An underground civilization, mechs, a rumor of the surface…we’re going to do a review series on Gurren Lagann! Wait, we’re not? Sakugan is a completely different anime? It sure does feel similar to one of the most inspirational and outlandish anime out there. There’s even a mysterious entity that appears to be trying to keep humanity from advancing too far. If only Sakugan episode 1 had Memempu discover a spiral key. That would’ve been perfect!
All joking aside, this review will kick off a series on the currently airing anime from the title. I need to have something to write about in this current anime season and so far, everything that’s caught my attention has been airing at the end of the week. I thought the premise of this anime sounded interesting enough even though there were a lot of similarities to how Gurren Lagann started. We’ll see if those similarities continue.
Where can I watch Sakugan episode 1?
The only place that I’ve been able to locate this anime is over at Crunchyroll. I came across it initially while browsing the listing of seasonal anime. At first, I didn’t want to take up reviewing it because I wanted to find something that was different from what normally gets reviewed here. That didn’t last long as the need for content was too high. So, off to Crunchyroll it was to give Sakugan a shot.
Of course, if an anime is available at Crunchyroll, then it’s also on VRV. The two sites have an agreement that allows VRV to stream content from Crunchyroll. If you’ve got an account at Crunchyroll, you can watch anime at VRV. Likewise, if you have an account with VRV you can watch at Crunchyroll. It’s not a bad setup but I haven’t tried it out myself. Give it a look if you want.
How was the story in Sakugan episode 1?
There were some things that I liked and some other things that are concerning. I’ll start with the things that I liked. First off, the setting is pretty interesting. Anyone familiar with Gurren Lagann will instantly feel the similarities between the two underground civilizations. The city of Pinyin is much more advanced than the holes that made up human civilization in Gurren Lagann, but the same cramped feeling is there. Maybe it’s just because I don’t like being underground.
Despite Pinyin giving off a post-apocalyptic type of feel to it, everything seems to be pretty calm and organized. Society appears to be peaceful. It doesn’t look like a terrible place to live. The only real danger at first is the threat of monsters, earthquakes and cave-ins. They don’t feel like they’re that big of a threat, at least to start. That all changes at the end of episode 1.
What did you find concerning?
There were a lot of moments in Sakugan episode 1 where things happened “just because.” For instance, Memempu, a nine-year old girl, wants to become a Marker. Markers explore the Labyrinth and face its dangers. Memempu’s father, Gagumber, won’t allow it. Another father and daughter duo, Lynda and Walsh, encourage their counterparts to allow Memempu to follow her dream. Lynda and Walsh are Markers themselves.
It’s during this time that we learn that there’s an old legend of a Marker named Urorop. Urorop has supposedly mapped the entire Labyrinth. Well, what happens next? Memempu gets a delivery from Urorop containing a picture and a secret map. It just kind of happens out of nowhere. This ends up triggering the events that lead to Memempu and Gagumber deciding to go off into the Labyrinth, so it was necessary for the story, but it just doesn’t really make sense.
No matter how much I think about it, the chances that Urorop would be around to encounter Memempu are incredibly thin. From what we’ve seen, the Labyrinth is huge and the colonies themselves aren’t small either. You mean to tell me this person who’s been all over it just happened upon a girl in one of the colonies who is incredibly skilled? That’s a bit much. It feels like this is happening just to advance the story. There’s another moment like this later, but I’ll cover that in a later section.
How was the production value?
The animation was pretty standard. There wasn’t anything that stood out as amazing or really bad. I liked the way that the mechs moved and the character design seemed to be pretty solid. The only blemish in this department was the kaiju. Its animation was CG. Whenever that cursed animation method pops up in an anime I groan. It didn’t ruin the episode, but I wish it wasn’t there.
The voice acting appeared to be on point. I can’t speak Japanese so I’m limited in this department. There’s no a dub available at this point so I can’t judge an English voice acting cast. I got the feeling that I was watching characters interact with each other. That’s the most important thing for me to experience whenever I’m watching something. If that doesn’t exist, it makes watching an anime really difficult.
As far as the music is concerned, I really didn’t notice it. Even sitting here writing this review, trying to recall anything about the OP, soundtrack or ending credits, I’m coming up empty. There’s nothing about the music that stood out and left an impression. I’m going to have to try and pay a little bit more attention to it next time to see if there’s anything here worth noting.
What did Sakugan episode 1 get right?
