With the entrance of Akari Yomatsuri in episode three of Captain Earth, the series solidifies its theatrical trappings – in addition to random Shakespeare references – through use of visuals and blocking.
Akari has been waiting patiently in the wings for her stage debut, and Captain Earth gives her a fantastic entrance. In previous episodes, she was known only as “Code Papillon,” the only flight director talented enough to assist the Earth Engine. Her face is obscured by glasses that reflect the cool light of multiple monitors, the only light source in an otherwise dark room. It’s an easy visual shortcut – used by many series – that allows us as the audience to quickly identify her as a computer tech.
When the time comes for Akari to make her first onstage appearance, she is given a very clear-cut entrance onto the Globe stage, cued by the recent moral victory of Globe’s Tanegashima Base leader, Tsutomu Nishikubo, over the menacing representative of the self-described Globe observer and internal police force: Salty Dog. Their tug of war over control and dominion of Globe – additionally Hana, Teppei, and most recently Daichi – helps to shape Nishikubo’s character while also setting him up for a pratfall. Captain Earth uses this to frame Akari’s entrance, while using the bridge itself as a miniature stage. The first act is Nishikubo forbidding the use of “leads” – headsets that afflict the user with painful screeching sound when they do something that Salty Dog disapproves of. Defeated, Salty Dog exits stage left, ushered out by the mutterings of operators Sanders and Trias that their opinion of Nishikubo has greatly improved.
Nishikubo is spared no time to bask in what little glory he would have, as compatriot Peter Westvillage enters with Globe’s newest recruit: Akari Yomatsuri, the technician from the shadows, who just so happens to be Nishikubo’s daughter. Akari purposefully cuts the lights, further constructing her own entrance as she launches into a melodramatic monologue of how her father Nishikubo has not seen her in years, her mother is the governor of the Tenkaido satellite, and she was left to her own lonely devices. Akari’s hammy performance plays off of her audience’s reaction, specifically the peanut gallery of Sanders and Trias, who remark that their previously high opinion of Nishikubo has now dropped to an all-time low.
Not only does Akari’s arrival help set up the four teenagers’ new, unsurprisingly convenient living situation, but it also helps to flesh out Nishikubo. He is the series’ punching bag, with a majority of jokes and jabs at his expense. Even with assertions that he is in charge, or in control, he is often overridden by his peers, Westvillage in particular. Every attempt that Nishikubo makes to regain his authority is quickly undermined by circumstance: Akari’s sudden appearance, Hana’s naked interruption of his lecture at dinner. However, this is contrasted with his genuine apology to Teppei and Hana, with the admission that he should have asserted himself and forbidden the use of leads far more quickly than he did. His apology does not erase his previous inaction, but allows for him to transition into his new role of guardian over Teppei, Hana, Daichi, and Akari.
Captain Earth also playfully uses props in its third episode to wonderfully humorous effect. The defeated Salty Dog representative, who quietly took his coffee cup and left the Globe stage, is shown communicating with his superiors using the very same cup in a technologically-advanced version of a five year-old’s homemade telephone with plastic cups and string. The subject matter of their conversation, filled with presumably important terminology that we have yet to understand and ending with the assurance that Salty Dog will destroy Daichi before he becomes a greater problem, is contrasted with the imagery of an older gentleman in a business suit holding a coffee cup up to his ear. For emphasis, he crushes the coffee cup at the end of the exchange, comically demonstrating his desire to crush Daichi.
Additionally, there are the series’ continued references to Shakespeare which at this point still remain as overly obvious naming schemes and nothing more. The Globe Organization’s ubiquitous presence through their logo is interesting as the Globe Theatre was infamously built by Shakespeare’s acting company and housed their performances, and is possibly a signifier of their hand in creating the stages that we see within the series.
These name-drops aren’t particularly impressive or weighty, as they don’t mean anything to the viewer yet. One of the things I enjoyed in this production teams’ previous offering, Star Driver, was how that series managed to both reference in name and theme, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.” My hope for Captain Earth lies in its visual execution, which continues to stand out, as it purposefully moves its various players from setpiece to setpiece.