Gen Urobuchi is undoubtedly one of modern anime’s greatest directors. With countless hit series under his belt, he has made a name for himself on his dark science fiction stories and his habit for bucking convention. His work is known for its tragic turns and philosophical musings, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is no different in that regard. While Urobuchi is a fantastic writer who proposes some very fascinating ideas, rarely is the resolution as satisfying as the initial idea. It is an issue that plagues almost all of Urobuchi’s works and once again Gargantia is no different. In spite of its flaws however, Gargantia winds up being a rip roaring ride into the future of humanity.
Set in the far future, humanity has taken to the stars after the world freezes over with a helping hand of that thing called Global Warming. Humanity finds themselves at endless war against squid like space creatures called Hideauze. Our hero Ledo is one of the soldiers tasked with fighting the good fight. However when a mission goes awry he finds himself flung across the universe on a bizarre planet covered in water. What he discovers on this ‘water world’ (no, not Kevin Costner’s water world) shocks Ledo to his core. This planet is Earth and people still live here.
It is a hell of a hook for the series and Urobuchi plays it for every ounce of possible intrigue all the while adding layer upon layer onto this future Earth. The cast is well established over the course of the series run. The trials and tribulations they face proves to be genuinely affecting especially in regard to the stone cold Ledo whose soul is nearly always hanging in the balance. It is hard not to become invested in this misfit band of characters and their eventual fates provide real emotional catharsis for their individual journeys. Interestingly enough even the ‘Gargantia’ ship itself has its own characterization, it is a relic of a time gone by, given life by the people who live upon it. It is just as important a character to the series as Ledo and the rest of the inhabitants of the ship island. That is an impressive piece of character development if you ask me.
As with all of Urobuchi’s series there is a very tragic turn of events in Gargantia. Towards the final stretch of the series the entire premise is pulled apart when Urobuchi pulls back the curtain and reveals the dark truth of this situation. While it is genuinely shocking and comes right out of left field, there is a distinct lack of believability in the twist. The revelation is more than a little tough to swallow and seems to ask raise more questions than it answers. It is a little disappointing but it isn’t enough to tear down the foundation of quality that the series was built upon from the beginning. What it is however is another case of Gen Urobuchi shooting a little too close to the moon and falling short on a satisfying and more importantly logical twist. In spite of that Gargantia is ultimately an intriguing story with a superb cast of characters that carry the material even in its weaker moments.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is a gorgeous anime series. It is an aesthetic delight if there ever was one. The animation is smooth and highly detailed. Character designs are equally well composed and highly unique and appealing. It is also worth mentioning that the mecha design for Chamber is quite special and is unlike any I’ve seen in anime before. The gravitation sphere is a nice touch that gives a bit of mystique to this otherworldly creation, making it feel alive and rather alien-like.
The aural experience that Gargantia provides viewers with is simply out of this world. The soundtrack is top notch and both Japanese and English dubs are phenomenal productions. Both opening and ending themes are catchy and well suited to the series. Furthermore the incidental music heightens drama at the right moments and creates the perfect atmosphere to the proceedings of the series.
Hanabee’s collected release of the entire series of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is remarkable in just about every sense. Not only is the release in English dub format but it also bundles in the 2 OVA episodes that conclude the series. This is about as definitive a collection you’ll ever get for a series like this and Hanabee should be commended for this excellent release.
Sometimes we must travel thousands of light years to learn what is most important to us. For Ledo such was the case as he was flung across the universe to a strange world, a world that ultimately becomes his home – Earth. While the science fiction elements and the high stakes twists are exciting in their own way it is one man’s quest to belong and find a home that makes Gargantia such compelling viewing. For a series that explores the very nature of humanity to a great extent, it is in the quieter moments that Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet says the most. A sci-fi adventure with a human heart beating beneath it, it may not be Urobuchi’s finest work but it is definitely the one with the most heart.
You can climb aboard the Gargantia with a copy of the series at Hanabee’s Online Store.