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Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 6: Tragic Misunderstandings and a Cry for Help

Quick Summary

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – episode 6, “Arpeggio of Blue Steel,” soldiers invade the mansion where Makie Osakabe lives. Haruna tries to stop the soldiers, but when Makie sees the Mental Model in action, she recoils — but not for the reason Haruna and Kirishima assumed. Grief overwhelming her, Haruna sends Kirishima off with orders to protect Makie while Haruna tries to distract the soldiers. Her strength, though, has still not recovered, and the battle begins to go badly. Not only that, but what Makie confides in Kirishima changes the whole conflict. Will either Mental Model or the Design Child make it through the night alive?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1

To say Haruna was displeased would be an understatement. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I have no pity for soldiers who follow orders to target a little girl with intent to kill. Even still, when the squad leader told Haruna to surrender because they were there only to “dispose of” Makie (5:13), I felt a twinge of pity — and a swell of elation at Haruna’s reaction. Her gold command rings came on line and illuminated the hallway. In protest, the squad leader tell her it’s not their intent to attack. I loved her response: “Allow me to teach you what ‘intent’ means” (5:23). She still hasn’t recovered from her defeat at the hands of Gunzou ChihayaIona, and crew. But she fully intends to protect her new friend with all the capabilities at her disposal. Even now, she’s formidable.

Moment 2

Kirishima was shocked at how weak she’d become. But she recovered well! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Makie’s still hiding with Kirishima. The little girl is heart-broken because of a misunderstanding: She thinks it’s impossible to be friends with Haruna, but not because Haruna is a Mental Model of the Fog. It’s because Makie had designed the vibration warhead, and she felt guilty for building a weapon designed to kill “Haruharu and her friends.” When she overheard that Haruna had created a decoy version of Makie and that it had failed, she tried to make her way to the back courtyard to help her friend. However, she didn’t count on her lack of athletic ability, and she tripped in full view of two soldiers (13:53). Kirishima’s first act was to go all martial arts on the two soldiers. She did really well for having a teddy bear body! When reinforcements arrived, she realized she’d need more than just physical attacks. So she summoned a full shield — and got a tiny hexagon instead (14:02). It barely covered her paw. I liked how the humor didn’t detract at all from the drama. Far from it — it actually enhanced it! Plus, Kirishima gets points for a quick recovery. She had really good moves for being about 2/3 a meter tall!

Moment 3

Her plans had failed. Her strength was at its limit. All Haruna could do was wrap the three of them in what was left of her shields and broadcast a plea for help. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

When Makie came running into the courtyard, every soldier targeted her — and their laser sights were terrifying in the smoke from the battle (15:51). Haruna barely had time to extend her coat and its shielding around the Designer Child and teddy bear before the soldiers opened fire. However, she was now trapped. She was too exhausted to move. If she tried, her shields would drop, and Makie would die. Her strength was ebbing, and the attack redoubled as the rock crabs fired their missiles. Facing the failure of her mission — the death of her friend — Haruna simply broadcasts (17:48), “I don’t care who. Someone… someone, help us!” I’ve never been a fan of a last-ditch prayer saving the day. It’s literally deus ex machina, and it can cheapen the story. But in this case, there are two factors that made me adore this moment. First, Haruna had already done everything she could to save Makie. She had nothing left. She earned the right to declare an emergency! Second, this is Arpeggio of Blue Steel. Haruna’s a Mental Model, and we’ve already established they have the concept communication system. It’s logical that Haruna’s “prayer” could get through to Iona. And Iona, Mental Model of the I-401, arrived in peak condition. That scene made me almost extend this review to four favorite moments!

