Suisei no Gargantia (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet) might be one of the lesser-known works from the acclaimed Gen Urobochi (Fate/Zero, Psycho-Pass, Blassreiter , Aldnoah.Zero), but it is far from the least complex. While the story itself fits well into the plot-twisting theme that the “Urobutcher” is known for, that distinction is only true due to the depth of the characters that he worked to created. The overall cast of main and supporting characters is small in comparison to many other animes (see: Naruto, One Piece), but this leaves plenty of room for greater character development.
As the only true primary main character of Suisei no Gargantia, Ledo is much deeper, and therefore more complex, than the other characters in the story. Ledo is a 16 year old ensign in the Galactic Alliance military. The Galatic Alliance is composed of humans who left earth over a millenia ago when a war with the hideous Hideauze broke out. While in a battle against the Hideauze, Ledo took the rear for the retreat, only to get stranded and knocked out as he failed to make it into the Galatic Alliance's wormhole in time. Upon awaking, Ledo finds himself surrounded by humans he has never seen and cannot understand. He quickly discovers that he is on Earth, the ancestral home to humanity. While he has been led to believe from his government that Earth was unlivable and lost to time, Ledo soon discovers that this, and the true nature of the war with the Hideauze, are not what they seem.
In 13 seemingly short episodes, we become ready witnesses to Ledo’s quick evolution, not only in his personal beliefs about the way the universe works, but also to the more mundane things, such as his understanding of new languages, cultures and customs. Through the course of the short anime series, Ledo transforms from a single-minded, yet war-hardened ensign in the Galactic Alliance, to a multifaceted individual, capable of absorbing new information willingly. Yet even more important in Ledo’s character development is the acquisition of experience while away from the inculcation of his dictatorial government. The short time he spends on Earth with the remnants of those left behind is enough help him form his own, rationalized opinions about the true nature of the war between humanity and the Hideauze.
The mystery that is Ledo is supplemented best his unwaveringly strong convictions. For Ledo (at least in the first several episodes), the world is purely black and white: fight the enemy or die. He applies this worldview rather seamlessly to the anime’s primary enemy, the Hideauze (pronounced hee-day-ows), until the plot slowly unravels the truth behind both the Hideauze and the Galactic Alliance, creating a complete reversal for Ledo, and for the viewers, on who the true enemy is. Despite an eventual change in perspective, Ledo does not weaken in his sense of right and wrong, as well as in his strong application of justice upon those who deserve it. Almost important to the development of the plot is the development of who and what Ledo believes is deserving of justice. The somewhat softening of his character and the change in his perspective is a direct result of the interactions he has with multiple characters. Yet despite these changes, he never wavers from the core of his personality, maintaining a focus on winning against his enemies, regardless of who the enemy truly is.
At 16, the fact that Ledo is an extremely efficient fighter and killer is a testament to the militarization of his society. Yet his young age also allows for his ability to change so drastically and so much in such a short amount of time. The story sees a dramatic change in Ledo’s perspectives, one where he slowly changes from the rock-hard belief that war is all that matters, to the opening up of the possibility that peaceful methods may indeed be preferable. The strong contradiction between his own beliefs (parroted by rote based on all he has ever known), and those of the human remnants on Earth, is made tangible through his interaction with the 15 year old Amy. Indeed, because Amy is given overall responsibility over him, his changes are as much a reflection on her as they are on his own aptitude for change.
Ledo has a unique effect on those around him. In typical anime fashion for a male lead character, he is strong, silent, and deeply introspective. This makes him romantically fascinating to the young female characters (Amy, as well as Melty and Saaya, Amy’s close friends), and an implicit rival to the male characters for whom he is most comparable (namely, Pinion). Until he has had the chance to prove himself and his true loyalties later in the series’ run, most other characters waver between mild, apprehensive trust and mostly unexpressed distrust. As he comes to them unexpectedly, commanding the most powerful Machine Caliber they have ever seen and with weapons that are beyond their understanding, he is met overall with an expected level of mistrust. Interestingly, the fact that his existence in Gargantia is met with unease does not seem to faze him right away. It is only Amy’s criticism of him, and his continued interaction with her and the mostly-peaceful culture of those on Earth, that seems to cause his deep introspection into his own, often violent tendencies.
The pale skin that Ledo is drawn with provides a unique juxtaposition between himself and those of Gargantia. It overtly tells of his life born and raised in an environment that is both sunless and without joy. The lightness of his skin connotes a level of inexperience with life. Yes, he knows how to fight and can command a Machine Caliber better than those older than himself, yet in Gargantia, to live is to experience the natural world; for the people of the Galactic Alliance, fighting and propagating the species are all that matter.
Gargantia’s main character is interesting not only because of his depth, but because of his elasticity. His ability to change and accept those changes as his new reality is without question. Furthermore, Gargantia could even be said to be a story, not about the hidden and awful ways in which governments wage war on false premises, but about the way truth can be so easily embodied and readily championed by those with the power, potential and youth to enact change.
Amy embodies the spirit and character of the people of Gargantia. She is lively, honest, and pure, making her a perfect foil for the other main character, Ledo. Amy is a 15 year old girl who works primarily as a mail carrier. Much of what she does is all in the effort to support her sick younger brother, Bebel. Even upon Ledo’s arrival, she remains optimistic, not only in him, but in his ability to overcome the violent and dark past instilled in him by the Galactic Alliance. Amy’s perseverance as a character is unique and interesting, yet results in a character that is, overall, flat. There is little dynamism in her character, but that is not a bad thing. Amy’s true purpose is to be the focal point for Ledo, his unequivocal gateway into becoming someone that the people on Gargantia can trust. Despite the many failures that occur with Ledo (and there are many) Amy stands by him, seeking to understand him on a deeper level.
