Arpeggio of Blue Steel Season 1 Ep 1 (Anime Review)

I’ve been a fan of anime since my college days, when a friend got me hooked on stuff like Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and Rurouni Kenshin. In all my time watching anime, the mecha anime genre has really drawn my interest, the one genre that has really drawn me in. In recent years, I’ve attempted to branch out of that and watch some other styles of anime, like Death Note and Samurai Champloo. New anime on the block, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, bridges both interests. It is military SF with a strong naval combat twist to it.

I heard about Arpeggio of Blue Steel last week through an article on Kotaku that talked about the top 5 anime series to watch out for this fall. The description really intrigued me and so I decided to get it. I saw the first episode this weekend and I have to say that it is off to an interesting start. The first episode reminds me of the opening episodes for both Gundam 00 and Gundam SEED. They started off slow and picked up in later episodes. I just had to stick with it all.

Arpeggio 0001

The primary conceit of this show, the central premise, is that following an apocalyptic event which resulted from global warming and rising sea levels, mankind has been limited to its continental landmasses and the oceans are now controlled by fleets of sentient warships who are inimical to human life. I gotta say, I really like the premise. It even reminds me strongly of the science fiction show Andromeda starring Kevin Sorbo and Lexa Doig. It was in the same vein, except that it was space opera. Kevin Sorbo played Dylan Hunt, the Captain of the starship Andromeda Ascendant of the Systems Commonwealth, and Lexa Doig played the ship’s AI, Andromeda herself. One of the main reasons I loved the show was because of Lexa Doig’s portrayal of Andromeda, and the entire story arcs involving her, which dealt with all sorts of moral and ethical questions relating to AI.

Of course, I’m really hoping that Arpeggio deals with those same questions, particularly since the Iona, who is the AI of the Fleet of Fog warship I-401, is a former enemy of the remnants of mankind. She is a traitor to her own kind and her captain, Chihaya Gunzō, is a traitor of sorts to his own people as well since he abandoned his training at the Japanese National Marine Academy when Iona awoke from a long machine-slumber.

So, the first episode. There were lots of really cool things in here. I loved the entire concept of the Mental Models, the “official” name of the Fleet of Fog AIs. The way that she is tied to her ship reminds me, once again, of Andromeda and I’m loving all the thematic similarities. And since the setting is all different, the charm is all the more superb and it really drew me in. So score one for the show already. Then there’s the fact that I found Chihaya’s character to be interesting as well. His father is rumoured to have defected to the Fog several years ago, and this has brought suspicion on him numerous times. But he’s risen beyond all that and has even been fast-tracked for command once he graduates from the Academy. But of course, he abandons his training and runs off aboard the I-401.

So what’s it all mean? We have a rogue enemy ship that is captained by a rogue cadet leading a crew of other such… rogues from his Academy days. It creates some really interesting character drama that is briefly introduced in the pilot and that I’m hoping is delved into further in the subsequent episodes, which I’ll hopefully be watching soon.

Overall, I really liked the story. It draws you in slowly, even though a lot of it is in flashbacks. And also, the show does naval combat really well. Lots of different setups in the episode for two good rousing combats, especially when we get the history of everything that’s led up to this point and see the really big massive battle that happened between the Fleet of Fog and the largest coalition of human warships. Some really stirring stuff. Promising, promising, promising.

Arpeggio 0002

As for the animation, it was slightly off in places and seemed uneven as a result. It didn’t particularly strike me as “new” or anything, which isn’t really a negative per se, but the fact remains that the animation style is the same tired old stuff. For a show that is produced today, with all the techniques and technologies available today, I suppose that the should be a lot better, but I’m not an animator really, so I’m just spitballing here a bit. Yes, there are parts of the episode that visually look brilliant, and they are almost often the actions scenes, so the show does have that kind of excitement.

Just one major nitpick I have with the animation is that the physical personifications of the Fog warships are all females (which is fine), but that they are all dressed in short skirts. Hopefully the show can improve on that front. Would be nice to have that.

But, in the end, the verdict for the show is a resounding yay!

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Posted on November 18, 2013, in Anime, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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