Anime

Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 2: The Eye of the Storm and Lurking in the Shadows

Quick Summary

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel - Ars Nova - episode 2, "Into the Storm," Gunzou ChihayaIona, and their crew face their toughest challenge yet: the powerful heavy cruiser controlled by the Mental Model Takao. The heavy cruiser is sitting in the eye of a typhoon, right between the I-401, her active decoys, and the course to their next port. Gunzou determines they have to sink their enemy here, so she won't harm the port or the surrounding town. As he begins his attack, their enemy behaves unexpectedly. They're far outside her sonar range, so his submarine should be safe, right? But Gunzou doesn't like the feeling he gets as they surface.

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

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

A rocket-assisted lunge to port is the only thing that saved the I-401 from Takao's super gravity canon. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Moment 1

Gunzou's uneasy. He's already laid out his reasoning for engaging Takao here, and his crew understands why and is on board with the plan. The idea is to surface, using the typhoon and active decoys as cover, then fire at the heavy cruiser before she can respond. Shizuka Hozumi, the sonar operator, hears something she doesn't understand (7:43), but it's not enough to halt the operation. Gunzou doesn't panic as Takao turns to face them, because they should be well outside her sonar range. Then Shizuka hears something else she can't interpret -- this time, something very, very different from anything she's heard before. Meanwhile, I-401 is nearing the surface. Gunzou finally listens to his intuition and orders Iona to make an emergency move to port, and just in time. Takao fired her super gravity cannon, and it just barely missed its target (9:41). The animation was fantastic -- the CG captured the spirit of the high-tech battle. Even better was Takao's shock that her attacked had failed. It was technically perfect, she told herself, and she was right. But her opponent wasn't merely rational.

I wonder if this is the first time Takao knew fear? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Moment 2

Speaking of fantastic animation, after Gunzou, Iona, and crew figured out that Takao was most likely hiding a surveillance submarine that gave her a much, much larger scanning range, they came up with a plan to attack. They planned to use some equipment they'd looted from the defeated Hyuuga in a battle we didn't see (between episode 1 and 2). That gave the I-401 has a weapon that it shouldn't have; a weapon that Takao doesn't know anything about. Iona has her own super gravity cannon. Using a barrage of torpedoes as cover, I-401 surfaced and targeted both Takao and its companion submarine (the I-501). Takao was convinced she had Iona just where she wanted her. Takao even prepared to launch a flurry of corrosive missiles -- dozens of them! Had she been able to launch them, I doubt even Iona would have survived. I'll tell you what: seeing Takao throw open the missile hatches in preparation to launch was impressive! But there was something even more impressive: Iona firing her super gravity cannon (18:04). Takao was utterly shocked. Gunzou saw that Takao had a Mental Model, so he intentionally destroyed only the submarine. The beam utterly demolished the I-501, and seeing the beam beneath her, Takao kew something she'd never known before: fear. For an anime that relies on CG, Takao's expression was very effective (19:30). 

I don't think I've ever seen so rational -- or potentially deadly! -- reason for joining a harem! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Moment 3

I'm not saying Arpeggio of Blue Steel is a harem, but as it goes forward, it has some harem elements. I don't mind that, as long as the series meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the male lead, in this case Gunzou, is someone who would realistically be attractive to the women in his life. So far, Gunzou is at least respectable in that regard. Second, and this is important, the women who express an interest in him have to do so naturally, without losing their own intelligence, drive, strength, or ambition. After Gunzou and Iona let her go, Takao lies on her deck, considering. She's a weapon, a very powerful weapon. She feels humiliated by her defeat at Gunzou's hands, and she wants to do something about it. She knows her tactics were sound, but she knows Gunzou beat her, and she doesn't understand why he didn't sink her when he had the chance (22:05). So she makes a reasonable decision: she wants a "human unit" to give her the same tactical edge that Iona has. In fact, she wants the same human: Gunzou. She wants Gunzou for exactly the right reasons, in a way that will help her develop her vision of herself. I like that!

Thoughts

We finally get the ending theme, which is Blue Field by Trident! You can buy it here from CD Japan:

I know -- "finally" really doesn't apply since this is only the second episode, but I seriously love this song. The singers voices are so harmonious and upbeat that it I'm having a rough day, this song can help.

The ending animation is cool, too.

Yes, I'm overusing the word "cool." I blame this show: it has so many things that I like in a series: over the top naval battles, intelligent characters, interesting themes, and Takao. 

And this episode was all about introducing Takao.

Yes, I like this series' themes revolving around the meaning of existence and the role volition (will) plays. I'll say more about that in later reviews, because I think how the show portrays those ideas elevates it above "mere" action. But that's not what I want to talk about today.

Large-scale naval battles that rely on sound tactics are a blast to watch. Add a super gravity cannon and you have something even more enjoyable -- as long as you're not on the receiving end! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This episode showed us two of the main things that keep bringing me back to this series. First, the naval combat is multi-layer and nuanced. Takao had capabilities she tried to hide until it was time to reveal that she could see them much farther away than they suspected. Her tactic almost worked -- only Gunzou's suspicions tipped him off and save him and his crew. That exchange -- two intelligent opponents matching wits is dramatic! 

Second is Takao. I've joked about how much I like her -- with her human-realistic proportions! -- but I honestly like her as a character. Aside from Iona, she's the first Mental Model we've spent a lot of time with. We've briefly seen Kongou and Maya, only for a few moments. In this episode, we saw how Takao started out overly confident in her abilities. We saw how she reacted as the battle started to get away from her -- she remained cool and collected, but there was just a hint of disbelieving panic. We saw how terrified she was as she watched Iona's super gravity cannon obliterate the I-501, leaving her ship intact. 

Despite having learned a new level of fear, she didn't let it control her. That's all kinds of admirable! 

This episode gave Takao a lot of reasons to be expressive -- like here, when she was shocked her shot from her super gravity cannon missed the I-401. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What impressed me most about her, though, was how quickly she rebounded from her complete defeat. Sure, she was angry and vents a little bit with Kongou. But later, she calmly reflected that her tactics had been perfect, at least to the limits of her Fog capabilities. She deduced that the only major difference between her and Iona was Iona had a human captain. It was a cool, logical deduction. She could have become furious with herself, she could have blamed circumstance, and she could have disregarded what she saw with her own eyes and could have chosen to believe that she'd win a rematch. 

I admire a character who can look at herself realistically and make reasonable decisions. And if she's beautiful and brings a heavy cruiser to the party, so much the better!

What did you think of the battle between Takao and Iona? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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