Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated tv series (2013). Original title Suisei no Gargantia. Production I.G.. Directed by Kazuya Murata. Written by Gen Urobuchi. Voice cast includes Ayumi Fujimura, Kaito Ishikawa, Yūki Ono and Tomokazu Sugita. Thirteen 24-minute episodes (and 4 OVA). Colour.

The militaristic Galactic Alliance of Humankind is at War with squid-like Aliens called the Hideauze. When an Alliance fleet is forced to retreat through a malfunctioning artificial Wormhole one of its pilots, Ledo (Ishikawa) and his AI Mecha Chamber (Sugita), become lost.

Following the second Ice Age's thaw (see Climate Change; Disaster), Earth has no dry land. Humans survive on Cities formed from linked ships, reminiscent of Armada in China Miéville's The Scar (2002): one such is Gargantia. Using electricity provided by the ocean's Nanotechnology slicks – remnants of Earth's pre-Ice Age civilization – they scavenge old Technology from the sea floor. They dredge up Chamber, who wakens Ledo from Suspended Animation. Believing in co-existence and co-prosperity, the Gargantian lifestyle is a shock to Ledo who has placidly accepted the totalitarian philosophy of the Alliance – which includes culling those deemed unfit (see Eugenics). The first half of the series is mainly slice-of-life, as Ledo learns the language, makes friends and suffers culture shock: he wipes out a pirate attack, to the horror of the Gargantians, who want to try negotiating before violence.

However, when Ledo sees "Whale Squids" the Anime's tone shifts: they are related to Hideauze. Ledo's indoctrination now kicks in – he must wipe them out, despite their posing no direct threat. This literally divides Gargantia: most want to leave the Whale Squids in peace, but others see their destruction as an opportunity to obtain the otherwise inaccessible relics found on their breeding grounds. Ledo begins his massacre, until he finds some old documentation, which Chamber translates. The imminent second Ice Age had made emigration from Earth paramount, but no habitable planets were known: the Self Evolving Movement or "Evolvers" used Genetic Engineering to create humans capable of living in space – the Hideauze (see Posthuman); others chose to live in space as unaltered humans. These factions began the war Ledo was part of, Earth's location now long forgotten by both.

Kugel (Ono), Ledo's commander, now appears; but keeps to his mecha, Striker (Fujimura). Also lost, Kugel took control of another floating city and set up a cult (see Religion), wishing to create a "Utopia" based on the Alliance's civilization (see Dystopia). Ledo's belief in the Alliance's philosophy is dealt a final blow when he sees the weak being sacrificed. In the midst of the resulting fight Ledo opens Kugel's mecha to find him long dead. Chamber, disgusted that Striker has set itself up as a god to humans, ejects Ledo and kills Striker by self-destructing. In the end Gargantia moves from salvaging to archaeology: helping people to decide their future and, hopefully, someday communicating with the Whale Squids.

Nominated for a Seiun Award, this is an impressive, thoughtful and good-looking Anime; Urobuchi has said its intention is to encourage young adults as they enter a society created by the older generation. There was an accompanying Manga by Wataru Mitogawa; two subsequent light novels by Daishiro Tanimura used the plot for the abandoned second Season. [SP]

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