Strange title… strange show… but in a very good way.
What They Say:
From Production IG (Psycho Pass, Blood The Last Vampire, Ghost in the Shell) and the Creator of Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero comes an action-packed sci-fi adventure like you’ve never seen before. While fighting an intense inter-galactic war, a mecha pilot was accidentally warped into a space-time neither he nor the computer of his mecha could recognize. After waking up from a long-time hibernation, he found himself trapped on a planet, with human residents talking in an unknown form of language, using inferior technologies, and — most shocking to him — naturally breathable air…
The DVD release has a 2.0 English stereo track and a 2.0 Japanese stereo track. There are no issues I noticed with the sound quality in either track, with no problem synching in with the subtitles, and the 2.0 release is overall quite good – it is a shame that with the amount of atmosphere especially in the later episodes we don’t have a 5.1 track. Otherwise a perfectly acceptable release.
The video quality of Gargantia is mostly top notch, great animation set in an aspect ratio for a widescreen format, and it is shown very well with no issues of slowdown or synching with the audio. However, there were a few noticeable instances on the first disc with the first few episodes that the subtitles seems to be a bit slow and were briefly written over the previous subtitles. This was only for the first three episodes on the first disc and no issues after that, but was unusual and more importantly noticeable. Very fluid animation and colourful though so it is a minor issue.
We get a nice sea atmosphere in the background of the title screen in the middle as we get Chamber in the middle, Amy to the left and Ledo to the right – clips of the show are shown in the middle left and right with the selections in the lower middle of Play All, Episode Selection and Set Up also when you select a sub menu, they all vanish and replaced by the new menu. No problems with selection from the main menu, sub menus or from the show itself and the design is very eye-catching.
There were no extras for this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A few anime I’ve watched have been pleasant surprises – this is one of them. A strange name but a decent concept, bringing the ideas of a human out of war into a peaceful land when he has only known war has been done before, but whilst there are a few comic things down in the expense of our hero, the surprising twist and how the series ends does catch you off guard when you think it is just going to be a relaxing and developing character in this new world…
The character in question is named Ledo, a handsome young man who is a solider for a group called the Galactic Alliance of Humanity who works in space in this apparent utopia called Avalon. However, in the first episode this peace is being threatened by a group of aliens known as the Hideauze and in this attack, his superior Kugel, basically forces him to retreat. Not knowing what to do, he cannot return back and instead is cast out into space…
…fast forward 6 months later, we find him and his giant robot, an intelligent hunk of metal named Chamber, has been salvaged from a sea by a group of people on what is known as Gargantia. They are trying to open it up but the metal is so advanced the people do not know of what it is. Ledo eventually wakes up, but when he leaves, he is seen and kidnaps one of the girls, a pretty young lady named Amy, as he uses Chambers AI to try and learn the language of what he sees as a primitive tribe. However, whilst being chased by the natives, he is shocked when he navigates the area…and sees peace…he breathes in clean air, and the planet is habitable outside of war. Realising this unique situation, Ledo and Chamber surrender begin to try and decipher this new culture and where they are…
Ledo of course has to adapt, learning language, shock of the fact these natives use animal corpses for food (chicken, fish) but Amy seems to realise his issues and takes concern of him, explaining that he is landed on Earth, where according to the history books on his planet, was no longer habitable. Amy gives him a true history lesson (and the first sign that Ledos’ utopia may not be as forthright as he thinks) but when the Gargantia is attacked by pirates, Ledo takes them out thinking it would be a way to gain their trust. Instead, by killing of them, they fear retaliation as Ledo realises there are more way to deal with enemies here than just brutal destruction. When a rebuttal does happen, Ledo manages to adjust and able to repel them without warrant deaths, and he slowly becomes to learn about the people, the language, and this new life.
