The People's Army led by Michel stands against Vetti's newly founded empire. Upon seeing how strong the Glass Battleship is, Michel tries to get Cleo, the captain of the Glass Battleship, to help People's Army overthrow Vetti's empire. And together they fight against Vetti's empire.
Glass no Kantai (Glass Fleet) is an odd anime. Combining elements of space opera and medieval Europe, its strength is in its strong characterization of its three main characters.
The story is set in an alternative universe, in which self-proclaimed Emperor Vetti seeks nothing but power over others; the handsome lone wolf Cleo - who carries the blood of the overthrown royal family - seeks to bring down Vetti; and the rebel aristocrat Michel Volban seeks to establish a people's republic. Michel eventually teams up with Cleo, and the main story unfolds from there.
Each of these three men harbors a major secret concerning their
identity; and some adult themes are explored starting around episode 11 or so. Despite the general adventure theme look of the anime at first, it's really not for younger kids.
The production design is interesting and eye-catching, particularly the medieval-inspired costumes. There are strange anomalies, like the fact that apparently humans in this alternative universe don't need atmospheres on their planets in order to breathe(!).
I rented Glass no Kantai because I'm an Akira Ishida fan. He plays Vetti, the villain, with a much lower and deeper voice than he normally uses - and it's very sexy too. ;)
If you're an Akira Ishida fan, or if you like the "different" animes, the ones that don't quite fit neatly into any one category - you might like Glass no Kantai.
A lot of anime are influenced by others in one way or another, but rarely have I seen one that shows its influences as blatently as "Glass no Kantai - La legende du vent de l'univers" (wow, what an exceedingly long and pretentious sounding title). This anime rips off so many sources and does it so badly and in such a painfully obvious way, that the result is comparable to a patchy rag doll, crudely sewn together from many different pieces of cloth.
Though at the time of viewing I remember noticing many similarities between "Glass" and numerous other anime, now I've either forgotten what most
of those anime were, or I've forgotten the similarities in question. However, I do remember thinking that it appear to be ripping off "Last Exile" in particular.
Right from the start the signs were there. The opening of the first episode featured two fleets of flying ships doing battle, with people in the ship dressed like aristocrats. Hmmm where have I seen this before... of course - these were exactly the exact same things that caught my attention in the opening scenes of "Last Exile"! In what is possibly a feeble attempt to reduce the glaring similarities, the creators of Glass have decided to set this in space, rather than on a steampunk world. But soon enough, more similarities piled up, too many to be coincidental. To name a couple: a rogue ship making a flashy entrance in a fashion similar to that of a certain other rogue ship from "Last Exile" - even the skills exhibited by the two ship captains are pretty similar. Also, the tactics deployed by Admiral Gawain in the big ship to ship battle mid series could easily have been inspired by the the brilliantly orchestrated battle at Dragon Fang in... well you can probably guess where. Perhaps on their own, these similarities can be dismissed as coincidence. But so many in a single anime strongly implicates some serious plagiarism going on. If it isn't for the fact the Gonzo made both "Last Exile" and "Glass no Kantai", the makers of the latter would probably get sued.
As if blatent rip offs aren't bad enough, the production of anime is often downright terrible. I suspect I would be in for a laugh when, about 30 seconds into the jpoppy opening theme, a totally inappropriate bit of rapping is thrown in, no doubt in an attempt to make the anime seem "cool". And sure enough, this anime did indeed deliver plenty of laughs, virtually all of it unintended. There is some flakey, overarching plot over the whole thing, and some of its ideas definitely has merit, but it's often let down by the production and the wooden characters. Plot progression wise, it's probably the opposite of "Monster", where the plot execution is done almost to perfection. In "Glass no Kantai", there are numerous parts where the plot progression feels forced, bewildering or like they've plainly just cocked up. Prime example of this is the "twist" in the early episodes regarding one of the characters - the producers manage to shoot themselves in the foot and actually caused me to inadvertently stumble upon it without knowing it was meant to be a twist to be revealed later on (it sounds complicated, but you'll exactly know what I mean when you see it). The character are also fairly incompetently done. Other than ripping off from other works that came before it ("Creo" is basically Alex Rou from "Last Exile" with a dash of the devil may care attitude of Spike Spiegal from "Cowboy Bebop", Michele Volban is also ripped off another character that I can't actually name, as it will "spoil" the aforementioned twist for you), the character development feels heavy handed in general and just plain ridiculous at times.
