The third episode of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet didn't inspire a lot of confidence, resorting to a threat-of-the-week villain and predictable battle. The opening couple of episodes had a lot of worldbuilding and deliberate pacing, which the fourth installment has thankfully returned to. I don't have a problem, as such, with episodic action, but it felt like it had made promises at the start and then wasn't going to deliver on them.
I wasn't sure what the newest episode was going to do, since the third already kind of dealt with the immediate aftermath of the pirate attack. But the longer-term repercussions are still unaddressed - Ledo's been given an invoice for the damage he caused when he first arrived on the fleet, but he's been given a lot of freedom to move around the fleet and has been given work to do. I'd like to see more about how the regular people of the fleet feel about Ledo and his mecha - or even just what they've heard.
But instead he's hanging out with his robot and keeping mostly to himself - which kind of begs the question of where he's picked up so much Japanese1. He does start to make more friends, or at least acquaintances, in this episode though - finally meeting Amy's ill little brother Bevel and the fleet's doctor (they only have one?) in an attempt to learn how he might get back to the Galactic Alliance's main force. He also kind-of meets a couple of other messengers who work with Amy, but they've still not even been officially introduced to the audience.
It was actually the meeting (and the lead-in) with Bebel that restored my confidence in the show after last week's episode. I'd been worried that despite Ledo's distance from the Gargantia's people he was getting too used to the fleet without any real effort on anybody's part, but when Amy's taking him to meet her brother Ledo asks why they haven't "culled" Bevel, because he's too weak to be useful.
Ledo and Bevel have a conversation about what makes a person useful to a society (it's neutered a little by the fact that neither of them ever gets angry at the assumptions the other is making), as well as what makes a society worthwhile - Bevel's position is that living itself is motivation for humans to work together, but Ledo insists that without the Hideauze, mankind has no purpose. Which puts him wonderfully on the back foot when Bevel asks what he'll do once mankind defeats the aliens.
That was a question I'd never considered myself, and I can't recall a "militarized humanity vs extra-terrestrial threat" series that's ever bothered to ask that question. What did people do after the Buster Machine 3 was detonated at the end of Gunbuster? Apart from spelling out words in Australia's power grid.
So I'm reassured and looking forward to the rest of the show - watching Ledo integrate himself into the fleet and hopefully more of how they react to the spaceman and his high-tech flying robot. But more than that, I'm hoping that he eventually gets back to the Galactic Alliance after being changed by his experiences on the seas.
1It's not "officially" Japanese that they speak, of course; whether it's Ledo or the fleet, their native language is Japanese and the others are speaking gibberish. The fleet's language has been referred to in the show as "words" or "Earth language", but the people are a mix of different nationalities so it's unclear what language they'd actually be speaking - assuming a modern human could even identify it.