A father-daughter story about traversing the unexplored labyrinth.
This sort of came out left field for me, I wasn’t expecting Sakugan to be as engrossing and immediately engaging with its worldbuilding and story. Besides, this first episode did a great job at pulling the viewer into its world. This is a father-daughter story that resonated with me all through its runtime. Aside from some CGi here and there, prominently with the Kaiju and the Mecha (and the train). Everything else about it, from its character animation to its backgrounds is superb! Sakugan really is the start of an epic adventure!
Sakugan formerly titled Sacks & Guns is the anime adaptation of Sakugan Labyrinth Marker by Nekotarō Inui. The story follows Memenpu (Amane, Kanon) a 9-year-old girl who apparently has graduated college and now is on the path to start making her own money. She drives a mecha drilling robot with her dad. The world is divided by colonies and it seems mankind has burrowed underground with no idea of how the real sky looks like. Memenpu has weird dreams about a tower that spawns to the heavens, maybe alluding to the tower of babel. The series starts with her running away from someone, who turns out to be her dad, they get into a fight of tricks, trying to outsmart the other one. A battle of tricks between father and daughter.
The worldbuilding is mainly delivered through exposition between characters, the best type of exposition if you ask me, it not only delivers the state of the relationship between the two characters, it very cleverly allows us to understand the current state of the world. Sakugan then dives deep into the daily lives of Gagumber (Touchi, Hiroki) and Memenpu, with a right reason, of course, they decide to celebrate since Memenpu invents a tracking device to find out where the red crystals are located inside the cave. It seems the colony is adjacent to the cave and people who work in the caves using the mecha, live in the colony. But the labyrinth is a whole other story. Through Memenpu we get to meet Linda (Tsuda, Minami) and have a conversation about Ururop a legendary diver into the labyrinth who seemingly actually managed to map the whole thing out, but hasn’t been able to come back to share the details. I’m already loving how everything is being set up in the first episode. Markers are people who go into and explore the labyrinth. Markers and Digger mechs are different in this world, so I’m assuming a dissonance here. Linda also rides a digger mech with her dad, Rufus (Midorikawa, Hikaru) an important detail that manipulates your heartstrings in the final moments of the episode.
Then the anime switches into a festival episode, but it’s not cliche as it serves a more poetic touch, still people put up stands and sell meat and other local products. The episode doesn’t dally too much on this though and instead switches it up to try and get us to empathize with the characters. Rufus and Gagumber share a moment in a bar, where they play a virtual shooting machine, whoever loses has to strip down apparently. But then they share a beer and talk about parenthood. A bounteous feat on part of the writers, it’s hard sometimes for anime to convey such sensitives topics without becoming overly preachy, or just being a comfy show. Here it was a breath of fresh air because it felt natural, the conversation was driven with emotion and purity we hardly see. It felt real, just two dads talking about how hard it is to be a parent, I really liked it. Withal, how Gagumber just crashes next to Memenpu and spills his truth. Another nice touch. Gagumber really plays the deadbeat dad here.
It suddenly cuts to a bunch of servers running a program, scanning house after house, after they find the right one, I’m guessing they were scanning for a specific molecular compound, which I think might be Hydrogen Sulfide? However, I was not able to find the precise structure and confirm this particular molecular compound: C12H16O+(H2S)>. (Is it made up?) If anyone knows what this is, please leave it in the comments. Because of this Memenpu gets a package from Urorop, within, a picture just like the tower she drew, with a crystal that projects a map. It invigorates Memenpu into exploring the labyrinth even more. Romance, right?
That’s when the Kaiju attacks the colony. Although. being CGi and all, I really liked its design, this season is just great for monster design lovers and animation as a whole. (So many good shows with excellent animation, I’m looking at you Komi!) My other favorite this season is Takt Op. Destiny. And we still need to see the monster design from Deep Insanity. It’s not a competition though or anything, just pointing it out. I won’t really talk about the final moments of the episode, because they really pulled at my heartstrings, just in case you haven’t watched the incident, if you have, feel free to talk about that in the comments. Overall I really liked this first episode premiere of Sakugan. I can’t wait to dive deep into the labyrinth with this father-daughter combo!