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Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 3: A Forceful Invitation and a Double Threat

Quick Summary

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – episode 3, “The Fortress Port of Yokosuka,” Gunzou ChihayaIona, and crew finally arrive in Yokosuka for re-supply. The navy welcomes them with open arms, but the army seems considerably more hostile. As Gunzou and Iona visit the cemetery commemorating the war dead, army troops surround them and “invite” them to dinner — after having extended a similar invitation to the rest of the crew. At dinner, Ryoukan Kita, a former admiral and now a member of the Diet, “requests” that they turn the I-401 over to the government. How will Gunzou and Iona react when more armed soldiers surround them? And should they be bickering among themselves as shells begin to pound the defensive walls across the water?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Sometimes it’s nice to see folks just enjoying themselves! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 1

This episode opened with I-401 entering a mammoth defensive wall built to protect the Yokosuka port. The crew was sitting on the deck taking in the sights, and it seemed like a rare moment where they weren’t being attacked and they weren’t trying to sneak around a Fog blockade. Despite being greeted by throngs of soldiers pointing rifles at them, the crew still seemed to be in high spirits (I’m guessing that knowing how protective Iona was, they weren’t worried for their safety). I-401 entered this cavern where huge docking arms clamped onto the hull. Then, the water drained, and a gigantic elevator lowered them to the actual dry docks, dozens of meters below. The scale was impressive enough, but I loved the the crew’s reaction, especially Shizuka Hozumi’s, to the facility (4:33). She was positively geeking out! I’d probably be doing the same thing — that dock was amazing! It was nice seeing that not only can this crew be wildly competent, they can get giddy over geeky things, too.

Iona’s life experience hasn’t prepared her to deal with human emotions. At least not yet. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 2

I know it borders on cliche for an artificial intelligence to struggle to understand human’s non-rational side. But if it’s done within the context of the story and it’s consistent with the characters, then it can be interesting and even moving. Gunzou asks Iona to make a quick side trip with him, and as they’re moving inland, they pause to look at the bay and the huge defensive wall beyond (6:32). She notices that more people have built homes near the bay despite the danger, and Gunzou suggests it’s because they love the sea. Iona doesn’t understand; in her mind, the quantifiable danger of attack outweighs anything ethereal like an affection for the ocean. This trend is most clearly stated when Gunzou takes Iona to the cemetery to commemorate the war dead. He takes her to the main monument, and he seems to know she won’t understand, because he begins to explain it to her. She says that a place is just a place, with the unspoken insinuation that it’s just like any other place (9:54). That gives Gunzou the opportunity to say that humans give meaning to the place. It’s too bad the army interrupted the conversation, because I really wanted to see how it played out! 

I almost had the feeling that Iona was learning at least one human feeling — anger. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 3

Have you ever been at a business meeting, or some kind of gathering, where one individual thought they held all of the power, only to discover that not only were they the most powerful, they were comparatively weak? This probably reveals more about me than I’d like, but I live for those moments. Not because I want to have that power, but because I hate power because I understand what it can do to humans. Case in point: Ryoukan “invited” Gunzou and his crew to dinner. It wasn’t for any social reasons, though. He wanted to demand Gunzou turn over I-401 to the government — and to him. When Gunzou tried to politely turn him down, he ordered soldiers to persuade them with rifles (14:33). Eight soldiers with hand-held weapons threatened a Mental Model with the destructive capability to flatten the entire port city. But the crew of the I-401 wasn’t scared at all. What was there for them to be scared of? Certainly not the rifles pointed at them. This became clear a moment later, as shelling from Haruna and Kirishima interrupted the apparent standoff. Utterly ignoring the troops and the Diet member, Gunzou asked his crew to confirm that their preparations were complete. He then ordered Iona to override all the port’s computer systems to launch I-401. Moments later, she surfaced right in front of them. As they began to board, one of the soldiers ordered them to stop — and Iona placed targeting lasers on every soldier present (20:48). I almost felt sorry for the soldiers! That moment made a fundamental truth clear: Ryoukan never had any power in this situation, and it was only the good will of Gunzou that restrained Iona. 

Thoughts

I’m still a little hazy on what the military commanders thought they were trying to accomplish by surrounding the I-401 with soldiers (1:35). If missiles and heavy shelling can’t penetrate a submarine’s hall — much less a Klein field! — were they just hoping to threaten the human crew?

Didn’t they stop to think how Iona might react to that?

