Captain Earth Ep. 5: Returning “home”

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Finally, an episode with 99% less Daichi.

Episode Summary
Daichi is stuck in the hospital in order to undergo more tests. Tsutomu sends Teppei and Akari on a mission aboard the Tenkaidou. There, the kids must protect Arashi Eiji, i.e. Teppei’s father, from a group of intruders working under Salty Dog’s influence. In the end, the mission initially appears to be complete a failure as Eiji surrenders himself to his captors in order to allow Teppei and Akari to escape. The audience learns, however, that Tsutomu only intended for Teppei to meet his father, and nothing else.

Notes
• A doctor tells Daichi that the kid will have to stay in the hospital a little longer so that they can run more tests. The only thing the adults ever seem to do with these kids is run tests. Hana is so used to this arrangement that she chimes in almost reflexively, “You should have them check you out thoroughly.” When it actually comes to getting anything done, however, it’s the kids who do all the work. Who launched himself into space in order to stop Moko? Daichi and Daichi alone (well, there was that mysterious little girl who has since disappeared from the story…). Who freed Teppei and Hana from their shackles? Again, Daichi and Daichi alone. Who helped Daichi out when Amara attacked? Teppei with Hana’s help. Who repelled the Kiltgang when they infiltrated the base? Daichi again with his magically teleporting Livlaster. Here’s the god honest truth: the adults are hilariously useless. Again, all they can do is run tests, and yet they do not seem to understand the events of this anime any better than we do.

• Hana tries to do the belly button thing too, but at least it actually makes sense when she does it, i.e. she inadvertently flashes her panties to Daichi, which prompts the kid to scream, “Restraint!” (he’s talking about his boner — so funny!). The same belly button bit in last week’s episode was just dumb.

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• Recent developments have distanced Teppei from the rest of the group. After all, he’s caught between two worlds: both a friend of Daichi and an apparent member of the Kiltgang, a group hellbent on invading Earth. Still, this is an oft-repeated theme in anime. Characters across many different stories perpetually struggle with who they’re meant to be versus the fact that their actions ultimately define them as a person. At the moment, Teppei is in the early stages of this character arc. As a result, he speaks with a defeatist tone: “The next time I return to the Kiltgang, I might turn into a different person.” It’s like the characters are trapped in this miasma of inevitability — that in the end, they’re not really in control of their fate. Teppei did rescue Daichi when he inhabited the Kiltgang at the end of the third episode. Nevertheless, he disregards this apparent act of heroism, thereby resigning himself to the fact that he’s a Kiltgang. In doing so, he believes it is inevitable that he’ll one day become Daichi’s enemy.

Having said all of this, it would be all too easy and lazy to make an example of this mimetic storytelling to cast aspersions on Japan as a whole, i.e. its culture is too collectivist, conformist, etc. More generally, Captain Earth can be seen simply as a modern bilsdungroman set in a mecha universe, in which case Teppei’s struggles with his place in the universe begin to make sense. After all, you have a smart but sensitive character who seeks society’s acceptance. The confusion here lies in how he defines his “society.” Is it society at large? Or will it suffice for Teppei that his friends accept him? This dichotomy is keenly reflected in how Teppei struggles with the way others perceive him and his “weirdness” (having the ability to conjure up a rainbow isn’t really all that weird unless it’s a metaphor for a more serious topic). Daichi accepts his friend no matter what when he says, “But you’re you, right?” Nevertheless, the cold way in which Teppei departs from his friends at the start of this week’s episode shows that his best friend’s words haven’t quite sunken in. Furthermore, this can only be a portent of things to come.

Of course, we can’t say with certainty what will happen, but after the the way Amara speaks of Teppei in last week’s episode, the anime has already laid out the groundwork for a possible betrayal on the latter’s part. If this actually comes to pass, then I suspect Teppei’s character arc will hit the stage of maturity when he finally returns home, i.e. back to Earth and to his friends.

