Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Series Review

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Gargantia on the Verduous Planet Overview:

In Gargantia on the Verduous Planet, 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.

Gargantia on the Verduous Planet Review:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Karandi James


Sakugan Episode 7 – Dream Directions and An Aimless Plot

Sakugan Episode 7 Review

Sakugan episode 7 is kind of hard to talk about because essentially it feels like a filler episode that exists only to contrive a reason for Gugumber to have to return to a colony he’s been to before (and probably connected with his old partner) next episode.

At the end of episode 6, Yuri and Zacrettu both joined Gugumber and Memenpu on their journey through the labyrinth, for fairly non-logical reasons, but this episode contribute little except occasionally a different voice. Basically, the plot would have worked the same if Memenpu had initially picked the flowers, rather than Yuri, and Gugumber was the only one sick.

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All of this leaves me feeling that Sakugan peaked in its first two episodes and since then its been on a steady decline unable to really excite or enthral and this journey through the labyrinth is less one of eye-opening wonder and more one of tedium for both the characters and, sooner if the plot doesn’t contribute a bit more, the audience.

Why is Sakugan losing its way?



The plot this week is both simple and repetitive (by design). The group are roaming along following Memenpu’s directions, though those directions seem to simply be follow the pipe or road so not so much exploration as driving straight down a path with no obstacles. Along the way we realise all of them have pretty red flowers in their cabins and we learn that Yuri has collected these flowers as they’ve travelled.

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Soon the characters are acting increasingly drunk and disorderly at rest stops, repeating the same conversations they’ve had before though it isn’t until after they’ve turned the flowers into potpourri that Memenpu draws the conclusion that they are causing the ill-effects.

Then Sakugan doubles down on this by having the characters make a cure using a cactus but it turns out they used the wrong cactus and symptoms get worse.

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It isn’t particularly funny or tense. It’s just kind of there and one particular rest stop has all of the characters other than Memenpu walking just behind something on screen to vomit. The scene drags on and contributes little other than filling the requisite time for the episode.

Outside of the flower crisis, Memenpu is continuing to dream of the tower but under the effects of the flowers her dream begins to change and as we repeat the sequence again and again we eventually see Gugumber dying in the flower at the foot of the tower. What this means is anyone’s guess and who the glow-eyed person in the dream is (or who the person who is following them is) remains a question unanswered.

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About the only reason for this is to create conflict between Memenpu and Gugumber as she wants to get to the scene as quickly as possible and he actually wants to get to a hospital to seek medical attention after all the flower/cactus mayhem.

Weird that earlier episodes of Sakugan managed to really sell the relationship between these two as a grounding point but this episode really just has them going through the motions. Memenpu’s point makes no sense and Gugumber reflecting that he’s bad at team-work, when he’s literally the only person here wanting to seek help during their crisis, just feels shallow. There’s no chemistry or humour to be found in the cast this week.

Sakugan Episode 7

All and all, the shine very much seems to have come off of Sakugan and I’m just kind of hoping it picks up again because this episode was pretty meh, and that’s about all that can be said for it.

Images from: Sakugan. Dir. J Wada. Satelight. 2021


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Sakugan Episode 6 – Equality, Justice And Other Empty Slogans

Sakugan Episode 6 Review

Sakugan episode 6 begins with a narration by Gugumber detailing how he came by some money after their last job and invested it before things went wrong. This is played over a dramatic montage of images of him standing in the wind looking out over a colony before we cut to scenes of him blatantly gambling the money away.

Like many perpetually broke characters, at least when they are played for laughs, Gugumber brings his ill-fortune upon himself through his own poor decision making. Which makes it harder to take him seriously when he wants to act as the voice of reason for others when his own life-choices paint him as the perpetual optimistic child.

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Sakugan gets political, but not really.

Throughout the episode we see that Gugumber and Memenpu are captured by a character named Yuri because the girl who claimed Gugumber owed her money has asked Yuri to complete a hacking job for her and has said that the money Gugumber owes her can pay Yuri. That we never really established the validity of her claim that Gugumber owed her money doesn’t seem to play into this situation at all. In fact, Gugumber never once protests owing her money even though she kind of decided that on her own.

