Captain Earth
When I opened the door called truth, my childhood ended. It was a summer I could never forget.

Captain Earth (Kyaputen Asu) is one of the most visually stunning anime television series shown recently, so it is a shame that it has also one of the most convoluted storylines that I have ever seen.

The series, created by Bones and based on the script written by Yoji Enokido, was directed by Takuya Igarashi (Star Driver, Mushishi), with theme music composed by Satoru Kosaki (Star Driver: The Movie).

Firing the Livlaster, an otherworldly handgun that Daichi can summon, is the only way to power up and control the ‘Earth Engine Impacter’ mecha suit.

The plot centres on student Daichi Manatsu, who, after the death of his father Taiyo Manatsu - astronaut working for the Globe (Global Space Exploration Organization), struggles to find his way in life. Late Taiyo’s brother Toshiaki, Daichi's uncle and legal guardian, does everything to keep the boy in the school and out of the trouble, but Daichi's mind often wanders to strange, yet somewhat familiar, places. One day, while strolling around the seemingly abandoned Globe installation, Daichi encounters a boy with a peculiar ability to create a rainbow ring above his hand, called Teppei Arashi and the two become best friends. Together they try to find a way into the complex and inside they discover a strange girl named Hana Mutou enclosed in a mysterious sphere, holding an otherworldly gun called Livlaster, whom they befriend. The three are later joined by mischievous, cat-ears-wearing Akari Yomatsuri, daughter of two Globe employees, a hacker prodigy who calls herself ‘Magical Girl’ and goes under codename ‘Code Papillon’ when hacking.

The anime series has truly charming opening and closing themes accompanying the first 13 episodes, that change, regrettably for worse, from episode 14 onwards.

The quartet, led by Daichi a.k.a. ‘Captain Earth’, adopts the name ‘Midsummer Knights’, and starts working for the Globe, since they are recognised as having a variety of natural talents, making them particularly suitable to fight the malevolent alien force known as the ‘Planetary Gears’, who are bent on invading the Earth and draining all mankind’s libido (really) to empower their immortal existences.

The Planetary Gears are a group of alien beings who feed on ‘Orgone Energy’ extracted from human libido. Their essences are contained in so called ‘Ego Blocks’ - special vessels holding their digitised consciousnesses, which are stored in a ‘Cocoon’ that forms the core of Auberon, Planetary Gears’ mothership, in orbit of Uranus. Only by destroying a particular Ego Block, the respective Planetary Gear can be destroyed.

One day Daichi meets a boy with a peculiar ability to create a rainbow ring above his hand, called Teppei Arashi, and the two soon become best friends.

Planetary Gears can manifest as mecha-like, pure-energy beings called ‘Kill-T-Gang’, which are controlled by Planetary Gears through cockpit-like devices known as ‘Machine Goodfellows’, that can also be used as smaller, more compact mecha suits, optimised for Earth-based combat. Planetary Gears have also access to a number of special abilities known as ‘singularities’ that differ from one individual to another. They are also able to inhabit the bodies of a group of genetically engineered human youth, who are completely unaware of their true identity until an another Planetary Gear awakens them with a kiss (really!).

Because the Kill-T-Gang, the true forms of the Planetary Gears, absorb libido through proximity, humanity would be totally wiped out should even single one of them makes it to the Earth, necessitating the use of the Impacters (sic) - giant mecha suits, to hold them back.

Daichi and Teppei are soon joined by two girls: Hana, who they find enclosed in a mysterious floating sphere, and Akari, mischievous hacker prodigy.

Midsummer Knights seem to be especially suitable to fight the Planetary Gears and their Kill-T-Gang manifests because of the range of natural talents they possess:

Daichi’s skill lies in the ability to summon an otherworldly handgun known as the Livlaster, a powerful weapon utilising pure Orgone Energy. Livlaster is essential for piloting the giant mecha suit ‘Earth Engine Impacter’, the only weapon strong enough to stand up to the Kill-T-Gang.

Teppei is, in reality, the human form of Planetary Gear known as Albion, but this fact is at first known only to the rest of the Planetary Gears. His ‘Ego Block’ is eventually destroyed, making him an ordinary human. Although he loses the ability to become Albion, he later gains his own Livlaster, which enables him to join Daichi and help him fight the Kill-T-Gang in his own mecha suit, the ‘Nebula Engine Impacter’.

Computer skills of cat-ears-sporting Akari, a hacking expert self-styled as the ‘Magical Girl’ often prove invaluable to the Midsummer Knights.

Hana was found with a Livlaster weapon of her own, but she is seemingly unable to summon or use it. Her pet, a strange squirrel-like creature named Pitz, can communicate with Hana and predicts Orgone Energy events, such as imminent attacks of the Kill-T-Gang, which proves useful to the group. Hana is also the only one who is able to enter and pilot the spaceship known as Blume, hidden somewhere under the sea. She eventually gets to pilot her very own mecha suit, ‘The Flare Engine Impacter’.

Akari is the only one from the Midsummer Knights not possessing any supernatural abilities, but this is compensated by her extraordinary hacking skills that often prove invaluable to the team while repelling the Kill-T-Gang attacks.

Daichi, who earns the title ‘Captain Earth’, starts working for the Globe as a pilot of the gigantic mecha suit called the ‘Earth Engine Impacter’.

