The opening scene of Suisei no Gargantia introduces us to both the main character, ensign Ledo, and the primary “enemy”, the hideously ugly and tentacled Hideauze (pronounced hee-day-ows). An epic space battle ensues, and the viewer is confronted with the fierceness with which both the humans of the Galactic Empire and their enemy fight each other to destruction. For humanity, the war is seemingly a losing one. In this opening battle we are introduced to the amazing technology that humanity has developed, including massive laser weapons, incredibly strong mechas, and scientifically-plausible wormhole technology for intergalactic space travel.
During the first few minutes of the series, we learn about the current situation for humanity. Humankind was forced to abandon earth over a millennium ago due to deteriorating environmental conditions. However, during their travels in space to find a new home, they encounter, and begin war with, a space-faring alien species.. Officially, no one knows where the Hideauze came from, or why they and humankind are fighting in an endless war for survival. As a result, humanity now exists on a space-based, yet giant habitat called Avalon, a place for rest, relaxation, and species propagation.
As an ensign in the Galactic Alliance military, Ledo’s goals are the same as those of any other soldier: service to the Alliance, with the hope of eventual retirement on Avalon. Unfortunately, during the battle with the Hideauze at the beginning of the first episode, Ledo’s heroics in covering the fleet’s retreat result in his slipping into the fleet’s escape wormhole at the last second. Instead of returning with the fleet, Ledo awakens months later inside his Machine Caliber (what the story calls the Galactic Alliance’s mechas) named Chamber. He discovers that he is in a large, enclosed metal room. His Machine Caliber is covered in humans, speaking a language he cannot understand. While Chamber’s artificial intelligence is able to determine that the language is related to an ancient form of human dialect, it is unable to determine their location.
After their failed attempts to even put a dent in Chamber, the unknown human mechanics leave for the night. This gives Ledo the opportunity that he needs to sneak out of Chamber and attempt to discover where he actually is. During his covert mission, he is discovered by the series’ other main character, Amy. Having snuck into the room to check out the mysterious machine, Amy comes into direct contact with the pale-faced Ledo. Miscommunication causes Ledo to kidnap Amy, and begins a run-and-chase between Ledo and the security forces keeping watch. As a result, Ledo, while carrying Amy, escapes outdoors. Here, he discovers the startling truth that begins the development of the plot’s rising action and the onus for all of the conflicts that occur for the remainder of the story. The reality is that Ledo has somehow landed on Earth, and Earth, instead of being an uninhabitable wasteland as he has always been taught, is instead a glistening water world overflowing with life, beauty, and more importantly other humans.
The story primarily centers around Ledo’s discovery of himself. As a citizen of the Galactic Alliance, Ledo is robbed of personhood. Life for him revolved around fighting the Hideauze and eventually retiring to help with breeding purposes. The few months that he spends on Earth expose him to new ideas that begin to slowly change his perspective of the true nature of the war with the Hideauze, as well as who the real enemy might be.
Interesting and Unique Features
New viewers to Suisei no Gargantia will find many aspects about the story that differentiate it from other anime in the same genres. Much like most science fiction and mecha/military anime, Suisei no Gargantia has no basis in our modern reality. As it is set in the future, there is very little of our own world that we can recognize. However, the story writers and artists paid exceptional attention to detail regarding smaller aspects of the anime that may go unnoticed by the casual viewer. It is these small details that add to the high quality of this anime, and ones that, when noticed, help viewers to understand the time and attention that went into crafting the story’s plot, settings and characters.
The animation style and drawing for Suisei no Gargantia is nothing short of beautiful. The colors are clean; the lines are crisp. The details on the characters provide an interesting way of distinguishing them, and even give subtle indications of their backgrounds. Because the anime is short, and the story takes place in what is likely a few months, it is somewhat difficult to get the full background and history of all of the main characters, including the main character, Ledo.
The other main character Amy and her friends provide an excellent example of the character details offered in this anime that hint at interesting backstories. Amy and her friends Saaya and Melty each have a particular aspect to their skin coloring that directly reveals a lifetime spent in the sun: rosy, suntanned cheeks and knees. As sky couriers (the Gargantia version of airmail carriers), each girl’s faces and knees are directly exposed to sunlight on a daily basis. This is a factor of the way they sit on their gliders.
Eighteen-year-old Bellows, another female character in the story, has a similar coloring. Although she is not a sky courier, she is an excavator, a career path on Gargantia dedicated to digging up lost relics from Earth’s past that are laid across the ocean floor. For Bellows, this connotes days spent managing her excavating teams. This detail can be directly contrasted with the character Pinion, a male excavator from Gargantia whose role in the story drives much of the plot in the second half of the series. Although Pinion is also an excavator, he spends much more of his time indoors as the primary mechanic of the floating city’s “yunburo” (the Earth humans’ term for their mechas) fleet, or inside one of the yunburos himself.
