Getting back to anime, word has been getting around that Gargantia is the best show of the Spring 2013 season: it probably is, and not just because the mascot character is a flying squirrel (although that helps.)
No. of Episodes Aired: 4
Streaming on: Crunchyroll (was there any doubt?)
Alternate Title Suggestions: LOL Global Warming, Space Fish Out of Soldier Water, Please Don’t Kill Everybody Urobuchi
I’ve begun to notice that I tend to like post-apocalyptic shows. Whether it’s because said shows tend to have something to say about the way we live pre-apocalypse, or because I’m just terrified of a total end to civilization and I like the reassurance that life will probably go on in some form, I can’t say.
Gargantia‘s interesting in that it’s basically two post-apocalypse shows for the price of one…or is it? The first potential future we see, Ledo’s hyper militarized branch of humanity– where the weak are euthanized from birth and children spend their entire lives in military service– could just be a result of the constant war with the squidlike aliens, with no one traumatic, devastating event in the past to serve as the apocalypse. However, I would argue that any society that could live the way Ledo’s does has suffered a spiritual apocalypse if not a literal one, so as far as I’m concerned, we’re dealing with two post-apocalyptic worlds.
The other world, a completely water-covered Earth (presumably after the polar ice caps have melted, although I don’t believe that’s ever explicitly stated) is more like what you kind of hope the world will be like after the apocalypse: the population seems small, opportunities are limited, but at least people are still living together and trying to make a go of it. People are still having children with the expectation that those children will have a place worth growing up in, so we aren’t in the world of Humanity Has Declined, at the very least.
Anyway, Ledo’s exile on Earth would be a typical fish-out-of-water story, but usually in those sort’s of stories, there’s some point of reference: The fish, as it were, is either a modern-day person sent to the future, or to another world entirely, or the fish is an outsider we get to see react to the modern-day world. In other words, the viewer is usually pretty familiar with either the fish or the water, but in Garantia we aren’t, and that’s unusual. I’m not going to say it hasn’t been done (and I certainly haven’t read enough sci-fi literature to be able to say that with an ounce of certainty), but it’s definitely novel enough that it makes for compelling watching.
I’m not sure how I feel about the characters yet; on the one hand, I appreciate the fact that everyone seems to be at least reasonably intelligent and react to situations in fairly sensible ways, but I just don’t know if I really care about anyone yet. Right now, Amy could fall off that hang-glider thing she’s always using and drown and I wouldn’t care much (actually, I think I’d mostly feel sorry for the squirrel.) I think this show’s success with world-building may have come somewhat at the expense of character, but considering the kind of story I think writer Gen Urobuchi is trying to tell, that was probably a wise choice. I’m interested to see if the characters will have grown on me in a few more episodes, though.
Last note, I love, LOVE the way communication is handled in this series. Not just the fact that Ledo’s handy translation device allows for the characters to start communicating right off the bat, but the fact that people actually TALK TO EACH OTHER. Maybe this is particularly noticeable for me because it was so glaringly absent in Evangelion 3.33 (and more on that another day), but it’s so nice that characters actually tell each other important things in a reasonable time frame. For example, when Ledo vaporized the pirates, after taking an appropriate moment to recoil in horror from that, both Amy and Bellows made him understand why, from their perspective, that was wrong, without demonizing him.
It’s shocking how rare that sort of reasonable dialogue is in anime; I was half expecting them all to turn on him, like “You murderous butcher, get off our ship!”, then there would be a really long, drawn-out arc where he would have to win back their trust by saving them from a bunch of shrimp pirates all the way later in episode 8, or some other bullshit. If people continue to have conversations that make sense, this could be the show of the year– and how disturbing is it that I’m saying that without a trace of irony?
Wow, I just depressed myself. Stupid apocalypse anime.