Amy has a unique ability to see the good in other characters. Some of this may be a result from her relatively young age (15), yet it does not stop her from persevering in her attempts to be a continual voice of positivity throughout the anime’s progression. The pureness of her spirit, however, belies the strength of her character and her conviction. She believes strongly in the cultural principles that exist in Gargantia, one focused on community and the goodness in others, despite personal or cultural differences. The people of Gargantia believe so strongly in these principles that they even allow themselves to be bullied by the pirates, much to the chagrin of Ledo. Yet even when the pirates nearly kidnap their leader early on, the people of Gargantia, and especially Amy, are critical of Ledo’s approach. This highlights Amy and her people’s belief that all human life is precious, even the lives of those that seek to do them harm. Much of Amy’s personal drive to succeed comes from her need to protect and care for her sick brother, Bebel. Primarily bedridden, Bebel is Amy’s only family, and she spends most of her time trying to earn money in order to help support him. Indeed, Amy’s selflessness is a particularly important hallmark of her character, yet is also what causes her pairing with Ledo to function the way it does in the story. While her character exudes selflessness and honesty, so indeed does Ledo’s. Yet Amy’s personality and selfless drive are centered on the outcome of peaceful endeavors, in stark contrast to that of Ledo.
Even when Ledo kills a Hideauze that he discovers under the ocean, (a species that the Earth humans recognize exists, and even place on a pedestal as sacred), Amy attempts to sympathize with him, and to continue her efforts in persuading him that killing and waging war are wrong. Although she is crushed by his seeming inability to deny his past, she remains resolute in her desire to get him to change.
Amy fully represents the beliefs of her society, what Ledo’s Machine Caliber, Chamber, identifies in episode 7 as “coexistence, coprosperity”. While this makes her honest and true, it also means that as a character she has very little depth. She is undeniably important to the story and to the development of the plot, but serves mostly as a tool for the dramatic changes that occur within the main character, Ledo.
Pinion exists as one of the most troubled, and most interesting characters in Gargantia. Although he is a minor character, he is the only character, outside of the main character Ledo, that has a significant backstory driving his actions. In later episodes of the anime, we discover that Pinion had a brother who was killed by the Hideauze that inhabit the oceans on Earth. While humanity lives in relative peace with these Hideauze (a stark contradiction to the conflict that exists with the Galactic Alliance in space), Pinion harbors a secret hatred for them and desire for revenge as a result of the death of his brother by their hands. This revenge heavily influences his actions throughout the story, especially after Ledo kills one of the Hideauze during a salvage operation.
While Pinion is a much more dynamic character than most, he is still a secondary character, and essential to the story only in what he does to move the plot forward. His interactions with Ledo are minimal at best, and have very little influence over Ledo’s overall changes, but what he does as a character in relation to the anger that he houses for the Hideauze drives the story forward. Pinion is, for all intents and purposes, little more than a very interesting plot device, but one that is at the least interesting to view. His talent as an engineer and salvager is matched only by his personal drive and tendency for perversion.
Bebel is Amy’s younger brother. Primarily bedridden, he spends the majority of his time reading and learning. Of particular interest is his musical talents. When given a piece of a Hideauze that Ledo has whittled into a flute, Bebel is able to play the instrument as if he has had years of practice with it. At 10 years old, Bebel is young, but uniquely wise beyond his years. As in most cases, adversity brings understanding, and Bebel’s situation lends itself to the development of wisdom at a young age. Like most characters in the story, Bebel’s personality does not change over the course of the story. While he is indeed a flat character, much like his sister Amy he represents the beliefs that exist within Gargantia. Bebel shows innocence about the world around him. While this does not make him ignorant that there are indeed evils and troubles in the world, it allows him to see the world with an importantly different perspective. Indeed, even while others view and treat Ledo with a certain amount of disdain, Bebel’s ability to see beyond the surface and to see others for who they truly are makes him particularly important to the development of the story’s plot. Bebel’s personality puts him into a unique position of being a pseudo-little brother to Ledo. While he shows internal strength over his illness, and a cognizance of the precariousness of his own situation, he presents humbleness in receiving help and the care from others, and especially Ledo.
The 22-year-old Ridget is one of the most internally conflicted character in Gargantia, second only to the main character, Ledo. As second in command of the main body of the Gargantia fleet, she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and takes her job very seriously. When Ledo appears suddenly and presents his extreme and dangerous power to them, she meets this potential threat as one would expect of someone in her position. Ridget is cautious to a fault, mostly due to her insecurities. Ridget is significantly afraid of having to take over command from her mentor, Fleet Commander Fairlock. Unfortunately for Ridget, her fears are soon realized when Commander Fairlock dies suddenly. If any character in Gargantia could be considered as a close second for dynamic changes, it would be Ridget. Cast into the leadership of Gargantia at perhaps its most trying and dangerous time, she is forced to come to terms with the weaknesses that exist in her character. Being so young, her inhibitions are coupled by inexperience, and lacking the support of others only causes her to doubt her own abilities even more. Despite these issues, Ridget was not Commander Fairlock’s protege’ for nothing; she possesses an inner strength and fortitude that make her a perfect commander for the Gargantia fleet at a time when Gargantia needs strong leadership the most.
While there are other characters that exist in the world of Suisei no Gargantia, each of the ones above are essential for getting into the story’s main conflict. Some may even argue that Chamber, Ledo's Machine Caliber, qualifies as an important character to the story as well. Suisei no Gargantia Planet is a short, complex story with well written characters exhibiting all the characteristics that make them both wholly believable and deeply interesting.