Power and responsibility in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Suisei no Gargantia anime

There’s something of a power struggle going on in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. Although he doesn’t seem to want it, Ledo could easily become a tyrant. His robot is so powerful that the sheer disparity in strength between him and everyone else is frightening. What will he do next?

One need only think back to last season’s Shin Sekai Yori for a potential answer. In that story, the most powerful PK users, no matter how sadistic, attained God-like status and sent the world tumbling through centuries of subjugation and rebellion. In Death Note, Light starts out by using his power to enforce a sense of justice, but soon loses perspective and starts abusing it to serve his own ends. Of course, there’s an argument to be had that those with the ability to change the world are fine as long as they aren’t also crazy (Legend of the Galactic Heroes,) but that still means our fate being decided by another, imperfect human. Is this the path that Ledo will take? I doubt it, he isn’t the ambitious type, but it’s still interesting to consider what he’s capable of. When he disposes of the pirates in episode 3, he’s received back by the people of Gargantia as if he were an angel sent down from heaven. That is what he could become, if he so desired it.

But ultimately, Ledo’s just another soldier waiting for his next round of orders, which brings into question his moral responsibility, and lack thereof. When Amy asked him to attack the pirates in episode 2, he routed them, mercilessly. It’s a shocking scene, but the fallout from it is just as important. At first, I blamed Amy for it all: she asked Ledo to attack, and he did, killing them all.

It was a naive thing for her to do. His attack was her order, but this whole idea of responsibility brings into question Ledo’s role, too. He used to be a soldier, yes, which is to say, he would act on the behalf of others. He was a weapon, pure and simple, but now he’s alone and stranded is it still fine for him to abdicate responsibility like this? It’s an idea that ties into the underlying themes of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, as mooted by writer Gen Urobuchi on Wikipedia, where he talks of a story that’s “[…] aimed towards those in their teens and 20s, who are either about to enter into society or recently have, and is meant to cheer them on and to encourage them that “going out into the world isn’t scary”.”

Children grow-up without responsibility in their lives. Your parents and school teachers look after you and tell you what to do and how to act, but once you reach adulthood, you’re expected to start making decisions for yourself. In other words, to be an adult, you have to become responsible, and I suspect that’s what Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is driving at with Ledo especially. When he was a soldier, he wasn’t expected to question orders, but if he’s going to become more than just a weapon/child, he needs to become responsible for his actions and recognise the effect he’s having on the world around him.

Suisei no Gargantia anime

Quite where this story is headed for both him and the world at large in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is a point of fascination for me, and seems very finely poised. How will the leaders of the Gargantia come to treat him? As a mere tool to be used in domination of the planet? And how will Ledo react to them? Rebel or acquiesce? How much will his presence fundamentally affect the world? In Gurren Lagann, great opposition led to great strength and evolution, but can anyone stand against Ledo here? So many questions, and not nearly enough episodes!

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

10 thoughts on “Power and responsibility in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet”

  1. A little bit by-the-by, but Light didn’t really start abusing his powers for his own ends. The people got in the way of him delivering justice, so he had to eliminate them. It was always part of his larger plan of creating this perfect world and I don’t think he ever lost sight of that. He got cocky, but that’s a little different from what you’re saying

    1. I can see where you’re coming from with this, but if memory serves, as things became progressively worse for Light, he seemed to lose sight of what he was doing. You can argue that he did it all out of self preservation, but he still used the Death Note to kill a bunch of innocent people because they were close to discovering his identity. That’s the point when he goes from vigilante to outright psychopath. Not to mention, his undignified end, which made him look the coward he always was.

  2. It’s silly to expect Ledo (about the only character who’s empathizing in this show) to empathize more than he is.

    Not only has he lived his entire life as a soldier in a killing machine (apparently), but he’s also patiently trying to integrate, rather than what he probably should do: immediately take what he needs by force in order to return to the war front and inform his superiors that he’s found Earth.

    That, and, it’s not like Gargantia is doing any better. If anything, they’ve demonstrated even less of a willingness to take responsibility for anything.

    1. I don’t know how much time is supposed to have elapsed in the series so far, but I’d guess that it’s been a week at most between Gargantia digging up Ledo and episode 3, so give them some time to react. I’ve yet to see episode 4, but at the end of episode 3, Gargantia’s commanders seemed like they were starting to think about what to do with him.

      Anyway, I’m not saying Ledo isn’t already trying to empathise: I particularly love how the series is handling language and the characters’ efforts to communicate with one another, but having seen the horrors he’s capable of, Ledo needs to grow-up fast or things are only going to end horribly.

  3. I really liked that dialogue part from the last episode, where he described to Amy how the weak would be “culled” in the Alliance, and as Amy asks whether he was OK with that, he just replies “I don’t understand”.

    Until now, he didn’t just “not question orders”, but he is literally unfamiliar with the idea of having an opinion or a stance.

    1. Honestly, most of society is built on such basic assumptions.

      Where the Alliance falters is less that it has these unquestioned principles, but more that it has so few.

      It’s a society that needs to be constantly coddled and pushed forward, not just by its machines, but by the sacrifices of its citizens.

    2. Even if I feel like Amy and co. lord it over Ledo a little bit too much, I love the clash of cultures in this series. From the language barrier onwards, their difficulties in understanding one another are what makes this such a refreshing change. It isn’t sugar-coating anything, and as a result, feels that much more moving when a break-through is made, like Ledo learning to say “Thank you,” the fact that he took his time to learn that phrase in their language is why it felt so important.

  4. I think episode 2 also illustrated the various kinds of war, and it’s hard to tell the difference in viciousness between the wars Ledo fights and the wars these fleets fight.

    Ledo’s war is the one we think of when the word war is tossed about : kill the enemy, every last one, and don’t think about the consequences. Because the enemy was trying to destroy you and everything related to you.

    The earthlings’ war is the one that falls in line with every low-level conflict in history. In this space, war is communication as much as conflict. Combatants have rules, they cooperate with their opponents, and though the primary purpose is to hold or take resources, they aren’t too concerned with actually killing their opponent. Afterall, they can ransom prisoners.

    You don’t get paid for delivering a dead body.

    And that’s the point of episode 2. It’s not that Ledo was necessarily wrong to do what he did, it’s that the pirates were always holding back. Now that Ledo acted with maximum lethality, the pirates feel free to do the same, and the third episode shows a more measured approach where the pirates at least feel they had a fight.

    Because the pirates were only mimicking Ledo, and now he has the responsibility of teaching these combatants a new way to fight and how to accept his own outsized power.

    1. Your comment brings home to me just how much this is a series about the importance of communication. From spoken language to the more abstract concepts you’ve mentioned about the differences in war, it’s truly important to make the effort to communicate, not to take it for granted, or just assume we’re easily understood. Lovely comment, Brainwright.

    2. Brilliant point of view. As much as this anime stresses communication between Ledo & the people of Gargantia, I never thought of communication outside this relationship. What’s more, looking at it from a viewpoint where in reality, war isn’t meant as a tool of communication, it’s interesting to view it as a tool in this anime. And it’s totally viable, after considering Ledo and Bellow’s conversation in episode 3.

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