First Look: Sakugan

Alternative title: Sacks&Guns!!
Novel Adaptation by Satellite
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Mankind lives in disparate colonies deep underground. Outside the colonies, a dangerous uncharted land known as The Labyrinth is constantly being explored and colonized by mankind’s mech mounted exploration team, the Markers. Memempu is a child prodigy who dreams of one day becoming a Marker. Her father Gagumber is strictly opposed to this on account of her young age and the dangers of the occupation. After a giant creature destroys their hometown, the two set out on a journey into the Labyrinth.

Gee’s verdict: Rock Solid

Sakugan might not be the most original work this season, but it’s definitely proof that charm and production value can go a long way to endearing me to an anime. The premise immediately comes off as the brainchild of Made in Abyss and Deca-Dence, where a father-daughter team must explore a dangerous uncharted land while also wrangling with the nature of their relationship. The most striking thing about Sakugan right out the gate is how good it looks. Barring the bad cg monster and the okay cg mechs, the show brings a lot of gorgeous 2D work to bear. The wonderfully drawn backgrounds do a great job of setting the tone of Sakugan’s setting, while the excellent character animation give Memempu and Gagumber a ton of personality. Is it the story of a precocious child and her jaded father that we’ve all probably seen before? Sure. But are they a compelling duo nonetheless? Absolutely.

Memempu hits all the usual sassy kid genius tropes you’d expect, but there’s a charming antagonism to her relationship with her father where you can tell these two have been through a lot together. Gagumber initially comes off as a bumbling goofball dad, but his conversations with fellow father Walsh add a surprising amount of depth to him. He legitimately cares for his daughter, even if he doesn’t quite know how to relate to someone so intelligent and ambitious, but he’s determined to do his best until she’s truly ready to leave the nest. Throw in a couple of surprisingly narrative curveballs in the first episode and I think we might have something potentially really special on our hands. It remains to be seen if Sakugan can maintain its energetic pace throughout the rest of its run, but for now, I definitely want to see where this adventure goes.

Iro’s verdict: Revenge of the Dad Anime

Apparently, it’s pretty easy to trick my brain into liking something if you just blend pieces from Gurren Lagann, Deca-Dence, and Made in Abyss, seasoned with basic-yet-heartful familial bonds. It’s well-trodden ground, but the presentation is top-notch (though I am contractually obligated to lament the CG mechs and monsters). Even though Memempu’s drowning in sassy kid genius tropes and Gagumber edges right up to the line of being too much of a deadbeat, their relationship hits the sweet spot where characters can snipe at each other in a way that betrays how much they really do care. As always, time will tell if Sakugan can keep up the pace, but as far as first episodes go we’ve got a solid contender here.

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