Did you notice the ultra-fancy restaurant that Ryoukan “invited” Gunzou and crew to visit? In a series that I love, filled with cool imagery and themes, I thought this was maybe the most authentic moment: that even in an apocalypse, those with means will have their amenities. Even while the rest of humanity struggles.

So, the Takao can submerge (18:08)? That’s cool! It was also great to see that Takao is still trying to find her own path, and that she was not in the least bit inclined to listen to the Mental Models for the I-400 or the I-402. Also surpassingly cool? When I-400 and I-402 told Takao she’d never get to Gunzou in time as he faced off against Haruna and Kirishima, she wasn’t in the least bit concerned. She had complete faith he’d come through (and even if she didn’t admit it, he’d come through with Iona’s help). Gotta respect a show of confidence!

So the Takao can submerge? Somehow, the idea of a heavy cruiser attacking under water seems terrifying! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

There’s an old saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think that statement is making some assumptions, but I think it’s an effective working hypothesis. But it’s one of the assumptions that I’d like to explore.

Namely, that the human power structure is the only one. From our perspective in “reality,” that’s true — well, so far as most people are concerned. But in Arpeggio of Blue Steel? Not so much.

In this episode, Ryoukan is a powerful man. He was an admiral, so he oversaw the activity of naval fleets, likely with thousands of people and hundreds of ships. Within what humans see as the world, this is how to project power: to mass people and technology and coordinate their activities. 

To achieve the rank of admiral, you need to accomplish two broad goals. First, you need to be technically competent. You have to demonstrate that whatever goals you’re given, you can not only understand what it takes to get it done, but you can coordinate the people assigned to you. You start with small teams and work up to larger ones. You start with small assignments to, say, guard a barracks, and end up with bigger and bigger assignments until you prove you can handle an entire ship.

But there’s something else you have to do: you have to prove you can build networks of contacts with others in positions of command and in the government. You have to prove you’re a go to resource for the politicians; you have to prove that you can help advance the careers of other admirals. There’s a whole dimension of things you have to accomplish, simply because you’re in a human power structure. 

Gunzou, because of Iona, exists utterly outside that structure. 

I almost felt sorry for Ryoukan. He had no idea just how comparatively weak he was. By the way, did you notice how Kyouhei Kashihara paused to give Shizuka a hand up the stairs? While the old admiral was busy holding onto tiny scraps of power, Gunzou’s crew was treating each other with kindness. That’s where the real power resides. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Of course, he has to be technically competent, or he’d not only lose the respect of his crew, but he’d die quickly at the hands of the Fog! But the other aspects, like having to build coalitions and relationships with politicians?

He can already project power at the level of an entire human battle fleet. Far in excess of it, in fact. What need does he have of human power structures? He doesn’t need the relationships, and the experience and skills he’s gained with Iona are well beyond what any human admiral could offer him. As Gunzou said to Ryoukan (14:11), “Official military training and experience are completely ineffective against the Fog. Do you still not understand that?”

Ryoukan, unfortunately, does not understand that. Everything about how he approached Gunzou reeked of the experience build in the old human power structures. The initial approach using soldiers, the attempt to use a fine meal as incentive, and even the final resort to diplomacy at gunpoint. It was part of the human power structure from start to finish, and that’s why it failed miserably. 

As if we needed a final proof, the crucible of the Fog — in the form of two battle ships — showed up to show just how feeble Ryoukan’s vision was. When battle came, only Gunzou and his crew could respond. The other humans were reduced to idle threats and empty words.

Had the I-401 not been there, all the other humans would have been able to do is watch the walls fall. 

Without Gunzou’s good will and the might of I-401, how long would Ryoukan and all the power he can muster last against even a single Fog battleship? Much less two… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

In this fictional world, it took the threat from the Fog to make this point. Even then, only a few people seem to understand — and Ryoukan was not one of those people. Interestingly, Ryuujirou Kamikage, who has almost seemed like a villain up to now, does seem to get it. He’s trying to bridge the human power structure, which he sees as necessary to support his position, with Gunzou and what he and Iona can do. He’s the one trying to get the vibration warhead to America, after all.

Sometimes, we humans are so clever that our own contrivances ensnare us.

What do you think about how human power structures have responded to large-scale catastrophes in the past? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 3: A Forceful Invitation and a Double Threat

  1. Iona really steps up in this situation. But look forward to episode 4, which begins my own favorite story arc within the show (HaruHaru’s ascendance to Best Girl)!

    1. “But look forward to episode 4, which begins my own favorite story arc within the show (HaruHaru’s ascendance to Best Girl)!”

      I hope my review will do it justice! There’s a ton to like in that episode!

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