The Key to Decode Gargantia

Gargantia ep5

I really enjoyed Gargantia episode 5. It’s got fine girls in skimpy bikinis (Hanaharu wau), giant robots, ocean-side BBQ, a light-hearted aero-plane race, a foot chase up a spiral tower, high-vantage landscape shots (complete with water-umbrella-rainbow-all-that-jazz), unconventional use of beyond-high-tech, fine weather, sunshine, relaxing in the shade, girl talk, retro scuba suits, teasing the AI, sauce, party, and this:

[] This episode gets to the heart of Gargantia, and its true meaning as a statement of sociopolitical solidarity with Japan’s young generation of much-maligned NEETs and freeters. Urobuchi has said the show was intended as a statement for these young people about to enter the world.

And frankly, it’s a little too on the nose. It’s not even subtle.

Here’s Ledo, poor guy finding himself uncertain about his life for the first time. He’s been raised in a strict, regimented educational system that prioritizes efficiency and is dedicated to only one thing: passing exams, er, killing space monsters. But in this new world, vaporizing people is looked down upon. He has his Master’s Degree in Space Monster Vaporization and it’s completely unsuited to the needs of the post-wormhole economy.

And on top of the unemployment he’s saddled with massive debt he doesn’t even begin to know how to pay off. Sure he has some neat technological gizmos that allow him to do cool things, but what can he *himself* do? He’s not sure, and it seems that no matter where he looks on the ship, there’s no place for him.

I think it’s not even subtle since the beginning. And for people watching anime this way, it’s not the first time we’ve seen a show that served this up like that roasted hog with an apple in its face. It’s been a while since people are cheeky enough to adopt post-bubble philosophies into their stories–probably in the early-mid 00s.

For the sake of completeness, please read this from our dear Butch, who too had to struggle to make a living and get to the point he is in his own career. I suppose he’s just enjoying the fruit of his labor!

Butch's specialty

Update: Added this quote from ANN’s interview of Kazuya Murata, director.

What do you hope people take away from the experience of watching Gargantia?

For the Japanese audience, I would like “young people who are about to enter society” to take the message, “Don’t worry. Try. You can do it”. For the larger audience in the world, I want them to have the message, “Whatever could happen, we, human beings, will be alright. If we all together open the path, the future will always be ahead of us”.

Looks like they really want to get that message across. That said, Murata is probably a good reason why the show has such a positive vibe.


10 Responses to “The Key to Decode Gargantia”

  • Hogart

    If anything, I’d say Gargantia works better as a clumsy allegory for sincere foreigners trying to integrate into a self-satisfied xenophobic culture. It’s not just on-the-nose, but a bit disappointing to shoehorn Ledo into an allegory he doesn’t quite fit into just because that’s kind of how real kids feel. You might as well try to be less allegorical if you’re going to be this open and direct anyway.

    • omo

      How would you be “less allegorical”? I think if you want to include things like the SF setting, it’s tough to be “direct”.

    • Hogart

      Put simply, you do what Gattaca did: you focus on people born into your society, just like the people you are targeting with your message.

      Making Ledo this far removed from Gargantia’s perspective turns him into a fish out of water, which is a different story from the disillusioned pawn.

      The result is choppy storytelling that seems to want to force him to feel a certain way, and deliver certain messages, at the expense of really making consistent sense.

      Not that I’m saying this can’t or will not work by the end; it just feels like they’re trying to jumble two stories together while faffing about with childish villains and girls worrying about their weight.

      They only have 12 episodes to work with, so I’m not sure they have the time to do that. It feels like it lacks focus.

    • omo

      I think I kind of get what you’re saying. So far much of the story in Gargantia is told through mood and themes, so it would seem that there’s a lack of focus. And personally I think that is okay if the whole thing pans out this way.

  • Hogart

    Sure, and I’m hoping for the best regardless.

  • DarkFireBlade25

    I’m not sure if the link you posted about Butch is correct or not. It just leads to the intro page to Gargantia.

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  • TheSubtleDoctor

    I don’t want this to come off in the wrong way, but I find this revelation to be disappointing. One thing that set Gargantia apart, for me at least, was that it seemed like a show that wouldn’t be -too- beholden to the otaku market. To find out that it’s a show not only for them but -about- them…I can’t help but feel a bit pessimistic about the places the show will go now.

    • omo

      Fair enough. Of course, this context is extra-textual, so you could ignore it just fine…I just think it’s also more meaningful this way.

      Which is to say, this doesn’t necessarily address the otaku. People who are 20-something and looking for a job are not all otaku. It’s just that if you’re not an otaku, why are you watching this anime?

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