「恐怖の覇王」 (Kyofu no Hao)
“Ruler of Terror”
The arrival of Suisei’s 11th episode brings with it the official return of Commander Kugel… and with it, a bunch of developments.
First and foremost among them? Pinion getting the rude awakening we all saw coming. There ain’t nothing like seeing a hot shot get chopped down the size (how about that competition of warning shots?), and Pinion gets really tossed aside this week. With Ledo leaving to rejoin his former comrade in arms, Pinion and the rest of the fleet end up being incorporated into Kugel’s “New World Order,” and Gargantia’s next in line. Needless to say, things don’t look to well for their way of life, and it’s something that highlights both Ledo’s development over this series, as well as the continued commentary on society and what it means to really be alive.
Indeed, as the episode progresses, we find Ledo occasionally questioning the definitions on what a proper society should be—and thus indirectly questioning what Kugel’s doing as well. Most of his actions are still powered by his military past—as evidenced by his willingness to rejoin Kugel upon request—but the fact remains that he’s definitely changed as a result of his experiences on Gargantia. And well, that’s really what this series has been about for the most part.
Behind everything this series has given us so far, there’s been a constant reference to society in general, and Ledo is turning out to be the face of that commentary. In many ways, Ledo’s journey can be compared to that of say, a college graduate being thrust into adulthood… and what this series has really been doing—at least, the way I see it—is really challenging viewers to ask questions about their own values and about society in general. There’s a lot here about the importance of thinking for yourself instead of just accepting values imposed on you, and I can’t give enough kudos to Murata and Gen (whose previous works are really showing this week in terms of similarities found in Suisei) for how the aforementioned has been weaved into the story so far.
Notably, the above also brings onto the forefront the fact that the way Kugel went—that is, the reign of terror route—was one route Ledo could have theoretically pursued himself. Obviously, he chose not to go down that route, but it’s interesting to note how much contrast there is between the choices that could’ve been made by the two of them. To this end, there’s an interesting contrast between Striker and Chamber as well, as they seem to be based off archetypes of the opposite gender, and their names seem contextually fitting for their pilots. After all, the word “strike” naturally suggests a more aggressive nature (and “chamber” a more reserved nature)—both of which theoretically fit Kugel and Ledo’s personalities and decisions perfectly. Regardless, it was quite something to see the two of them autonomously communicating with one another and with others, and it looks like the ending might not be so much as just a clash between Ledo and Kugel (Man vs. Man) as it is a clash between Chamber and Striker (AI vs. AI) as well—which will be very interesting to watch.
Ultimately however, arguably the biggest topic this week results from Kugel’s admission that he knows of the Hideazue’s secret, his subsequent definition of the Hideazue as being formerly human, and the announcement of the definition of happiness as being the one that brings the greatest value to the whole. And it’s key to note because what’s lost beneath all this “Hideazue aren’t really human anymore” talk, is the fact that theoretically, the society that Kugel’s trying to make (which is identical to the Galactic Alliance, I might add) doesn’t make them anymore human either. Kugel and the Galactic Alliance members might have conscious thought, literal vocal communication, and the physical appearance of “what a human should look like,” but when you’re forcing people to live in a society where you emphasize stability and just pure cost-benefit efficiency… you can argue you’re not living at all. In essence, the Galactic Alliance is an entity filled with humans that look and act human, but are for all intents and purposes robots on the inside. In that context, they’re arguably no more human than the Hideazue at this point. I guess that’s why we have the Gargantians and those living on Earth taking a big part of the series’ spotlight though, because when you get down to it, Amy and the others are the only real “humans” here.
Looking forward, Kugel admittedly brings a factor I didn’t anticipate in the equation. As it looks now, it seems like the series may not end up revisiting the Galactic Alliance fight in space at all, as there are only two episodes left. It remains to be seen of course, but it looks like things are trending that way, and it’s a pity really if it does end up being glanced over. At the very least though, the anticipated (and predicted) reunion of the Gargantia fleet with Ledo, Pinion, Flange and the rest is coming… and also as previously predicted, it looks like that reunion will serve to really further the bonds between them—all thanks to Kugel. The best really is yet to come, although one does wonder if it might not do better with another episode or two of breathing space. Hey, at least we got Lukkage back!