Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 11: A Tragic Reunion and Kongou Unchained

Quick Summary

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – episode 11, “Sisters,” the upgraded I-401 has to face off against a Fleet of Fog barricade and learns that yes, Takao’s sacrifice made Iona’s ship surpassingly powerful. Her sisters will put her capabilities to the test as the I-400 and I-402 continue to pursue — aggressively. How will Gunzou Chihaya approach this battle? Can he leverage the other Mental Models (the bodiless Takao, along with Hyuuga, Haruna, and Kirishima)? Can Iona get through to her sisters using the Concept Communication System? Or will the cool-headed efficiency of those sisters prevail? And how will Kongou react to her imprisonment? 

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious. 

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Iona’s Very Successful Upgrade

Review Of Arpeggio Of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 11: I-401's new super gravity cannon.

Takao’s sacrifice paid huge dividends for Iona’s super gravity cannon. One moment, there were over 20 enemy ships. The next, there were zero. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Do you remember how hugely upgraded the I-401 looked after Takao’s sacrifice in the previous episode? Well, we got an indication of just how huge the upgrade really was early in this episode (0:18). Shizuka Hozumi reported that a whopping 22 Nagara-class cruisers were waiting for them. We’ve seen the previous incarnation of the I-401 successfully engage a single Nagara — but 22 of them at once? Gunzou ordered Iori Watanuki to spin up the super gravity cannon, then ordered Iona to execute a side-kick maneuver. As the I-401 spun around, they fired the super gravity cannon, and in a single shot, they obliterated 20 of the cruisers. A volley of missiles finished the last two. In case we had any doubt, the I-401 is now a cross between a submarine and a heavy cruiser. Given that one of the reasons I love this series is because of the spectacle of its naval battles, this scene was very satisfying.  

Moment 2: The I-402’s Sacrifice

Review Of Arpeggio Of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 11: The I-402 Mental Model takes a fatal strike.

The I-402 Mental Model maneuvered her submarine to take the torpedo hit intended for her sister, the I-400. Why? Because she didn’t want her sister to get hurt. That sounds suspiciously like a human motivation! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

It’s been enjoyable to watch how the different Mental Models react to their encounters with Gunzou and/or Iona. None of them come away unchanged, and sometimes, it’s hard to gauge the effect right away. While they were talking in the imaginary garden, the I-402 simply could not understand why Iona was so fixed on supporting Gunzou. She walked up to Iona and was about to touch her face with I-400 stopped her (11:00). I-402’s curiosity alone was unusual for one of the Fog, but we see soon thereafter just how much her contact had affected the I-402. Gunzou’s tactics allowed him to almost strike the I-400 with a Thanatonium torpedo. The I-402 realized what was about to happen and took the hit instead. Since they were communicating with Iona in the garden at the time, the I-400 was able to give voice to her confusion by asking her sister why she had done that. The answer offered no clarity, from the perspective of the Fog: “I did not want you to get hurt” (18:52). The animation showed her holographic image under stress; blue hexagonal “veins” rippled across her nearly emotionless face. It’s a shame they have to be locked in combat. I think Iona was on the verge of getting through to at least one of her sisters.

Moment 3: Iona’s Grief

Review Of Arpeggio Of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 11: Iona weeps for her fallen sisters.

Iona has been developing her independence and emotions for longer than any other Mental Model. That means she’s able to keenly feel the loss of the I-400 and I-402. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

The battle concluded with another Thanatonium torpedo slamming into the I-400. Their images were still in the Concept Communication System. I-402’s hull was still sinking, so her Union Core was still intact, though her image was unstable. Iona watched as I-400 realized that she was done for. In that moment, something seemed to change in her, and she seemed to have an inkling of what Iona and even the I-402 (in a more tentative way) was trying to say. She reached out to her sister, who moved towards her. Too late. The explosion destroyed I-400’s core, and she winked out. Overwhelmed by emotions that were still hard for her to process, Iona wept into her hands (20:49). I-402 tried to awkwardly reassure her, her own emotional journey just underway and her familiarity with feelings still in its infancy. Then her hull reached crush depth, and she was no more. Iona was left alone with her grief. In that instant, I had to wonder: what was it like to be the first Mental Model to break with the Admiralty Code? Did she feel lonely? Guilty? Scared? There had never been an entity like her before; she has no references. And she just watched her two Sisters die, for all intents and purposes, by her hand. That’s got to be tough.

