Gargantia and the Clash of Ideas

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is probably my favorite show of the spring season. It has a very strong science fictional feel without constantly, constantly delving into exposition, and it has some interesting narrative themes too, as well as ways of expressing those themes. It also has a strong cast of characters through whom the world is experienced, and the excellent design of the robot Chamber also doesn’t hurt. Episode 11 in particular caught my interest, so I’d like to discussi t.

In episode 11, Ledo’s superior officer Kugel returns. Initially disappearing in episode 1, Kugel turns out to have been on the other side of the  planet, where he has basically become the god of a people over there. Using the philosophy of the Galactic Alliance, Kugel moved their way of life away from a familial/religious structure and more towards a stratified meritocracy. This is, of course, quite different from Ledo’s own experiences.

Key to this difference is the reveal that, due to an endemic disease, Kugel cannot leave the sterile environment of his own cockpit. Although this decision is clearly practical in many ways, it also sets up the idea that the cockpit of his Machine Caliber is a bubble, not only physically but also ideologically. Because Kugel is unable/unwilling to leave the safety of his environment, he never had the chance to experience firsthand the way of life of the people who now worship him, nor for their philosophy to “contaminate” him. Even though he’s basically a good person (as can be seen when he saves Ledo in episode 1), Kugel continues to follow the hard line of the Galactic Alliance without flinching.

I think it’s a really nice piece of symbolism, and what I especially like about this development is that it’s sort of the “war comes to Earth” theme which seemed very likely from the start, but in a different sense. With Kugel, Gargantia, and then Ledo in the middle, it’s more of a clash of ideas and perhaps even a postcolonial criticism of the idea of bringing “civilization” to other cultures.


5 thoughts on “Gargantia and the Clash of Ideas

  1. For me, this anime is about a guy from a very left-brain society (very strict, everybody must obey to the rules, no individuality) who is forced to discover a more open-minded society (aka right brain: everybody acts emotionally, no clear structure, creativity and individuality is allowed). I also like how Ledo learns that coexistence is possible if you are willing enough to forget about your past problems.

    I really like your thoughts about EP 11. It shows that Urobuchi still can write interesting stories (personally, I wasn’t a big fan from Psycho-Pass, but that’s me).


  2. This has probably also been my favourite anime of the spring season. Despite not being a fan of sci-fi in general, I think it’s been an anime that’s showcased some brilliant storytelling so far. With only two episodes to go though, it’ll be really interesting to see how everything gets wrapped up. I honestly can’t tell whether it’ll be uplifting or depressing as all hell, although since this is Urobuchi, I’m expecting at least one significant character death before the end. (My bet’s on Pinion.)


  3. I’m thinking that Kugel is actually either dead or close to it, and it’s his robot Striker who’s calling the shots, and perhaps collaborating with Chamber now, so it’s a meritocracy as understood by machine intelligence. But your image of Kugel unable to experience life on Earth like Ledo has is a terrific one, so I’m quite possibly wrong.


  4. Short, simple, and sweet, thanks for the post. I hadn’t even considered the bubble idea you introduced here.

    Although at first I thought that Kugel was trying to recreate the same sort of society that the Galactic Alliance had established, I believe that due to lack of resources and strong central authority, Kugel’s society may be different brand of authoritarianism. What will be interesting to see is how Ledo will react to this.

    Gargantia has been a bit hit-or-miss for me. I generally attribute this to the lack of focus in the writing, as it changes writers from week to week, but the last couple of episodes have been good. Aku no Hana is definitely my favorite anime this season.


  5. Pingback: Spring 2013 Mecha Anime Retrospective (Majestic Prince, Gargantia, Valvrave) | OGIUE MANIAX

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