Thoughts

Did you notice the brief shot of soldiers holding a maid at gun point (4:22)? The poor woman stood with her hands up. She looked terrified! Makie has a protector — who’s going to protect the maid? She deserves a friend…

I felt bad for this poor maid! She’s not one of the combat maids from Overlord, for heaven’s sake! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Or how about the the soldier who got blown aside when Haruna destroyed the rock crab he’d been hiding beside? Shaking off the concussion, he looked up to see Haruna’s power hold back fragments of the destroyed weapon (15:29). Had she not stopped them, he would have been crushed to death. I wondered if he realized how lucky he was? 

The evolution of the Fog continues. Before, we’ve seen how encounters with humans have an emotional impact on Mental Models. Iona is still sorting through her feelings for Gunzou. Takao is infatuated with the captain, and as much as that’s played for laughs, she’s serious about understanding what her feelings mean. And finding out where they will lead. Last episode, we saw Haruna start to warm up to Makie. This episode, we saw the end result. Haruna put everything on the line to protect her friend. 

I thought it was dramatically smart how they showed it, too. The plot could have been: The soldiers could have come for Makie; Haruna could have repelled them; confession of friendship; hugs all around. Total elapsed time: 5 minutes. Instead, we got to see a ridiculously realistic miscommunication play out and in the process, we got to learn a lot about Haruna, Makie, and even Kirishima. Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this? I usually hate dramatic misunderstandings. Generally speaking, they are stupidly easy to see through, and the fact the characters don’t see it right away makes me think less of them. In this case, though, the misunderstanding was based solidly on a combination of Haruna and Makie’s self perceptions and innate biases — and it worked beautifully.

Makie didn’t recoil in horror from a hated enemy. She recoiled because of her own feelings of guilt for creating a weapon to kill “Haruharu and her friends.” Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Remember when Haruna was about to obliterate the soldiers, but Makie stopped her? Haruna thought Makie would be upset at Haruna’s true nature, and she reached out to Makie in apology (6:33). Makie flinched before running away, and Haruna was crushed. Here, Haruna thought Makie hated her for being a Mental Model. A purely logical Mental Model like Kongou would likely have dismissed the situation and gone on a rampage against the soldiers. Instead, shortly thereafter, Haruna asks Kirishima to protect Makie while she distracts the soldiers (7:03).

A little later, Kirishima misinterprets Makie’s tears (6:51) as confirmation that the Design Child was terrified of Haruna as Mental Model. Kirishima is under that impression when she suggests that they contact Maya, but Haruna shoots the idea down because Makie doesn’t want the soldiers killed. Kirishima tries to argue, but Haruna kills the connection. That’s important to the plot, because for dramatic reasons, Haruna can’t learn what Makie is about to tell Kirishima — at least not until a little later.

Tearfully, Makie revealed the real reason for her reaction (11:17). She knew the soldiers were after her and wanted Haruna away to be safe. “That’s why I never deserved to become friends with Haruharu in the first place” (12:25). For the first time since we met her, Kirishima literally doesn’t know what to say. She, too, is dealing with messy data that is out of bounds. In other words, she’s teetering on the edge of becoming human.  

The payoff (partly during my third favorite scene) culminates when Haruna asks Makie to be her friend, and Kirishima’s, too (20:51). Did you notice that even Kirishima blushed? By the end of the episode, I was ready for Haruna to confess her affection to Makie, and for the little girl to joyfully reciprocate. In fact, I would have been disappointed otherwise! But for Kirishima, she who had shown such unabashed, wanton pleasure at the idea of destroying the I-401, to show affection? 

I wasn’t just watching warm character development. I was watching a race evolve. Rapidly. 

I did not know a teddy bear could blush! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Both Haruna and Makie was been utterly aware of their own flaws and the role those flaws could have played in driving each other apart. That made their mutual embrace of their friendship all the more satisfying!

Each time I watch these episodes, I see more thematic details that I missed the first times I watched it. I think the spectacle of the battles overshadowed those moments. I’m really glad you all helped me pick this series as the older one to review this season, and I really hope you’re enjoying the revisit as much as I’m enjoying bringing it to you.

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

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