BLU-RAY REVIEW: GARGANTIA ON THE VERDUROUS PLANET / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: KAZUYA MURATA / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: KYLE HEBERT, CASSANDRA MORRIS, MICHELLE RUFF / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 29TH
Fans of sci-fi and anime will quickly identify the narrative make-up of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, blending Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Neon Genesis Evangelion, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Waterworld. The 13-episode series does indeed shamelessly borrow from the genre past and present, and despite its flaws, makes the mix its own.
Famed for his dark style and tragic plots, writer Gen Urobuchi brought his game face to Gargantia. The plot, recognisable enough on the surface, gives us a future in which the Galactic Alliance of Humankind, a right-leaning organisation, battle Hideauze (space squids) in AI automated battle suits, called Machine Calibres. During a failed attempt to destroy an enemy super-weapon, 16-year-old ensign Ledo and his battle suit, Chamber, are sucked into a wormhole and flung to the other end of space. The pair end up on Earth, specifically Gargantia; a fleet harmoniously joined as a post-industrial city, floating on an ocean that has consumed all land.
Populated by rosy-cheeked teens, cocksure salvagers, bookish elders, and manual labourers aplenty, Ledo soon interacts with the people of Gargantia, lending his and Chamber’s help. Watching him learning the lingo is a fascinating insight into the conflicting languages. Like Avatar (and all the films it ripped off), Ledo goes native, edged along by the discoveries he makes and the climatic encounter he faces.
The vistas of space, sea and sky and beautifully animated, providing a backdrop to a bogged down narrative. Unfortunately, it’s a 10-episode series padded out to 13; with Calm Day devoted to barbecue and sunbathing. It’s a shame, as Deep Sea Secret provides a complex explanation as to we why left earth in the first place, which makes the surplus episodes even more damning of an otherwise decent show.
The characters, while anime standards, are quick to warm to in both Ledo’s and the audience’s case, but surprisingly it’s the ensign’s relationship with Chamber that is the most engrossing. Their bond is fully realised in the poignant series finale, Legend of the Verdurous Planet.
Peppered with Firefly-style music, Gargantia is an interesting, intelligent, and philosophical series, which indulges in unnecessary subplots and long-winded episodes. The series doesn’t come into its own until the last five episodes, but is worth a watch.
Included with the Blu-ray releases are two extra episodes, the 14th is superfluous, the 15th is an interesting addition but nothing especially exciting. There’s also a two-part sequel on the way.