Recap: Turns out Commander Kugel formed a religious cult somehow and plans to blow up Gargantia.
We started off Gargantia with a space battle involving aliens and robots to get us interested (a common tactic in all media), and after Ledo crash landed on the fleet, the show was mostly about the characters and their relationships. Ledo was a fish out of water who still clung to his space soldier past, and this provided both plot and a reason for exposition. When the Hideauze/Whalesquid appeared again as a plot element in the show, we accepted them because they were the first thing we saw and they were shown to be important to Ledo’s backstory.
However, while Kugel’s appearance is perhaps within acceptable boundaries, him arriving with an entire fleet converted into his own personal cult is most definitely not.
It’s not like the surviving humans belong to primitive society or anything. They use machinery every day and rely it on it to survive. They have mecha of their own. When Ledo crashed on Gargantia, they clearly understood that Chamber was some kind of metal machine like one of their Yunboro. Even with lasers and shit, it makes no sense how Kugel could take an entire fleet of people and brainwash them into some crazy cult that worships “lightning giants” as messengers of god.
Thanks to this episode’s narrative and technical issues (what happened to the animation budget?), my expectations for this show have been almost entirely dashed. I’m just hoping it doesn’t dig itself too much deeper as we come up on the end. Next season can’t come fast enough.
Iro has already made the most pertinent point about this episode, namely that Kugel’s transformation of his fleet into some sort of weird cult makes almost no sense in the established fiction of the world. The idea of him dominating by force and carving out some sort of dominion, that’s cool and entirely believable. But the weird, semi-religious aspect is difficult to swallow. Even if you make the excuse that the fleet Kugel crash landed into was less advanced than Gargantia, they’re still clearly a post-industrial society and while a giant robot might be a bit scifi-y, it’s not like they’re savages. The entire cult aspect seems to be added purely for atmosphere, but it’s just sort of hokey, and the reintroduction of the ridiculous (and ridiculously-dressed) pirate captain sort of knocks us out of believably tense atmosphere.
There’s also a tone issue, in the sense that we’re suddenly meant to be emphasising with Pinion again. Last episode he was an unrepentant asshole but now he’s the closest thing we have to a viewpoint character. Even though Melty mocks him we’re clearly meant to be impressed by his willingness to walk into the jaws of the beast. Again, there’s merit to this plot – guy does shitty things but is still fundamentally good underneath – it’s just that everything has happened too fast. Pinion has swung back and forth across the character scale and as a result he’s now just a little bit of an enigma.
The major issue with the last few episodes is thus – Gargantia‘s great strength was the care it took in building likable characters and the believable relationships between them. But now the needs of the plot have stripped most of that away, and while we’re left with a well written, mildly interesting sci-fi adventure that’s beautifully animated, but has nevertheless lost the spark which made it such vital viewing. It says something that probably my favourite scene this episode was the thirty second flashback to Gargantia with Amy. There’s still a few interesting plot machinations though – the ‘virus’ Kugel mentions might have a role to play, and his surely inevitable betrayal by Ledo will hopefully give us some impressive visual pyrotechnics. It’s a testament to Gargantia’s strength so far that even though this is the weakest episode yet it’s still intensely watchable with much to recommend it. I just hope we return to our namesake soon.