The season is still young, but Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (Suisei no Gargantia) has about as effective an opening episode as one could ask for. The spring series comes from Production I.G, with Kazuya Murata (Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos) directing, and hopefully the stage it so competently sets pays off with a solid series.
Ledo is one of many soldiers at war in space for the Galactic Alliance of Humankind. Gargantia opens as he calmly enters battle—a cold and calculating soldier that sees this as just another day of many—against a plant-like alien species known as the Hideauze. This, however, is but one more step toward a respite he doesn’t even seem particularly interested in. It’s all become robotic at this point, and Ledo takes on the Hideauze menace with special kind of skilled nonchalance.
The battle isn’t exactly a stunner, but it does manage to say a lot about Ledo’s world and the situation it’s in without bogging the pace down with exposition overkill. A lot of what’s being said and shown, from tactics to the combat itself, is completely foreign to the audience, and that’s fine. It all serves as a setup to what happens next, when Ledo finds himself separated from his squad and stranded in a strange place, coming to six months later surrounded by people who don’t seem to speak his language.
These “primitive” foreigners tap and tinker with Ledo’s Machine Caliber mech like they’re trying to crack open a coconut. No matter how hard they try, though, they can’t find a way in, and once they give up for the night, Ledo takes the opportunity to attempt an escape. What he discovers, however, is almost too much to process at once: He’s on a planet that can sustain life—Earth, the birthplace of humanity, to be precise—and it’s nothing like he’s ever seen before.
Of course, we expect this from the title and synopsis alone, but the reveal of him being on Earth is one of the really well done aspects of the episode. A few moments throughout, especially the opening space battle, are laced with some stiff CG, but overall Gargantia looks really good, too. The mechanical designs by Makoto Ishiwata—who also designed Psycho-Pass‘ Dominator and worked on Robotics;Notes and Valvrave the Liberator—are decent enough. This is just one of those tight openers we hope can sustain itself over its 12-episode run, and it certainly has the creative minds to pull it off.
We’ve already mentioned director Murata, who keeps things lively and visually interesting here, but everyone naturally has their attention turned toward Gen Urobuchi’s involvement. With Urobuchi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/zero) on series composition, many are likely waiting for the suffering to begin. They want to see “Urobutcher” in action. Let’s just let it play out and see what else Urobuchi has up his sleeve, though. I think it’s kind of strange when someone is known for being unforgiving to their characters or whatever people now think about Urobuchi. Maybe he’s just realistic. Maybe everyone’s reaction to his anime work thus far speaks louder about the rest of what’s out there than what he’s putting out specifically.
Either way, Gargantia is definitely one to watch. The real key will be whether or not these subsequent episodes produce some interesting characters. Ledo has potential, and we’ve just seen glimpses of the rest of the cast, but the hooks are sinking in.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.