Ledo is a sixteen year old pilot with the Galactic Alliance fighting for the survival of the humans against the enemy (giant squid type things that can apparently survive in space). Unfortunately, during a battle he pretty much gets tossed through space and ends up being submerged on a small blue planet. Unable to contact home, Ledo is going to have to learn to coexist with the humans he has found on this world.
As much as I ended up enjoying this anime, I really feel this one has been horrendously mislabeled. MAL lists it as an action, sci-fi, adventure, mecha. And you know what, all of those elements are in the anime but what you’ll mostly get is Ledo learning how to live a new life with the cute messenger girl (Amy) he happened to abduct in episode 1 who then shared her fish with him. For all that stuff happens and there are some small scale battles between pirates and scavengers and the like, this really is just Ledo learning to actually live and then we’ll introduce a conflict at the end so that we remember it is actually a mecha.
The first episode is pretty misleading about the tone of the show though it does set us up nicely to understand why Ledo really can’t just learn to relax and live peacefully. In a very short time frame we learn a lot about Ledo’s world of constant fights, loyalty, and almost no human connection. His strongest emotional attachment is to Chamber, his mecha or the computer AI on it, and really that is one of reliance rather than an actual friendship. So while the tone of this opening battle does not reflect anything that is going to happen later in the series, it’s a nice quick bit of character building to set a scene and it doesn’t linger too long before we’re on the water logged planet and watching Chamber get salvaged from the bottom of the ocean.
Once the story gets going, it kind of follows fairly predictable patterns. Ledo tries to do something, usually tries to use his advanced technology to take a short cut, people get all upset and shocked because it isn’t the way it is supposed to be done or it damages something, Ledo feels sorry for himself and Amy comes along to give him a pick-me-up pep talk. That’s a slight over simplification but it essentially covers the majority of the episodes until we start building toward the final.
I am left with the question of where did the squirrel come from? All things considered it just seems kind of random when there don’t appear to be many other land animals running about the ship.
The narrative has some great ideas that seem to continually be pushed to the sides for the usual slice-of-life antics that anime loves to foreground. We do eventually get back to that massive space conflict notion with the space squids and why there are humans on a planet that don’t know anything about what is going on in space. The answers are pretty obvious fairly early on but it is still nice that the narrative does attempt to get back to the sci-fi part of its story before the end.
Plus the characters are actually kind of fun to watch. Ledo starts out pretty emotionless, for good reason, but becomes a more well-rounded person even if he still has a way to go by the end. Amy is cute, occasionally used too much for fanservice, but is mostly the heart of the show and brings everything together. The rest of the people on the ship all serve their purpose even if they are too set in their ways and never really consider that maybe there are other options.
But the biggest plus this anime has going for it is that it is beautiful. Whether it is space or the ocean, this anime is glorious to look at. The night scenes with the stars above the ocean just feel incredibly real and draw you right into this world that they are working so hard to construct. Even when the story seems to be on hold the visuals manage to keep you watching the screen.
So I did end up enjoying watching this but mostly because I liked how it started and ended. The bits in the middle I feel get a bit too slice-of-life like for my tastes and not a lot seems to happen, but I didn’t end up abandoning the show, because it had some great concepts, was great to look at, and the characters were kind of charming so I wanted to know where they were going.
Have you seen Gargantia? What did you think?
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