Culture shock is king in this science fiction TV anime from 2013 with series composition by Gen Urobuchi
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Picking a new anime to watch isn't as difficult as being stranded on an unfamiliar world surrounded by a foreign culture, but a little guidance certainly couldn't hurt. When you're feeling lost in space, let “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” be your friendly robot guide. Each week we provide additional information and cultural context to help anime fans decide whether or not they'd like to take an unknown series for a test drive.
What's Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet?
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is a 2013 science fiction / mecha TV anime with direction by Kazuya Murata (Eureka Seven) and animation by Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex). Crunchyroll describes the series as follows:
In the distant future, a planet covered almost entirely by oceans, known as Earth, grows in space. Ledo, a boy who has known nothing but fighting all his life, saw the sea there for the first time. On its vast, faintly green waters, men organize huge naval fleets and live modest but active lives. Due to language and cultural barriers, Ledo lives as a lonely foreigner... but he's not alone. Ledo is just beginning his days on this green planet, asking what he must do to survive here, and what he is living for.
Beginning in media res, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet thrusts the audience into a galaxy-spanning war between the Galactic Alliance of Humankind and the bizarre, alien entities known as the Hideauze. It then pulls a quick switcheroo when a hyper-space accident strands the main character, a young soldier named Ledo, on a peaceful planet that knows nothing of this conflict.
Initially, the story of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet focuses on Ledo overcoming cultural shock with the help of the natives of the Gargantia Fleet and the aid of Chamber, the artificial intelligence installed within his battle mech. As the series progresses, new mysteries are introduced, and ultimately themes of individual free-will versus blind obedience to authority are explored.
Some of Gargantia's greatest strengths are its production design and its sense of world-building. The attention to detail is painstaking, not just in the look of the migratory fleets which the humans of Earth call their home, but also in the culture of the societies that have evolved on-board them.
In Gargantia of the Verdurous Planet, we see an intimate portrait of how a salvage-based civilization on a flooded planet survives. We learn not only how people work and struggle, but also what they do in their leisure time. Even details such as how the fleet gathers fresh water and how the fleet celebrates a particularly bountiful fishing catch are explored.
One of the most interesting aspects of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is the disrupting influence of technology on civilization. Chamber is orders of magnitude more powerful than any of the guns, cannons, or robot suits possessed by the fleets of Earth, and the introduction of such overwhelming firepower has political, social, and economic consequences that ripple through every layer of not just Gargantia's society, but those of other fleets as well. Watching these ripples play out is half the joy of the series.
The Gen Urobuchi Swerve.
Gen “Urobutcher” Urobuchi provides the series composition for Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, and if you're familiar with Urobuchi's oeuvre on other works such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica and (to a lesser degree) Thunderbolt Fantasy, you know that Urobuchi loves to hit his audience with shocking plot twists.
This is true in Gargantia as well, although if you're familiar with a broad cross-section of science fiction literature (such as the 1983 TV anime Giant Gorg and Bruce Sterling's 1985 novel Schismatrix, which deal with similar concepts), it will take a bit of the sting out of the experience when the plot twists start piling up in the later half of the series.
The Adventure Continues?
Crunchyroll currently streams Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet in 67 territories worldwide. The series is available in the original Japanese with subtitles in English, Latin American Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish. The series is also released on home video in North America by Viz Media, and this home video release includes two OAVs that were also published in 2013.
Another pair of Gargantia OAVs were published in 2014 – 2015, and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet was supposed to receive a sequel TV series. Due to unspecified production problems, this series never materialized, and instead a 2-part novel written by Daishiro Tanimura adapted the story of the unproduced second series into a work of literature. At the time of this writing, neither these OAVs nor the novels have been officially released in English.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is tightly-written, well-paced, and brainy enough to satisfy mecha fans who demand more from their genre than just well-choreographed action set pieces and cool robot designs. If you're in the mood for a science fiction / mecha series with serious themes and outstanding production design, why not join the fleet and give Gargantia a try?
Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.