Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (Suisei no Garugantia) (Crunchyroll) is…interesting. The first half of the first episode looks like a fairly routine mecha battle in space. Then it suddenly gets downright Ghibli-esque. Sort of “Nausicaa on Waterworld“.
The animation is really good by TV standards–one of those shows that would almost be worth watching just for the visuals. So far it seems fairly light but it may turn dark and tragic later. It is written by Gen Urobuchi the screenwriter for Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero.
The story begins thousands of years after refugees fled from Earth, which was then in the grip of an ice age. Their descendents form the Galactic Alliance of Humanity, an advanced civilization that looks rather totalitarian. They are locked in a death struggle with aliens called the Hideauze (“hideous”).
Ledo is a mecha pilot. He has been thoroughly indoctrinated but it doesn’t seem to have taken fully. Combat has made him cynical. He fights grimly and efficiently without much enthusiasm.
His only friend is Chamber, the Artificial Intelligence that controls his mecha. Chamber is programmed to be loyal and efficent, to protect Ledo and help him serve as a good soldier.
Ledo and Chamber are part of a large mecha fleet that travels through a wormhole to attack a Hideauze nest. It doesn’t go well and they are forced to retreat. While trying to escape through the wormhole Ledo is attacked by a Hideauze mecha. He ends up drifting though unknown space. Chamber puts him into hibernation for his own protection.
When he wakes up he finds his mecha inside a decrepit-looking ship surrounded by scruffy-looking humans. He assumes that they are “Drifters”, humans who have not joined the Galactic Alliance.
The humans are trying to break into the mecha but with their primitive tools they can’t even scratch it. Ledo is surprised that such backward people can even keep their artificial gravity at a perfect 1G.
But when Ledo and Chamber try to escape they find themselves on the deck of a ship floating on a planetary ocean. They are, in fact, on the long-lost planet Earth which has become tropical and totally covered by water.
They are on “Gargantia”, a large fleet of ships that form a self-sufficient community.
The first human they establish contact with is Amy, a 15 year old girl who owes a lot to Nausicaa. She is a glider pilot and has a cute flying-quirrel-like thing for a pet.
The Earth civilization is not steampunk but it might be called “diesel punk.” For the most part they seem limited to mid-twentieth century technology but they can do amazing things with it.
They even have primitive mecha called “Yumboroids” though they know nothing about artificial intelligence.
Ledo’s mecha has enough firepowerm to blow away the entire fleet and everything else on the planet. But he wants to establish peaceful relations. When Rigits’s ship is attacked by pirates he tries to help out by vaporizing them.
This doesn’t go over well. The Gargantian’s are strongly opposed to unnecessary killing. Ledo finds this odd since they eat fish and birds, which seems pretty disgusting to him. (He’s probably accustomed to delicious synthetic nutritional paste.) He tries his best to smooth things over.
What we have here is basically a first contact with a primitive culture–although the “primitive culture” in this case is much like our own. Ledo hopes to be rescued but if either the Galactic Alliance or the Hideauze find Earth they will probably want it for themselves. Ledo may have to choose between his loyalty to his own civilization and his new Earth friends.