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Anyway, all of that is set up for Memenpu and Gugumber to be brought into a new colony where they hear the local politician speaking about equality and helping orphaned children (so we know he’s evil) before Yuri and his gang lead them into the under-belly of the colony where those who haven’t succeeded end up. Here the episode established a pretty soft ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality as we get yet another montage of Yuri and his gang, accompanied by Memenpu and Gugumber, pull off some basic heists stealing food and money.



The problem Sakugan has is that we have no attachment to this colony and the shallow over-view of the situation we are given barely sketches in enough for us to care. Even the politician announcing they will close all the orphanages because of complaints that not all orphans are helped equally if only some are in orphanages is just kind of there as a catalyst to push the climax of the episode rather than something that seems plausible.

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Weirdly, no one seems to ask where all these orphans will go or what the impact of a massive increase in homeless children could be to the colony. Nor does anyone seem particularly willing to ask why there are so many children without parents in the first place in this colony.

Without background or context, its Sakugan becomes bad politician must be taken down vs more lovable under-dog whose own ideology gets a little twisted along the way until Gugumber, our weird source of wisdom, manages to show him the error of his ways.

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I guess, compared to episodes that focus more on Memenpu and Gugumber’s relationship, or even episodes where its more focused on survival in the labyrinth, this episode just didn’t quite hit the mark. The story felt shallow, the new characters barely got time to be more than just a name and one personality trait, and honestly the resolution here was pretty ordinary.

Yuri’s struggle and anger could have been a really decent plot point to build a story around if handled a little more deftly but honestly it all just kind of happened.

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About the only thing of significance is that Gugumber and Memenpu aren’t leaving the colony alone at the end of the episode and I kind of hope that without all the extras that the characters who have joined them on their journey will now get some decent fleshing out. Otherwise, this could be quite the step backwards for Sakugan this season.

Images from: Sakugan. Dir. J Wada. Satelight. 2021


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Sakugan Episode 5 – The Wind Of Curiosity Very Nearly Kills

Sakugan Episode 5 Review

As smart as Memenpu is, she’s clearly never heard the phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’ and Gagumber has clearly learned that there’s no stopping her once she is set on something. Given the near disaster that occurs in this episode of Sakugan you’d hope that maybe she’d learn a bit from the experience but it seems unlikely that she’ll pause to consider the possible danger the next time something grabs her interest.

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Sakugan brings a child-like joy to discovery and an adult view on the dangers that come with it.

In episode 4 of Sakugan, Memenpu and Gagumber were in trouble with some bureaucrat over their antics in the labyrinth and this episode sees them heading out to perform some labour to make amends. However, it is clear that Merooro, the bureaucrat, and Memenpu are kind of on the same wave-length as when they arrive at their destination they are both pretty thrilled by trees, wind, birds and just generally looking around.


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In this sequence, Gagumber is most definitely the odd one out with limited curiosity or care for things that don’t serve an immediate purpose for him and largely he just wants to get whatever the job is done and get out of there.

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There’s a solid attempt in this episode to link to our society as Merooro makes repeated comments about the need to preserve culture and locations, such as the forest in this instance, for the future. Unfortunately, it is about as subtle as a brick and feels like kind of unnecessary messaging intruding upon a story that more or less would have conveyed the same meaning without the heavy-handed approach.

I kind of feel writers need to trust audiences to get the point. We don’t need a character in Sakugan to lecture us and even if he was actually talking to Gagumber, it comes across as a little patronising.

Not to mention, Merooro as a character hasn’t exactly won audiences over. This weird guy who showed up last episode and has some quite quirky mannerisms being melodramatic about the destruction of an environment is hardly the best way to get the point across.

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Anyway, turns out that there’s an area near the forest that Merooro names the ‘God of the Wind’ and for whatever reason its a giant ancient piece of technology that controls the winds and part of it is broken. Of course just getting to the broken part is going to be an adventure all on its own but Memenpu is on the trail of something new and exciting and she’s not going to let that go.

Though she suffers a number of set-backs in this episode, including two near-misses, it is disappointing to see that nothing really seems to have any impact on her as a character. While I love the dynamic between her and Gagumber, at some point on this journey I really want to see Memenpu start to grow up a little because after five episodes her character is pretty fixed in place and it just doesn’t seem likely that she could go through all these things and not change even a little.

