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Spring 2014 Anime Impressions: "Captain Earth"

I have to admit, to having a love/hate relationship with Studio BONES. On one hand, they never disappoint in the technical aspects of a series. On the other, sometimes the stories they tell lack proper development and conclusion (I’m looking at you, Star Driver ).  Despite this I’m always excited when BONES announces a new original series, and that feeling was no different with Captain Earth.

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In its first episode, Captain Earth tells the story of high school student Daichi Manatsu and his quest to reunite with his mysterious childhood friend Teppei Arashi. Naturally the quest turns out to be more than Daichi bargained for, and he suddenly finds himself the pilot of a giant robot known as the Earth Engine Impacter. With it and the organization known as GLOBE, Daichi must protect the Earth from an alien invasion. The next few episodes detail how Daichi adjusts to his situation, as well as expanding on the world that Captain Earth is trying to create.

Unfortunately, the plot isn’t particularly original. The idea of a naïve but kindhearted protagonist who finds himself in the middle of a war has been done time and time again. And yet, there’s always something charming about it that keeps viewers like myself coming back. Those last moments in episode one when the Earth Engine launches is quite inspiring. I’ve seen a few comparisons between Daichi and Renton of Eureka Seven, but in my opinion Daichi isn’t nearly as whiny as Renton was. In fact, it’s nice to have a protagonist who sCaptainEarthPreview4eems to take charge from the get go.

There’s also a lot of mystery to the plot. I remember coming away from episode one thinking “I have no idea what’s going on, but it sure is pretty.” Maybe not the best sentiment to have, but it kept me around. Since then, the gaps are slowly starting to fill in. The aliens attacking Earth are known as the Kill-T-Gang, who have a humanoid form as well as a “true” mecha form. They wish to feed on humans, but have been fought off by the GLOBE organization.  In episode 3 we learn that Teppei is one of them and can form his own mecha. Now the question is why Teppei is on Earth, and what exactly the Kill-T-Gang are. There is much uncovered ground and many unanswered questions to explore, which brings an element of discovery that makes each new episode a treat in its own right. I look forward to seeing the rest of the Kill-T-Gang and the mecha forms they take.

I will say that nothing about the series has blown me away just yet. It’s basically Eureka Seven meets Star Driver. The CaptainEarthPreview8mecha designs are fine, but the battles leave something to be desired; we’ll have to see how those evolve as Daichi becomes a better pilot. Also, besides Teppei the secondary characters haven’t made a great impression. Akari Yomatsuri in particular is frustrating, seeing as she can do anything with a computer at the mere age of 17. I suppose that shouldn’t bother me in a show that has advanced aliens, but it does. Hana Mutou, meanwhile,  is a girl Teppei and Daichi first found as kids that we know little to nothing about so far. At the moment, she’s a token mystery girl.

Despite its questionable originality and at times confusing plot, Captain Earth has kept me coming back. I want to know why Daichi is able to pilot the Earth Engine. I want to know why Teppei is on Earth. I want to know why Hana was awoken by Daichi. The series has left me asking questions and wanting to know more. Can you ask for much more when deciding whether or not a series is worth watching? It’s also worth noting that BONES has delivered another series deserving of praise for its technical achievement. The animation is fluid and stunning, the music is motivating and eloquent. Even if the series crashes and burns at the end, at the very least my eyes and ears will be pleased. For now, though, I’ll give BONES the benefit of the doubt that they’ll be able to fully deliver with Captain Earth.

Captain Earth is streaming on Crunchyroll with episodes 1 – 4 now available for free. New episodes premiere on Saturdays at 2 PM EST.

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