May 15, 2013

Well This Was Surprising

Attack on Titan has lots of them,. Gargantia on the Verduous Planet has surprises too, but they are usually of an entirely different sort....

The future. The FAR FAR future. When the sun dimmed and Earth went through a snowball phase, the creme of humanity fled for the stars. They soon encountered an implacable and aggressive alien race and find themselves in an eternal war for survival.

As the series begins a mech pilot from from the resulting Prussianized society is tossed out of hyperspace as his forces attempt to extricate themselves from a rout. Completely without navigational references and no FTL he crashlands on a peaceful and primitive planet populated by humans and must find some way to survive and fit in .

This has all sorts of potential, but it has the potential to be patronising of the native or (more likely) annoyingly PC,especially given that this is Studio IG. But damned if this isn't one of the most refreshingly subversive shows I've seen in a while.

Our hero has found Earth, the location of which has been lost to his branch of humanity for some time. In the ensuing aeons the sun has warmed, the earth has melted...quite thoroughly and is now almost completely water. The "primitive" people are not Luddites living in a utopian ren faire looking village or a collection of treehouses They are a society of hard working mariners trying to eek a living out of the unforgiving sea.

  The "nation" he has landed in, is a fleet of rusty vessels which band together for protection from pirates increase manpower, assist each other in maintenance and to exchange services. This collection of ships and offshore platforms is named Gargantia, after the flotilla's flagship.

The visuals of this show are remarkable.

Gargantia has a very blue collar/ industrial look to it and yet the city-state-convoy has a thoroughly exotic feel. This is one of the few shows to show a "city" that is uncompromisingly industrial in a good light. The way the background artists handle rust and the accoutrements of maritime industry shows that they really did their homework.

Ledo, Amy and a whole bunch of rust.

This is no pastoral commune nor is it the glorious shiny futures dreamed of by Syd Mead & Apple. It's no-nonsense, practical and a little worn down. It also looks to be very liveable.

In nearly every other sci-fi show, any hint of large scale resource extraction and utilization equipment is a sign of dystopia and/ or seediness. Here it is made plain that these things are necessary for a technological society to survive. The society is portrayed as being just as vibrant and colorful as any that one might find portrayed on a National Geographic special...but with running water and street cafes.

  However, the subversion does not end with treating the hardworking inhabitants of this not quite gleaming community with respect and understanding instead of a hipster sneer...oh no.

You see...everyone here except the truly handicapped is expected to work. But they're expected to work to support themselves.

Allow me to explain....they work to be awarded this "stuff" It's called "money" which Amy here spends a good part of an episode explaining to Ledo,...

Machinatio Vitae!

...who apparently came from a society of filthy commies cause he has NO idea how this works.

The ships sign contracts to hook up to the larger vessels and receive (or provide) repairs or other services. (There is mention of the fact that as a courtesy the Captain of their ship temporarily covered Ledo's water and electricity fees).

At one point, over dinner, Amy tells Ledo that everyone has to help out someone else in order for society to work. Ledo misunderstands this (being a filthy commie and all) and laments that he hasn't helped anyone..but Amy points out to him that he has...Ledo bought his own lunch..with money that he assisting his employer...said lucre will enable the person who fixed his seaweed bread to buy more things to sell and if they make a profit get personal items. They are able to do this by paying other people money that they got in part from Ledo and that money will in turn likewise help those they purchase those products from.

 Thus Ledo has contributed to the great circle of life.

 After Amy's brief but succinct disquisition on the ethics of economics my jaw about hit the floor. This is a sci-fi TV show where he good guys are Libertarian sea-steaders!

There are other nice bits besides art direction and an appreciation of capitalism. The characters are likeable too.

Ledo is completely out of his element.  He has some difficulty adjusting to a non-combat viewpoint and after one disturbing scene must learn an important lesson in proportionality.

