More Thoughts About Captain Earth on Family

[HorribleSubs] Captain Earth - 06 [480p].mkv_snapshot_08.38_[2014.05.30_08.05.56]

Episode 6 of Captain Earth was something of a disappointment compared to the others; it was a competently handled exposition episode marking a transition from one plot arc to the next (via the complication of a situation that was beginning to become clear), but at the same time it did not provide the forward impetus that the series needed. In many ways it is interesting because of what is learned from it – thus only to someone invested in the story – rather than how it tells this story. As has occurred previously in the series, it takes the conclusion of an event that seems cut and dried and extends it out – in the first instance it was a long, cathartic wind-down from a frantic robot fight, and in this case it is a more languid look at Teppei’s reaction to the events of the previous episode. This idea – of turning single-episode plots into two-part stories in order to focus on their repercussions – is one of Captain Earth‘s strengths, yet here it does not work as well, perhaps out of familiarity.

Fundamentally, it redefines the ambiguity of the previous episode’s conclusion; as Nishikubo talks to his wife about the Eiji incident, it is confirmed that he is unaccounted for, ruling out that it was a bluff to soften the blow for Teppei. While this is closure for the audience, the fact it is kept from Teppei himself means it is a double redefinition of Nishikubo’s character – he is not lying to Teppei, which is a good thing, but at the same time this is learned through secret communications surrounding a plan which used a man and put him at risk of death. Here the failure of the two disparate relationships – military commander and loving surrogate parent – is shown. To Nishikubo, Eiji is an asset to GLOBE first and Teppei’s father second (and it is that familial motivation used to motivate Teppei to progress the other aim). As this episode comes to dwell in different ways to the fifth on family the irreconcilable gulf that a vested professional interest creates is made clear. Nishikubo and Daichi’s situation – with Teppei and Hana as the “support” in a three-person robot team and Akari as the quirky but knowing outsider to the core robot plot – is in some ways presented like the relationship between Shinji Ikari and his father Gendou in Neon Genesis Evangelion; there is not the biological relationship but there is a very similar attitude to the expectations of chosen children to pilot super-robots, with Nishikubo being as close and fatherly as needed to his wards in order to serve the interests of GLOBE. It is important to create an artificial sense of family among displaced, artifical children and this is done through surrogate parent figures. Teppei is almost like Rei Ayanami – he is alien, and thinks in ways that the “human” characters do not – while Daichi is the outsider returning to a strange place and being presented with a duty to fulfil. Of course, this comparison is useful only on a general level of familial estrangement and expectation within the super-robot genre – Daichi, unlike Shinji, grabs at the chance to live up to his father’s legacy.

The recurring concept throughout these recent episodes is of “designer children” – a pair of conversations between Hana and Daichi and Teppei and Akari lay out much of the detail. Akari is being presented in this current arc as someone who has gained knowledge by spying and being a third-person observer – almost a voyeur – and focuses on the technical and logical (creating an amusing juxtaposition of her insistence that her hacking skills are “magic” with her obsession with science and technology) while Daichi is more interested in the emotional – even his interactions with technology via the Earth Engine and Livlaster are supernatural and inexplicable. Teppei and Hana are both not strictly human, but equally not the same. Teppei is alien – he is one of the Kiltgang’s Planetary Gears, or robot pilots, and linked to the machine Albion. As scenes of the Kiltgang soldiers Amara and Moco on Earth show, they have a strong presence already via the Macbeth Institute and simply need to complete their invasion plan. Thus he is, as was intimated in the previous episodes, the “alien prince”, the sympathetic human face of the invading army and the turncoat who is instrumental to their defeat.

By contrast Hana is apparently some kind of artificial version of Teppei – she was encountered by the two boys as a child in a containment tank, and talks of being in darkness. She claims herself she was “created to fire the Livlaster” – something which the Kiltgang and Teppei definitely do not use – and at the same time failed in her duty, so the role of Earth Engine pilot moved to Daichi. While Teppei and Akari’s conversation builds on the other themes of the episode’s exposition – the nature of the Kiltgang’s invasion plan – Hana and Daichi’s explores its character-thematic side, and the idea of expectation. While Daichi is fighting and fighting to do his father proud (to a fault, as was shown earlier), Hana – who was created with a single purpose – admits “I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to give them what they desired or not”, reinforcing the idea that in the world of Captain Earth, the best decisions are ones made with sincerity and out of a personal desire. Daichi is refreshingly moral and well-meaning as a super-robot protagonist; he has a tragic backstory, so to speak, but he is shown to be driven by altruistic desires and he is not defined by tragedy. When, at the end of the episode, he is reunited with his uncle, the reintroduction of a real family comes as a shock. His uncle acts precisely as a relative would in the situation – he asks Daichi to stop endangering himself in the military, and return to his family – but this is not a catalyst for ongoing drama about expectation versus desire. Daichi is informed that Hana is in danger, saves her (without killing the Salty Dog agent) and then tells his uncle that he wants to carry on doing the right thing. His uncle accepts this, understanding – like Nishikubo – that for Daichi, saving the earth and helping others is his way of coping with his father’s death.

For an expository episode of Captain Earth, a lot is shown implicitly about Daichi’s development, through his interactions with others and also by comparison with the other characters’ actions. Episode 5 explored family from Teppei’s alien perspective, and episode 6 completes the picture while also – through several expository scenes – explains much of the science-fiction plot. But at the same time it is an episode that feels clumsy – the previous “extended epilogue” in this vein worked because it led into a new conflict, and provided catharsis after a moment of tension. This simply uses a low-point in the narrative pace to fill in gaps that could have been better-integrated, and the force of its revelations is not enough to make it stand out.

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