Sadly, it’s a disappointment.
Suisei no Gargantia Review
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review
(THERE ARE NO MAJOR SPOILERS)
(Fanservice pictures below. May be NSFW)
Warning! Rant ahead.
NOTE: This review does not meet my standards any longer and will be updated sometime in the future.
Sci-fi drama, space battles, mecha action, slice of life, action, twists, aliens, a most amazing A.I., and more, Suisei no Gargantia encompasses many ideas. However, such an extensive approach when dealt with only 13 episodes can easily lead to nearly all, if not all, of the ideas battling for screen time leading to an unrefined feeling to many aspects of the show. In this review, we’ll be hard pressed trying to highlight all the problems, so highlighting areas where the anime went astray will have to suffice.
Looking back to my first review of Suisei no Gargantia, it’s definitely apparent that this anime has promise, tons of it. Ledo, our main protagonist plays the role of a soldier who, under the orders of the Galactic Alliance, is fighting in a war to eliminate the alien threat known as Hideauze. The visually stunning space battle and the militaristic dogma that marks the beginning of the series contrasted with the shift in tone to a less militaristic and a more free community shows high promises of character development that lean in the direction of confronting one’s own ideals. The idea of Ledo potentially going back to space after experiencing a new life elsewhere and influencing others through his new-found ideas or perhaps even confronting new ones seemed to be exciting at the time. With a very strong opening episode, and Urobuchi writing the first and the last two episodes, even though they warned people that it wouldn’t be nearly as dark as his other works, I felt compelled to continue what I, and many others, thought to be a potential anime of the season.
For the first few episodes, Suisei no Gargantia sails smoothly by getting Ledo some much needed character development. Episode 4 was especially great at getting this across making me think that it could only get better with future episodes. Still, the lingering feeling of the anime throwing aside its mecha action side since the first episode made me a bit uneasy. But it’s not the first time for a show to discard one side only to revisit it later when the foundations of the characters are fleshed out. However, this is where the problems begin to arise and the roots of over-diversification and uncertainty of what it wants to be starts to occur.
From episode 4 onwards, Suisei no Gargantia begins to lose its direction starting with some fanservice episodes that were weaker in terms of character progression compared to the previous few episodes. That’s not to say that fanservice in and of itself is bad, but it took away from the important aspects of the show. Since this is a 13 episode anime, every episode is a valuable resource that must be used wisely, but Suisei no Gargantia seems to lose its management over these resources more and more. Sometimes, it would focus on the side-characters that ultimately do little for the anime. Other times it would focus on the regression of Ledo and his duty to his cause and sometimes it will focus on the aliens. This may have worked out well if they were joined together smoothly, but it feels like discontinued sections that don’t flow well with each other.
Moreover, what’s also a miss is just how uninteresting and unlikable the characters are. Amy, the girl who is supposed to open Ledo’s eyes to the environment around him and who is supposed to be a “main character” is severely downplayed which downgrades her to a supporting character in my books. Heck, they even tried to develop her only to make it seem unnecessary and melodramatic. Pinion is just a douche, Bellows did nothing, Ridget is okay, Saya is useless, Melty is useless, and the list goes on. The only one that is above all of the other side characters has got to be Rackage because, you know, of her rack. I understand that they can’t be developed that much given the time restrictions, but at the very least they should have made the characters more likable, dynamic, or interesting. They just all feel really bland. There are other anime that have very likable characters even though they don’t get lots of screen-time (T.K.).
What about Ledo and Chamber? I can’t deny the fact that Ledo’s development starts off strong, but it sharply declines by the mid-point only to regress, which would have been fine if that were a catalyst for further development but it wasn’t, and suddenly jump to another state of realization and “growth.” There isn’t actual “growth” by the end. It’s more like he suddenly realizes the fact and takes a sudden turn which is a big shame considering that the first few episodes had big promise for Ledo’s gradual and subtle change in mind. What’s more surprising is how Chamber, the artificial intelligence, rivals Ledo’s “development.” How? Well, without spoiling much let’s just say that Chamber causes much of Ledo’s “development” and much of this “development” is really shaped by words on Chamber’s side that have nothing to do with the first few episodes that pave the road towards character development nicely. Yes, it’s not a good thing that this is the case. Anyone can make a character “develop” just by having philosophies spoken to him or her that changes them, but such an approach will have a tough time going beyond mediocrity.
