What to watch: Arpeggio of Blue Steel -Ars Nova- / by shadebug


 Right, I have one job to do here and it’s watch anime and I’ve not been doing it. So I’ve hunkered down to crack through as much of this season as I can and I’m starting off by pandering to the otaku out there with a show that’s designed to stab directly into the heart of the hardiest fanboy. The question is, is it really, really, ridiculously good looking?

Actually, I’ll start there because it is the elephant in the room. This show is cel shaded or something along those lines and it’s entirely up to you whether that works well or not. I get the feeling it’s intentionally not as smooth as it could be, much like how we know that Pixar could make realistic human characters if they wanted to but they prefer them looking cartoonish because that’s what they do. Personally I find it a bit jarring on occasion, but most of the time forget it’s there.

The rest of it, however, is far juicier.

Now, the main reason I picked this as my first W2W of the season is because it’s the one that I had the least preparation for. The descriptions I had seen didn’t really explain it adequately at all so that’s what I want to get down.

So, what are you getting yourself in for? Futuristic naval battles and AI trying to understand humans.

If you like things blowing up, you've come to the right place. 

If you like things blowing up, you've come to the right place. 

In the future the world has been held siege by a mysterious force called the Fog that has control over the seas. As long as people stay on land they have no problem but as soon as they try to venture abroad they get taken down by this seemingly insuperable enemy, which means internationals communication has broken down too. The show follows the lives and times of the various ships at war on both sides.

Now, when I say futuristic naval battles, I mean submarine battles and, you know what? We could do with more submarine battles. Submarines as a genre are always pretty glossed over but everybody knows that The Hunt For Red October and Down Periscope are some of the greatest films ever made (nobody cares about Das Boot). Submarine warfare is like space warfare in that it’s in 3D, but the difference is that we have actual real life tactics that we can use and actual frames of reference to make them understandable. It’s a lot of fun and I’d be a fan of the show just for that.

The other side of it is where we start getting into spoiler territory.

The Fog ships are controlled by loli AI known as Mental Models. The first of these that we get properly introduced to is the ship controlled by the heroes of our story, Iona. A ship which, for some reason, has defected from the Fog and is now humanity’s only way to battle them. We also see that the various other ships seem to be controlled solely by these Mental Models instead of being Mental Models ordered about by a captain like Iona is. It makes for your standard tract about what it is to be human or sentient or soul bearing, but it’s also an excuse for some gratuitous fan service. From some straightforward girls in cute costumes (that happen to be the avatars of giant deathships) to the times when they end up managing to get out of their clothes.

Honestly, I only watch it for the articles.

Honestly, I only watch it for the articles.

And there’s the real problem with this show so far: It’s that show your parents will walk in on you watching at exactly the wrong moment. Three minutes earlier and they would’ve seen some amazing tactics and explosions, but they’ll walk in for the bit where one of them is being stripped down and going through a cosplay montage for some reason. This is your lot as a fan of japanimation, you must learn to accept it.

Finally, there’s the fanboy stuff. It’s not just the lolis that will keep you coming back for more, it’s the sentient stuffed animals, it’s the ridiculous variety of character costumes, it’s the super genius little girls and the good ol’ fashioned bad-ass power playing that you want from any good futuristic war show. Mostly though, it’s those character designs. Whatever your cosplay predilections come next con, this show has you covered. From sharp suits, to cool masks, to awesome glasses, to dressing-up-as-a-submarine-because-I-want-to-see-somebody-do-that, this show has you covered.

Not sure how you cosplay the holographic display around Iona.

Not sure how you cosplay the holographic display around Iona.

So while you ponder wether a show can be worth it entirely on its cosplayability, I’m off to see what else is on.