Thoughts: Kongou’s Evolution

Takao endured some teasing in this episode, didn’t she? I had to laugh when Kirishima told her to head towards the light (4:49), or when Makie started playing with one of her holographic projections (5:01). I think she felt better when Gunzou thanked her for saving Iona. Takao doesn’t often get the respect that i think she deserves, so it was nice to see her get some love. Her expression of relieved vulnerability when she told him that she was glad he was okay was beautiful.

Review Of Arpeggio Of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 11: Takao is happy Gunzou is healing.

Takao finally got to tell Gunzou she was glad he was healing. Like Iona, she’s still struggling with her feelings, but also like Iona, she’s not about to give up. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

What did you think of the next steps of Kongou’s journey? When we see Kongou for the first time in this episode, she’s literally chained to the deck of her ship. Not with log chains like I used on the farm when I was growing up; I’m talking the big chains used for anchors on huge warships. The chains crackled with red energy. Kongou stood, wrapped in these chains, on a dais forward of the main guns. Her head was bowed, but not in shame or defeat; in thought. Maya danced in a wide circle around her. 

Kongou caught sight of Maya and asked her to release her. Maya said she couldn’t and resumed her orbit, this time dancing and singing her “It’s a carnival!” song. Kongou then asked if Maya remembered the first time she discovered a piano.

That’s not a very Fog-like question, is it? A weapon of the Fog, blindly following the Admiralty Code, wouldn’t care about something like that, would it? The effect of the question was also very un-Fog-like. I got the impression that not only was Kongou furious on her own behalf; she was furious that the Fog (especially I-400 and I-402) had destroyed the upbeat intelligence that had been Maya. Using her rage to fuel her assault, she attacked the chains (12:13). 

And destroyed them. 

She strode to Maya, picked her up off the deck by her throat, and said, “Maya, this is our carnival.” Kongou’s expression broadcast her agony. The next shot shows Kongou’s ship pulling Maya’s ship into an energy-enveloped embrace. 

Review Of Arpeggio Of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 11: Kongou unchained.

This isn’t an expression of triumph, or even of hatred. It’s a mask of grief. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

That’s a hint for the form Kongou’s ship takes when we next see her (22:23). She enters the scene just after Gunzou, Iona, and crew dispatched the I-400 and I-402. She’s apparently drawn many, many other ships into her new form, which resembles an unholy offspring of the Death Star and a Borg Cube. “The one who sinks 401,” she says, standing alone in the dark, “will be me.” 

In my Thoughts section from my review of the previous episode, I talked about the difference between how Iona, Hyuuga, Takao, and Haruna reacted to their emerging sentience and how Kongou reacted to hers. The former listened to their hearts and tried to explore who they were. Kongou denied her heart and clung to the dogma of the Admiralty Code. In this episode, we see Kongou take the next steps necessary to maintain her denial, and those steps are increasing drastic and violent.

Remember how I said that “… if Kongou bursts loose, she has a battleship to help her express herself.” Well, it looks like the situation is even worse. If we extrapolate what she appeared to do to Maya’s ship, it looks like Kongou has cannibalized the Eastern Patrol Fleet to construct an air-borne super dreadnaught. A super dreadnaught that she intends to use to crush the I-401. 

The series just setup the ultimate confrontation between Iona, who’s following her heart and who has a ship reconstituted by an act of loving sacrifice, and Kongou, who’s rage is matched only by her increasingly irrational grasp on the dogma of the Admiralty Code. I just love how the show has managed to dramatize its core theme elements. I swear, this show doesn’t get a tenth of the respect it deserves…

What did you think of Kongou’s airborne dreadnaught? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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