Captain Earth reunites two Sailor Moon veterans, Takuya Igarashi and Yoji Enokido, with the former overseeing the series’ direction and the latter the series’ composer. Both are well-known names hailing from the “Kunihiko Ikuhara tree,” Ikuhara having had a hand in Sailor Moon‘s direction since the first season before leaving following Sailor Moon SuperS in 1996 to direct Revolutionary Girl Utena in 1997. Igarashi stayed on with Toei Animation to direct the final, and my personal favorite, season of Sailor Moon: SailorStars, while Enokido wrote Revolutionary Girl Utena, which was directed by Ikuhara. Igarashi and Enokido were reunited in 2006 by Ouran High School Host Club, and most recently, the two worked on Star Driver, again as director and series composer respectively.
As their latest offering, Captain Earth has trappings of series past, in addition to leaning heavily on repetition to provide a narrative framework for protagonist Daichi Manatsu. It reeks of Igarashi, Enokido, and Ikuhara in style. Additionally, the series is dripping with sexuality.
The first point that the visuals hammer home is that Daichi is very much alone. The overt use of Dutch angles portrays an uneasiness, while Daichi is always separated from those around him, both in present time and flashbacks to his childhood. Above, his lack of ambition in his schoolwork is being discussed while Daichi himself is isolated in his own square from the silhouetted window frame as he thinks about how he would rather be in his room, reading or playing video games; two admittedly solitary activities.
When shown with a group of classmates, Daichi is briefly a part of their world, as shown in the straighforward shot above, until a breaking news story on the television draws him back into isolation.
Through a use of close-ups and pairing him specifically with the image on the television, Daichi is quickly removed from the happy group.
As he stands up to leave, he politely rejects their invitation while the rest remain seated. None of their faces are seen, but his head is positioned down, while the rest look up at him. The angle of the shot further serves to isolate him in the top left along with the television broadcast.
Daichi is further isolated in flashbacks to his childhood. There is a prevalent use of fences – one may immediately be reminded of Takuto Tsunashi’s adventure with wire cutters and chain-link fences in the first episode of Star Driver – and structures that serves to separate Daichi from others, specifically his childhood acquaintance, Teppei.
Most impressive is Captain Earth‘s use of repetition when following Daichi’s descent into the now-abandoned Globe building. Images from the flashback are shown first, followed by their respective counterparts in the mirrored sequence of Daichi’s present.
The initial approach is very similar, with the noticeable absence of Teppei in the present-day shots. It was daylight when Daichi first came to the Globe building and met Teppei; however, his current visit to the presumably deserted facility is shot entirely at dusk. Where the childhood sequence smacks of eager discovery – both in the brighter color palette and in the way Teppei leads Daichi – Daichi’s return is marked with a somber air of resolve, especially in the comparative shots with the fence that surrounds the premises.
In both present and past, Daichi’s descent into the belly of the building has an otherworldly quality to it. Teppei continues to take the lead in the childhood sequence, with Daichi tagging along in awe of his surroundings. When Daichi returns, alone, he looks around more rigidly, possibly remembering Teppei or imagining him there, calling audience attention to the lack of Teppei’s presence and Daichi’s solitude.
Each sequence leads to something extraordinary, divorced from the reality of Daichi’s every day life. Teppei leads him into the heart of the facility and shows him a girl, suspended in liquid and cradling a weapon. Daichi accidentally releases her and the three exit the building together before being forcibly separated by intervening authorities. Upon his return, years later, Daichi is recruited by a mysterious child playing a recorder to become a “Captain” and an elaborate launch sequence commences. Ikuhara’s influence on Igarashi is most obvious in this repeated sequence, with the focus on specific structural pieces – beginning with the oppressive nature of the Globe building in the background, continued in the narrowed focus on the fence and staircase – as well as the descent itself.
The descent leads to Daichi’s assertion that he will be a Captain – out of a sense of duty and desire to save Earth along with a presumed familial connection – which in turn, pushes him into the pilot’s seat. What follows is an ornate mecha transformation sequence, reminiscent of the Princess of the Crystal’s transformation in Ikuhara’s most recent work, Mawaru Penguindrum, beginning with the confident insertion of Daichi’s gun into a hole located in the cockpit of his robot.
Both series (Mawaru Penguindrum first and Captain Earth second) reveal the innards of their respective robots through rocket and flower imagery. Opening with the more phallic rocket launch sequence, petal-like pieces bloom outward shortly after, as both series show their robots passing through various gates on a set course. Each series then reiterates the idea of intercourse through their next assembly sequences, including specific detail on a large screw, visibly sparking from friction.
One thing I love about Yoji Enokido’s writing is his use of repetition in addition to the various shout-outs that he hides in his scripts to series past. He also has a cheeky sense of humor, with consistent references – across nearly every series that he has worked on – to characters’ burgeoning sexuality. Takuya Igarashi directed one of my favorite series of all time, SailorStars, and has seemingly continued to take cues from Ikuhara’s works, both past and present. Their latest collaboration, Captain Earth, manages to call back to a number of different series while telling its own visual story.