From the first half of the anime, it looks like character development is what they’re focusing on. Then, after that, it’s ecchi with some romcom which is arguably fine since it did bring about some character progression. It then becomes something else entirely and revisits the conflict with the aliens literally regressing Ledo back to the way he was in the beginning. The second half may as well have been a standalone separate from the first with how discontinuous the two sections are. Then, being unprepared, I was lulled by the twist that occurs in all of this mess and thought it was a good one, but it was in fact something used to shock the audience with its suddenness rather than amaze at it’s brilliance. In the end, the regression that could have been used to promote growth and the build up in the first half is discarded and swift development is brought to our main protagonist that only makes me sigh at the loss of opportunity.
To put a bit more positivity in this review, I have to say that I did enjoy the mecha action scenes and Chamber the majestic artificial intelligence that makes the show just a bit more awesome. The animations are nice to look at with a few hiccups along the way, and the soundtrack is well done especially during the last episode. Now, I have been really negative in this review and that’s mainly because I had high expectations for Suisei no Gargantia since the beginning and it failed to deliver when it clearly could have if it didn’t have such discontinuity between the first half and the second half while focusing on some more profound character growth or if it just stuck to a theme and went with it. It tries to stuff in too much with far too little time and has way too many themes as a result of over-diversification which leads to the discontinuity. The ending two episodes are better than the other second half episodes, but those two episodes are just not enough to carry the show.
Suisei no Gargantia Review Recommendation
It’s very difficult for me to say whether to try this or not. The first half holds promise, but by the end, it’s a mess. I didn’t care for the characters much by the end and probably neither will a lot of you. I can’t even suggest mecha fans or slice of life fans to watch it either as this anime is all over the place with the audience its trying to adhere to. You could try the first few episodes, as they’re not bad, and whenever you think it’s going downhill, you can probably drop it because it’s not going to get any better until the very end. Even then, that’s only if you have enough time on your hands. If you are someone who only watches a few anime every season, skip this one for sure. Still, I feel guilty even trying even to give any incentive to watch this anime as it’s really a big disappointment and no one should tread this path. I suppose one could watch it for learning how to not write a story? Nonetheless, If you do plan to watch it, which I will advise against with the reasons I’ve already stated, please, please do not go into this anime with high expectations garnered from these first few episodes or from the fact that it’s an Urobuchi work. I have to say that while he’s not responsible for writing the whole project, it is his weakest work that I’ve seen. And as Atomic Dwarf recommends in the comments below: “Conclusion: If you like mecha then watch the first and last episode of this. After that go watch Pacific Rim for your much needed dose of mecha action.”
Suisei no Gargantia Review Conclusion
Maybe it’s a good point that having Urobuchi write the first and last two episodes disrupted the overall flow of the anime, but regardless, Suisei no Gargantia is a missed opportunity for some great character development that may have been much more enlightening and profound than what has been shown. It’s one thing for an anime to be terrible all the way through, but it’s truly disheartening to see such potential crushed by trying to do too much. I want to like Suisei no Gargantia. I really do. Sadly, its misshapen characters and the jumbled plot leaves me with quite the opposite feeling by the end from what I had at the end of the first episode. As much as I’d like to say that I hope future anime learn from this one’s mistakes, there will undoubtedly be another time when the same problems will arise. Perhaps, I’ll revisit this review another time once I am more proficient at reviewing and can tackle these issues more efficiently instead of being jumbled in the same way as the anime is, but my stance will probably remain. Suisei no Gargantia is a missed opportunity indeed.