On the other side of the conflict stand Planetary Gears led by arrogant Amara and frivolous Moco, human forms of their Kill-T-Gang true selves Amarok and Malkin respectively. Planetary Gears, in their human form, are based at Macbeth Enterprises - the influential corporation that designed the Machine Goodfellows as well as conceived the genetically engineered children programme, but its CEO Masaki Kube is seemingly unaware of the true essences of Amara and Moco.

Amara is the leader of the invasion force he calls the ‘Planetary Gears’. To him, humanity is but a mere energy source to exploit with the intention to further increase the Kill-T-Gang's powers. It was he who faced Taiyo Manatsu many years ago and caused his death.

Since the ‘Earth Engine Impacter’ is far too big to be built on the Earth, the huge mecha suit is assembled in space from several interlocking parts.

Moco is Amara’s sidekick and love interest. She is the first Kill-T-Gang encountered by Daichi after he becomes a pilot of the Earth Engine Impacter. Moco, who loves revealing clothes, has a very low opinion of humans and tends to underestimate the pilots of the Impacters.

After Amara's and Moco’s direct attacks against the Earth are thwarted by Daichi and Teppei aboard their Impacters, Planetary Gears decide for a less direct approach and, with the help of the Macbeth Enterprises’ artificial intelligence P.A.C. (nicknamed Puck), start their search for the remainder of the eight genetically engineered children. They, one-by-one, manage to locate Zin, Ai, Lin, Baku and the broad-brim-hatted girl Setsuna (who turns out to be the true leader of the Planetary Gears) and (through a kiss, how otherwise) awake them to their true selves.

Planetary Gears, in their human forms as arrogant Amara and frivolous Moco, two of the genetically engineered human children, are based at Macbeth Enterprises.

Unfortunately for the Planetary Gears (and fortunately for the Midsummer Knights), while on Earth, the Planetary Gears cannot assume their true Kill-T-Gang forms of the pure-energy beings and must settle for using their smaller, less powerful Machine Goodfellow units, faced by the Midsummer Knights’ similar Earth-bound mecha suits called Earth, Nebula and Flare Engine Ordinary.

The creators of this anime series obviously never heard the phrase: “less can be sometimes more”.

After all the confrontations between the Midsummer Knights and Planetary Gears end in a stalemate, the Midsummer Knights devise a plan called ‘Operation Summer’ and decide to defeat the Planetary Gears once and for all by destroying the ‘Cocoon’ that holds their ‘Ego Blocks’ inside Auberon, Planetary Gears’ mothership, parked in orbit of Uranus. However, unbeknown to them, the Globe's ‘Ark Faction’ supported by the secretive organization named (ahem, ahem) ‘Salty Dog’ (members of which communicate by means of a high-tech version of the paper cup telephone) make also their move with the implementation of the ‘Kivotos Plan’ – the plan to have a selected group of humans cryonically frozen within the Globe's Tenkaido Space Station, and use them for eventual repopulation of the Earth (or other planet), should ever Kill-T-Gang succeed with their invasion plan and wipe out humankind. Hana, despite the great danger it apparently poses to her, enters the Blume and also heads towards Auberon.

Macbeth Enterprises also hosts the artificial intelligence P.A.C. a.k.a. Puck, who unbeknown to Macbeth Enterprises’ CEO Masaki Kube, has its own sinister agenda.

On their way to Uranus, the conflict between the Midsummer Knights and Planetary Gears (supported by various other factions such as the above mentioned Salty Dog) gradually escalates until it finally culminates in the grand finale inside the Planetary Gears’ mothership Auberon, where the Captain Earth and Midsummer Knights must face the force far greater even than the Kill-T-Gang themselves – the treacherous A.I. Puck, who at last comes out with his own hidden agenda and, after betraying the Kill-T-Gang, fuses with the Blume and emerges as the menacing ‘Robin Goodfellow’ aspiring to become the absolute ruler of the Galaxy.

Earth Engine Impacter has its more compact, but also less powerful, Earth-bound version, optimised for ground-based combat, called ‘Earth Engine Ordinary’.

Visually, Captain Earth is very impressive, with the level of details in some scenes that is simply remarkable. The series has also truly charming opening and closing themes accompanying the first 13 episodes, that change (regrettably, for worse) by episode 14.

But what does to Captain Earth a really big disservice is the needles complexity of its script and overuse of fancy words and expressions (it's really a mouthful): Midsummer Knights, Operation Summer, Earth Engine Impacter, Earth Engine Ordinary, Orgone Energy, Livlaster, Planetary Gears, Kill-T-Gang, Machine Goodfellow, Ego Blocks, Globe, Macbeth Enterprises, Ark Faction, Kivotos Plan, Code Papillon, Auberon, Cocoon, Blume, Puck and - lest we forget - Salty Dog. The creators of this, otherwise visually very appealing, anime series obviously never heard the expression: “less is sometimes more”. And this is especially true when the unnecessarily complex, over the top, put-in-there-a-bit-of-everything-to-make-it-more-interesting plot compromises the comprehensibility of the storyline.

TRIVIA: A visual novel titled ‘Captain Earth: Mind Labyrinth’ by Bandai Namco Games is set to be released in February 2015 for the PlayStation Vita