The relationship between Memempu and her father, Gagumber, was entertaining to watch. It’s the familiar story of a child wanting to gain independence from their parent and the parent still wanting to have some level of control. Don’t read that as Gagumber wanting to control his daughter like it’s a bad thing. Memempu is only 9 years-old and it’s hinted that Gagumber knows more about what she wants to dive head first into. I suspect we’ll learn that Gagumber used to be a Marker until a tragic event happened. Walsh’s comment to Gagumber about someone named Rufus makes that pretty obvious.
Gagumber is just a father who loves his daughter and wants to keep her from danger. He’s not overly oppressive, it’s just that Memempu is advanced for her age and doesn’t have any patience. You would normally expect something like this to play out when Memempu was a few years older. They’re just having this fight right now.
As someone with young kids myself, I can easily relate to Gagumber’s feelings. I just want my kids to enjoy the stage of life that they’re in now. No parent wants their child to get into a dangerous situation, especially if it can be avoided. If I was in his shoes, I’d probably be doing the exact same thing. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll be doing something similar with my kids. At least there won’t be giant monsters trying to kill us.
What else did you like?
I really enjoyed watching Walsh and Gagumber talk about parenting. I’ll let you in on a little secret, parents really don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just trying to do what they think is best at the time. Well, at least good parents are. I know there are some bad parents out there who treat their kids like trash, but this review isn’t about that. I think Gagumber falls into a larger category of parents who are trying to figure out how to be a good parent. He might not get it right every time, but at least he’s trying.
It’s just good to see a father figure pictured to be more realistic. Most of the time it feels like the parents are either complete idiots or straight up evil. Gagumber is neither, even though he is more on the outlandish side. He comes across as someone who’s trying to protect his daughter from the harsh realities of the real world. I can relate to that.
What did Sakugan episode 1 get wrong?
This section is going to contain a spoiler right up front. If you don’t want the end of Sakugan episode 1 ruined for you, then stop right here and go watch the episode. You’ve been warned.
I touched on this in the section about the story, but episode 1 had a little bit too much deus ex machina go on. Basically, things happen in the story to make things progress. There’s little to no warning that these things are going to happen, they just do. Don’t worry about the logic behind it. It was present when Memempu received her map from Urorop and it popped back up again with the story killing off Walsh and Lynda.
That’s right, Walsh and Lynda bite the dust at the end of the anime episode. It left me confused and wondering if Sakugan was going to make a habit of pulling things out of nowhere. For context, a kaiju broke through the ceiling of Pinyin and starts chasing after Memempu. Walsh, Lynda and the other Markers show up to try and take the monster down. Out of nowhere, a giant boulder crushes Walsh and Lynda’s mech. It’s a quick ending for the father and daughter duo.
Isn’t a battlefield dangerous?
Yes, a battlefield is dangerous and there’s the chance that you could die at any time. The issue I had was that we weren’t shown the roof caving in on the city of Pinyin. Memempu, Gagumber and Lynda had to dodge falling rocks in a tunnel, but that was different. This boulder seems to come from nowhere and just wrecks Walsh and Lynda. It doesn’t really make sense.
At this point in Sakugan episode 1, I could feel like the story was doing the “run away from catastrophe” deal. You know what I’m talking about. The main characters are about to start their quest and suddenly all Hell breaks loose. It’s a mad dash to escape the impending doom that’s nipping at their heels. This can be a great way to start an epic story. When you add a little tragedy to it the narrative can be even better. The problem here is that it feels forced.
Any other complaints?
Yes, I’ve got one thing that’s been bothering me from the start. How does all of the stuff we’ve been shown exist underground? Especially the organic stuff. I know we haven’t been shown the Labyrinth yet and there are possibly areas that have artificial light, but don’t plants need sunlight to grow? I may be decades removed from middle-school science but I still remember photosynthesis. Plants use nutrients from the soil, water and sunlight to create their energy. Without sunlight, plants can’t grow.
“But there are plants that can grow in dark places!” You’re right, but not Papaya. That’s the fruit that Walsh and Lynda brought back from their trip. It wouldn’t surprise me to see other types of fruit as well. It’d take some fairly long explaining to convince me that stuff like that can grow underground. That’s not even getting into how an entire society exists underground as Sakugan shows us. What about emissions? Air flow? Raw material processing? There’s a lot being taken for granted.
Is Sakugan episode 1 worth watching?
Despite all of my questions and complaints, I’m willing to say Sakugan episode 1 is worth watching. You can at least give it a try. If it’s not for you then you can move on to something else. I’m cautiously optimistic that the issues I brought up will get addressed. It feels like there’s a much larger entity out there controlling humanity. That might explain a lot of my complaints. Anyways, give this one a try and see if you like it!
Now go watch some anime!