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Though Sakugan has brought Gagumber a little further than where he started. He now at least accepts that he can’t shelter Memenpu from everything. All he can do is go with her and try to keep her safe. A task made somewhat more difficult by her own choices.

I do kind of hope that Sakugan explores more about this old technology and the reason all these colonies are underground. I mean, I suspect we’ll get the usual kind of answer about some kind of apocalyptic scenario, but it would be nice to get some kind of answer about how all this came about.

Plus, I’ll give this episode points for cute vultures.

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You don’t see enough vultures in anime.

Anyway, it was a fun episode of Sakugan with a bit of a mission, some sight-seeing, a random game of shogi mid-way along, some near-death experiences, cute vultures, and some more father-daughter moments. Looking forward to seeing what is next.

Images from: Sakugan. Dir. J Wada. Satelight. 2021


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Sakugan Episode 4 – These Fools Attract Trouble in Double Time

Sakugan Episode 4

While Mieruko-Chan is giving us a beautiful friendship between main characters Miko and Hana, Sakugan is really going all in on the odd-couple dynamics of father-daughter duo Memenpu and Gugumber. Which kind of works because they are fun enough except that it kind of feels like any growth these two make toward accepting the other and working together kind of resets at the start of each episode and we’re back to shouting and smug one-upping each other.

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And that is probably my biggest complaint so far with this series because everything else is pretty solid from the fun opening song to the ongoing journey this team is on, Sakugan keeps pushing forward and each episode moves along at a pretty rapid pace bringing us to the next event that the pair encounter.

Sakugan is a fun romp but with the characters feeling stagnant it may not rise to be more than that.

This episode of Sakugan begins with Gugumber imprisoned for whatever it was they did in the labyrinth that the regulators didn’t like. However, while waiting to find out what the penalty for that is both Gugumber and Memenpu are left to explore the colony of Jolly-Jolly.



It’s the viewer’s first look at a colony outside of the one we began in and while on the surface level it looks much the same (given it is a subterranean city) this one has all the trappings of a pseudo Italy with an ancient colosseum, fake canals that trains run down, pizza and other Italian specialties as foods to purchase.

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Memenpu takes to tourism in a flash happily taking in the sites and we get a montage of the two doing the tourist thing. It’s actually kind of a sweet father-daughter moment. Then Sakugan pushes things forward again with Memenpu running off to try a new restaurant and Gugumber heading to the bar to try to pick up a date.

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It goes about as well as you would expect.

After repeated rejections the girl he does pick up is clearly following him and up to no good and naturally he ends up embroiled in a situation well outside of his control. Despite separating Gugumber from Memenpu they still bring her back to the bar in order to put in yet another visual gag where the father-daughter team are so embroiled in their own argument that they don’t see the gangsters entering the bar until it is too late.

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The scene works but it makes you wonder why they bothered to send Memenpu off in the first place if they were going to use her to set-up the next sequence.

The rest of the episode of Sakugan is more or less Gugumber being held by the gangsters, rescued by the lady he was trying to pick up, and a series of chase and fight sequences. It’s all pretty silly and clearly doesn’t have much bearing on anything other than introducing the sassy female character who is apparently going to turn up again. But it doesn’t really need to. It’s fun to watch and the episode comes full circle with the regulator stepping back into the scene for the final word on the caper.

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I still would like more from the central duo here. As much as the story is fun and I’m loving the adventure they are on, I really want to see some growth from the main pair. It’s what will change this from being fun to being great but right at the moment it isn’t quite there. I kind of hope Sakugan manages to be great.

Images from: Sakugan. Dir. J Wada. Satelight. 2021


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Sakugan Episode 3 – The Back-Seat Driver From Hell

Sakugan Episode 3

You would think a high risk environment with life and death hanging in the balance of every decision that you would put aside your personal baggage and work constructively with the person whose actions may very well cost you your life. Not so it Sakugan where dysfunctional father and daughter team, Memenpu and Gagumber, continue to flail their way through the labyrinth following a glowing map to a dream tower.