Alternatively, Ledo’s skin tone reveals the nature of a life spent in space. With little access to the directed rays of a sun, he and those like him in space are extremely pale. While this cause for his overtly pale skin is never mentioned, it is deductively obvious, and a testament to the attention series director Kazuya Murata (Eureka Seven, Dennou Coil) has designed into the story’s characters. When Ledo arrives on Earth, the stark contrast between his skin tone with that of Amy’s draws the attention of the viewer. This helps the viewer easily draw conclusions as to the nature of life on Gargantia, and that of the spaced-based Galactic Alliance citizens.
As far as setting details go, the vast majority of the story takes place on Earth and either on Gargantia or on other giant floating barges. As the entire planet is a water world, the remaining humans are forced to live on the ships. Where and how these ships came to be is never fully established in the story. However, we do gain deep insight into the age of the ships. In many episodes, we can see small, seemingly insignificant details drawn onto the walls. Rust is a key feature of the Gargantia fleet. Indeed, it is everywhere and on everything. The ubiquity of rust covering nearly every part of the ship reveals both the old age of the ship, and the fact that these ships are not easily replaced. The manufacturing capability of humanity has been severely diminished. With no land, mining is an impossibility, and metal is scarce. While a minor detail, this is impressively important to both the story, and the culture of the people of Gargantia and Earth. The people of Gargantia balk at the idea of destroying the ships of even the pirates who raid and attack them. Because both ships and human life are both scarce, destroying ships and people are both viewed with general disdain. There are even hints that some characters, such as Bellows, would rather be raped than to see the death of another human or the destruction of the precious resource of ships. For Bellows in particular, this is shown in episode 2. Despite being saved from a violent act of rape by pirate, she expresses anger and regret over Ledo’s use of deadly force to accomplish the task.
Culture and Language
Suisei no Gargantia also deals with the development of culture and languages in a much more realistic way than most anime. After having spent thousands of years separated by time and countless light years of space, both human societies have developed completely unique and distinguishable languages. How the story deals with this is completely unique. In the first episode, where the language barriers are primarily present, the story gives us an audio perspective of the languages from both sides. When Ledo hears Amy and the other humans talking, what we hear is what he hears: seemingly incomprehensible babble. This holds true when the citizens of Gargantia, and Amy in particular, hear Ledo speaking. It sounds like gibberish. Instead of just having all of the characters speak Japanese (or English, for those watching the anime dubbed) and force the viewer into a situation of suspending our disbelief, we are instead confronted with languages that makes as little sense to us as they do to the characters. While Ledo does eventually learn Earth-based humans’ language with the help of the Chamber A.I., it takes time and effort, something that the audience can appreciate as a realistic scenario based on the situation. All stories that deal with similar situations have different ways of dealing with the language barriers that would likely occur. Suisei no Gargantia’s handling of it is not something you’re likely to find almost any other anime.
Finally, the development of an artificial intelligence is something most anime tend to shy away from. While many anime have A.I. in them, these primarily exist as fully-intelligent androids. How these androids gained sentience from a more simplistic computer intelligence is often not explored. However, Suisei no Gargantia takes the question of sentience very seriously, and it becomes a major subplot for the story. Chamber’s own sentience develops over the course of the story. While it begins as a dispassionate machine intelligence, its experiences on Earth with the humans force it to come face-to-face with human morality, something that up until now it never had to experience. Indeed, when situations arise that completely conflict with its programming, it is forced to make decisions of right and wrong on its own. The question of sentience is ever-present within the subplot of the anime, and creates an interesting story focus, particularly in the story’s climax.
Similar Anime Titles
As a mecha/military and post-apocalyptic space science fiction anime, Suisei no Gargantia shares commonalities with many different anime series. First and foremost, fans of the Eureka Seven series will enjoy the design, structure and functionality of the Machine Calibers and the combination of a mecha title with intense and emotional storyline. The similarities here are not completely coincidental, as both anime were directed by Kazuya Murata.
Fans of these genres will also find some commonality in the anime Aldnoah.Zero. As with Eureka Seven, Aldnoah.Zero shares a common factor on the production team, this time with the plot-twisting story writer Gen Urobochi, a.k.a, the “Urobutcher”. Urobochi is well known for creating plotlines that takes unexpected and dramatic turns in the lead up to climax. Fans of Urobochi’s animes, which also includes Fate/Zero, will find that Suisei no Gargantia provides that same, unexpected and exciting twist once the climax hits.
Much like Suisei no Gargantia, Neon Genesis Evangelion combines a mecha/military action with a post-apocalyptic setting. When combined, this creates the perfect setting for interesting potential regarding the future and fate of humanity within both anime.
A wasted earth and fierce, mutant monsters make Chrome Shelled Regios a good companion anime for Suisei no Gargantia. Although Earth has mostly recovered from its apocalypse in Gargantia, in Chrome Shelled Regios, the apocalypse is still in its main throes. The mutant enemies in both series are nonetheless fearsome and deadly.
Who Should Watch
Although it has hints of humor in key moments, Suisei no Gargantia is just about as thematically serious and emotionally heavy as an anime can get. It deals with very mature concepts, and is certainly not for light thinkers. If you’re into anime that will challenge your brain, throw you for a loop halfway through the story, and take you on an emotional thrill ride with the main character, check this one out. You will not be disappointed.