Captain Earth Part 2 (Episodes 14-25) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 284 minutes approx.
Continuing the adventures of the Midsummer Knights, the teen troupe responsible for piloting giant mecha called Earth Engines to defend the Earth against alien invaders called Kill-T-Gang, we pick up the story as the brave warriors take a break to the beach! Fan service opportunities aside this actually proves to be a pivotal catalyst for the remainder of the series.
While on this brief sojourn the buxom beauty Hana Muto finally confesses her feelings for colleague Daichi Manatsu, but keeps pushing him away as she fears he will not accept her when he learns the truth about her past. Daichi is a decent bloke however and does not care but this confusion leads to Hana revealing to everybody the secret within her, making her a target for both the Planetary Gears and the shadowy Salty Dog group.
Hana has possession of the ability to control Orgone Energy from a lost ship named Blume which she is forced to reveal when Daichi and fellow Knight Teppei Arashi are under attack by Kill-T-Gang members Amara and Moco. Meanwhile the AI computer system of the Macbeth Company, Puck, working for Planetary Gears, takes over the body of Macbeth CEO Masaki Kube and puts a secret plan of his own into motion.
The first volume of this mecha series may have followed one clichéd path too many with its premise and the story had too many wayward ideas for a coherent narrative but this second volume discards all of this and finally settles down to establish a proper direction. The alien invaders now have a purpose while the swerve involving Puck adds a further dimension to the plot making it very interesting as to where we are going.
While the developments of the first episode in this set may seem like a soppy teen drama to begin with, this is actually a deceptive plot device to underpin the central themes of the story’s direction. Hana’s awakening of the Blume powers makes her a more useful member of the Knights beyond being the token damsel in distress, even advancing to piloting her own Earth Engine.
Unfortunately this has put a target on Hana’s back which proves serendipitous for the Kill-T-Gang as they pursue Hana who meets up with a former acquaintance, the quietly artistic Setsuna, a missing Designer Child. As it transpires Setsuna isn’t who she appears to be, exposed by Amara and Moco in a move that strengthens their cause and their manpower in their campaign against the Earth.
Intrigue is certainly a recurring facet as the fresh developments and plot twists keep on coming. Had they been spaced out a little better over the course of the twenty-five episodes and not all crammed into the final half, the tension could have simmered quietly while the various players and their motives could have been better established. As it is though it makes for a riveting and jam packed second half that is hard to ignore.
It wouldn’t be a sci-fi show without some kind of trippy mind bending and we get that in the run up to the finale, which will test your memory of the events of the first volume, specifically the beginning as Daichi finds himself in a familiar yet not quite right situation. The timing of it makes it successful in creating a nice false ending that catches the audience off guard temporarily, threatening to rewrite the entire story before our eyes.
One habit left over from the first half is the problem of throwing too much at the viewer with little build up. For instance the Planetary Gears line up sees new additions appear from nowhere while Salty Dog suddenly become a concern again after a ten episode absence. Similarly Teppei of the Knights becomes almost an afterthought, only to appear during battles and moments of drama and while computer hacker Akari fares a little better making a more significant contribution, she is often reduced to providing comic relief.
Because of her character design Hana is again subject to being the designated flesh flasher to keep all the horndogs interested, kicking off with her incredibly skimpy bikini in the beach episode to gratuitous shower scenes and finally being completely naked by the end (no spoilers). However Hana is not alone as Moco of the Kill-T-Gang has been blessed with generous upper body proportions which are exploited via some unique camera angles.
Of course long term anime fans will be somewhat immune to this as the precedent has been set by bigger and better shows than this and is almost to be expected from shows that seem to have little confidence in the actual story. Therefore we can put these grumbles aside as they are only a small if highly visible component of the overall product and in this volume at least, the good outweighs the bad.
As before the production values are very high and each frame is a spectacle of vibrant colours, detailed artwork and fluid animation. The battle scenes are again the highlight, intense ground based and outer space clashes bolstered by boundless kinetic energy and beautifully rendered in a blaze of iridescent hues against the sumptuous backgrounds.
It is doubtful that Captain Earth will ever be recognised as a classic of its genre despite having all the right ingredients to do so, its weaknesses being an unfocused first half that relies too heavily on borrowing from its influences and predecessors. However this second half sees the show redeem itself by consolidating its strongest points and formulating a suitably entertaining and involved final stretch.
Anyone who has come this far should find some reward in the improvements made to bring us a literally explosive if a little overcooked conclusion to a series that offers a flawed but perfectly acceptable fix for mecha and sci-fi fans.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Rating – ***
Man In Black