Despite all its flaws (like, all 402 of them), the series isn't all bad. The Admiral Gawain part of the story is pretty good, despite stealing its battle strategies from "Last Exile". Some of plot points are also well executed and shows hints of promise... but it's just that most of its flaws are amplified simply because it's an anime that takes itself waaay too seriously. It obviously fancies itself to be something of a sweeping epic, perhaps not too disimilar to the kind of grand operatic feel found in "Gankutsuou". The music, arguably the one aspect of "Glass no Kantai" that's not riddled with flaws, do manage to provide an orchestral score befitting the epic it's *trying* to be. But that air of grandeur it's trying to achieve is something an anime can only get away with if it has genuine class... like "Gankutsuou", for example. "Glass" asks to be ridiculed far too often for its better points to be noticed (they do exist, few though they may be). In fact, for a long while one of my friends couldn't work out whether "Glass no Kantai" is meant to be completely serious or a tongue in cheek comedy (true story, I kid you not)!
Presentation wise, this anime isn't bad. Though visually the anime appears to be quite pleasing at first, I soon found that a lot of the character designs seem a little... off, for lack of a better word. It's as though they tried to go for some attractive character designs, but did not quite succeed. The general feel of the anime is that it's trying to create a big budget affect with a small budget, so it cheapness often glares out from beneath a thin facade. There is this one hilarious scene where one guy fights a group of soldiers. The soldiers unleash a barrage of arrows at him... and he somehow manage to single handedly unleash a barrage of similar size back at them... with his one crossbow. You'll really have to see it to fully appreciate the unintended comedy of the situation! It just felt so cheap! But due to "Glass no Kantai" severely lacking in substance, the presentation, despite feeling amateurish, is probably its strongest department. "Amateurish" is probably a word that can be applied to the anime as a whole. As much as I love Gonzo at their best ("Last Exile", "Gankutsuou", "Hellsing" springs to mind), they do produce far too much cheap trash like this ("Gad Guard" springs to mind here). They should just concentrate on making a few great series instead of wasting their time and money by pumping out crap. I mean seriously... do they really think they'll can con people out of their hard earned cash with anime of this calibur?!
It's rare but not unheard of for two big-name studios to produce an anime together--Mahoromatic (Shaft, Gainax) is another example that comes to mind. I'll admit, I haven't seen enough by Satelight to be familiar with their work, but I will say that these visuals have Gonzo written all over them, and not in a good way. Character designs are unnaturally shiny and angular, the backgrounds are occasionally good but the garish technicolor abyss they call space is an absolute eyesore. There are a few decent swordfights but for the most part shortcuts are rampant, movements are stiff, and for every viscerally captivating moment there
are a dozen terribly sloppy ones. The CG elements are mostly reserved for ships and off-planet habitats, making them obvious but still tolerable, and the CG touches on the eponymous glass ship actually work to positive effect, giving it a genuine glass feel. Still, it doesn't make up for the rest of what goes on. Finally, an anime I can honestly call ugly. Yes, it is ugly. Moving on.
The music is actually pretty good, if a bit typical for a space opera, all blaring trumpets and soaring strings. It can get a bit repetitive but it supports the show well for the most part. Still, during some of its dramatic moments it can get pretty overblown. I can honestly say that the most memorable moment in the show, musically speaking, involved Cleo and Vetti simply passing each other by in separate carriages. The scene was supposed to radiate biting tension, but the musical choice was so melodramatic it actually became unintentionally hilarious. That's not to belittle it, though, it's still a solid score all in all.
The voice acting is a decent listen in both languages, but since the setting is clearly intended to be faux-Renaissance the dub ends up with a weird variety of accents, ranging from vaguely British to ambiguously Eastern-European, with varying degrees of success. If nothing else, Christopher R. Sabat as a pseudo-Roman is delightful. Laura Bailey and Yuko Kaida both play Michel effectively (yes, Michel is played by a woman in both languages, wink wink nudge nudge), but with Vetti and Cleo it gets a bit stickier. In the dub, Jason Liebrecht plays a fairly detached Vetti with a snide streak, which is part of his character. Akira Ishida, however, adds a dominating, slightly vulgar touch while still managing to carry his sympathetic moments. It's a great performance. With Cleo, it's the opposite. His Japanese seiyuu, Kenjirou Tsuda, plays the character's confidence as a cheeky to the point of coming off as a bit childish, while Travis Willingham makes the character's voice resonate with experience to back his confidence. Language preferences will split where they always do, and if you can go either way I'd suggest giving both tracks a fair shake. At least, I would if I thought this show was worth watching.
