First Impressions: Captain Earth – Episodes 1-3

Captain Earth

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Killzone After several years of being considered past its prime, Studio Bones finally returns back to form with one of the most anticipated shows of Spring 2014.

When a series begins, shows can either gently ease their audience into their fictional world or throws everything at once towards the viewers. Captain Earth does the latter by introducing all fractions within the defense force of Earth, the invading Kill-T-Gang, a whole myriad of characters, Daichi’s childhood and motivation, some funky sci-fi elements and an awesome orbital robot transformation. That is episode one in a nutshell. When a show usually goes that route, it ends up turning off the viewer as the onslaught of information piles on. Strangely, Captain Earth’s method of storytelling and pacing did not bother me as it builds on each successive scene up to its confrontation in space. Being that Captain Earth is a 25 episode series, there is plenty of time to flesh out all the nuances and details of the all the inner workings within this fictional universe.

The subsequent two episodes have the initial battle resolved with intervention from a female hacker taking control of the Earth Engine’s weapon systems. Infighting in Earth’s GLOBE organization. A father owning up to his mistakes and taking in all the Captains into his care as well as another invading robot in the form of the Amaro. More questions are asked than answered when two characters, Hana and Teppei ,who clearly have special powers and knowledge, manages to wrap in the Albion, which then proceeds to one-shots the hostile Amaro.

 

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The four main 17-year old protagonists of Daichi, Teppei, Hana and Akari form this odd quadrangle of personalities. Teppei, being the quiet and thoughtful childhood friend of Daichi, is obviously connected to the circle rainbow thingy and is bound to be full of surprises and revelations. Hana, as some other characters have observed, is an angel of sorts being quite eloquent and carefree with her pet chipmunk (which is lifted straight out of Pokémon. Seriously, what is that thing?). Her lack of memories and years in isolations results in her breaking social conventions which creates one hilarious comedic and fanservice moment in episode 3. I’m rather liking the main male lead of Daichi as he carries an air of maturity around him. While his father’s death is a defining point in his life, he seems to have accepted that fact and try to move on with his life by doing things that a normal teenage boy would do. It is only when circumstances present themselves that he leaps at the opportunity to find out who killed his dad (isn’t that a plot point from a show with scissors and hyper-powered uniforms) and isn’t afraid to stir up the status quo. Rounding out the main cast is the daughter of the head of operations at GLOBE, Akari, whose hacking skills and magical girl persona makes her the most showy member of the four. Her competiveness and amusing dramatic statements injects much of the spice that none of the other three leads are suited to provide.

One of the more worrying trends in recent years is the increasing use of CGI in anime, particularly in the mecha genre. Shows like Nobunaga the Fool, Valvrave, Wizard Barristers (the god awful kind of CGI) and most recently, Knights of Sidonia, have all have employed the use of CGI robots with varying degree of success. More often than not, 3-D generated mech battles give off the impression of large hollow tin-cans banging up against each other. I’ve always felt that 2-D animation had more impact and flair when portraying giant robots fighting it out, practically when it comes to its close quarter brawling, where punches and short-range weapons are the order of the day. Thankfully, Studio Bones steadfastly stays with hand drawn techniques for all its animation while incorporating 3-D elements into its electronic displays and cockpit HUDs. This is how CGI should be done, always in service in of traditional methods and never overwhelming the visuals. All the colors are lush and vibrant giving it the flair over other anime productions with every aspect of the visuals screaming quality from the background to the characters themselves.

Having the team behind Star Driver, being responsible for bring Captain Earth to life, there is plenty of potential in seeing unusual robot designs. The opposing Kill-T-Gang robots revolve around a design philosophy that have their mechs stylized after ballroom dancers with flowing dresses and coattails. Even their fighting goes along with this line of thinking by waltzing around their opponents and preferring to use their hands to violently express themselves. On the other hand, humanity’s own Earth Engine follows a more conventional design by being more bulker, offering a multi-stage assembly and having more focus on tanking damage rather than avoiding it. Even with its white color scheme, it bears an uncanny resemblance to Gainax’s own Gunbuster with its two massive shoulder pylons.

25 years on, the more mecha changes, the more it stays the same.

25 years on, the more mecha changes, the more it stays the same.

The audio manages keeps up with the epic scale of this space and there are three aspects that I practically enjoyed. The first is the OST composed by Satoru Kōsaki, who worked on the both the Haruhi and Monogatari franchise which by using an orchestra made up of bass and strings instruments, the soundtracks conveys a sense of grand adventure and anticipation. The same feeling carries over to the opening song as I judge openings to shows based on if I skip it or watch every time I fire up an episode. Captain Earth’s opening credits does everything I want for a show. It is fast, exciting, and pumps me up for the next 22 minutes with its Eureka Seven-like style of music . Finally, Hana’s insert song in Episode 3 (and the background music in Episode one) is a nice touch in some of the series more dramatic scene so far. I find it fascinating that it shares many vocal characteristics with Voices from Macross Plusand could very well be interchangeable with each other.

Going forth from the three episodes that has aired, I’m eager to see where the story goes as the stakes gets higher and more mechs enter into the fray. While some viewers may criticize Captain Earth for its trope-laden and formulaic presentation, I would say to enjoy it for the plot execution and larger-than-life grand spectacles and isn’t that the reason we watch giant robots shows?

 

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Note on future Captain Earth articles:

This article is primarily focused on the presentation and technical aspects of the show while glancing over the main plotlines elements. Future write-ups will be much more expansive on what exactly is going on and character interactions. I like to have bigger chunks of materials to work with which means that Captain Earth posts will be in 3 episode blocks just like this one.

 

 

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