Last time I gave a summary of the first episode of this series and a link to the Crunchyroll channel.
Today let’s take a look at some of the actors, and the stage they play on. Small spoiler warning.
Ledo is the 16-year-old space-boy protagonist for the series. He was raised by the Galactic Alliance of Humankind, a civilization that’s been space-borne so long most of them don’t even believe they have a homeworld. Ledo serves as something of an interesting protagonist. At once, he is the viewer’s look at the world of the Gargantia fleet, as he adapts to a life of freedom and self-actualization, and he is also responsible for providing exposition on the Galactic Allaince, a military-fascist state where you have to kill space squids for 16 years to just to be considered a citizen for a mere two weeks, and the closest word they have for “family” is literally “People who look suspiciously alike.”
Ledo shows up on Earth unfamiliar with a lot of concepts we take for granted. The idea of “appropriate use of force” is one that strikes early on. The Gargantia fleet is attacked by pirates, who kidnap several crew members, and the fleet asks Ledo and Chamber for help. Ledo engages the pirates the only way he knows how: by overwhelming display of force. At least, it could be considered overwhelming if he’d left any pirates alive to witness it. Every single Pirate crewmember is wiped out in the blink of an eye, and Ledo doesn’t even think anything of it until he gets an earful from Bellows and Amy. It turns out that human lives are precious for some reason, and while all bets are off when someone is actively threatening your life, that doesn’t mean it’s totally OK to turn them and everyone they ever knew into a puff of smoke.
The concept of personal property is also something that was apparently not covered in Machine Caliber Piloting 101. After successfully defending the Gargantia from pirate attacks twice, and sparing as many lives as he reasonably could the second time around, Ledo gets a job carting cargo between ships in the Gargantia fleet.
Well… Chamber gets a job. Ledo just kind of watches and wishes he was good for something.
With a day’s work comes payment, and Ledo is struck with a good deal of panic when he realizes the employers must have over-paid him. The envelope he was given contains enough money to buy a year’s worth of basic meals! Amy and Bellows once again explain to him that while food, water, and shelter are essential for life, they are by no means the end of all things. They also explain to him that the money Ledo was paid is the money his employers decided his work was worth.
As the series progresses, we get more looks into the fascist state that Ledo grew up in, while he learns more about parts of society in the Gargantia that we take for granted. Ledo is the uncontested protagonist of the series and the character who displays the most character growth, progressing from an unmotivated, if talented, rank-and-file soldier happy to follow whatever orders he is given, to a hard and diligent worker looking for a place where he can contribute to society on the Gargantia(so long as it doesn’t involve shoveling cow manure), to a warrior-philosopher, and finally to spearheading a rebellion against the very society that he was borne from, preparing to assassinate his own superior, and teaching the citizens of the Gargantia how to cooperate with the very creatures he was raised to hate and kill.
Amy is the face of carefree life in the Gargantia fleet-ship, and the prime romantic interest in the series. An attractive young girl around Ledo’s age, Amy is employed as a messenger and delivery-person aboard the fleet. Any time the series follows her, we get plenty of spectacular shots of the fleet, both up close and at long-distance. Amy is enthusiastic about her work and her play, and the two often overlap. Amy also works part-time as a belly-dancer at a seafood cafe, and which features prominently in displaying both her growing attraction to Ledo as a romantic interest, and as a set-piece in Ledo learning that there’s more to life than sleeping in a pilot’s chair, waiting for the next set of orders to come down the pipe. Amy serves as Ledo’s guide as he learns more about life aboard the Gargantia fleet and about the society that enables it, introducing him to Dr. Oldham, the wise physician and historian, and to her little brother Bebel who, being too sickly and bed-ridden to do any physical work, instead busies himself in social and physical philosophy, providing an important lesson to Ledo that a person’s worth is not based solely on their capacity as a soldier.
Amy is an ace hangglider pilot, owing to the extensive practice she gets while working and the carefree and adventurous attitude that leads her to constantly push her own limits. This is showcased at the end of the series, when she appears out of nowhere to rescue a friend who is falling to what would be her death, and again, in the last episode, when she acts as artillery spotter for a secret and ancient weapon capable of raining destruction from half a world away.
