salvage for the fleet.” Your own commitment to our society gives my contributions meaning – that’s why you deserve to be a leader. This episode’s fucking great
13:51 – Great, expressive animation of Amy here
17:12 – “A child who cannot fight cannot survive… I do not want Gargantia to become like the Alliance. I still have to fight.” Ledo’s motivation has shifted, but the song remains the same
Fucking bam. That episode was everything I love about this show, wrapped up in a fantastically structured mini-arc regarding the mourning of the fleet commander. That last scene with Ridget, the commander, and the Gargantians was built to perfectly, the most interesting ideas were more or less directly addressed, Ledo’s position was made even more clear and understandable, Amy’s feelings were more directly expressed than ever before… really, not a single complaint about anything. That was great. Screw the haters. Long live Gargantia.