Gargantia On The Verdurous Planet Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

Gargantia On The Verdurous Planet Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

Gargantia On The Verdurous Planet

The path of humanity is a long and varied one.

What They Say:
In the distant future, Ledo, a young soldier from space, wakes up and finds himself marooned on an ocean planet. Growing up in space and knowing nothing but battle, he is a stranger in a strange land, full of odd customs and a foreign language, but he’s not alone. Starting a new journey on this verdurous planet, Ledo must find a way to survive and reconcile the fact that he may never be able to return home!

This special edition contains a chipboard artbox and an 80-page, full-color premium booklet featuring art, character guides, episode summaries, and more!

Contains episodes 1-13 and OVA episodes 1-2.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the newly created English language mix, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works the action and dialogue side well as both show up fairly regularly in different ways throughout the series. There’s a good design to the aerial/space battles that go on as it moves about in some good ways, allowing the forward soundstage to replicate it in a decent enough way. It’s not huge on bass, but there’s a good sense of impact in a lot of scenes that helps. The dialogue is mostly straightforward as there aren’t a lot of creative scenes where it’s necessary to do so, but the slightly disembodied voice of Chamber works well to not feel like it’s coming from one place most of the time. Both tracks come across pretty good here and there’s definitely some solid clarity throughout and the mixes help to make the show more engaging throughout.

Video:
Originally airing in early 2013, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec for the Blu-ray. The show runs for thirteen episodes and is spread across two discs with seven on the first and six on the second. The second also has two additional full length OVAs as well as a 22 minute long animated extra. Animated by Production IG, the show has a very good look about it with fantastic color design throughout that really pops off the screen and feels completely appropriate and perfect for the series. There’s a lot of great detail (and color detail) that breathes a special kind of life into it which makes it all the more engaging. Character animation is very fluid and looks fantastic as it goes about as does the mechanical design, both of which have some really well done detail. There are a few areas, more so on the second disc, where some of the sea green backgrounds in the Sea of Mist and some of the ship backgrounds have a bit more noise than they should, but it’s a very minor issue overall.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is quite good as we get a very solid and well designed heavy chipboard box that holds everything. The front of the box has a very friendly image of Chamber with its arms around Amy and Ledo while a few other characters make a small appearance as well, all set against a good view of the world as it exists here. It’s not quite as vibrant as the show itself, in fact it’s quite subdued, but it delivers a good view of the world itself with its color design. The back cover gives us a good separate image that brings out the character of Kugel and his Striker unit, giving it a nice bit of space as well. That’s actually underneath the slipover piece that’s underneath the shrinkwrap which details the premise of the show, a number of good colorful shots and a breakdown of everything it includes in a very good and easy to read way, though not using a more standard technical grid.
Within the box, we get the other piece that makes this a limited edition release with a gorgeous eighty page full color book. It breaks down the individual episodes with their own pages with some solid text and shots from the show in all its beauty as well as a lot of pages showing off character and mechanical designs for the show. There’s a small cover art gallery that made me wish we had more of the artwork available here and we also get a surprising couple of pages showing the recording side of the dub at Bang Zoom. I liked seeing that, but I wish it included text to denote who was who. It’s definitely a very polished book with great paper quality that lets it stand out very well.

The slightly oversized Blu-ray case in the box provides us with the discs for both formats and the front cover is a good piece that shows Ledo and Chamber together against the Gargantia while the back cover replicates the material from the slipover piece from the box. There are no inserts in the case but we do get an appealing image on the reverse side of the artwork that lets the supporting cast from the show get their time in a brightly colored and appealing way.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is the weakest part of the release, which is unfortunate since you’d hope that at least some of the cover artwork would be used here in a vibrant way. The menu itself is fully functional and easy to use, but it basically just uses an extended view of the horizon where you get the sea along the bottom and the sky with the clouds along the top and a look at Gargantia along the horizon. It’s not bad, but it’s very bland overall and doesn’t really set the mood well or introduces you to anything in a quick way. With the series having so much pop and vibrancy to it, this is the most subdued aspect of it overall. Menu navigation is a breeze as is setup and getting around with the extras after the show is smooth and intuitive, though surprising that the OVAs get their own language setup option instead of retaining the options from the main series.

Extras:
This release comes with a good selection of extras, though I can’t bring myself to call the OVAs themselves extras. Outside of that, we get the thirteen special Petite Gargantia weekly specials that are about a minute and a half each as we get cute chibi sized versions that play comically about the show and allow the characters to be more humors. The rest is the usual selection of extras done in a good way as we get the clean opening and closing sequences with both English and Romaji subtitles, the clean scenes for the special moments and a solid selection of the original Japanese TV spots and promotional videos.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series stemming from the fertile mind of Gen Urobuchi and animated at Production I.G., Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is one heck of an awkward title but one fantastic series. Like anything, original series can be really hit or miss for a lot of reasons, but when you get an original science fiction series that avoids a lot of the usual cliches in a big way – i.e. there’s no high school uniforms adapted here or really cringe worthy fanservice – you find yourself really latching onto it. While I watch a whole lot of series, there aren’t many that really make you want to invest in it because it’s not really going to take a lot of changes. Gargantia has a goal in mind here and it executes it well, enough so that when we get to the standalone OVAs, those feel weak because it’s not truly in service to the storyline itself in a significant way.