At this point, the anime seems to pull in the direction of slice-of-life, with Ledo trying to fit in like a fish out of water. Chamber is being used by the local salvagers (the busty Bellows and the poor sap Pinion) whilst the military commanders there wonder what to do with him (the one in particular Ridget, seems to like him but her older commanders are a bit more touchy with him) due to Ridget putting a bill on him for the damage is caused. It is here as Ledo tries to work that he is introduced to a new bit of society that he is unfamiliar with, the fact the sick aren’t discarded by the military and instead are looked after by their families. Seeing Amys’ little brother Bevel and talking to him gives Ledo a new look on life and a potential memory of the past that he may have wanted to hide…
There is a lot of silliness and stuff in between this, such as the beach episode where fanservice is ahoy (and Ledo amusingly being chased in an area that is a gay part of the town – let’s just say his looks bring about some company) whether it is all the females in swimsuits or belly dancer outfits. But as the series seems to head in that direction, a Hideauze is apparently spotted in the ocean and Ledo returns to his military mindset to hunt it. It turns out to be a whalesquid, but the similarities are eerie, and Pinion seems to see them as a sore spot for him whilst everyone else sees them as sacred. This allows Pinion to use Ledo to try and kill them and seek out the treasures in the underwater labyrinths (though he has a more personal motive as well) – this leads to a death in the military and Ridget having to take over, Ledo leaving the Gargantia despite Amy’s pleas…and the shocking reveal of the Hideauze and what they really are, changing Ledos’ mentality completely…even when Kugel turns out to also be on Earth, the twists really hit hard and fast by the last few episodes.
I won’t spoil too much now but I really wish this series had been longer. It does really well with the 13 episodes (plus two OVAs which flesh out Ridgets’ past and what happened to Kugel when he arrived on Earth which explains perfectly why he does what he does) but I felt especially considering the twists at the end that a few more episodes bringing more of Ledos’ turmoil between his old and new life would have made this perfect. The story of a fish out of water is nothing new, especially with the military theme (Sousuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic springs immediately to mind when thinking of Ledo, though Ledo adapts a lot quicker) but the idea of what is truly human, how cultures from different worlds can combust – it is easy to see what may seem evil to one culture is seen as heroic to another. Whether it is negotiating with pirates vs. flat out killing them, or worshipping potential deities vs. destroying them before they change their minds about peace, Ledo has to deal with a lot of things – language barrier, adaption to culture and eating meat, sexual desire – none of these things seem to have ever matter to our lead as he had a one track mind basically on his military experience. Fortunately, he does develop well – his interactions with Amy and Bebel in particular gradually humanize him whilst he still had his past embedded in his brain, which comes up when Kugel has apparently survived and what the whale squids are – but because of his experiences he is able to think more logically and once he discovers what the whalesquids and by de facto, Hideauze are, then the fan is definitely hit.
The story covers really well in a one cour series – maybe a bit too much on the filler side in terms of Ledo adapting which seems to be an excuse for some fanservice (granted, the scene where he has to get some sauce for the barbeque is funny, albeit a bit stereotypical) and it does have to tighten the climax a bit, but it does as best as it can in character development. Pinion for example, seem a selfish salvager, but when he leaves Gargantuia, he develops both badly (as an egotistical worker who believes he is invincible with Ledo on his side) and well (when you see his reasons for hunting the whalesquids, and also knowing his decision whether he should be with Kugels’ group would be a bad one) – whilst Amy, whilst a fun and lovable character, seems to suffer a bit because she is basically there as Ledos’ love interest – but you can see the heartbreak after some good time the two of them have spent together as the tears flow, and her interactions definitely have an effect on Ledo which climaxes into the big fight scene near the end. Even the robot, Chamber, has a distinct personality and he evolves as well – making the final battle even sadder when he says a particular line at the end…
Gargantias’ main weakness is its length. It does enough to make all the side characters interesting (Ridget, Bellows, Pinion, Bebel) but not enough to make them outstanding and well known – only Ledo, Chamber and Amy seem to be on the screen long enough to easily be recognised and Amy as mentioned only seems to be seen as Ledos’ love interest. However Ledos’ development as he goes from what he perceived as the perfect planet to Earth and how he changes throughout the entire series is where the show works. It is a perfect series in terms of a main lead and how he develops, combined with some excellent colours and animation, some good fight sequences when needed, and some really surprising twists due to his discoveries. With a few more episodes, would have been a classic – as it is, it is simply very good.
But that is more than enough to enjoy.
Gargantia is a series that suffers a bit from the fact that only one character is fully developed. Fortunately that is our lead and his new encounters with many people help him and the series out. Whilst needing to flesh out a bit more, it does what it can in one cour and does it well, combined sea expeditions, battles with pirates, comedy, fanservice, action, drama and actually surprises into one lump sum and does it nearly perfectly. Ledo is a great lead in terms of development and with his robot Chamber by his side, this duo jumps straight through the screen and you follow an epic journey alongside with him. Definitely worth a shot.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 29th, 2014
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.