No review of a noitaminA series is complete without a discussion about the perceived declining quality in its programming in recent years, is it? Starting with Fractale, there have been more and more series on the timeslot that have not only been mediocre or uninspired, but even outright terrible! Black Rock Shooter and Guilty Crown are easily the worst offenders, but there's been plenty that justdon't feel like noitaminA series? Not in the way series during the 'classic' era of noitaminA were, at any rate. Psycho-Pass, Robotics;Notes and Silver Spoon are some notable recent examples of shows that, frankly, could have been on any timeslot regardless of how good they may have been; there was nothing that made them feel like a noitaminA show. The most recent season that fits the bill would probably be spring 2012, with the fantastic double whammy of Tsuritama and Kids on the Slope.
2013 in particular had been a pretty concerning year for the previously esteemed timeslot - the winter season was just the second halves of autumn season shows, spring was dedicated to a Katanagatari reairing of all things, and summer only had Silver Spoon (as excellent as it was). But the autumn season inspired some hope that maybe things could change - two completely original series, with imaginative premises and some interesting promo art. One of which was Galilei Donna, a story about the three Ferrari sisters, who are all descendants of Galileo Galilei and end up on international wanted lists quite early on.
Now that feels like a return to the good ol' days of noitaminA! That said
Spoilers ahead and why is there a goldfish?
The setting and setup for Galilei Donna is one that I really quite like. The world is near-ish future, and there's tons of cool tech around. Things like super sci-fi flying ships are fairly widely used, and can have cool augmented reality features and AI and stuff. It's pretty neat! Oh, and the world is currently in the grip of a crippling fuel shortage and what seems like an encroaching ice age, making for quite an interesting backdrop to the story. And thanks to these fuel shortages and the abandonment of isolated communities, air piracy becomes a thing. Air pirates! That's rad!
And speaking of air pirates, it's thanks to a bunch of them that the plot kicks off! A bunch of them find our three protagonists - Hozuki, Kazuki and Hazuki Ferrari - and try to force them to hand over the "Galileo Tesoro" - an inheritance leading all the way back to Galileo himself that they are presumed to have received. Oh, but before the pirates get to them, a bunch of secret agent types tried! And failed. Either way, the sisters and their parents are saved thanks to Hozuki's flying fish ship that she had been building in secret fighting off the pirates! And then all but Hozuki get arrested, causing her to spring them from jail (but for various reasons leaving behind the parents), and BAM! Internationally wanted.
Thus starts a race against two different enemies to rescue their parents, clear their names, find Galileo's hidden moon sketches and uncover the secret behind the Galileo Tesoro! All things considered, that's a pretty promising start to a series, wouldn't you say so?
It's adventure time!
Unfortunately, that's all it is: a promise.
It doesn't take too long for the pretty terrible writing to take over, and result in something of a train wreck. I mean, the first few episodes are generally fine, but in retrospect that's largely a result of my willingness to overlook many issues in the early episodes if it all seems entertaining enough. And early on it kind of was! The sense of adventure and thrill of the chase was pretty strong at this point, and it was light-hearted enough to make some of the goofier aspects seem palatable, but then it started having all these dramatic and serious moments, and a lot of weaknesses in the writing became all too apparent.
For a start, the plot is full of contrivances and coincidences, simply for the sake of moving the story forward. On more than one occasion they basically accidentally find a moon sketch after it turned out it was under their nose all along, regardless of whether they were even looking for it in that area or not. There's no satisfaction in watching it happen like that, and it just feels incredibly lazy. And then there was the time their ship was basically totalled by enemy forces and they were left stranded on an isolated, lifeless islandonly for them to be flying perfectly fine the next episode with zero explanation about how they fixed the ship up and escaped. Such SUCH bullshit.
Maybe they fixed it with magic?