The "space opera revolution" concept has been done to death, and within Gonzo's portfolio alone it's not hard to find other series from which Glass Fleet clearly took some pointers, most notably Last Exile. Still, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. While it's always nice to see something genuinely fresh and unconventional, cliches can be comforting if they're backed with solid execution, but Glass Fleet is not an example of this. The pacing is hacky and sophomoric, jumping between events with little explanation and often giving the impression that key transitory scenes were cut to save screentime. The setting is poorly constructed, with slaves performing manual labor under the whip that ought to be easily achievable considering the technology presented, and for whatever reason humans have no trouble surviving exposure to the vacuum of space. Several key concepts, such as why setting foot on a planet is taboo, are left unexplained, and as if that's not enough, every episode begins with Michel philosophizing at us with a cup of tea.
All of this awkwardness would have been forgivable, though, if only the writers knew how to create strong characters. Despite the derivative setting, I'm certain there's a great story hiding somewhere in here. The concept of a savior who isn't cut out for the responsibility is actually a really good one. I would've loved a story of Michel sharpening his leadership skills and gradually earning Cleo's respect and support, and in the process perhaps becoming a better savior in his own right. Alas, neither Michel nor Cleo have the character strength to carry such a story. This is especially shocking considering the amount of detail put into both of their backstories, but the story fails to make any meaningful connections between who they were then and who they are now.
I've referred to Michel as "he" up to this point, but the show makes so little effort to hide the truth from its audience that it hardly constitutes a spoiler when I inform you that Michel is actually a women masquerading as her brother. What's wrong with this? They do nothing with this subplot, despite the implied importance of gender roles in-universe. There are a few little attempts to explore her dual identity, but they're tacked-on and half-assed. As the story nears its end, the writers suddenly decide that everyone should know the truth, and nobody seems to care about it in the least. Even her confrontation with the original Michel doesn't prompt any development. Her role as a savior is equally underexplored, and considering she leads a group called the "People's Army" you'd think she'd spend more time interacting with the common people she supposedly champions. Her relationship with Cleo is okay, but only just. It doesn't help that her comrades are pretty weak characters to play off of. Her servants Jean and Sylua get a fair amount of screentime but no worthwhile development, and the rest of the People's Army is hardly worth mentioning.
Cleo's character is hardly better off. His backstory is pretty well fleshed-out but the gap between his childhood and forming the crew of his glass battleship is left unexplained. His apathy toward responsibility to the people early on is especially baffling when we meet his mentor, who you'd think would have instilled stronger ideals in him. To be fair his character does genuinely develop and change for the better as time goes by, and his grounded attitude and unique viewpoint place him a notch above Michel, but it's only a notch. He's not nearly as strong a character as he really ought to be, certainly not enough to carry the show on his own. It doesn't help that his crewmates are pretty weak characters to play off of. Heizak is a big Roman who mans up when he puts his helmet on, Nowy is a wimpy boy who freaks out when his glasses fall off, and Barrett is a little too mysterious for his own good. The only member of his crew they attempt to develop at all is his pilot Eimer, and with only limited success.
Then there's Vetti, who could've been the most interesting of our three leads. An egoist to his very core, his reason for seeking to unify the galaxy stems from a desire for power and a need to save his own life. These are the ingredients for an utterly despicable character, but then there are his conflicting relationships with Ralph, his closest childhood friend, and Rachel, the daughter of the pope to whom he finds himself engaged in a relationship of convenience that may or may not evolve into more than just convenience. Once again, this is potentially interesting material, but the writers have no idea how sympathetic they want Vetti to be, giving him a few moments of tenderness followed by long periods of him being an irredeemable douchemuffin. The backstory they ultimately give him is not only one of the cheapest ways of attempting to make a character sympathetic, but it ends up making him even more despicable, which makes his one-eighty at the end come off as forced. It also doesn't help that Ralph and Rachel are pretty weak characters to play off of. Ralph is clingy and jealous and that's just about it, while Rachel starts off as a strong female character in her own right but starts devolves into lovesick madness for pretty much no reason at all.
