Home > Anime, Check-out Station > Check-out Station: Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova!

Check-out Station: Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova!


What a pleasant trip this has been. I’ve gone from just looking at previews for this show and thinking it merely an interesting concept that’s doomed to suck, to one of my favorite shows of 2013.

Episode 12 of this series is the culmination of everything this show has been about.  Though it feels like a surprisingly brief episode.  With the 401 sandwiched between the North American fleet of the Fog, and the unholy abomination that is now Kongo, forcibly merged with Maya.  It’s a pretty freaky sight, as Kongo’s new form looks like some smaller version of Unicron floating over the ocean.  She is clearly disturbed, and has enormous fire power.  That firepower is proven when she (predictably) wipes out the North American FOG fleet with her super gravity (or is it gravitron) cannon.  Then takes aim at the 401.

Iona and the other mental models try to talk her down, but they are quickly shut off from communication with her.  The only choice left to them now is for Iona to make direct contact with her.  The 401 makes a daring dash to get her to Kongo, which they do.  From there, Iona and Kongo fight and debate over the merits of Kongo’s actions.  Though its quite clear in the end that she’s afraid of change, and un-accepting of the new world forming around her.  Iona does break through though, and helps quell the fear in her heart.  Calming the berserk Kongo down before she can kill everyone around her and herself.  And also allowing the 401 to finally make it to America with the prized vibration warhead.

End of episode.

The synopsis was brief because this episode was very straight forward.  Kongo can’t deal with her “humanity”, nor with being separated from the FOG.  Her solution is to eliminate everyone who has been in contact with the 401, including herself.  It’s all set up for a heartfelt conclusion dealing with Kongo’s obvious issues with change and human ideals.  I was just surprised at the whole part involving Iona running on missiles to get to Kongo.  And even then I shouldn’t have been too surprised given what was shown previously regarding what mental models were capable of.  Aside from the impressive scale of Kongo’s new “ship” form, I wasn’t too impressed by the episode itself.  But I am happy to see my favorite character in the series, Kongo, not get a bad ending.  It’s a satisfactory conclusion to a show that has entertained me quite a bit these past three or so months.  I’m grateful.

Now onto the review!

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova (or Ars Nova for short) has shown itself to be incredibly competent in some ares, and mildly deficient in others.  I’ve had to enjoy this show on a someone adjusted scale as well.  At first, I viewed this as a show to be merely tested for five episodes.  I viewed it with highly cynical eyes, and viewed each episode like a king waiting to be disappointed by his next form of entertainment, only to have it immediately beheaded as my waves of boredom ebbed and flowed.  Surely by the fifth episode I could safely put this show down and move on to other projects.  A mere three to four paragraphs on this show detailing why it disappointed me and why its a blight on the anime community as a whole would be sufficient to justify its brief life and my queue and continue my anime watching travels.

Where this show excels most, is in being a competent action anime.  There is a surprising amount of strategy  and panache that goes into these encounters.  On one end, the show gives you intense, stealthy Hunt for Red October types of encounters, as subs and ships slip past each other and try to break down each other’s defenses.  On the flip side, once the foes do engage in real, full scale combat their nature turns the battle of star ships more than seafaring war vessels.  The Fog, the agents of it anyway, are supremely advanced mental models,  a sort of living cpu that can constitute matter (nano materials) into it necessary parts.  So those same nano materials not only make up their ships, but their human-like bodies as well.  The science of this is never fully explained, but most of the science in this show is just pseudo-science sci-fi crap anyway.  It’s probably best that we not think about it too much.

The characters in this show are a mixed bag.  And it’s impossible for me to separate the good from the bad when it comes to this aspect of the show.  While we have interesting characters like Kongo and Gunzou, we get some rather annoying “one-note” type characters, too.  Often I just had to shake my head and use the “anime is anime” card to overlook the annoying moments where characters get these ridiculous crushes, or try to undress each other.  Or when characters would have over-exaggerated arguments involving those crushes.  Too often these scenes dragged on and became a distraction from an otherwise engaging show.  The saddest part about the characterization was involving the 401’s crew.  While the show starts off with us getting to know how Iona came across Chihaya Gunzou, we also get to see the crew there as well in that opening episode.  They’re comrades to Gunzou that have been there with him since the beginning, yet we don’t get much out of that throughout the show.  We get the usual lines from them per episode, but there’s not background or character development for them.  Instead, most all of the show is overshadowed by the mental models and their relationship between the themselves and the Fog.

Every mental model has its own separate way of reacting to its initial Admiralty Code guidelines, and its new found freedom.  And that’s a wonderful thing.  It helps push home the idea that individuality and human ideals aren’t necessarily bad things.  In fact, it’s the central core and point of the show.  So I can see why the mental models took so much time and focus from the show.  A lot of effort was made to give each one of these mental model characters their own little ideals and character arc.  And it paid off in many respects the farther along in the story things got.  One of my favorite moments was seeing how Iona came to grips with the concept of death, rather than mere termination or the act of ceasing to function.  She learned in that episode that the two characters she knew so closely were “dead”, and not ever coming back.  And that was now something that she did not want.  It was a personal desire of hers to see that not happen.  And she had to deal with that disappointment.  It’s good, strong material.

This good strong material was why it rose so highly, so early in its run in my eyes.  My misgivings about the shows terrible CGI gave way to excitement for the next battle, and the next bit of good character interaction between the mental models and Iona and Gunzou.  I think it says something when you can overlook something you’d never thought you could overlook and learn to love something from week to week.  I’ve enjoyed this show so much that I cannot wait to recommend this series to someone.  I think surprisingly this show will excite anime veterans who enjoyed clever bits of combat like what you saw from characters in shows like Legend of the Galactic Heroes.  The show is smart enough in its execution to not make those anime watching veterans see it as cliche or uninspired despite not having a terribly original main theme.  Having non-human things embrace humanity is something that has been explored countless times in anime.  I just find this show’s take on it slightly more well executed and cute than most.  And as for anime newbies, or the less experienced, I think they will have simple enough time getting into the show once you’re past the first two or three episodes.  The show never spends too much time being cute or reflective without giving you some action or drama, too.

It’s simple as can be when it comes to Ars Nova.  If you want a good anime that has good action, and lightly plays with heavier sci-fi elements, then this show is a good watch.  It’s one of the better series I’ve watched in 2013, and I’m very glad I gave this show a shot.  Don’t make the mistake I almost made by overlooking it.

Further Reading:

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