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In case that makes it seem like the episode wasn’t fun to watch, I apologise. This was a very fun episode. Not really logical and there’s no reason why either character should still be alive but seriously the dynamic between father and daughter established in episode 1 continues to be a blast even if it isn’t overly helpful.

Sakugan’s Motto: I Can Do It Alone; Until I Can’t.

The opening sequence this week has Gagumber collecting some pink crystal thing and then Memenpu locking him out of the controls and claiming she’s going to do better. She probably would have except that she gets distracted by something in the distance and ends up crashing, skinning her knee in the process.

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As usual though, this isn’t the time for either character to learn a lesson in communication. Gagumber continues to be snide and sarcastic, and throughout the episode gives Memenpu directives and ultimatums that she promptly ignores, and she continues to think she’s above him, knows everything, and brashly charges into danger.

You would think one or two life threatening scenarios would be enough to teach her some basic caution but about the only consideration she gives Gagumber’s words this episode is taking on the notion that if you feel right you should go for it. And admittedly, on this one point in common the two do sync very well for a brief moment at the end of the episode.

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Given the episode of Sakugan is called Brains and Hearts, it isn’t too hard to see what they were going for in this episode. But if that were the case you would think they’d make Gagumber’s case a little more solid. Largely he sits back and waits for Memenpu to fail rather than trying to explain to her what the potential problems are with her plans. Or he just insists they are going to do things his way without giving her a reason why.

Understandably, someone like Memenpu isn’t finding his arguments particularly compelling and ultimately she does things her own way. Whether that has her falling from a cliff, nearly sliding into a waterway, running into a blocked passage or in one case nearly devoured by bugs, doesn’t really seem to have her change her mind that she is somehow right.

Sakugan Episode 3

However, despite the plot feeling as rinse and repeat as watching Wile E Coyote trying to catch Road-Runner, where Sakugan shines in episode 3 is in the fact that despite both of these characters being pig-headed and butting heads constantly, you can still feel the sense that these two are genuinely family.

In Memenpu’s most desperate moment she does call out for Gagumber and Gugumber, while he might grumble and complain, trusts Memenpu enough that he doesn’t pluck her bodily from her chair while she’s controlling the robot even if she’s taking them a direction he doesn’t want to go. While they are coming at everything from a different perspective, the two of them are alike in stubbornness but also alike in that they are connected.

Sakugan Episode 3

The other enjoyable part of episode 3 of Sakugan is that we finally really get a look at this Labyrinth. We learn about red flags and marker routes and we get to see the dangers of the earthquakes and shifting paths first-hand. Also, a close-up look at some of the monsters and dangers that lurk in the darkness.

I’m definitely looking forward to more of the journey these two characters are on even if this anime is a little light on logical consequences.

Images from: Sakugan. Dir. J Wada. Satelight. 2021


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Sakugan Episode 2 – Can The Father-Daughter Team Defeat the Kaiju?

Sakugan Episode 2 Review

The second episode of Sakugan picks up exactly where episode 1 finished with Gugumber and Memenpu trying to get his old vehicle moving. The two are still bickering but it is clear Memenpu is in a bit a shock about the violence and death that has just intruded itself upon her life. Despite her earnest desire to explore, Gugumber has done a decent job of protecting her from these harsh realities up until now so seeing them come crashing down upon her emotionally added a bit of weight to this sequence.

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However there isn’t a lot of time for emotions as the fight is still ongoing and for whatever reason the kaiju that broke into the colony seem to be targeting the pair. Seems likely it is because of the mysterious map that the unknown person left Memenpu in the last episode but we aren’t going to get any kind of answer from this episode. This episode of Sakugan seems to want to hit the accelerator on the action sequences and really not let up until the end.

Sakugan is balancing comedy, action and raw emotion in one explosive sequence involving giant monster and mechs.



The series of action set pieces could have become quite dull as really it is just Kaiju chasing after a blue tank-like-robot and destroying buildings with dust and rubble flying. This continues for the vast majority of the episode. What keeps the audience engaged though is the focus on what is happening inside the mech with Gugumber clearly falling into an old role but still maintaining his presence as Memenpu’s father.

