The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Captain Earth

Apr 5th 2014

Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 4.5

Review: Now this is how a mecha show should be. Complex: a puzzle with plenty of free-floating pieces but the sure knowledge that they'll all fit together somehow; a plot machine with lots of intricate moving parts, slowly meshing together. Heartfelt: full of good people trying to do what's right, entangled in relationships that might hurt or heal. Stylish: teeming with characters whose colorful designs match their colorful personalities, loaded with eye-candy of every stripe, and all of it effortlessly choreographed with the staccato escalation of the episode. But most important of all? Stinking-ass cool: able to blow your pants off and send you spiraling back to your childhood dreams of crushing crap in a freighter-sized robot.

That Captain Earth is able to pack all of that into a single episode (or at least hint at all of that in one) is a tribute to its complicated structure. Its events take place over a single day (maybe two), but it leaps without warning between a vast array of characters, many with their own flashbacks, and few of whom get a proper introduction. So we learn that, as a kid, hero Daichi spent a revelatory summer with an odd boy named Teppei, culminating in a life-changing encounter with a stasis-frozen girl. We learn a part of the truth about his dad's heroic demise. We see a giant pink crystal fortress on the moon, and the strangely normal folk who live there. We touch on a shadowy group who run an extraterrestrial defense system and a still shadowier group who oppose them. We see that Daichi is a good kid, with nice friends and at least one adorable girl with a probably-doomed crush on him. All that in twenty minutes, and capped off with the most ludicrously awesome method for assembling a space robot since Gurren Lagann. Oh, I'm gonna love putting this puzzle together.

Captain Earth is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


Hope Chapman

Rating: 4

Review:
Oh, is it that time again? Is it time for another thoughtful coming-of-age mech adventure from Studio Bones' best animators and a melting pot of imaginative anime screenwriters? This is Captain Earth, an original story with some clear influence from its myriad predecessors like RahXephon, Eureka Seven, and Star Driver. (The writing and dialogue is most similar to the first, the premise and art design to the second, and the musical score and direction to the third.) That's a big laundry list of influences. Aren't there too many of these already?

Nope! More is always welcome when it comes in the form of things like Captain Earth that look this good and build up potential this well. Like its older relatives, Captain Earth is perhaps too devoted to obfuscation for the sake of intrigue. It's not really clear what's going on or why yet. Shadowy factions both human and alien seek to change or destroy the earth for one reason or another, and giant robots are used by both sides in the conflict. At the same time, magical phenomena in the form of circular rainbows and other strange visions appear on the sidelines to suggest that the Earth itself might have its own opinion on the war for its future. Throughout it all, government officials and robot pilots shout technobabble at each other, and it's all very large-scale and beautifully animated and orchestrated, even if it doesn't yet make sense.

All this mysterious foreshadowing is intriguing rather than frustrating thanks to veteran writer Yoji Enokido's decision to focus the heart of the episode on its hero, so we can uncover all those faraway machinations alongside him slowly as future episodes air. Young Daichi is a sensitive soul, set adrift in life after his father gave his life defending the earth, unable to connect with his friends the way he once could. To make matters worse, all the adults in his life seem to be telling him that Daichi's dad was happy to give his life for the planet, and little regard is given to the abandonment that Daichi feels. He's not resentful however, and wants to understand the legacy his father left behind, perhaps even fill his shoes, it's not yet clear. Whatever the case, Daichi ultimately decides to become a Captain like his father by episode's end, and it will be interesting to see if it wins him the human connection and admiration he hungers for, and makes his old friends into enemies.

Only time will tell, but with such a strong pedigree of work and a lovely first episode, Captain Earth is all potential.

Captain Earth
is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.


Theron Martin

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Review:
Daichi's father was an astronaut (and what an appropriate name for an astronaut's son, too!) who died in the line of duty. Daichi was always led to believe that it was an accident, and does not understand until later that his father was something called a “captain,”  but he's never been entirely convinced, and he has lately had trouble focusing on his school studies, too. Seeing a news story of a rainbow ring compels him to return to the island where he had once lived with his father, where he also met a strange boy who could manifest such rings and an even stranger girl. Upon his return there a different strange girl shows him an incoming threat: when those “in the know” call an AEO, a mecha which has its sights set on Earth. Daichi senses that it actually reaching Earth might have very bad consequences, and when he openly wonders if he can do anything about it, he discovers a pistol-like item in his hand which turns out to be the key to the first stage of a special Earth defense mecha, one which assembles in pieces as it blasts off and passes through several space stations on its way to confront the oncoming enemy. Meanwhile, the very human-looking enemy seems to have its own objectives in mind.

Want to see an example of how superior execution can turn even something as bland-sounding as the above scenario into something special? Then check out this new mecha offering, which could well end up being one of the season's big surprises. Its content is well-paced and both astonishingly heartfelt and rousing, and a big chunk of the credit for the latter two goes to a great and beautifully-implemented musical score. It holds back to mere afterthought level all of the gimmickry and arcane terminology being thrown around, allowing viewers to appreciate the moments. The writing also does a great job of establishing Daichi as a character and the connection he once made to the mysterious boy Teppei.