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• Tsutomu wants to send Teppei up into space and onto the Tenkaido in order to protect a certain Arashi Eiji, a person who has been selected for the Kivotos Plan. More importantly, Eiji’s genes have been used in the creation of Teppei, i.e. the latter is a designer child. Tsutomu also tells Teppei that “[t]hey are attempting to capture him,” and we learn later that “[t]hey” are acting under Salty Dog’s influence.

• Also, Teppei has had combat training. This is news to me. I don’t remember this being hinted at in any of the previous episodes.

• As Teppei is in space headed for the Tenkaidou with Akari tagging along, the adults continue to talk about the situation back on Earth. Ugh, I really wish they would just proper nouns instead of being deliberately vague with all the pronouns. Anyway, we learn that the commander belongs to the Intercept Faction, which apparently opposes the Ark Faction. It isn’t hard to guess that the Ark Faction alludes to Noah’s Ark. Is that what the Kivotos Plan is, then? A group of sleepers selected to survive some foreseen destruction of the planet?

• When Tsubaki says, “I was so happy that you said you wanted to see me,” Akari immediately gets a really obviously guilty look on her face. She’s not exactly a great actress, is she? Did Tsutomu really think his daughter wouldn’t give it away, or is this actually part of the Plan™?

• In lieu of spending time with her mother, Akari goes to help Teppei prepare for the mission. When Teppei asks why, the girl replies, “This seems more interesting.” I just think Akari can’t deal with the guilt at the moment. Nevertheless, this does make the girl’s characterization a little more interesting to track. It’s no surprise that Akari has been matched up with Teppei in some ways. Like her morose-looking friend, she too is caught between two worlds as a daughter of divorced parents. Of course she would feel guilty about lying to her mother even if she’s doing so as a part of some top secret mission. After all, she doesn’t want her mother to think she’s taking her father’s side.

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• Oooh, characters talking about important plot points as they are riding an elevator. Well, at least we sort of have a fancy mecha in the background to stare at, right?

• Akari more or less confirm my suspicions when she explains that the Kivotos Plan is “a secret plan for carefully chosen elites to escape Earth.” No wonder Teppei is surprised that a prisoner would be a part of the Kivotos Plan, but according to Tsutomu, Eiji has been solely chosen for his genes. Akari adds that her mom had wanted her to be a sleeper, but the girl disdains the idea: “The Ark Faction thinks anyone who stays on Earth will be destroyed. They’re too pessimistic. I’m definitely with the Intercept Faction.”

• Is it really that easy to disable some of a sector’s alarms, and thus access classified areas undetected? Shouldn’t someone be constantly monitoring those alarms if they’re so important? Oh well, we gotta give our main characters something to do, right?

• A big part of a bilsdungroman involves the main character returning home. For instance, Daichi has returned to the island, though this hardly means his character arc is complete. Rather, he’s just gone through one step of the process. Having said that, let’s refocus our attention on Teppei since this episode is mostly about our lavender-haired protagonist. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to conclude that Teppei’s place is with his friends. After all, they accept him for who he is, not what he’s supposed to be. Still, Teppei has to personally go through that process of self-discovery. In other words, he has to learn for himself what the word ‘home’ personally means to him. As such, it’s only natural that he goes through his gamut of options. He starts off by returning “home” to Eiji, the man who — in a way — gave birth to Teppei.

• Gazing upon Eiji’s visage, Teppei can’t help but think, “He looks more like a boy than a man…”

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We are once again caught between who a person is meant to be versus the actions that define them. Sure, Eiji has never raised Teppei, so for now, we can disregard the functional role that a father is supposed to fulfill. Rather, I’m referring to how society expects a father to be a man and not a boy. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that Eiji’s genes have been used to create Teppei. Even if Eiji looks nothing like what you’d expect when you think of society’s definition of a father, Eiji is nevertheless responsible for the kid’s origin. This conflict is just one reflection of the turmoil within Teppei’s character, and I bet it won’t be the last such reflection we see throughout this anime.

• After a brief state of confusion, Eiji instantly recognizes Teppei, which comes as a surprise to both children. In fact, Teppei looks downright distraught. After all, this stranger, who is supposedly his father, may perhaps know more about him than he knows himself.