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We also learn more about the world of Sakugan as we learn about the Kaiju having cables that tether them to the ground. While a lot of these rules seem to be explained to us just so we can be impressed when these Kaiju break them doesn’t change the fact that are knowledge of how this world is going to work is expanding. Then we find out about the sheer bureaucracy at the heart of the colony where Gugumber can’t even get a gate opened even though his intent is to lead the giant kaiju out of the colony and probably save a lot of lives.

The fight moves throughout the colony, we encounter the other Markers who were waiting for Walsh’s return and we get to see the emotional impact of a death that occurred last episode. That’s something that doesn’t happen often enough in anime. Too often characters die and nobody really brings them up again or at least supporting cast members don’t seem to really acknowledge they died. Here the death had real weight and not just on the young Memenpu.

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Then Memenpu and Gugumber lead both of the Kaiju out of the colony and at this point we see what makes this father-daughter team so good. While Memenpu is still in a little shock, Gugumber has finally got her calm enough to employ her usual stellar mind to the problem at hand. With Memenpu directing, Gugumber executes a plan that is suitably spectacular to end such a set-piece and brings the fight to a decided close.

Again, the reality of this world is enhanced when we find out through listening to the DJ that their actions weren’t without consequences. Such a bureaucratic society wasn’t going to just let their actions pass without some kind of penalty.

However, Gugumber and Memenpu are now both kind of ready for the journey that Memenpu has wanted to take. Gugumber wasn’t emotionally ready to take a risk and move on before. Memenpu had no real understanding of the dangers they were going to face. Both of them are now in a place where a journey is possible. And the episode ends on that note with the two setting out leaving us to wait for episode 3 to really start the exploration beyond the colony.

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And you know what? Sakugan has done a really decent job of making me want to see that journey. I’m looking forward to episode 3. I am loving the father-daughter dynamic that has been established and the way that relationship isn’t stagnating but rather continues to be build on and fleshed out. The action was decent but we never lost emotional connection with the characters throughout. All things considered, I’m really hopeful that Sakugan will remain solidly entertaining.

Images from: Sakugan. Dir. J Wada. Satelight. 2021


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Sakugan Episode 1 – Made In Abyss Vibes But Offers Enough To Feel Unique

Sakugan Episode 1 Review

I’ll admit, Sakugan wasn’t high on my priority list for the Fall 2021 season. I had planned to check out the first episode and maybe come back and binge watch it later if it seemed okay but after watching the first episode this anime has rocketed up my watch list.

Part of my concern was the write up given to Sakugan which more or less made me think this was going to be Made in Abyss (but a lesser version). The promotional image with the young girl plunging down into an underground passage with a robotic thing and the description of the markers who are making maps of the Labyrinth as well as the missing mother all just kind of made me feel like this was going to feel derivative.

Sakugan Episode 1

While there’s certainly all of those similarities, I’m very pleased to say that episode one of Sakugan most definitely managed to find its own identity and set up a pretty compelling premise as well as the father and daughter team that seem to be at the heart of it all.

Though I am still a little cautious given the director was also credited with the mess that was Caligula. I know director’s alone don’t make or break an anime but I am at least going to keep my expectations moderate until I see that this isn’t dissolving into an incomprehensible mess.

What works in Sakugan?

Sakugan Episode 1

Perhaps because the source here is actually a novel, but the two main characters, the nine year old Memenpu and her father Gagumber, come across as really well developed. Admittedly, that doesn’t mean you always like them and the introduction with them shrieking at each other after taking each other out in a mock battle of sorts doesn’t exactly endear them to the audience.

However, as the episode proceeds we see that these two characters are very real with a history together. They also have rhythms for their normal everyday life as well as a mix of love, pride, and aggravation with one another that comes from the life they’ve lived prior to the story starting. This isn’t just a young female character being plopped into the life of an adult male and watching a relationship grow.

It is also pretty amazing how hard the father is working to protect her even while acknowledging at some point Memenpu is going to leave the nest. While his efforts aren’t exactly the most nuanced or reasonable, his motivation is a well grounded one.

Sakugan Episode 1

This is a well established father-daughter dynamic and it kind of elevates what ends up being a pretty basic introduction to a dystopian world.



