“Behold the Edenic light of this paradise built atop the shoulders of science and the pursuit of progress. This is your homeland.”
(In reference to the utopian world of Avalon, home of the Galatic Alliance of Humankind)
We’re halfway through the spring season, and there have already been plenty of comparisons made between this anime and nomadic cultures. The set up of the show is a classic start to any colonialist move, where one person of a “civilized” nation discovers the seemingly free and vast wild and is shocked to discover the people that already populate it are vastly different from his own. They’re strange and barbaric with their customs, beliefs, and dress, yet somehow the adventurer forms bonds and starts to adapt as humans always do. We’ve seen numerous renditions of this setting: Avatar, Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, The New World, The Last Samurai, Shogun, and many others. But there inevitably comes a moment when our adventurer must war with himself over the loyalties he has to his homeland and the affections he holds for the new world and its residents, who are no longer just barbarians, but people. That moment hasn’t yet come to Gargantia, but I’m betting it’s not too far off.
Ledo, or “Red” as some call him, hails from a technologically advanced group of humans who fled to outer space several centuries prior due to unknown reasons. Through all their scientific advances and streamlined efficiency, they have become slaves to their war with another alien race. Ledo’s almost programmed animosity for the Hideauze–despite the war in which he has lived his whole life–as well as the method in which the Galatic Alliance of Humankind has perfected the output and capabilities of not only its soldiers, but also all of the population, might be considered by many as backwards. The laws of his nation demand a culling of the human race on merits of physical strength and war capability, disregarding any others on possession of the slightest weakness.
After he is thrown onto Earth by a failed attempt to dock with the rest of his units before warping, he discovers that not only is Earth still habitable, but that not all humans fled all those years ago–continuing instead to evolve to the changing planet, even thriving to the point that starvation and poverty are nowhere to be seen. The world as we knew it has turned into a water planet whose occupants travel across by means of ships powered by electric currents. While not all the humans Ledo meets are as peaceful as the residents of Gargantia, there is an underlying understanding that conflicts between groups of people will not lead to bloodshed, despite the weapons that are pointed and the verbal insults thrown. For all their rusted equipment and and nomadic living, the Earthlings are much more rounded emotionally than their galactic relatives.
Romanticizing the Natives
The idea of the Noble Savage hails back far in literature and thought, and stems from a belief that humans are inherently good. Even without the structure of religion or authority, most people begin with a natural desire to preserve life. It’s outside influence and circumstance that molds our natures one way or another. I can’t say that I wholeheartedly agree with this notion, but for the most part from my experience I find it to be true. Amy’s people are peaceful and proponents of purpose found through work and community support. What looks to be a naive approach to battles with the pirates and the ease with which Gargantia accepts Ledo and Chamber into its midst only serves to showcase just how idealistic these Earth humans are. Even from the physical standpoint comparing Amy to Ledo, we have a stark contrast in color. Amy’s few articles of clothing are brightly colored and patterned, and her dusky skin and firm body reveal all the time spent in the sun running with her packages and letters. Ledo, in turn, dresses uniformly in dark colors that emphasize just how devoid of pigment his skin is. From the few flashbacks of his that we’ve seen, as well as the brief time shown of him inside Chamber, it stands to reason that he would have no concern over his outward appearance. Amy’s nature and the exuberant personalities of the rest of the crew come across as festively utopian.
And even though we’re six episodes into the season, there has yet to be a character from Earth who I find nonredeemable. Pinion came across at the beginning as a meat head who seemed a bit too fond of killing Ledo, but after seeing their later interactions, I’m more inclined to think of him as a dog who’s all bark and no bite. Then there are the pirates, who are the closest thing to an enemy that we’ve seen on Earth so far. Waving their weapons and holding hostages, the pirates had the crew of Gargantia less concerned for their people than for the supplies that would be lost, knowing the unlikelihood of bloodshed. Looking at the physical weaknesses, then, we have Bevel–a young boy with a sharp mind and positive outlook on life. Through his discussions with both Amy and Ledo, Bevel is a clear pawn of sympathy for the audience’s benefit. It’s disconcerting to consider how an advanced race like Ledo’s would eliminate a bright mind like Bevel’s, while another group of more primitive humans choose to actively incorporate him into everyday life.
The Winds that Blow and Further Speculation
I’ve had doubts for a while now about ever seeing another Hideauze after the pilot episode’s heart-racing start, but the last scene in the most recent seems to point to future encounters with the alien race, and most probably Ledo’s galactic counterparts. But remembering the meal had amidst all the belly dancing and bickering, I’m inclined to think that Earth’s version of the alien is what Bellows so casually referred to as a whale squid. What is it about space that has warped both humans and the Hideauze into the warring creatures that they are, and if the creature Chamber confirmed as the enemy is indeed what is claimed, then why are we seeing it now on Earth?
If we are about to shift into an arc less peaceful than the past episodes that we’ve experienced, I’m looking forward to a clash of persons and ideologies brought together by the Hideauze. Will we get the Disney ending, where Ledo leaves on his own with a promise to return, or an end more true to history, where Amy packs up her belongings and travels to the Avalon of the Galactic Alliance of Humankind? I’m betting the former, but I’ve been wrong plenty of times before!