I am immediately going to spoil this review. Suisei no Gargantia was my favorite series from the Spring 2013 anime season. It is a science fiction series from Production I.G that takes place in the distant future. Have you ever watched Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, or Avatar? If you have, then the basic elements of this anime will seem familiar. That is in no way a bad thing, but it should be mentioned. There is nothing crazy that I think people should know about this series going in. Nothing overly sexual or incredibly offensive was present in this series. I will warn you that the script writer for this series is Gen Urobuchi. Anyone that is familiar with his work can tell you that him being a part of this is a bit of a red flag. The guy did Psycho-Pass, Fate/Zero, and Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. That is pretty crazy, but I think it is a good thing.
The future is now. Humanity has fled Earth because of a terrible ice age and an advanced society has started up on space colonies. Even though living in space would seem pretty advanced, there is something standing n the way of humanity. Aliens that look like giant sea creatures have started a war with the humans and we are not winning. Career soldiers are bred to fight for humanity. A decisive battle has started and the human army warps to the battlefield. The fight goes wrong and the humans have to retreat. A few soldiers stay back to facilitate the retreat and one of them gets flung through the wormhole in an awkward fashion on his way back. The soldier wakes up inside of his mech with an odd sight outside. He is inside of some sort of building and he needs to get out. A chase ensues, but the escape is not what the young soldier expected. The outside reveals a gigantic body of water and the building turns out to be a ship. The boy was flung to Earth which was supposed to be a dead planet. However, the ice age has ended and Earth is completely covered in water. People live on giant ships and things seem to be going well despite the lack of current technology. Do the higher-ups know about the state of Earth? What else aren’t they telling the soldiers? That is our story. Red is a career soldier that gets sent to Earth when he cannot properly dock his mech during a retreat. He ends up on Earth where he must try to survive long enough to get back to the battlefield. The story focuses on the cultural differences between the advanced society in space and what is established on Earth. Like I said, you have probably seen this concept used before.
I am not going to be able to get to everyone, but I will cover the important people. Before I get into the specific people, I will say that there is one thing that I am very happy about regarding the character designs in this series. A majority of the characters are very tan. Why am I happy that the characters have a darker complexion? Well, it makes sense when you look at the way that the characters live. Red is extremely pale because he grew up in space colonies that would not subject him to harmful UV rays. Back on Earth, people live on giant ships. The sun shines bright and the water reflects a lot of light. It is only natural for most people to develop darker complexions. Well, let’s get to the actual characters.
Red is a career soldier that spent his days fighting the Hideauze in humanities war for survival. The very scientific society that he hails from has kind of turned him into a robot. Red sees no point in eating food that isn’t prepared efficiently or spending money on frivolous things. The concept of allowing people to live without being of use to humanity is crazy to him. Although the people of Gargantia see him as cold at first, Red does care for others. He has always done his best to protect humanity and he continues to do so. His methods may not seem great, but he does learn a thing or two from the natives.
Amy is a young girl that spends her days as a messenger. There are no cars on the ships, so runners need to carry packages and whatnot. Amy is a very energetic young lady that is the person to encounter Red. She spends a lot of her time in this series trying to communicate with the alien and questioning his way of life. Although she is a messenger, Amy is not shy from handling tough tasks during emergencies.
Chamber is the name of the artificial intelligence that powers Red’s mech. You can even say that Chamber is the mech. His computing abilities allow for him to aid Red in communication and evaluating situations. Although he is a tool of war, Chamber becomes very useful when it comes to aiding in dull tasks on the fleet.
Pinion is a salvager on Gargantia. The last ice age wiped out a lot of the technology that humanity had developed, so salvagers dive into the depths to recover some of it. Although the crazier stuff is almost impossible to fix with the current level of technology, Pinion is quite the mechanic. Having said that, the guy is pretty wild. He is a hot head that is always looking for the next big find.
Bellows is a much more professional salvager on Gargantia. She is strong-willed and very good at handling the chaos that occurs on the fleet. Bellows tries to help Red adjust to life on Gargantia, but that isn’t always easy. Not only does she have to deal with Red’s established mentality, but Pinion is the devil on his shoulder.
Ridget is the daughter of the former fleet commander. She plays a very important role in the governing body of Gargantia and she has to step up in times of crisis. Although it seems like she is very strict, Ridget is simply trying to protect everyone. It is tough trying to keep everyone safe in this crazy world.
Bevel is Amy’s younger brother. His existence is odd to Red because a sick boy like him would have been eliminated due to the burden that he would put on humanity where Red is from. Bevel openly questions the actions that Red takes because of their very different outlooks on life. Also, Bevel is very interested in the idea of people living in the stars.
Along the way we meet a lot of other characters as well. Young people who are friends with Amy provide that sense of innocence in Earth society. The workers play an important role because many of them are trying to restore humanity to what it once was. We meet various people in charge of the fleet as they discuss what to do with Red. Of course, there are people outside of the fleet as well. People live on ships, so pirates are an issue. I would like to bring up something else that this series does well. There are a lot of strong female characters in this series. Not only do they all play an important role, but the act that they are women is not thrown in your face. Bellows, Amy, Ridget, and the pirate Lukkage are examples of powerful women in this series. Leaders, fighters, voices of reason are very important roles that these women play. Oh yeah, and there are giant squid that Red thinks are the aliens from his war that live in the oceans. That becomes a big deal.
I was very surprised by this series. I say this because I expected another lame copy of the “career soldier gets naturalized” plot skeleton. However, the writing in this series is way to good to be called a lame copy. I really enjoyed the concept of a flooded Earth. Not only does it make sense from a scientific standpoint, but putting society on giant ships made for some interesting things. Great things even because the artistic style that this series uses is fantastic. They seamlessly blend regular animation and CGI to handle things like the mechs and other such things. The series is a sight to behold. The twist towards the end is something that I think a lot of people can enjoy. It is well explained, so it makes sense, but it is so unexpected and crazy that only a psychic could see it coming. The series often raises questions regarding the value of life be it human or other. I like such questions because I do believe that they are difficult to answer. Although a lot of the things that occur in this series may seem cliché, I believe that the writing is of a quality that should allow people to enjoy it. Did I dislike anything about this series? I did feel like the first half of the anime was a bit slow. I know that they were trying to introduce stuff, but it flows like molasses compared to the second half. Aside from that, I guess the ending was a bit too happy. I don’t want to sound like a downer, but you can’t make everything perfect in the end. Honestly though, it was the little things that stuck with me. The character complexion, strong female characters, and the things regarding the war that I can’t tell you due to spoilers really did it for me.
You should definitely watch this series. If Avatar can be the highest grossing film in history, without taking inflation into account, then this series deserves billions. With strong writing, beautiful art, and a lot of crazy stuff along the way, Suisei no Gargantia is a top quality series. It is only thirteen episodes and that is a bad thing. I want more and that wish may be answered. There is an OVA coming out in August of 2013 that I am really looking forward to. Do you like mech series? Do you like love stories? Do you like war stories? Do you like quality anime? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you need to watch Suisei no Gargantia. Oh yeah, and you are doing a disservice to your ears if you do not check out the score for this series.