While I said Sakugan is a pretty basic dystopian, keep in mind we’ve only had one episode of introduction. What we get is an underground city that feels authentic and lived in as well as roles and jobs within the society. We also get an indication of other colonies and a vast underground labyrinth connecting it and the hint that there is a tower on the surface, somewhere.

Why humans are underground in colonies and why it is so unstable with earthquakes and the like has yet to be answered by Sakugan. Nor do we know why there are Kaiju, giant monsters that cause great damage that we see first hand in the final act of this first episode. These are questions I’m sure we’ll get answers to as the world expands and our characters move beyond their starting point.

Sakugan Episode 1

I think I preferred this to a narrator simply telling me about some tragedy that lead to humans abandoning the surface with a montage of images. Its left me curious and gives the story directions to explore and fill out rather than taking a narrative short-cut gets the job done but is hardly compelling viewing.

There’s a great balance in this first episode in setting up Memenpu’s quest with her receiving what is most likely a map of the underground, as well as establishing her relationship with her father, giving us some world building, and finishing with an action set-piece that is both visually interesting and provides a real reason for the characters to get moving.

Sakugan Episode 1

Sure there’s a blatant attempt to tug our heart strings or shock us in all of this but basically this is a solidly built first episode. Sakugan is definitely one on my watch list after that effort.

Images from: Sakugan. Dir. J Wada. Satelight. 2021


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Captain Earth Series Review: Earth is Doomed and As Usual Only a Group of Teens (And Robots) Can Save Us

Captain Earth has a basic set up of the Earth is in danger from planetary gears (that name makes no sense) and only a giant robot piloted by a teenage boy can really use to save the day. Okay, it is more complex than that but at the end of the day, this is just a standard mecha plot with some good ideas and some things that just fall completely flat.

There’s something about mecha anime that for whatever reason make me super critical before I start even watching them. It isn’t as though I dislike the genre given there are plenty of mecha anime I’ve enjoyed. I think the real issue is that the genre is a little hit and miss for me and as a general rule I go in expecting not to end up enjoying the show so the ones that work end up pleasantly enjoyable.

Still, Captain Earth balances perilously in that inbetween area where I find myself enjoying it enough even as I laugh at the once again ineffectual adults who ultimately shove the entire fate of the earth onto some emotionally traumatised kids (admittedly, only two of the kids are human if that makes the concept any better).

Captain Earth may not be a good anime, but it is still enjoyable.

Captain Earth at its core accepts what it is and what it is presenting. The planetary gears who act as the face of the villains for the majority of the series (before the real bad guys step forward – where have I seen that before) are as over the top ridiculous as you would expect and their motives more or less amount to being kids fighting over the largest scoop of ice-cream. About as effective too, because while they are squabbling the ice-cream probably melted and no one ended up with anything.

There’s technobabble, there are the bureaucrats that get in the way, and then there are the troubled teens that all just want to help and be free and maybe pair up and live happily ever after.



This anime embraces that and makes it work. So while there is certainly plenty to mock if you are in the mood to mock, if what you want is another one of ‘those’ kinds of stories, you could do far worse than Captain Earth.

Captain Earth - the kids are ready to save the world.

One of the best things about Captain Earth is the way the characters are presented.

Admittedly, all of the characters are barely fleshed out archetypes and copies of characters who have appeared in other mecha anime or the like and taken individually they don’t amount to much. However, when you step back and look at the whole cast as an ensemble and just the small touches given to them you start to notice how much thought was put into balancing the archetypes and roles.

There’s no excess and some of the details are really fantastic. For instance, in the picture above the two ‘human’ characters in the group (Daichi and Akari) don’t zip their uniforms all the way whereas the two ‘non-human’ characters wear them completely zipped. It’s those little touches that show the individual attitudes and natures of the characters that are fun to spot throughout the series and they are consistent and actually meaningful.

The Planetary Gears from Captain Earth

Though while I’m giving the characters props, I’m going to give the planetary gears the rant they deserve. Our villains are the most cliché driven and useless creatures in creation. Their motivations are actually endlessly explained. Why are they attacking the earth? Because humans are weak and insignificant and we can devour their libido. They tell us this over and over again. Whether it is the humans discussing the threat or the villains discussing their plans.