Bellows is one of my personal favorite characters in the Gargantia series, and not just because she provides some nice eye candy. She is probably the most static character in the series, acting almost less as a character and more as a part of the setting. Bellows serves as a leader and mentor figure, even to her good friend and fleet VP, Ridget. She first appears as the person who found Ledo and Chamber in the ocean, and is employing Pinion to disassemble the strange machine, she is one of the captives taken prisoner by the pirates, and in repaying Ledo for his part in rescuing her, she combines lunch with a small lesson on the value of human life and inter-personal relationships.
The reason why I like Bellows is because she is not timid, or weak. She is an intelligent and strong leader, a business owner, and a mentor figure to Amy before the series even begins, and she picks up Ledo, helping teach him the finer points of life and society alongside the rest of the Gargantia crew.
Pinion serves as a rival for Bellows, but he also displays character growth through the story similar to Ledo, if to a significantly lesser degree. Pinion is a mechanic, helping perform maintenance aboard the Gargantia, salvage the scrap that Bellows brings aboard, and generally trying to avoid work. He loves good food, good alcohol, and good-looking women, and for all his other faults, few other characters in the series really KNOW how to have a good time the way Pinion does. If there’s fun to be had, Pinion will be there to have it. If there’s a party, Pinion probably started it.
This is not to say that Pinion is stupid, by any means. During the beach episode, he’s the person who realizes that Chamber’s black color scheme will cause his surface to heat up like a grill, after Chamber demonstrates that his own heat ray doesn’t have much variance between “off” and “cinder,” and the actual grill fails to turn on. Pinion demonstrates an aptitude for spotting opportunities when he takes Ledo out to dinner both to teach him that eating can itself be fun, especially when you mix in some nice beer and dancing girls, and it turns into an argument between himself and Bellows over who Ledo should come and work for. When Ledo demonstrates his aptitude for slaughtering the monstrous Whalesquid which everyone else on Earth lives in constant fear from, Pinion is the person who sees it as an opportunity to expand salvage operations to include Whalesquid nests and other places previously inaccessable, and he is even able to successfully decipher and reverse-engineer the lost technology left behind in those nests.
Pinion’s character arc is much quicker. Rapidly enticed near the end of the series by the promise of power, it doesn’t take him long to realize that advanced as the civilization that Ledo came from may be, their technological innovations in no way make up for their lack of humanity, and the only impetus required to convince him to rebel is the news that a rebellion is forming.
Chamber is Ledo’s mech, or “Machine Caliber,” as they’re called by the Human Alliance. With a fully-functional, self-aware AI “Pilot Support System,” Chamber is able not only to operate quite effectively without even having a pilot inside, but also offer conjecture and opinion on the situations Ledo gets into aboard the Gargantia. Chamber handles the language translation which allows Ledo to initially communicate with the crew of the Gargantia at first, offers situational advice, including a suggestion that he and Ledo, with their vastly superior technology, could come to rule the Gargantia, and even earns money for Ledo early on, by carrying around heavy cargo without even needing his pilot. Ledo isn’t entirely superfluous. It turns out that Chamber is really quite bad at gravity manipulation, and being a machine, he lacks certain aspects of creativity and critical thinking skills.
In the end, Chamber demonstrates that not only has his database been growing during his and Ledo’s time on Earth, but his philosophies have been changing. While, at the end, he insists that he has only ever been fulfilling his purpose as a pilot support system, that purpose has changed visibly alongside the changes to the pilot, from rank-and-file soldier to self-actualized individual, to someone whose beliefs have been so completely altered that he comes to Chamber asking for advice on attacking members of the Alliance military Ledo himself used to take orders from. Chamber is able to find loopholes and legal reasoning permitting the mutinous behavior, but it is not until the very end, when Chamber kicks Ledo out of the cockpit and finishes the final battle alone, that we see how truly and completely the transformation has occurred. When faced with an ironclad argument, a statement that Chamber is outright and undeniably breaking the protocol for which he was created, Chamber proves he’s been paying attention the whole time, delivering what is truly the most victorious line in the entire series.