The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Title: Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet aka Suisei no Gargantia
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Production I.G
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 28 Aug 2013 – 25 Oct 2013

Synopsis: Mankind has abandoned its home planet in a voyage to the stars.  In its journey, it has encountered a squid like alien species known as the Hideauze and has entered a near endless war for survival.  During a battle with these creatures, 16-year-old ensign Ledo is knocked off course in a wormhole and is launched to a planet far beyond his people’s reach.  After 6 months of cryo-stasis, Ledo is awoken to a world filled with people using woefully primitive technology.  He soon learns that he has arrived on Earth, humanity’s birth planet heard about only in myths.

The Highlights
Setting: Colorful, lush and full of life.
Science Fiction: Good ideas that would have been cool with more focus and a shorter lead time.
Visuals: Production I.G in solid form.

Gargantia is an anime version of Waterworld with cute anime girls, giant robots and some hard sci-fi elements.  Partially penned by Madoka Magica‘s writer Gen Urobuchi, the show initially came out with some fanfare, but any trumpets of praise have faded with time. The reason is because while the anime is competent, it honestly isn’t as emotionally impacting or satisfying as it should be because there is a dissonance between cute anime girls in a bright, cheerful world and the heady sci-fi elements that get rather dark.

At first glance, the bright, vivid colors are probably the most memorable quality of the series. The setting is actually quite charming and would serve as the perfect backdrop about a relaxing series about deep sea scavengers. The problem is that the show tries to be much more than that.  The later portion of the series splinters away from its roots to cerebral ideas such as transhumanism, the definition of humanity and the need for humanity.  While it’s clear that this schism is an intentional comparison between two different philosophies of life, the split is jarring and the ensuing drama from the clash doesn’t feel genuine. Perhaps it’s the overly cutesy character designs complete with wide baby eyes and permanent blushes to accentuate how innocent they are. Or perhaps it’s the almost cartoonish reactions some of the characters have to death and destruction. Regardless, there’s a lack of the subtlety needed to sell the world of Gargantia as real.

Though the show lacks the finesse to be a truly exceptional experience, it is undoubtedly still a fairly good one. Visually, the show is colorful, well budgeted and quite pleasant to look at.  The music is effective. Also, despite not quite fitting into the dramatic arc of the series, the moral quandaries are rather tasty morsels of meat for the mind to chew on. When the show is dissected into two halves, one light-hearted, one serious, each individual component is quite strong and can be quite enjoyable.

I truly believe that the ultimate goal of Gargantia was to create a kind of shock effect by introducing a world so full of joy and having it run headlong into some deep, dark suffering. Countless other anime have made their mark by giving its viewers some hard emotional whiplash.  However, this anime hasn’t quite worked out the appropriate formula to sell what it was trying to do.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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