There’s quite a lot to take in with the first episode of Sakugan. So it’s a good thing that while the story demands a significant amount of attention to understand, it at least succeeds at entertaining the viewer throughout the episode.
Welcome to the Underground
The anime takes place in the Underground. “A world encased in a solid rock where light never reaches” as it is basically an underground shelter for a colony. While we never learn how this colony came to be, we do learn that Kaiju, terrorists, and crumbling rocks are a constant threat to its inhabitants, which may explain the need for the shelter in the first place. The underground also consists of vast labyrinths that are still being explored and expanded to this day by individual professionals known as Markers, who are revered as heroes who go out to explore the uncharted labyrinth. On the opposite side of the spectrum are Workers who, as the name suggests, work earnestly to make a living.
This brings us to our two leads, the father-daughter cave excavator duo Gagumber and Memenpu (yes, these are weird names). Memenpu is a headstrong and brilliant nine-year-old (who’s apparently already graduated college), whereas her father Gagumber is a standard worker with very little ambition and doesn’t share his daughter’s sense of wonder. Memenpu strives to become a Marker after having repeated dreams about a particular mysterious location that she now wishes to visit. However, Gagumber, who’s understandably opposed to his nine-year-old daughter exploring the dangerous labyrinths, disproves of this, and the two are constantly at each other’s throats because of it. Both interact with each other unlike father and daughter and more akin to how siblings.
While these two characters take up most of the focus in the episode, as we learn about their personalities and their motivations, the anime also tries to present some world-building to varying degrees of success. We learn about the cyberpunk-style underground colony in which these characters reside in that includes artificial panels that produce lights, mechanical robots that are used in everyday work life, and robotic kaiju that threaten their very existence.
These elements are introduced to the viewer at the start of the episode through morning radio commentary, which I found to be an interesting way of introducing exposition to the viewer. Exposition and even some character backgrounds are also made during conversations which prevent the attention from being taken away from the episode’s ongoing events. However, it’s worth noting these conversational and narrative moments may also be hard for some viewers to pay attention to amid the other things going on in the episode.
Production-wise Sakugan is, for the most part, quite impressive. The first element of the anime’s production that stood out to me is objectively the soundtrack, as it is incredibly dynamic. Songs played in each scene quickly shifts from mellow tones to jazzy tunes to high octane beats in a flash, each of which fits their respective scenes quite well, and the transitions between them are almost at times unnoticeable. I couldn’t count the number of songs played in the first episode alone, which is a testament to the work being put in. The overall sound design is no slouch either, especially its sound effects that help captivate the viewer even more.
The anime also features superb voice acting, as you can tell each voice actor is having fun with their roles, especially during the comedic moments of the episode. As for the animation, I won’t say Sakugan is the best in terms of visuals this season as its character designs alone aren’t anything special. However, I will admit that it is incredibly cinematic, with the soundtrack and sound design being the major contributing factor to this. The cinematics are especially showcased in the episodes ending when things take a disastrous and exciting turn.
Overall, I can undoubtedly say that Sakugan has pleasantly surprised me so far. While I was initially aware of the anime’s existence, I knew nothing about it, and because of my aversion towards mecha anime, I didn’t have a reason to. As such, I had to go in completely blind for this review. However, I’ve now found that the anime is highly entertaining, well-produced with an intriguing premise boasting endearing and funny leads (at least, for now). While the story may be a bit dense and a little contrived, it’s still doesn’t hinder the fact that it certainly has potential, and I love how it isn’t afraid to go towards some dark places. So if you’re somehow still looking for something else this season, I’d genuinely recommend you keep an eye out for
A Screener of Sakugan was provided by Crunchyroll for this review.
Sakugan’s world premiere will stream at Virtual Crunchyroll Expo Thursday, August 5, before premiering on Crunchyroll this October.
Are you a fan of mecha anime? What do you think of Sakugan? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.