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Gargantia On the Verdurous Planet (2013)

It has been several centuries since the human race flew into space and abandoned Earth. What is left of the human race form a society named the Galactic Alliance of Humankind to ensure their survival against potential threats, namely a race of tentacled aliens known only as the Hideauze. Using advanced weapons and piloted robots or Machine Calibers, humanity fights to eliminate the Hideauze and find a new home. Ensign Ledo, a 16-year-old child soldier, has lived and breathed this military lifestyle, being more than willing to die for his people's cause. But when an assault on a Hideauze stronghold goes awry, Ledo and his Machine Caliber, Chamber, are flung into a wormhole and shot through space to unknown territory. They are discovered by another group of humans who speak an ancient dialect and rely on primitive technology to survive. Much to Ledo's shock, he discovers that he is no longer in space but on an ocean covered Earth which, according to the Galactic Alliance, has long been uninhabitable. What has happened to the earth after all these years, and will Ledo be able to get the answers he needs while fitting in with the natives?

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is a sci-fi/adventure series that initially aired from April 7th to June 2013. The series was produced by Production I.G, and directed by Kazuya Murata for a total of 13 episodes. Gen Urobuchi, whose previous projects include Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the Fate/Zero series, was brought on as the main writer for the show. A pair of OVA episodes were also released along with the series first Blu-ray DVDs later that year.

Having been introduced to this series by a friend the during the season of its release, I had no idea to expect from this series, other than the fact that it featured talking, mecha robots. Having grown up with a lot of mecha anime, such as various series from the Gundam franchise and Macross, my first impressions with the first few minutes of the first episode was that it would reflect a lot of the same ideas that those series focused on. Ideas like the moral dilemmas between a world at peace and a world at war. But while Gargantia does uses these same ideas, it presents them in a very different and, dare I say it, refreshing way.

Most of the early episodes focus on Ledo's various attempt to adapt to this new culture and language while also trying to find out how to get back to the Galactic Alliance. While this desire may be fuelled by his instinct as a soldier to survive, his attempts and subsequent failures to adapt are humorous as they are endearing. A major highlight of this show, in my humble opinion, is watching his Ledo grow to appreciate this new life and slowly but surely wanting to be a part of it. His robot, Chamber, is Ledo's initial pillar of support, acting as a translator and protector from the dangers of earth, though it too gets more than a few funny moments trying to fit in with a society with inferior technology.

The rest of the main cast are mainly there to teach Ledo about the new society on earth and help him grow. That isn't to say they aren't good or entertaining, with a few getting their own mini arcs as the episodes progress. However, with only 13 episodes to tell a complete story from start to finish, the focus isn't on them for very long. It makes sense from a production stand point, and while I personally consider the show is much stronger for it, the lack of development may bug viewers who look for strong side characters. There are several stand-outs characters such as Amy, Pinion, Bellows and Ridget being key among them but save a few other side characters, the rest seem to blend together.

One of the major highlights of Gargantia outside of its plot and characters is most definitely the animation. I can only speculate what kind of budget this series had when it started but I can guarantee that they didn't waste it. While the backgrounds and characters are mostly hand drawn, there is a good deal of CG integration with is done seamlessly in each episode. Chamber himself is almost always animated in CG but his look never feels out of place. There is also a sort of dynamic energy to the animation. Not just in the characters movements and facial expressions but also the environment itself. Given the series' focus this was extremely important to pull off and from where I'm standing they succeeded without a single hitch. Even the music helps bring the environments to life from the almost island sounding music of Gargantia's streets to the sweeping orchestral pieces that up the epic factor when things get serious.

Gargantia on the Verdorous Planet may be a short series but it is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of science fiction or mecha anime and it is most definitely worth watching more than once. I personally try to watch it once every year since its release and it is still as enjoyable now as it was when it first aired. A timeless story, with awesome characters and incredible animation that has no chance of looking dated, and you've got an anime that is destined to become a classic.

Gargantia the Verdourous Planet is available on Blu-ray in both languages and is available to stream on Crunchyroll, Netflix [US/Canada], Hulu and Viz.com