It's too short and jumps around in tone too much to have notable overarching issues (aside from generally terrible writing), but there is so much dumb stuff in this show. In one episode Hazuki falls off a building, lands on her head andgets a cold. Thatthat's basically it. It's so amazingly unbelievable. Almost as unbelievable as Roberto - one of the primary antagonists, and the leader of the secret paramilitary force controlled by the Evil Corporation - shooting up a bunch of innocent people in a hospital because they were being noisy. It's just such an unnecessary, arbitrary action for him to take and it doesn't accomplish! And WHY DIDN'T ANY OF THE AIR PIRATES WITH GUNS SHOOT HIM?! They're likestanding right there, watching him slaughter innocents for no reason. And none of them even tried to stop him until he stopped shooting. Oh, but that would have reduced the grimdark. Y'know, in this series that started about light-hearted adventure with a tangential grasp of history? Very tonally consistent.
Hey, speaking of Roberto, let's not forget the time he was pointing a gun at the three sisters he had been hunting for ages and no longer had a need for, only to hand the gun - his only gun - to the spy he had planted with them who had obviously grown to hold some affection for them so that she could shoot them instead. WHY. WHAT WOULD THAT ACCOMPLISH? HOW STUPID DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO DO THAT? He had been setup (not necessarily successfully, mind) as a cold, ruthless and efficient individual, so why would he do something that stupid for the sake of being arbitrarily evil? GOD.
Hurrah, gratuitous and inexplicable evil!
At least this is all consistent within the nature of the setting, even if it makes no sense given the characterisation thus far. Unlike the RANDOM MAGICAL BULLSHIT. Turns out the pendant around Hozuki's neck (i.e. obviously the fucking Tesoro) is magical! And does magical stuff! Like absorb stuff and save them through the power of ~deus ex machina~! AND THEN SEND HER BACK IN TIME.
YES. THERE IS FUCKING TIME TRAVEL. GUESS WHO SHE MEETS IN THE PAST.
The worst part of the episode-and-a-half time travel sequence is not that Galileo is voiced by Yuki Kaji (he's not that terrible to listen to anymore!); it's not the vaguely paedophilic and sort-of-incestuous undertones between his and Hozuki's brief relationship; it's that it's all utterly pointless. Nothing is learned, nothing is accomplished; Hozuki arrives and then leaves, and in between there's some cringeworthy dialogue. At best a freaking paradox is created, and definitely not in any intelligent or clever sense. Maybe that paradox allowed for the shitty resolution vis- -vis the radical new amazing energy source that Galileo somehow discovered and never mentioned ever. But either way, actual fucking time travel happened.
THIS HAPPENED. FOR REAL.
And the less said about the final episode, the better. The sisters are taken to trial for their crimes, and asspull after asspull after asspull happens and it's all utterly ridiculous and moronic and cheesy and clich d and stupid. A trial isn't even an exciting resolution! Why go with this?! Everything about it is just DUMB!
If there's one saving grace, it's the existence of Cicinho - the incredibly charismatic, laidback and entertaining captain of the air pirates. He's genuinely great fun to watch in just about every scene of his, exercising his charm and enjoying the hamminess of his performance as much as possible, only helping our protagonists because he's got the hots for Hazuki. Ain't got nothing bad to say about this guy!
Best part/only good part of this show
So no, Galileo Donna is far from a return to the classis noitaminA of old. Amusingly, its setting shares a surprising number of similarities with Fractale, minus the ice age/fuel shortage thing. But yeah, this is not a good show. It got pretty funny at the end with all the absurd, moronic shit it pulled (seriously, time travel?!), but it was just really, really stupid from fairly early on. And when you think about it, some aspects of the setup just don't hold up once you examine them at all. For a start, there would likely be hundreds of thousands of people who could legitimately be considered Galileo's descendants at that point in time, and there was nothing given at the beginning to suggest that they had received the inheritance beyond being his descendants. It doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. And how was Hozuki able to make a flying ship in a basement when she's only 13 at the start of the show? No money, no educationit's just too implausible considering the show wanted to be taken seriously.
Either way, this show sucks but at least kinda laughably so at points.