Taking place in a very distant future, we get a familiar initial setup where mankind in the form of the Galactic Alliance is doing battle with an alien race called the Hideauze in order to secure their own continued existence. Mankind has largely become all about the service towards this and it’s not exactly a factory feeling, but there are plenty of shades of it in a very slick and polished way as we follow those going to a new battle in a very military minded way. The opening episode gives us some beautiful action and choreography as we follow a pilot named Ledo, who under the service of his commander, Kugel, does what he can to fight for humanity. But as we see, the battle is too overpowering and when they make their escape through the wormhole, Ledo’s mecha, named Chamber, clatters along the edge of it all and is thrown very, very far away.

So far that they basically appear over Earth, which has long been lost to mankind in regards to its location. Ledo’s surprise over it is genuine and works well as we start to learn what happened to the planet over time. While there are a few hints of some very minor land masses (mostly in the final OVA), the planet is covered in water and the remnants of humanity that have survived have crafted a variety of fleets of different sizes over the years. Some are pirate fleets, others work in interesting cooperative ways where they latch onto each other for the common good, with rules, and become larger city states of sorts. Ledo and Chamber end up becoming involved with the first one they find, a good sized one known as Gargantia. With two very different lifestyles, it’s a huge culture clash as Ledo makes his way out of Chamber and starts to learn about Earth culture and the fact that they’re completely unaware and unprepared in regards to the war that the Galactic Alliance has likely been fighting for millennia.

The culture clash makes up a lot of what goes on here as Ledo, often dealing with interpretations from Chamber that makes for an interesting and welcome approach to understanding the language, ends up invariably doing things that the Gargantian crew can’t understand and they do the same when it comes to his understanding. There’s an alliance that does form relatively early in a decent way as Ledo throws in his lot with them for awhile in order to figure out what’s going on and what his options are, and that allows him to make a few friends. There’s a solid supporting cast here, but a lot of the focus is on Amy, a young woman who works as an aerial courier between the various interlocked ships, and Pinion, a pretty smart repairman who definitely finds a lot of appeal in the tech that Ledo has when it comes to Chamber. Both men are essentially using each other for their own goals throughout the series, but it manages to work in a natural and realistic way that has their own inner demons driving them to the way they work together.

Over the course of the series, it works a very good story about how Ledo arrives, adapts and tries to understand the world but also has to deal with some hard truths that come up along the way. Like any good science fiction story of this nature, there are twists that exist, some of which you can see plain enough, that helps to make it a bit more nuance and more complicated than how all sides have viewed things for so long, both on Earth and within the Galactic Alliance. It also does some good stuff in the way that it sticks to Ledo as the lead and doesn’t try to shoehorn in Amy constantly or really force the relationship between them. Everything here moves at a very natural pace with what it’s trying to accomplish and that allows you to really ease into the characters.

So when it shifts to the final three or four episodes, after Ledo and Pinion have split off with a group for their own goals for awhile, we get the ending story that brings to a close the first chapter of the storyline. It goes big in a good way as we get exposed to another type of fleet out there that has gone religious in a way and has a certain kind of fanaticism that you can see being very possible and probable based on the scarcity of resources. The action aspect of the show has worked out well throughout with what Ledo has to do, but it goes up several notches along the way here, first with his bloody underwater adventure and discovery and then with his opponent from this particular crew. Everything works really well and unlike a lot of stories that get to their end battle, it doesn’t feel like it really comes out of nowhere but is rather a naturl evolution of the series.

When it comes to the two OVAs included here, they’re definitely well done and help to flesh out the world in very different ways. With them taking place before and after the events of the series, there’s no real urgency to it, though it’s fun enough to watch and flesh out. The first deals with a story from Ridgets past that comes into the present and we get essentially a ghost ship tale, one that’s filled with some rather good character material. It feels like it’s going to be a bland filler piece at first, but taking place after the show it gives us a few clues to life and how Ledo has adapted there.

The second OVA is far more interesting, though it suffers from knowing the ending. This one goes back to the beginning of the series proper and shows us the route Kugel took and how he ended up on Earth and what his path was like. Putting him in with the group that he did, seeing the war between sisters that existed and how the youngest of them used him in order to settle things for the duration was definitely interesting. It also shows, albeit in a very abbreviated way, how they went from a pirate group to a cult that viewed Kugel as their god. His own story is decent here and we see his own fall from grace, though not all of it which is good as you should always leave a few things open to play with.

In Summary:
I didn’t watch the simulcast for this series and I’m glad that I didn’t. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is something that works beautifully in marathon form because it’s essentially a very solid miniseries that tells a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end. And with enough material to wrap around both sides of it to provide more. It’s a rare series that I get to the end like this and really start hoping for more to be made in this form again so we have an in-depth story to explore. While there are plenty of elements you have to gloss over to accept how the science of all this works, the end result is a very strong and engaging story that spans some great material, characters and situations to deal with. There’s no “of the week” material here but rather a consistent slate of world and character building episodes with an overall arc that’s well realized. Viz Media put together a fantastic release here and for those that love science fiction anime and hate that there’s so little of it compared to years ago, this is a must own release.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Petite Gargiantia Mini-Episodes 1-13 & Petite Gargantia Special (subtitled only), Clean Openings & Ending, Textless Episode Scenes, Original Japanese Commercials, Original Japanese Promotional Videos

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
MSRP: $69.99
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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