Other than that, they just seem like highly sexually charged teenagers playing with toys and their planning sucks. Let’s try repeating the same sequence of events again. Oh, that didn’t work. Maybe if I try the exact same thing? How about you try it now?

Finding out that the planetary gears were also being manipulated from above was not a surprise. Given their singular lack of a master plan other than eat everything and the fact that most of their advice came from an outside source, the betrayal is pretty inevitable and by that stage you more or less have written off these guys as pathetic.

On the most recent rewatch, I started to like some of the planetary gears a little bit more as some of their interactions weren’t as over the top as I remembered, but they are still terrible villains and they really do let down what is an otherwise fairly competent cast and realistically, a lot of my rant should be saved for Salty Dog.

Salty Dog - Bad character in Captain Earth

These guys are the most nonsensical element of the whole of Captain Earth. It is like the writers knew they didn’t have enough conflict or drama with the planetary gears (given that they were useless and they needed recharging after every encounter so couldn’t attack next episode) so they threw in some of the most repugnant human beings they could find and gave them a position of authority.

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Delete all Salty Dog characters, cut down the number of episodes, and the anime still works and is probably the better for it. And realistically, this is probably the sticking point. Everything else in this anime is fine or actually quite good, but Salty Dog are neither interesting enough as villains or menacing enough to actually serve any purpose other than filling screen time.

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Moving away from the characters, this anime is pretty. And while prettiness isn’t reason enough to watch, it is enough to hold your interest in the down times between attacks and the like in this series. Some of the sequences on the space station are truly gorgeous and that’s probably a good thing given little else happens on the space station (a few major plot points aside). 

The animation is competent and each setting has its own unique kind of feel. They certainly go out of their way to romanticise the island setting and even the trip into space has a distinct look and feel about it.

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And of course, because we’re dealing with teenagers we’re going to go for a romance in Captain Earth.

It doesn’t matter that the world might end as long as we find out who ends up with who (okay, that’s a little depressing so we’ll move on from that thought). I’ll admit Daichi and Hana are adorable together but it is nice to see Akari and Teppei really grow as characters and help each other overcome their personal hang-ups.

A lot of shows would have just kind of thrown these two together or left them as the friends of the actual couple we were supposed to be interested in, but these two really get the chance to shine throughout the mid-way parts of the anime. They get a little sidelined at the end, but they aren’t the protagonists so it kind of had to happen. Still, Akari’s magical girl act and Teppei’s slow growth to becoming more human, is one of the real strengths of this anime.

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However, watching Captain Earth again for this review just reminded me of how big of a plot failure there is in this anime. For all the positives this series has, it is hard to argue with someone who tells you Captain Earth just kind of falls apart as it rides borrowed plot points to a final climax that makes limited sense on any kind of thought.

Wow, I gave Darling in the Franxx some smack talk and yet this anime probably does just as much wrong from a plot point of view and yet I remember it affectionately. Amazing what seeing something when you are younger and more impressionable will do for your view on it.

After a barrage of half-hints and the like during the first few episodes the story then eschews all sense of mystery and just kind of hits you with enough made-up jargon to drown you in it. Following that, we settle into a rinse and repeat battle of attrition with the planetary gears.

During this, a betrayal occurs (and I’ll leave that one a mystery) that leaves a new villain to move behind the scenes to set up a final confrontation that still doesn’t seem to have all that much in the way of purpose, and to distract us from this we have the Salty Dog group hindering our heroes for no apparent purpose other than ‘because’.

Finally, we all get in a space ship and fly to Uranus for a smack down that happens but doesn’t and then some of us race back to earth where an even more confused smack down occurs and then somehow we all end up okay. Right.

So nothing wrong with that convoluted mess of a plot.

If you don’t think about the details it is straight forward. Kid admires father. Becomes hero in his own right. Get’s the girl.

Unfortunately for Captain Earth, the details plastered on that are persistent and very hard to overlook and why should we even try. There’s also enough jargon and babble thrown at you that you keep feeling like perhaps there should be a decent plot under all of that and yet really it is the kid becomes the hero, saves the world and gets the girl plot made convoluted because its fun to try to be pretzel?

