The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Suisei no Gargantia: Reflections on the first two episodes

The story begins in the distant future in the far reaches of the galaxy. The Human Galactic Alliance has been constantly fighting for its survival against a grotesque race of beings called “Hidiaazu.” During an intense battle, the young lieutenant Ledo and his humanoid mobile weapon Chamber are swallowed up into a distortion of time and space. Waking from his artificially induced hibernation, Ledo realizes that he has arrived on Earth, the planet on the lost frontier. On this planet that was completely flooded by the seas, people live in fleets of giant ships, salvaging relics from the seas’ depths in order to survive. Ledo arrives on one of the fleets called Gargantia. With no knowledge of the planet’s history or culture, he is forced to live alongside Amy, a 15-year-old girl who serves as a messenger aboard the Gargantia fleet. To Ledo, who has lived a life where he knows nothing but fighting, these days of peace continue to surprise him.

This is the official description, and had been one of the most looked forward to series on my list of things to watch for the Spring 2013 season. The only problem was that I was up to my neck in shows to catch up on, and as such, had virtually no time to follow it. However, as I am only following a single series to follow this summer, I am presented with sufficient time to go back and look at some of the anime from the Spring season: Suisei no Garantia is one of them, having caught my eye two weeks into the Spring and raising my interest in a science fiction anime, where the other offerings did not.

  • Ledo is an lieutenant in the HGA forces, operating one of many mobile suits. The scale of the first battle brought to mind the opening few moments in Samurai 7, which similarly featured a massive battle in the first episode where the protagonists are introduced.

  • Chamber is the name of the Ledo’s machine calibers (a mobile suit) and its AI. As the episodes progress, I found Chamber to be capable and witty, similar to Cortana from Halo and Alfred from The Dark Knight Triology.

  • Amy is a15-year-old messenger who meets Ledo when he wakes up from hibernation and serves as his guide. She becomes Ledo’s first friend, and from all the members of Gargantia, she is the one who gets closer to him, usually keeping him company and encouraging his efforts to fit himself into the fleet’s environment.

  • Anime has an unusual tendency to accentuate age differences. To the left is Bellows, the 18-year-old leader of the Gargantia’s excavation team.

  • “Back off! I’ve got hostages!” “Do you have any better hostages?” -Exchange between Roberto and the police from Futurama.

  • Ledo expresses total and utter surprise after realising that he is on a habitable world. Amy is holding Grace here, her pet squirrel, after Ledo is cornered. Despite their numbers, Ledo’s machine calibre is so far ahead of the Gargantia’s technology that Chamber has noted it to be possible for Ledo to single-handedly take down the Gargantia’s entire fleet without much effort.

  • It may come across as strange that the language barrier that exists between Ledo and the Gargantia’s crews is depicted in a manner as to give them perfect Japanese when speaking with others familiar with their language: to one another, what has been said to be scrambled German is heard.

  • Ridget (to the right) is a 22 year-old high rank officer at the Gargantia, she is Fleet Commander Fairlock’s second in command and daughter of his predecessor, Chevron.

  • There are a handful of characters I have yet to introduce, but for now, the first thing that impressed me about Suisei no Gargantia is its depiction of a people that has adapted exceptionally well in response to the radically altered Earth’s surface; all the familiar constructs of contemporary society are there.

  • Saaya (left) and Melty (right) are Amy’s friends and fellow messengers. They’re remarkably quick on the uptake with respect to convincing Amy to attempt and communicate with Ledo.

Insofar, Suisei no Garantia is an intriguing series that will fulfill my wish to see a science fiction anime. This time around, the setup is essentially the opposite to that of Futurama: our protagonist finds himself on a technologically-inferior world and finds himself out of place with the customs and language. Of course, no actual time travel is involved, contrasting Futurama, where Philip J. Fry ends up a thousand years in the future after being frozen, but at least the future citizens of Earth can still speak English. Here, the inhabitants of Gargantia have experienced a divergence in language: I’ve heard that language shifts at a gradual but brisk enough pace such that languages become difficult to interpret after 500 years, and beyond a thousand years, is effectively unintelligible. This element is depicted very well, with what appears to be mangled German being used in place of Japanese to represent this communication barrier.

