Post Reply Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
Content Overlord
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F / San Francisco
Posted 6/30/13
Written by Eclipsed_Oblivion

Traveling to another country can be complicated, especially one with a foreign language and culture. But what about traveling to another planet? That’s what Ledo discovers in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet after falling into a wormhole, a tunnel through spacetime. Conceived by writer Gen Urobochi of Puella Magi Madoka Magica fame, Gargantia is a detailed, well-executed take on the archetypical story of aliens crashing onto Earth. Not only does it balance sci-fi action with the peaceful days necessary to enhance conflict, but that tranquility expresses and explains something familiar to many: culture shock. This makes Gargantia not just a lively sci-fi anime, but one people can relate to.

Gargantia at first seems overwhelmingly sci-fi; it tells the story of how humans have long since lived in outer space, but are at war with aliens. Ledo is a respected soldier who only knows following orders, but then he and his high-tech mecha get caught in a wormhole that plummets them onto the fabled planet Earth, a flooded planet in which people live peaceful, low-tech lives on ships. Until the mecha can generate a route back, Ledo, with nowhere else to go, must learn to cooperate with those on the ship Gargantia. The fact that Ledo and those on Gargantia are both humans separated only by language and culture puts a relatable spin on the story that makes the conflicts more compelling.

Gargantia wouldn’t be compelling at all, however, without its detailed execution. Stories about aliens landing on Earth aren’t a new idea, but Gargantia makes it fresh by adding one thing: believability. Ledo isn’t an alien, but rather a fellow human, and the reason he crashed on Earth is fully explained. The language barrier between Ledo and Gargantia’s crew is also incredibly easy-to-follow; the switches between fluent Japanese and a foreign language are brilliant in how they convey whether a character is speaking their native tongue or hears one they can’t understand. As well, to see Ledo at first speak broken Japanese, representative of him learning Earth’s language, makes his struggles much more realistic. Gargantia is also overflowing with tiny details that make its world more believable; the land left on their world maps match with the highest points on our own Earth, and Ledo’s skin actually tans over the series as he spends more time under the sun. These details add to Gargantia’s fine execution, and that overall makes the series much more believable and incredibly fun.

Gargantia’s fun is not just in its execution, but also in how its fine balance between phenomenal action and tranquil moments makes the series so accessible. The series first starts in the middle of incredible action; the mechas’ capabilities, the humans’ strategies, and the aliens’ assault make for a spectacular display. However, it would no longer be so amazing without any breaks in the action, and Gargantia provides many breather episodes to do this, including one in which Ledo must escape from overzealous cross dressers. These episodes serve more than just that single purpose though; they emphasize the peaceful life and culture on Gargantia in which Ledo must assimilate, which isn’t always easy. This creates not only cultural conflicts between him and the others, but also changes in himself. These are then incorporated into later battles so the battles are not just fun to watch, but have incredible meaning behind them to make them all the more compelling. This could not be done without having an equal amount of both tense action and calmer days.

What is most striking about Gargantia, however, is how it is so easy to relate to - it’s just a larger scale version of culture shock. Ledo not only speaks a different language from Gargantia’s crew, but he has been a soldier his entire life; family, fun, and money are just a few of the “inefficient” concepts he has never known that are the norm on the peaceful Gargantia. While Ledo’s misunderstanding of Gargantia’s culture can lead to hilarious situations - Ledo at one point tries to attack his dinner after confusing it for an alien - but just when Ledo and Gargantia’s members seem to understand each other, differences in their life philosophies cause conflict. It is depressing because, as spectators, we can see that both sides have good intentions, but neither side realizes it, and this can be applied to our own lives. Such unintended misunderstandings due to cultural barriers are just as prevalent in our world, and that makes both Ledo and those on Gargantia easy to understand and sympathize with.

Ultimately, Gargantia is not an ordinary sci-fi anime; crucial to a series with a setting so different from our world is believability, and Gargantia’s detailed execution succeeds in creating that. It also has incredible, meaningful battles due to its breather episodes that add character development and cultural conflicts caused by misunderstandings. These conflicts, too frequent in our own world, allow us to view very real problems from a different, more objective perspective. While, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet has the action and fun of an anime, it also stands as a metaphor for our own world to make us think more objectively about our own conflicts, and that alone makes it worth watching
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M / Philadelphia, Pen...
Posted 8/25/13 , edited 8/25/13
Eclipsed_Oblivion, this was one of my favorite anime in a long time for just the same reasons you mentioned in your wonderful article. Kudos!
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