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Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 7: The Maiden Plugin and the Calm Before the Storm

Quick Summary

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel - Ars Nova - episode 7, "Iwoto," Gunzou Chihaya ordered Iona and the rest of the crew back to their secret base at Iwoto. They brought Haruna, Makie Osakabe, and Kirishima along for the ride. They are all surprised to find the heavy cruiser Takao waiting for them! What're her intentions? Is it true that she and Hyuuga have some kind of plan to separate Gunzou from Iona? Meanwhile, Kongou showed that she could track Haruna and Kirishima, even to Gunzou's previously hidden base. She intends to extract payment from Gunzou for his disruptions to her orderly fleets. What is she willing to do to achieve her quest? Or would it be more accurate to ask what she wouldn't do?

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

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1

Hyuuga was seriously upset that Takao had backed out of their plan -- because of her maiden plug-in, of all things! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Gunzou, Iona, and crew (including Haruna, Makie, and Kirishima) had just disembarked. Hyuuga met them and promptly lost control of herself at the very sight of Iona. Fortunately, Iona was able to fight her off long enough for everyone to turn their attention to Takao, who was in full tsundere mode. She tried to claim she had taken control of their base and had decided to wait for them to return; Hyuuga corrected "taken control" to "taken captive" (7:46), but that was a feint. Hyuuga wanted Iona all to herself but knew she couldn't have her as long as Gunzou was around. Takao wanted Gunzou but knew she'd never have him to herself as long as Iona was around. So, before the I-401 had arrived, the two of them came up with a plan: Takao would demand Gunzou as a captain, and Hyuuga would support her. But Hyuuga, as intelligent as she was, made a fatal miscalculation: She hadn't counted on Takao loosing her nerve. When Takao demanded the vibration warhead instead of Gunzou, Hyuuga leapt to the attack (8:50). As she shook Takao, Hyuuga demanded to know why she went shy now. "W-We maidens have our reasons, okay?" Takao asked. Hyuuga demanded, "Why'd you even mount the Maiden Plug-in?" All of a sudden, I want to see the Fleet of Fog App Store if they have a Maiden Plug-in available! 

Moment 2

Hyuuga's words made perfect sense. So Takao had to wonder why they had such an effect on her. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

As Hyuuga (very competently) repairs the I-401's super gravity cannon, she starts what seems like small talk with Takao. With deceptive casualness, Hyuuga says that if Takao's interested in Gunzou, why not form a fleet with him and his friends? The idea seemed shocking to Takao. She hadn't been thinking beyond her confused feelings for Gunzou, so something so radical as forming a fleet in opposition to the Fleet of Fog wasn't something she'd considered. Leaving the Fleet of Fog for her own interests was one thing; actively opposing it was another. Hyuuga says that she knows Gunzou's about to abandon the base, and she's going to stick with Iona. She also confirms she has no intention of going back to the Fleet of Fog. "We could call ourselves the Blue Fleet," Hyuuga said (11:54). Takao glances up and sees Gunzou leading a meeting in a conference above her. She blushes and murmurs, "The Blue Fleet." This is another example of Takao's evolution. She's considering not only making a decision on her own; she's considering going against the Fleet of Fog. And she still doesn't understand her feelings! Very cool moment.

Moment 3

Kongou is determined to figure out why Gunzou has such an effect on the rest of her fleet. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kongou has just finished meeting with Haruna and Kirishima in the concept communications system. Haruna announced her intention to leave the Fleet of Fog and protect her new friend, Makie; Kirishima, despite her obvious fear of Kongou, said she was going to stay to "observe" Haruna. This put Kongou in a foul mood. She denied that emotions have any place in their lives, and to prove it, she ordered Maya to rendezvous with her. Kongou intended to assault Iwoto. Having left the holographic meeting area, Kongou stood on the bridge of her ship. Arms cross, chin lowered, she declared her intent (22:37): "Gunzou... I will test the worth of your existence." She looked seriously angry, too. An angry fast battleship is something to behold! 

Thoughts

Wow -- Kongou was seriously pissed off at Kirishima, wasn't she? That expression of cold distain chilled even me (21:48)! Kongou lamented that battleships who came in contact with Gunzou don't come away unchanged. I don't think she consciously realizes she's in that group; and it looks like the impact of her denial could get ugly.

No wonder Kirishima seemed intimidated. I wouldn't want to face that gaze -- especially knowing there was a Fleet of Fog fast battleship backing it up! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Watching this series to review it is giving me a completely different perspective than when I just watched it for fun. Either that, or I'm seeing things during the 15th rewatch that I missed during the first 14. Case in point: The evolution of the Mental Models is much more obvious this time around!

It was obvious, even in my first favorite moment. Sure, it was funny seeing Takao get all tsundere and blush a lot. It was funny seeing Hyuuga (of all people!) criticize Takao for letting her emotions get the better of her -- just moments after Hyuuga practically tried to molest Iona. The humor masked the message, or at least coated it so it would be easier to swallow: The Mental Models were grappling with feelings and perspectives they didn't have before.

After lunch, Hyuuga and Takao were talking alone. Hyuuga confided that she didn't care about humans. Her focus was on what Iona was becoming. Takao's response was fantastic in this context: "We are weapons... or we used to be" (15:57). These women are aware of what they were. They know that they're changing, but they're not sure what it's all about. 

The first 14 times I watched this series, there was another scene that held a similar clue, but I missed it. I missed it because Takao was wearing a bikini (16:07). I've read some reviews that suggested this was merely fanservice, and maybe it was. But think about it for a second: Takao was just imitating human behavior. She didn't seem to be aware of the effect her being in a bikini would have on anyone else. She didn't even think about the impact it would have on Gunzou. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure she would have been obsessing over that.

Do you see Makie and Haruna playing with the beachball? Yeah, I missed it the first couple of times, too. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Instead, she watched as Makie and Haruna try to play with a beach ball -- and fail because Haruna was in a swimsuit and didn't have her Coat of Power. Haruna was so nervous that the beachball just bounced off her head. As Takao watched them, she mused that they were weapons -- but wondered (16:22) "Do weapons have thoughts?" She was seriously struggling with the question of her own identity, but her bikini distracted me too much for me to notice until now.

When Iona showed up with a huge rubber duck, the conversation continued in the same vein, though it was more subtle. Takao's tsundere took over and clashed with Iona's utter innocence. They argued until Iona let slip that she was with Gunzou only because that was the only order remaining in her memory. Takao even asserted that Iona must not have any feelings for Gunzou, if she was only following orders.

"I don't know," Iona said (18:12). Even Iona, who had been with Gunzou longer than anyone, still wasn't sure of her feelings. 

That concept is at the thematic heart of Arpeggio of Blue Steel

What do you think of the Mental Models' continued evolution? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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