On the fourth day of anime, an anime studio gave to me…
…four intergalactic castaways.
I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that I love Chamber. I have a soft spot for intellectuals (especially ones with giant laser beams). Because goodness knows the world needs more humanities-minded individuals to keep civilizations from imploding.
While Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (Suisei no Gargantia) has been criticized for its uneven pacing, I actually think the uneven pacing works fits thematically with the setting. Like the waves of a generally calm sea, the plot washes from episodes to episodes, windless periods of calm whimsy punctuated by occasional turbulence that foreshadows the climaxing storm. The uneven pacing might make some viewers “seasick” but as for me, the erratic pacing did nothing to hinder the character development.
What’s great is how subtly Chamber’s character development parallels Ledo’s. As the main character, the lessons that Ledo takes away are clearly defined for us, whether the lessons involve appreciating the different talents and personalities of the people of Gargantia, the satisfaction of a job well done, or just hanging out with people. Chamber’s role as Ledo’s translator (and language instructor) ensures that even while he may be merely “standing by” or off lifting cargo elsewhere on the island, he is readily on hand to absorb the same lessons Ledo learns as well.
In Ledo’s sea of doubt (which boils into your regular tsunami with the return of Kugel and Striker in the last story arc), Chamber solidly remains his anchor, there to support Ledo, to give his counsel but never to take the lead himself. Unlike a certain purple mecha with a Messiah-complex bug invading her system, Chamber understands that free will and decision-making are the qualities that make humanity so amazing (for better and for worse.)
Chamber has a lot of really great lines in the last episode. The kicker is that while he is logically reasoning out why Striker’s proposed plan to have humans worship them as gods is a bad choice for humans, he validates his own humanity through his proclamation of his AI programming–he is a Pilot Support Enlightenment Interface System–his function is to support humans and help them ascend to greater heights in all aspects–technologically and morally.
The irony of Chamber’s reasoning is that objectively, it’s not completely logical. It’s “flawed,” gloriously riddled with human consideration. He considers Striker’s perverse interpretation of Kugel’s intentions as “regrettable,” something that Ledo interprets as a version of “family shame.” Chamber pities Striker for failing to understand her role isn’t supposed to obstruct human thinking, but enhance it instead. For humans to depend on machines, on artificial intelligence, in order to evolve and surpass that intelligence.
Chamber’s ejection of Ledo from his cockpit is an act of mercy, not of efficient logic. Even until his last moments, Chamber does not intrude on Ledo’s free will. He asks for Ledo to confirm his willingness to die, acknowledging that the possibility that Ledo may have contradicted his previous statement that he, like Chamber, has no place in the new world Gargantia is trying to make. But when Ledo contradicts himself by admitting he wants to live, Chamber supports Ledo’s choice by making that choice for him. A bit paradoxical when you think about it–the idea of making a choice for someone to help them continue making choices–but it’s a marvelous feeling to see Chamber operate autonomously and disobey Ledo directly. Chamber’s no longer Ledo’s robot–instead, Ledo’s his pilot.
The people of Gargantia may have taught Ledo about life’s offerings but it’s Chamber who gives Ledo a chance to actually live that life. And for that, he is the best bro a castaway could have, metal and all.
In memory of the awesomest robot bro that lived, I leave you with his most succinct and profound tenet.