Directed by Takuya Igarashi
Mechanical Design by Shinji Aramaki, Takeshi Takakura, Takeyuki Yanase
Produced by Bones, Shochiku
Voice cast: Miyu Irino, Hiroshi Kamiya, Kenichi Suzumura, Maaya Sakamoto, Rikiya Koyama, Rina Hidaka
Air dates: Streaming Saturdays at 1:00 PM CDT on Crunchyroll
The Giant Robot is another venerable trope thatâ€™s consistently run through the medium of Japanese animation for at least the past half-century. Starting with Tetsujin 28-go in the 1960s through Mazinger-Z, Macross, Gundam, Patlabor, Evangelion, and so many others, it seems that the concept of large metallic beings with super-sized fists ready to kick ass and take names is one that shows no sign of losing its legs anytime soon.
Case in point: Captain Earth. The storyline begins straightforwardly enough with, almost as a matter of course, the stereotypical high school sophomore. Daichi Manatsu (voiced by Miyu Irino) lives away from his family who live on Tanegashima Island, where his father died in a space accident when he was a child.
One day, a rainbow he sees on the television above Tanegashima Space Center jars his memory, and he is enticed to go there. The place is run by a large secretive organization known as GLOBE (ala NERV from Neon Genesis Evangelion) that is in charge of defending the Earth from a group of marauders from the planet Uranus, known simply as the Kiltgang.
His memories of Tanegashima include having made friends with a mysterious boy named Teppei Arashi and an equally enigmatic young lady named Hana Mutou. The three are reunited at Tanegashima, and Daichi joins them at GLOBE, along with the new commander’s hacker genius daughter Akari Yomatsuri (played by Rina Hidaka) to fight the Kiltgang and thwart their plans to invade the Earth.
Apparently, Daichiâ€™s skill with a particular arcade game gives him enough mad skills to pilot GLOBEâ€™s chief weapon, a large multi-stage robot known as the Earth Engine Impacter. Watching the launch of the Impacter is particularly fun, and Iâ€™m in awe of the mechanical designs by Shinji Aramaki (Gasaraki, Genesis Climber Mospeada), Takeshi Takakura (Appleseed: Ex Machina, Infinite Stratos), and Takeyuki Yanase (Excel Saga).
However, donâ€™t get the idea that this is all just a platform for showcasing clever mecha design. There are plot complications within the main plot. For instance, just who are Hana and Teppei? What â€“ if anything â€“ is their possible connection to the Kiltgang, and why are some at GLOBE out to send Daichi to an early grave, like his father before him? In addition to the socio-political-corporate skullduggery going on, thereâ€™s the fact that our heroes are essentially teenagers, albeit frighteningly powerful and talented ones. The series deals with them having to come to terms with being controlled by a large, impersonal paramilitary organization, their own feelings for each other, and their sense of personal identity and place in the overall conflict between the Kiltgang and Earth. Underneath the sunshine and smiles, thereâ€™s a lot of existential angst and striving to find oneâ€™s place in not only the world, but also the Universe at large.
Already in its fourth episode, Captain Earth is currently streaming live every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. CST on Crunchyroll. It promises much more than just a surface story of giant robots fighting in space. Only time will tell if this series can deliver what it promises.