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This all brings me back to my original point. This is not a particularly good anime. The story does not hold up when judged objectively on its own merits.

And yet, I like Captain Earth. I’ve watched it more than once and will watch it again.

I genuinely enjoy it for what it is and I enjoy the cast enough that even when they are taking the absurd far too seriously I can just kind of go with it. The kids get into dangerous situations and at times sustain injuries, but it isn’t angsty for the sake of it and even though these kids all have their own traumas they are genuinely fairly happy teens (all things considered). It makes a refreshing change and they bring a bit of warmth and charm to a concept that isn’t new in any way.

Sure, this won’t work for everyone but there is fun to be found in Captain Earth.

If you’ve ever had the chance to see it, I’d love to know your thoughts.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James



Watch or Drop? Eighty-Six

Watch or Drop
86 Ep1 6
Here’s a young girl who wants to talk about changing the world while she allow the status quo to continue.

How will Eighty-Six go in its opening episodes?

Watch or Drop? Rules

Rules modified for the Autumn 2021 season.

  1. The anime must be new (not a sequel or spin-off).
  2. I’ll watch as much as it takes to make a decisionas to whether the anime will be added to the watch/review list or dropped and forgotten. For good.
86 Ep1 11
And here’s the war-weary realist of the story – naturally a teenage boy.

First Impressions of Eighty-Six:

After the Price of Smiles I wasn’t exactly inclined to jump into another mecha fantasy anime particularly when I heard about Lena, the military girl who is pretty naive. Don’t get me wrong, a fantasy, military story could be amazing but we’ve had a fair run of ordinary to terrible ones recently and so I put off giving this one a spin for a bit.

My first impressions were that Lena was almost obnoxiously naïve in her self-righteousness and I haven’t quite figured out yet why she’s so protected given the military really shouldn’t put up with her tirades and speeches. Then again, she’s still doing her job and does nothing to change the way things are done other than make speeches so I guess she’s largely harmless in the grand scheme of things.

The 86 are the more interesting characters and the first three episodes give us some glimpses of their daily life and their battles but we’re still early days. What really isn’t clear is what the end game is for this story. The set-up seems to indicate the war will just end itself (a fact that seems as suspicious as the declaration that no humans are dying in the war) so if we’re not fighting to end the war and so far there is no sign of a rebellion or uprising it really makes you wonder where this story wants to take us.



Series Positives:

While we’re playing with a lot of cliches, the story set-up is actually pretty interesting. The city with its homogenous looking people and clean and safe environment built at the expense of the lives of those essentially cast off and declared inhuman. While it is blunt and lacking in nuance, it does have a lot of parallels to situations in real life and I am curious as to what 86 intends to do with the set-up (hopefully something).

86 Ep1 2
Look at all the happy, silver-haired people not dying in a war.

The action has also been pretty interesting. While the mechs haven’t been on screen a lot they are an interesting design and some of their movements have been pretty cool. Also nice to see a mecha anime that doesn’t feel the need to just make yet another humanoid robot swinging a sword around. Not that there’s anything wrong with that design, it’s just kind of been done to death at this point.

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Series Negatives:

Sadly, Lena, the main character so far, has left little impression on me other than I’d like to give her a good slap. If you are that angry about how the 86 are treated then actually do something instead of just shouting at the occasional person for bad-mouthing them. The fact that she feels like she’s doing anything for them by chatting to them each night just kind of irritates me and I was actually really glad at the end of episode 3 when one of them gave her a good dose of reality.

Eighty-Six - confronting questions in war.
Good intentions are great and all but actions matter more.

However, outside of a dislike of Lena’s starting point (and she could grow as the series progresses), I didn’t find much to complain about in these opening episodes. There’s a nice balance of learning about the world, meeting the characters and some action and it keeps things interesting. It isn’t moving at a fast pace though so I’m curious as to how much it will get through in 11 episodes given in 3 it really hasn’t done much other than set-up.

Verdict?

Karandi Excited Transparent
Watch

I’m not as hooked on this one as some other shows I’ve tried but I was pretty invested as I watched the first three episodes and I am interested in the outcome. It is a definite watch from me once it finishes.

Images from: Eighty-Six. Dir T. Ishii. A-1 Pictures. 2021


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James