At this stage, I’ll watch practically anything by Urobuchi Gen (despite the weak finish of Fate Zero); Suisei no Gargantia is his latest work, a light sci-fi slice-of-life series. Unlike previous offerings, it’s not a gritty genre deconstruction (eg Madoka tore apart mahou shoujo, Fate Zero challenged the meaning of heroism, and Saya no Uta apparently was a romance with a Lovecraftian monster), here Urobuchi writes an uplifting tale of a young man dropped into a foreign culture, finding his way.
While there are a few battles in the series, it’s not about agency or victory (the protagonist’s sentient mecha is virtually invincible), or a mission or quest; it’s about Ledo becoming part of a community with completely different values than his original utilitarian militaristic upbringing, recovering suppressed memories of family, and discovering sexuality (in a chaste Japanese way). Most of the episodes are slices-of-life, and while there are a couple of dramatic late reveals, they are almost tangential to the main themes – the action is more an accent to the mundane happenings.
I enjoyed the discussion of the nature of humanity by non-human parties and the contrast between Ledo’s initial invincibility and separation and his later easing into the Gargantia fleet sans suit and mecha. Initially all he can think about is returning to his comrades-in-arms – this primitive planet is beneath him, and being stuck here is disempowering – no surprise, he later reconsiders what’s important to him.
The production values are great, with vibrant backgrounds, and lush character designs (apparently they’re by a noted ecchi artist). While there’s some low-key romance, most of the character exploration and development is focused on Ledo and his robot Chamber, who provides an unflinching foil for his discussions. The setting was interesting, and I wanted to see more about the other characters (particularly Bellows, who’s played by one of my favourite seiyuu Itou Shizuka), but the story is complete as is (and the major secrets discovered).