Alright, Bones. Time to atone for Noragami.
• Who needs Cosmos when you’ve got anime!
• But okay, let’s get serious for a bit. Daichi’s our protagonist of the story, and he hasn’t been doing too hot in school lately. Is it because he’s been playing too many video games? According to our hero, he’s actually been studying. Studying about things that actually interests him, but he says something to himself that’s very telling: “But that isn’t what they call ‘studying.’ It’s just playing around.” It reminds me of the way so many people have now come to believe that college is the one and only path to success in life. Forget trade schools, forget apprenticeships, etc. College. That’s it. Oh, you’re really into electrical wiring, and you want to be an electrician when you grow up? Sorry, college.
And it’s very interesting the way his teacher scolds him: “You have to start thinking about what you’ll do after high school. Do you have any dreams or anything?” But aren’t his dreams being crushed right now? In his youth, where they say our creativity is at its highest, he’s forced to study about things he doesn’t care about over things he does care about. The teacher then adds, “Like following in your dad’s footsteps.” Sure, that can be a dream, but it can also be a prison in a way.
Daichi confesses, “Sometimes… I think there’s something wrong with me, with the way I am. As he says this, he looks out into the boundless, limitless sky:
The frames of the window makes it look as though he’s behind bars. Daichi continues, “But, most likely, I’m only imagining it, and I’m actually just trying to escape because I don’t feel like studying the stuff they assign at school. Everyone has different experiences in school, so it might be hard to empathize with Daichi. If you want to put yourself in his shoes, however, imagine going to a school that is primarily (perhaps only) concerned with putting as many of its students as it can into the top universities. Why? So they can brag about it, of course, and draw in even smarter students, more acclaim, and more funding. It’s like how some parents genuinely think being a doctor is a noble profession, but then there are parents who just want their kids to become doctors so they can brag about it. When you’re trapped in a situation like that, it’s hard not to become cynical.
• Daichi ends the day by playing some video games with three of his classmates. None of these characters are in any of the promotional art for the show, so they must not be too important in the grand scheme of things.
• A flashback scene reveals an early friendship between Daichi and some currently unnamed child. The unnamed child has a bit of a sickly appearance. He also asked a rather strange question, “What is a ‘dad?'” Maybe he’s an alien.
• The character introductions begin to come in hard and fast now. In one location, two rather flamboyant-looking characters say some cryptic things about how they’re “the planetary gears” and how they’ll “reveal the dream of the world.” Uh-huh. Then we cut to a computer geek typing away at her 8-monitor setup. All the while, a girl can be heard singing in the background. Look, we’ve got it all. A mysterious childhood friend, a singing girl who will undoubtedly harbor some amazing power, Team Rocket, and last but not least, Eddie from Cowboy Bebop.
• We finally see that the kid from Daichi’s childhood is in fact responsible for the rainbow phenomenon that has been capturing everyone’s attention. Bones then begins to throw around words like ‘singularity’ and ‘avatar’ because jargon is the easiest way to convince a lot of viewers to play the pointless speculation game.
• In another flashback, Daichi and his sickly-looking buddy compete in a friendly sort of way over Daichi’s pendant. Whoever can do something that surprises the other person gets to have the pendant. Hm, I sense some foreshadowing here. In the present, the sickly kid — now grown up a bit — currently has the pendant. I wonder if Daichi will get it back at the end of the series as a way to wrap things up in a poetic fashion. Oops, too much speculation.
• The sickly kid’s name is Teppei. Time to stop calling him sickly, I guess.
• Daichi hurries to his childhood home after hearing about the rainbow phenomenon. He doesn’t even stop to tell his guardian where he is heading. I wonder what their relationship truly is and how he came to live with the guy. I mean, I know his father died, but is this Toshiaki-san a relative or a close friend of Daichi’s late father?
• ‘AEO’ and ‘Star Emblem’ are another pair of jargon as we are now treated to a flashback where we learn how Daichi’s father had died. Apparently, his old man had sacrificed his life to stop something big.
• We get yet another flashback. This time, Teppei leads Daichi into a mysterious laboratory. Man, the security of this place is rather poor. Eventually, Daichi ends up at a sphere, and suspended in the middle of said sphere is a naked loli clutching something in her arms (hint: convenient censoring). Well then. Supposedly, she has never woken up, but that quickly changes when Daichi touches the sphere. Why? ‘Cause he’s the protagonist, that’s why. The next time we see these three kids, they’ve already surfaced from the laboratory. Are there like… nobody else here at all?
• Oh here they are:
‘Bout time, jerks. And Daichi never saw those two again…
• In the present day, Daichi discovers that the same building he had so easily infiltrated in his childhood is still padlocked and Teppei isn’t around this time to unlock it. But then a mysterious noise rings out, so the padlock unlocks itself and falls to the ground. Welp, so much for that.
• The insides haven’t changed. Still partly illuminated for some reason. Still no surveillance whatsoever.
• Elsewhere, those flamboyant-looking characters are up to something. The girl of the two launches herself into space, and ends up appearing inside a well-endowed mecha. Okay… Her goal seems to be the destruction of Earth, so she too might not be human although she appears to look like one.
• Oh, an AEO is just an “Approaching-Earth Object.” Well, why didn’t you say so!
• In any case, somehow a mysterious loli — and this isn’t the brown-skinned loli from Daichi’s childhood — leads our protagonist to a place where he can see that the big-boobed mecha is threatening all of humanity from space.
All of a sudden, that thing that was conveniently covering up the brown-skinned loli’s chest is now magically in one of Daichi’s hands. Eventually, he finds himself in a mecha, which is itself in a rocket. And by the way, that thing that was in his hand is apparently the key to this mecha. Of course, Daichi feels right at home. They always do. After watching enough mecha anime, you just stop questioning it because there is no answer.
• It’s like a magical transformation sequence for mechas as we get treated to a rather drawn-out process of Daichi’s mecha “expanding.” I mean, it’s no big deal as long as I don’t have to sit through this sequence every other time we have a fight. If it gets to that point, you’re just being gratuitous. Seriously, from rocket launch to “Final Expand,” the whole thing takes up approximately three whole minutes.
• Elsewhere, a dimmed room full of mysterious adults sit around a table and discuss the recent developments like they always do in every anime ever. Apparently, people have been waiting for someone to finally pilot this damn mecha that Daichi is sitting in right now. Funny how organizations are always full of mechas that nobody can apparently pilot.
• Ark Faction, Intercept Faction, oy…
• But don’t get your hopes up for any real action as the episode ends here.
We’ll have to wait till next week to see what this mecha can do.
Man, the show has some slick production values, but the first episode is so cliche that it hurts. Holy shit, the whole thing is like a pastiche of previous mecha shows, but not in a wacky, over-the-top sort of way. Granted, a show like Kill la Kill proudly borrows from its ancestors, but what it doesn’t try to do is pair a somber tone with a buttload of carbon-copy tropes. When you copy, but you do so in a joking manner, you can at least wink it off if something falls flat. It’s a lot easier for the audience to go, “Yeah, that was an homage!” and not think twice about the execution when the tone is light-hearted. You essentially invite people to turn off their brains, and they happily take it. On the other hand, Captain Earth feels as though it has a very important story to tell. And hey, this may very well be the case, but I just think it’s harder to ignore how familiar everything feels when the tone is so serious. But hey, it’s the first episode and the narrative still has plenty of time to tweak the borrowed conventions enough to genuinely own them. Whether or not Bones succeeds with this, however, is another thing.