• Eiji comes up with a plan for the three of them to hide in the occupied pods in order to elude the Eiji’s wannabe captors. Pretty clever. It would’ve been a little disturbing too if those pods had contained dead people. Well, we don’t really know how this stasis technology really works in Captain Earth‘s universe, so maybe these people are dead, only to be revived at some later date. Then again, probably not.

• Upon seeing the way Teppei and Akari interact, Eiji mentions that at Teppei’s age, he and Teppei’s mom were already madly in love. Of course, Tsutomu specifically tells the kid that he had gotten his genes from Eiji, but he makes no mention of a female counterpart. Even so, she must have existed unless reproduction for designer child is completely different from how we typically understand it. Still, you have to wonder if this woman still exists. Or if Eiji is even telling the truth. After all, Teppei looks more like a clone of his father than a child born from two parents. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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• Teppei thinks back to Daichi’s definition of a father. As a result, he adamantly believes that he doesn’t have one. I can’t say I blame him. I, too, would agree that a father is more than just a gene donor. Still, confusion arises when Eiji willingly dives in front of a bullet for Teppei’s sake. Certainly, Eiji hasn’t acted like a father for a vast majority of Teppei’s life, but the guy did just protect the kid just now. Is that a fatherly action? Sure seems like it. Of course, one action doesn’t change everything, but it’s a start, right? Actions are what matter, right?

• It doesn’t help when Eiji says, “Do as your father says.” Teppei freezes because he doesn’t know whether or not to conform to expectations. You’re supposed to listen to your elders, especially your parents, but this man has not been a father figure to Teppei whatsoever. Eiji has only just now started being one. Again, actions are what matter, right?

• When an explosion occurs on one of the bulkheads, the anime cuts back to the bridge where Tsubaki and her two operators are still located. What do they do all day? Just stay there on the bridge doing, uh, whatever it is that they do for eight work hours (I assume) a day? In any case, it seems as though Tsubaki has not suspected a thing. I guess Akari is just a bad actress to the audience.

• Teppei eventually tells Eiji to stop referring to himself as a father. The frustration within the kid is not born entirely from Eiji’s apparent lack of involvement in his life, however. Rather, a large part of Teppei’s doubts are fueled by his status as a member of the Kiltgang. For this episode, we’ve thus come full circle. The strained relationship between Teppei and his Eiji is just a microcosm for the crisis of identity raging within him. Still, the conclusions Teppei comes to is rather odd. After all, Teppei feels that he’ll inevitably change as a person and become an enemy to his friends regardless of his current actions. Following that logic, shouldn’t he also acknowledge that Eiji is his father regardless of Eiji’s inaction? Well, that’s why this is just the fifth episode. Teppei’s conflict is far from being resolved.

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• Eiji suddenly acts all fatherly again by pulling Teppei close to his chest. The guy even apologizes for his inaction: “I didn’t even get to read you a single picture book. I really regret it.” The man recognizes that his actions have not exactly lined up with who he is supposed to be, i.e. this kid’s father. Unfortunately, these words alone are just not enough to reach Teppei, so he ends up rejecting Eiji’s attempt at fatherly kindness.

• In the end, Eiji steals Teppei’s tranquilizer gun and uses it on his own son. I thought he might’ve wanted to betray the kids, but he really just intends to surrender himself to his would-be captors. After all, Eiji realizes that Teppei’s the real target. Hell, the adults back on Earth even realized this, but Westvillage had looked at Tsutomu knowingly and asked, “But… You have a plan, right?” Eiji then can’t help but wonder, “I don’t know why Teppei was sent here. But maybe someone wanted him to see me?” Essentially, this trip is ultimately for Teppei’s sake, i.e. to help the kid understand where he came from since the kid has been in such a funk lately. Wow, the adults at Tanegashima Base has actually done something right for once, but then again, a clock is right twice a day…

• All of a sudden, Tsutomu informs us that Eiji isn’t really a criminal. Rather, he had been charged with assault and attempted murder only because he tried to protect Teppei from the evil experimentations of Macbeth Enterprises. This throws another wrench into the conflict seen throughout this episode. With this new bit of evidence, we know for sure that Eiji had done everything in his power to act as Teppei’s father, i.e. he isn’t just the kid’s father because he’s meant to be one. Eiji was only separated from his son thanks to circumstances beyond his control. Unfortunately, Teppei isn’t privy to this knowledge. As far as the kid is concerned, Eiji has been absent from Teppei’s life by his own volition. This is why these conflicts can often be difficult to resolve. We don’t always have all the information in order to make a proper judgment.

