Home > Episode by Episode > Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova ep9 (a triumph and failure of emotions)

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova ep9 (a triumph and failure of emotions)

This is crazy!  This show just keeps getting better and better.  I’m clearly looking at one of the best shows of the season, and possibly a contender for one of the best mecha shows of the year. Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova is showing that it’s more than pretty girls and firepower.  It’s a smart well rounded show that’s asking all the right questions.

It’s quite clear at this point that the mission of the group now being called ‘Blue Steel’ is a hasty retreat. With negotiations with Kongo failing miserably, and Kongo, Maya and a host of other ships barreling down on the both of them, options seem to be limited. For the meantime, Hyuga volunteers to hold off their aggressors with her shiled, while Chihaya begins his plan to escape.

Takao is invited into Blue Steel, and once she accepts, Chihaya wastes no time asking a favor of her. Meanwhile, Kongo and Hyuga are engaged in another tea time conversation. Though this time, it seems ironically that Hyuga is the one cutting all the fluff from the conversation, picking apart Kongo’s faults and actually antagonizing her quite a bit! Kongo ends up firing her supergravity cannon (which may have been part of the plan all along), and Hyuga is just barely able to fend it off.  The onslaught isn’t over yet though.  Kongo then commissions Maya to fire her cannon, but the blast is fended off by Takao.  I would expect nothing less from Chihaya, he’d already taken account that two ships controlled by mental models would be more than Hyuga could handle.

There’s a lot of tea time in this episode apparently, as Kongo then pulls Takao in for a little conversation.  Just like Hyuga before her, Takao puts in a strong show of rebuttal towards Kongo, though while Hyuga used logic and her own observations to rebuke Kongo, Takao simply states that she’s following her feelings.  She won’t be pulled from the path that has compelled her.  And while she’s irked by Kongo’s stubborness and rigidity towards anything but the Admirality Code, she vows she’ll change that.  Regardless, the farce is over, and Kongo clearly recognizes that Hyuga and Takao or distractions.  She orders to Maya to abandon her onslaught of the island and begin searching for the 401.  It is interesting to hear her talk during this moment though.  Listening closely, it sounds like there’s doubt in her voice.  It’s almost as if she’s trying to convince herself.

The game is on now, as the 401 is discovered attempting to slink away and escape in burst mode before Kongo and the other ships locate them.  Kongo is incredibly quick and dogged in her pursuit.  And for a few moments, it looks like they’ll not be able to escape before their burst mode kicks in; it’s a good thing Hyuga was able to deploy mines ahead of time to help slow Kongo down.  Something funny happens though… the mines aren’t slowing down Kongo at all.  She’s clearly plowing through the mines despite their damage to get within firing range of the 401.  It’s an unusually aggressive tactic, and it incites Iona to try to talk to Kongo one more time.  The attempt provokes a very bitter response from Kongo, as she goes so far as to call Iona not only broken, but she tells her that she hates her!

The race is almost concluded as Kongo digs into the ocean and follows the 401 under water with the intent of firing the super gravity cannon a second time, but at point blank range!  And she would have succeeded too, if not for one last bit of help from Hyuga, who manages to hack Kongo just before firing her cannon, forcing her to miss.  The 401 is able to blast itself off into the ocean and away from the now heavily damaged Hyuga.  As if that failure wasn’t enough, she’s then hailed by Takao, who reveals that she’s fallen prey to a complete diversion, and has been outmaneuvered on both ends.  The 401 no longer carries the precious secret weapon she sought to destroy.  Takao has had it all along.  And now everyone is completely out of her range.  All in all, Kongo has had a really bad day.

The 401 isn’t doing so hot itself.  The escape attempt has left Iona worn out and vulnerable, and most of the crew is actually on Takao’s battleship right now.  It’s just her and Chihaya.  I dare say it’s leaning towards a romantic moment as Chihaya reaches out to comfort her when-


Iona’s sisters have snuck up and sunk her.  It seems Kongo still has some friends who contently follow their Admiralty Code.

End of episode.

This really was a great, exciting episode.  For a show that initially appeared to be ugly and lifeless and stale.  There were scenes that I really, really liked looking at.  One especially was the scene of Kongo sitting on her ship, while Maya’s ship is in the near background taking firing and unleashing a ridiculous torrent of ammo into the air.  It was surprisingly beautiful, much like this show has been.

Another thing this episode had going for it was emotion.  You could hear, feel and see the frustration coming from the mental models as they debated amongst themselves the merits of their actions and the importance the emotions that seem to be dictating them.  Even Kongo, the most stone cold and heartless of all the mental models was showing emotion, and seemed to be exhibiting some pretty strange behavior.  Though I fear that there’s an important distinction being drawn here between her and the other “affected” mental models.   While the other mental models seem to be happier and more compassionate once they start to adopt humanity, Kongo’s struggling mightily with it, as she doesn’t even realize that it’s seeped in as deeply as it has, and starting having significant effects on her actions.  She’s showing anger, frustration, desperation, and probably loneliness and sadness right now.  She’s watching her comrades leave her one by one and then directly challenge her the next time they meet.  You can only imagine what she may be feeling right now.  Her comrades must seem like crazy people, fools or even zombies to her; walking around and malfunctioning on a grand scale.  And in her mind, she will only allow one solution, eradication.  They’re flawed machines that can’t be fixed.  She’s slowly living a nightmare right now, with no clear way out.  Her character arc is going to be a rocky one.

Not to focus too much on my beloved Kongo though, the Blue Steel fleet is coming along nicely.  Now that Hyuga and Takao are added to the fleet, they have added brains  (Hyuga) and brawn (Takao).  Their only minor problem now is that their leader, and the beloved Iona are now sinking in the deep, deep ocean.  Other than that small detail, Chihaya has been really impressive up to this point.  It’s some amazing stuff.  An honestly that last plan of his was incredibly well thought out and gutsy.  And he would be dead if he didn’t apply himself 100% in this situation, too.  If Chihaya had relied on Hyuga and Takao distracting Kongo’s fleet, then they’d have been sunk long before they could escape with burst mode, and the vibration warhead would have been lost, too.  That thin line he’s walked to success has made this episode that much more impressive and satisfying.

If I were to have any complaints about this episode,  they would be more complaints relating to the series as a whole.  Despite my huge love of anime, it’s not as if I don’t know of, or hang around people that don’t love it, or even hate it.  And one of the reasons they may hate it is because of all the focus on cute things and the infamous moe factor.  It’s quite easy for me to fall into this show and just think it’s awesome and that’s it.  But this show has moments that can be super goofy and awkward.  A good example would be Hyuga and Takao’s relationships with their crushes.  Their dialogue in scenes where they’re dealing with or thinking about their crushes can be very strange, and filled with very harsh transitions in tone.  It’s very generic high school series fluff.  And since this show is not funny at all, it just makes those scenes come off as forced, strange and generally unappealing.  And in my experience, once a show commits to those sort of antics, they don’t stop – ever!  So it’s just something you have to learn to deal with in this series.

Further Reading:

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