Anime

Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 5: The Rise of HaruHaru and the Teddy Bear of Doom

Quick Summary

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel - Ars Nova - episode 5, "Not Human," Gunzou Chihaya takes stock of the battle's aftermath and decides he had to take Iona and the rest of the crew back to their hidden base at Iwoto. Meanwhile, young Makie Osakabe brought the unconscious Haruna back to her mansion. Makie quickly bonds with the Mental Model, who's unsure how to proceed. Obviously, using her finite supply of nano-materials to restore Kirishima is near the top of the list, but their plans are interrupted by one of the maids who seems to know more than she should. Will the two Mental Models be able to hide their true identities? What's drawing so incredibly much power in the basement? And why is Kirishima so amused at how Makie's nickname for Haruna?

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

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1

We all have our little confidence builders! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

You know what's cool about choosing favorite moments? The criteria is simple: I have to like it! It doesn't have to be Earth-shattering in importance (though, between us, I admit I gravitate towards those moments!). It doesn't have to be the instant that a character makes a realization or defeats the big bad. No, I just have to enjoy it. It's in that spirit I offer my first favorite moment. Makie is surprised when Haruna, startled out of unconsciousness, rises up and promptly collapses. It's obvious she's still pulling herself together, and it's no wonder: at the end of the previous episode, Haruna been a little too close to ground zero for a near-nuclear explosion. When Haruna opens her eyes, she sees Makie holding her coat (4:43). Apparently, lying around in her (fashionable!) underwear makes Haruna very uneasy -- like, phobia-level uneasy. She pretends to cry in anguish (at least, I hope she pretended -- the thought of Haruna actually crying is really unsettling!) when Makie, moved to pity, hands the coat to her. The next shot we see of Haruna, she's standing proudly, her calm demeanor restored, saying, "Shazam!" At least, that's how it's translated. This discussion on Danbooru gives some background

Moment 2

Makie was even faster than Kirishima in teddy bear form. I don't think I've ever seen Haruna more surprised! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Is Haruna a vegetarian (11:00)? After Makie disclosed her family situation, she told Haruna to eat all she wanted. Haruna did what any normal Fog Mental Model would do: she used her scanners to identify the food and its likely origins. She picked up a carrot and stared at it while Makie organized her medicine, and Makie thought it meant Haruna didn't like carrots. That triggered Makie's mom mode, and she lectured Haruna about the necessity of eating her vegetables (and her expression was priceless!). In a spirit of make-believe, she offered the carrot to the teddy bear that Kirishima inhabited. Unfortunately, Kirishima was distracted thinking about the bear's name and took a bite. The two Mental Models realized instantly that this was bad, and Kirishima readied little teddy bear claws to attack Makie (11:53). But Makie was way too fast! She embraced the bear with a squeal of delight. She assumed that Haruna had constructed it, and furthermore, that Haruna was therefore the "same" as Makie. It was both funny and pensive -- Haruna didn't understand her own reaction to Makie. 

Moment 3

It appears that Haruna is past any indecision. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Throughout the virtual meeting with Kongou, while Kirishima chattered on about the vibration warhead and what not, did not notice that Haruna was silent? I think she was wrestling with something she didn't understand -- her feeling of affection for Makie. It was only after Makie's dying father, Toujuurou Osakabe, asked the two Mental Models to be friends with Makie that I think Haruna finally understood (21:37). Haruna asked, "You're aware that I am a mental model of the Fog?" His response that Makie laughed and was happy with the two of them reinforced her realization. Remember when I said earlier that my favorite moments don't have to be the instant a character makes a realization? Well, sometimes they can be. At the very end of the episode, Haruna looked down at the sleeping Makie. Outside, troops arrived. Haruna paused, her hand on Makie's forehead, a look of contemplation on her face. Then her face snapped into a mask of decision (22:41). Haruna, Mental Model of the Fog, had decided to be be Makie's friend -- in spite of any obstacles that were coming her way.

Thoughts

I came for the epic naval battles. I stayed for the charming and touching little character moments! This episode was a fun character study after the intensity of the last couple of episodes. 

The voice actors were so emotive! In particular, I liked Sayuri Hara's work with Makie (during her introduction to Haruna around 5:10 and her interaction with her maids) and Yumi Uchiyama's interpretation of Kirishima teasing Haruna about the nickname Makie had given her (HaruHaru, around 9:12). I think this is a good place to use the word "delightful!" 

The show's been giving us examples of how Mental Models, once they begin experiencing life through the filter of a human body (or a body close that human), begin acting in unexpected, un-Fog like ways. We've seen Iona realize that part of her life's goal is ensuring that Gunzou stays alive. We've seen Takao leave the fleet to pursue Gunzou as her captain.

And how we're seeing Haruna wrestling with her budding humanity. This was Haruna's episode. 

I thought this episode's portrayal of Makie and Haruna's friendship was touching and realistic. Remember how Makie practically forced Haruna to try on all of those adorable outfits? It seemed like the effort was almost terrifying to the Mental Model, to the point where she was sitting with her head back, exhausted. Makie took her hand and started making plans with her (8:45). In spite of her fatigue, Haruna seemed intrigued. 

Haruna really didn't know what to make of Makie. At least, not at first. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

During lunch, Haruna asked if Makie is the only human in the house (10:40). When the little girl replied that she was alone with the maids since she doesn't know her mom and her dad had died. Haruna seems saddened, and she didn't quite know what to do about it. Just moments later (11:08), Haruna was taken aback by the number of pills Makie had to take. Haruna's expressions were subtle, but they were accumulating. 

Around the same time as my second favorite moment, Makie said Haruna was the same as her, and Haruna was thoughtful.

She even said good night to Makie (13:58). As Makie snuggled up to her, Haruna almost looked a little alarmed, like the experience of snuggling was something way outside her experience. Despite how talkative and assertive she usually is, when she and Kirishima met with Kongou, Haruna was almost silent (14:30).

Haruna was uncharacteristically quiet during her meeting with Kongou and Kirishima. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Each one of those reactions built until they perfectly prepared us for my third favorite moment. It was subtle; it was showing and not telling; it was a moment where a Mental Model became more than the sum of her technological parts. We got to witness an instant of Fog evolution.

How cool is that?

When I first watched his series, I had no idea that it knew how to elicit such emotions! 

This is the kind of thing that make this series one of my favorites. Sure, I joke about how beautiful Takao is, and yes, I really like her character. But that alone isn't enough to elevate a series. It's the combination of beauty, epic sci-fi battles, and powerful character development. 

What did you think of Haruna's development in this episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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