Production work comes courtesy of Bones and director Takyua Igarashi, the man who brought Soul Eater and Star Driver (as well as, in a curious contrast, Ouran High School Host Club) into anime form. While it shows the slight rendering roughness in characters that seems to be a common feature of Bones works, its supporting artistry is typically great and CG is used extraordinarily well. In fact, the only thing holding me back from giving it a higher rating is that its core concepts are nothing special. Still, this is one which even those who normally skip mecha fare might want to give a chance. 

Captain Earth is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

Review:

Captain Earth seems like two shows spliced together. When the episode opens, we meet Daichi, a high school senior with no particular ambitions. His dad was an astronaut who died in some sort of tragic accident, and this may be behind Daichi's lack of planning. He spends his days playing games and doing research that he feels doesn't merit the name on the Internet. But when he was a little boy, he broke into some kind of secured facility where he met a mysterious boy named Teppei who could make circular rainbows appear. Teppei took him to see a little girl asleep in a watery sphere, and Daichi managed to wake her up. Years later, Daichi sees another circular rainbow and goes back to the facility, where he meets yet another mysterious child, who somehow leads to him piloting a giant robot. In Daichi's defense, and in what is probably the best line in the episode, he thinks to himself that he really shouldn't follow her.

Transitions are probably the hardest part of any writing, and it feels like the good folks who penned this program really dropped the ball with them. Why introduce Daichi's everyday life if he was then going to be shunted into a more spectacular one with little to no explanation? Who is Earth fighting its secret war against, and why does the inside of every major spaceship's command center look exactly the same? Will the girl the episode went out of its way to show us has a crush on Daichi come back later – or wait! Could she be the “passing magical girl” promised by the preview? These are just some of the questions Captain Earth's first episode raises, and the long sequences of people in command centers shouting out science fiction terms gives you plenty of time to ponder them. This episode really would have been better split into two separate ones, because this one just feels cramped with all of the information that it is trying to impart across as series of jumbled scenes.

Luckily for the show, it looks pretty good. Daichi appears to have teeny little feet, but apart from that characters are fairly distinct and remain on-model. Animation is attractive, and despite the battle setting of parts of it, most lines are not screamed, which is a definite plus in this kind of action show. If Captain Earth can smooth things out and start making more sense, it has the potential to be interesting. As of this episode, however, all I can really say is, “Well, at least it's not Captain Planet.”

Captain Earth is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Zac Bertschy

Rating: 4

Daichi is aimless. His astronaut father died in an accident years ago, and his grades are falling because he spends his time playing video games and studying things he finds interesting rather than what's being taught in the classroom. A mysterious rainbow circle appears over the city, one not unfamiliar to Daichi - it's something he remembers from his past, spending days on the island where his father's work was done, where he encountered Teppei, a boy with a magic medallion who could produce the same rainbow.

The boys awaken a naked girl holding a robot hand, and... wait, before all that there are these two anime characters with crazy hair and outfits who call themselves the Planetary Gears, who claim to have found the third one. Anyway, so they wake up the naked girl but get caught, and Daichi doesn't remember anything after that. So he heads back to the island and the facility from his childhood opens up to him, and a little kid with a flute leads him into a crazy sci-fi room where it turns out he's gonna pilot a big ol' mech, ostensibly to save the Earth from one of those crazy anime characters from earlier who turned into a giant robot-thing with a bombshell body who's heading there looking to fuck it up. What, you ask? Just go with it, it's a BONES mecha show!

So this is written by the same guy who wrote RahXephon and directed by the guy responsible for Star Driver, and you can see the influence of both very heavily. Right now the show is basically a mass of science fiction gobbeldygook complete with reams of meaningless technobabble being shouted by big rooms full of starship subordinates. There are too many characters already, half a dozen plot threads and relationships to build and explore, a boardroom full of shadowy characters who are part of some faction controlling all of this that mention at least two other shadowy factions just in the few seconds they're on screen and we still don't really know who the bad guys are. Or why that pink-haired girl in the boob robot is attacking Earth.

Normally this kind of purestrain sci-fi nonsense is a turn-off, but the show moves at such a speedy pace I found it to be the intriguing kind of nonsense where I wanted to find out what the hell was happening rather than just roll my eyes and shut it off. The shades of RahXephon don't hurt, and it does seem like the kind of puzzle box that won't be all that difficult to decipher once they start explaining something (anything, really). Mostly I was taken in by the show's incredible big-budget visuals; this is BONES operating at the peak of their considerable powers for a television show. Brilliant, bold and beautiful colors pop right off the screen, gorgeously fluid animation stuffs every corner of every scene and the mechanics are lovingly animated with technical prowess you rarely see on TV. If they can actually keep up this level of production value the show will be worth watching just to gawk at.

Captain Earth
is a big ol' bag of nonsense right now but it's the kind of confusing mess I'm willing to wallow in long enough to find out what's up. Cool show, check it out.

Captain Earth is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


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