To be fair, the ending makes a decent attempt to bring all the main characters' arcs to acceptable resolutions, but the plot and character development leading up to it were too weak to carry it through; it was too little too late. A few neat ideas are constantly sidelined to make way for a generic plot, there's hardly any sense of genuine tension when the true conflict rears its head, and the characters are interesting in theory but pathetically written. The most interesting character in the entire series is probably B.B., a wine merchant who controls a sizable portion of the galaxy's neutral forces, and the writers even find an excuse to cheapen her character at one point when her wine cellar is raided. There are some decently entertaining moments mixed in, and a few strong scenes that really do work, but they simply aren't enough to make the rest of the show worth slogging through.
This feels like the kind of show where the people who made it simply didn't care. The animation is half-assed, the writing is half-assed, the characters are half-assed. I almost would have preferred it if this show was truly bad. Then, at least, it would have been memorable. In all honesty, I still maintain that in good hands this could've been something unexpected and special, but far from soaring, Glass Fleet never even manages to take off.
Glass Fleet Or (glass no Kantai) is a space opera that depicts the "galaxy in revolution" against the Holy Emperor, Vetti. Opposing Vetti's tyranny is the People's Army, headed by the enigmatic revolutionary Michelle. Eventually Michelle will seek to enlist the aid of Cleo, captain of a mysteriously powerful glass battleship, and his crew. Throughout the series, the bitter rivalry between Cleo and Vetti becomes increasingly important as the core element of the story.
The visuals and character art are good in some parts and just atrocious in others, as the galaxy is populated with vast "Territorial Vessels" or floating landmasses, numerous vessels and
fleets enter galactic battle but the animation is so sub par, that you feel as though your watching a cheap science fiction movie from the early 80's. The character designs how ever is where the art really shines, some of them all have very unique appeal, as does the battle ships and many other planetary area's they visit across the galaxy. The many outfits is something to really recognize in this series, each and everyone has their own design for every character.
However, there was a lot that I did not like about this series. The three main characters (Vetti, Cleo, and Michelle) are all completely self-absorbed, though they may try to justify this to themselves. It becomes readily apparent in the first episode that Michelle is in fact a woman, and when we later learn the reason for this deception. Cleo's only goal in life is to conquer the galaxy, though for what purpose we never really find out. At numerous points in the series, he tells other characters that he really doesn't care whether they follow him or not, and intones that his "wind of destiny" is carrying him to a final outcome. In reality, he is an arrogant, stubborn fool who would be totally lost without the skills of his crew to support him. And Vetti, a really nasty piece of work, seems to care for no one, casting aside or eliminating anything that stands between himself and his goal of immortality.
Other characters are imbalanced and eccentric to the point of annoyance as well. Noe, the encryption genius, is a whiny little boy who becomes completely useless when he loses his glasses, which is often and annoying. The weapons specialist whose name I forget at the moment has the ferocity and testosterone-pumped aggression of a grizzly bear, and the mental capacity of a five-year-old. Towards the middle of the series, one character is thrown into a prison cell with a dozen perverted "lifers" who initially try to do some nasty stuff to her, but then somehow become her best buddies later on in the series.
This is also a series without moral compass or honor, as the final outcome demonstrates all too admirably. Throughout the series, Vetti has an intimate (sexuality is implied) relationship with Ralph, Vetti's consort and bodyguard, who is a young boy. Vetti is flagrantly promiscuous and manipulative, obsessing over and then casting aside his "love" interests, including at one point Michelle. After his numerous atrocities, murders, and sins, Vetti becomes the one to unite and rule the galaxy.
If you like happy endings, this series is not for you. If you believe that evil should be punished and good should triumph, this series is not for you. If you're looking for some ideas for a creative enterprise and don't really expect too much else of value, this might be for you. I can't say I'm glad I watched it (about halfway through I just wanted it to end, and had to alternate episodes with another anime to maintain my sanity), but there are some interesting designs in this series, so I'll keep it as a reference.
How ever if your hoping for something along the lines of an epic space opera that dives deep into politics and strategic war battles like Legend of the Galactic Heroes or Crest of the star then this series surely is not it. It tries to hard to fit many different stories intertwined together and ultimately does not carry the weight of what the plot is trying to portray.