  • Graphics have come a very long way, even in things like anime: Chamber’s movements are highly fluid but integrate seamlessly with the other animated components in the anime, while the backgrounds are worthy of Bioshock Infinite in terms of detail. However, despite the Steam Summer Sale, I did not pick up Bioshock Infinite. Thus, the comparisons will have to end here.

  • Amy offers Ledo what appears to be raw fish. Ledo is completely out of place here and finds himself in the opposite situation as Fry did; instead of a colourful spaceship crew to help him adjust to this world, Ledo depends on Chamber, whose algorithms allow him to decipher the Gargantian’s ancient language.

  • Amy provides more details concerning the Earth’s history; after a major glaciation event, a portion of the Earth’s population sought refuge amongst the stars, leaving behind others. Eventually, the ice melted and became a vast ocean; the survivor’s on Earth constructed massive sea-faring vessels to salvage old technology from below

  • Amy explains to Ledo the phenomenon that is said to be the Gargantia’s power source.

  • The night skies are shown to have far more stars than is visible even in the darkest places on the planet. From where I live, the maximum apparent magnitude of stars that can be seen with the naked eye is a magnitude 5, although on some evenings, the Milky Way Galaxy is visible.

  • The reason I draw the Bioshock Infinite comparisons is not because of the story or atmosphere, but the colours in every scene. I’ve only seen some of the gameplay footage, but in both cases, the colours are vibrant and serve to greatly enhance the scenery.

  • Near the second episode’s end, pirates show up and board vessels in the Gargantia fleet. At Amy’s request, Ledo sorties in Chamber. However, his actions are driven purely by his training, and as such, he chooses the most efficient but immoral choice: killing the boarders.

  • Equipped with technology far beyond the others’ comprehension, Chamber is able to automatically detect and target individual pirates with point-defense weapons and eliminate them without causing unreasonable collateral damage to the vessels.

  • The machine calibers appear to be even more sophisticated than Gundams. At the end of two episodes, I find this to be a solid anime in all departments that matter. Of course, now that I’ve got Skyrim and Alan Wake, I might start falling behind in anime again…

I am considering the first two episodes simply because the second episode is tied quite closely to the first one with respect to exposition. Much of the first episode is dedicated towards depicting the scale of the interstellar war that Ledo and the Human Galactic Alliance are involved in. It’s a brilliant light show that brings to mind the first battle we saw in Samurai 7, with hundreds of vessels on screen and laser illuminating every corner. The mysterious entities the humans are fighting, the Hidiaazu, bring to mind the Flood from Halo. However, soon after Ledo is separated from his battle-group, the anime immediately begins to give off a BioShock feel. The Earth, it is explained, now is home to a seafaring human civilisation, as a result of glaciation activity and then total re-melting of the aforementioned glaciers. Of course, calculations put the change in sea levels to be around 200 to 250 feet higher if all the glaciers melted, so the situation in the anime might be a little more extreme than projected, but nonetheless, it does set up an interesting premise. The primary strong point insofar seems to be the closely-knit community shared between the Gargantia’s inhabitants, and perhaps a more subtle element, the divergent language that precludes Ledo’s capacity to communicate with them. As the proverbial fish out of the water, Ledo finds himself at odds with these humans, but with assistance from Chamber, he eventually familiarises himself with their customs. Chamber is somewhat similar to Cortana (Halo) as an AI, providing support where he can, and catalyses Ledo’s understanding of the Gargantia’s community. Suisei no Gargantia is perhaps best contrasted with Gulliver’s Travels in content, although presently, I do not see any satire of human society in Gargantia. In fact, one might say that Gargantia is the opposite: a community that values balance and respect.

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