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• Akari eventually confesses to her mother that she had lied, but the woman is nevertheless happy to have been able to see her daughter. In this moment, you can see the guilt build up even more on Akari’s face. After all, it’s easier to come to terms with your wrongdoings when you are also punished for them. More importantly, however, Teppei must have gained some realization in this same scene that perhaps his father had just been happy to see him.

• Out of nowhere, Teppei remarks that Tsubaki had looked upon her daughter with much kindness in her eyes. Akari tells Teppei that his own father looked at him in the same sort of way.

• According to Tsutomu, Eiji had some somehow escaped his captors. If he was so capable, why did he need to surrender himself back on the Tenkaidou? I hope Tsutomu isn’t just telling the kid a white lie.

Closing Thoughts
This is more like it. Outside of the cold opening, this episode of Captain Earth is 100% serious and thank God for that. I much prefer this sort of storytelling over the cringeworthy attempts to mix in humor that we had gotten in the past four weeks. Of course, it hasn’t escaped my attention that Daichi is absent for much of this week’s episode. I therefore blame him for all of the show’s failings!

I’m just kidding.

Maybe.

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8 thoughts on “Captain Earth Ep. 5: Returning “home”

  1. flamerounin

    My big problem with this episode is that it just comes out as being too random in the light of the previous four. It’s as if the producer just said “Okay guys, let’s give them some DRAMA”. Would have really been much better if the first four episodes were used to build up this moment. Or this should have been done as a two-parter to give room in presenting Eiji Arashi’s character, the whole “Teppei finally meets his ‘dad’ ” story just doesn’t feel as powerful as it should be with the way this episode went.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Maybe the episode could’ve been more impactful, but I still like it better than the silly hijinks in the previous four.

      Reply
      1. flamerounin

        That is exactly what is gnawing me. This is also the kind of storytelling that I want to see more out of CE. But it doesn’t get any help from the previous eps, which makes it feel too out of the blue for me to really appreciate it.

        Reply
  2. higgsbosoff

    Well, the main thing that I thought was… “if they want Arashi’s genes, can’t they get them from, dunno, the blood he splattered all over the corridor and that’s going to float around there for forever?”. But other than that, good episode – plus from the technical side I enjoyed the space and zero-G sequences in general.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I was under the impression that they wanted more than just Eiji’s genes, i.e. capture him due to Teppei’s connection to the Kiltgang.

      Reply
      1. flamerounin

        “I was under the impression that they wanted more than just Eiji’s genes, i.e. capture him due to Teppei’s connection to the Kiltgang.”

        This part i don’t get. I though Tsutomu made sure that Teppei’s connection with the Kiltgang would not leak outside the Tanegashima base. So how the heck would that be the purpose behind that group trying to capture Eiji?

        Reply
  3. John Barnes

    Frankly, after the lousy crap that was Buddy Complex, I’ve enjoyed Captain Earth so much that it’s hard for me to find faults. That said…

    I do agree that, and if anything, the last couple of episodes had felt like stuff you’d see in an American action cartoon, particularly last week’s episode with the whole “Bad Guys the audience is aware of but not the Good Guys infiltrating a site and doing damage” shtick, and Hana is dangerously close to being a one-dimensional character if you got her thinking she’s a magical girl who believes showing her navel will cause wonderful things to happen. It’s also odd seeing how you have people speaking in technological lingo and using Shakespearean references one minute, and showcasing an almost-nude character for fanservice. Usually these days, it’s either one or the other.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I’d see what you’re saying if the Shakespearean references were, well, intelligent. But at the moment, they just sound pretentious as fuck, so I don’t really find it all that strange that we’d see these references alongside a bunch of fanservice.

      Reply

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