Ledo has to use his mech as a translator but as the series has progressed he's trying to learn the local language. (Crunchyroll has actually done a good job of capturing his grammatically imperfect speech in the subtitles.) Although he's able to pay his way by having his mech move freight, he keeps trying to find a job that he himself can do. He's a lonely foreigner but despite his awkwardness and social ineptitude he is a very decent fellow and does not despair.

Despite the most awkward introduction possible Amy here is nevertheless fascinated by the spaceman. Amy volunteers to act as an  intermediary between the ship and Ledo and in that capacity is a major factor in things not turning out VERY bad in the first two episodes.
When not helping Ledo adapt, she runs a delivery service and takes care of her younger brother who suffers from a heart condition. (see they're (l)ibertarians, not Randians).  Amy has a pet flying squirrel and commutes via glider whenever possible.

While the society is largely self organizing there is a need for some government to deal with organizing defense and enforcement of contracts. Additionally, as this IS a collection of ships, there needs to be chain of command for diplomacy, oversight of vessel movements and a final say on course. Ferrock is the commander of the ship Gargantia and also the leader of the fleet. He's a capable seaman and very pragmatic. He appears to be in failing health though.  He agrees to take Ledo in despite considerable misgivings.

Ridget is the second in command of the fleet,  She handles contracts between vessels and oversees maintenance and negotiations with other fleets. She's deeply concerned at first about the threat Ledo and his sentient mech might pose.

Bellows (Left) and Pinyon (Right) are rival captains of two salvage ships. They are initially in disagreement over who should be able to claim salvage on Ledo's mech....before that becomes moot.  Piniyon additionally has a repair business. He initially wants to throw Ledo overboard. He's reasonably competent but is a bit of a slacker. Bellows is highly regarded for taking especially good care of her crew, but she can be a bit rash. Both of them at various points take the time help Ledo adjust to the society he finds himself in.

The show has been both pleasant and intelligent.  The art director should be lavished with praise. The music director deserves a set of gold bagpipes* and the mechanical designer really needs to retire in triumph and launch a kickstarter to go into business marketing those surprisingly well thought out flying windboards.

Just the fact that they gave thought to the transition from hydroscrew to airscrew deserves points.

Do want!

 I'm thoroughly enjoying this show thus far. 

*Actually there is little if any utilization of bagpipes. However, the OST does have a very Celtic Fusion feel, reminding me more than anything of Last Exile.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 12:06 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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1 As they say on Twitter, "Gargantia:

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Wed May 15 10:49:34 2013 (RqRa5)

2 Yeah.
Regards the latest episode.
That whole bit in the restaurant was...odd. I actually did a double take wondering if it really was them because it seemed to make no sense that it was.

They did mentioned earlier that they were doing a dance 'for the festival' but I'm still not seeing how that cameo makes any sense...

...unless Pete's assessment is correct.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Wed May 15 12:20:00 2013 (F7DdT)

3 OK I just rewatched it...It's a cafe in a food COURT and the stage act IS part of the run up to the festival. (God knows what the main act was). I was confused because most of the actual festival takes place off camera.

It was still a bit gratuitous.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Wed May 15 13:13:39 2013 (F7DdT)


"Amy has a pet flying squirrel"

...are you sure it's not a sugar glider?

I mean, a sugar glider?  The stripes look like it.

Posted by: Mikeski at Wed May 15 20:14:46 2013 (Zlc1W)

5 It's Otou-san's quip, not mine. He's referring the popular screencap of Ledo saying .

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Wed May 15 21:31:10 2013 (RqRa5)

...are you sure it's not a sugar glider? 

No I am not.

The series is set so far in the future it could be an evolved chipmunk or a gene modded chinchilla. It looks more like a cross between a Delmarva fox squirrel and a flying squirrel given the pointy ears.

I probably should have said flying squirellish indicator of female lead status.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Thu May 16 07:54:45 2013 (F7DdT)

7 (B)Riget has those glasses again.

Posted by: Mauser at Fri May 17 05:03:05 2013 (cZPoz)

8 Indeed -- red half-rims. How did I miss that? (probably because I was concentrating on the dancing girls.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Fri May 17 11:13:30 2013 (+rSRq)

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