Anime

Review of Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – Episode 8: Hyuuga Ascending and the Unholy Allure of Dogma

Quick Summary

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – episode 8, “House of Dolls,” Kongou and Maya blockade Gunzou Chihaya’s base at Iwoto.  Gunzou pursues a novel strategy: he asks Hyuuga to invite Kongou and Maya to visit. He also asks Iona to greet them, which she does — along with Takao. Knowing the destructive capabilities of a Mental Model — especially one as powerful as Kongou — is Gunzou wise to let her come ashore? Can Iona take care of herself if the meeting goes sour? And is it possible that their fates will be decided by something as mundane as a bell pepper? 

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Iona Holds her Own against Kongou

Iona was able to hold her own against Kongou’s attack. What she didn’t know was that Takao was standing by to assist. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

When Kongou and Maya came ashore, they found Iona waiting for them. Takao stood to one side, just observing, maybe looking for an opportunity to impress Gunzou (though she’d hardly admit it!). The spoke briefly of Iona’s seeming ability to see the future, at which point Kongou said, “You must already know what my next course of action will be” (5:41). Iona cheerfully agrees. Kongou switches to attack mode, and Iona instantly defends. The strive against each other, Kongou’s gigantic energy blade intersecting Iona’s shields, in a beautiful display of energy combat. Though she was much smaller, Iona didn’t back away at all. The conflict continued until Gunzou showed up, nonchalantly leaning against a palm tree. Iona and Kongou disengaged, Iona looking a little embarrassed, almost as if Gunzou had seen her changing or something. What was also interesting is that Gunzou told Takao she didn’t need to get involved — because she was standing there with her own offensive weaponry spun up and ready to fire (6:34). Was she getting ready to defend Iona — or getting ready to impress Gunzou? That might be a pointless distinction at this point…

Moment 2: Kongou Confronts Gunzou 

Kongou confront Gunzou, her anger rising as they closer to the heart of her concern. Is she also concealing a growing feeling of desperation? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Throughout the series, we’ve seen Kongou grappling with the question of why several of her ships have left the Fleet of Fog. The Mental Models in question don’t themselves clearly understand why. They just know that after encountering Gunzou and Iona, they feel compelled to pursue other directions. We got more insight into Kongou’s motivations in this episode, and I really liked it. She point blank asks him if he knows why he has that effect (13:51). Is it something he’s doing on purpose? Is it an accident? Kongou’s simmering rage seems like a good cover for her fear of losing control. Kongou is incredulous when Gunzou’s answer is an announcement that he’s hungry and invites them to dinner. I think the key to understanding this scene is in Hyuuga’s explanation of what the Admiralty Code, which Kongou holds in such high esteem, really is. She said it was like dogma. Have you ever tried to discuss dogma with someone? I have. There’s almost no way it can end well.

Moment 3: Hyuuga’s Determination

Hyuuga can come across as a little scatter-brained. But beneath that carefree exterior is the heart of a battleship. And she was not going to let Iona come to harm. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

She’s a grill master. She adores Iona. She’s smug as all get out. And she can defend an entire island by herself — mostly! I’m talking about Hyuuga’s performance in this episode! It was funny when she laid out the rules for how everyone was to enjoy the fruits of her grilling (14:36). It was even more funny when she and Takao went tongs and chopsticks over a particular piece of meat that Hyuuga was saving for Iona (14:57). But her best moment was when Kongou and Maya returned to their ships. As soon as they were onboard, Kongou ordered the barrage to start. Hyuuga sensed the attack immediately (21:10) and brought her defensive dome up. She was absolutely serious about protecting the island — and she did a fantastic job! The animation here was inspiring — putting aside the enjoyable theme and characters, these kinds of battles are a hallmark of this series! 

Thoughts

As they were under fire from Kongou, Maya, and the rest of the blockading fleet, Iona happened to look over at the plate that had been Kongou’s. Two of her shish kabobs were still there, and only one of them had any bite marks on them. Kongou had only taken a bit of a green bell pepper. 

I jokingly wondered that if she had sampled the beef instead, would she have commenced bombardment? Or would she have stuck around for desert? Of course, a happy Kongou at this point might make the next several episodes kinda boring…

If only Kongou had taken a bit of meat instead! Curse their culinary-fueled fate! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I asked before if you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with someone about dogma. It doesn’t matter if it’s religious or political; the results are typically the same. In fact, let me be utterly clear here: I am talking about dogmatic thought in general. I’m not talking about the dogmatic theology (okay, I’m not only talking about dogmatic theology); I’m talking about the more popular sense of the word. 

What I’m talking about is the same thing as clinging to an agenda instead of trying to understand life as it is. 

So, what I’m asking is, have you ever tried to have an honest conversation with someone who’s welded to their ideas — come hell or high water?

If you have, wasn’t it among the most frustrating things in your life? Even if you agree with their tenants, if you’re someone who likes to understand ideas like “why,” a dogmatic discussion is an exercise in frustration. 

That’d be like trying to talk to Kongou.

Takao is hopelessly inept at expressing her feelings. She doesn’t even understand them! But in spite of that, she’s still exploring them. She’s not denying them. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Takao encountered Gunzou, and her feelings were so intense that she left the Fleet of Fog to understand them. Haruna met Makie and loved their friendship so much she was willing to die to protect her. Hyuuga’s encounter with Iona left her so smitten by affection that she sometimes loses all sense of composure. 

But Kongou is very intelligent. She traces these events to their ultimate cause: meeting Gunzou. She’s aghast not only that Iona, Hyuuga, Takao, Haruna, and Kirishima are disregarding the Admiralty Code — but that they’re even capable of it! She’s driven to know why for a very simple reason: the crippling fear that they’re right and she’s wrong.

Has your conversation about dogma ever gotten to that point? I have a degree in theology, so I’ve seen it dozens of times. You patiently lay out your argument. You try to stay away from rhetoric and focus on reason. You make such a great argument that you’re certain the only rational course is for your “opponent” to agree with you.

Then the fear-driven denial kicks in. They might question reason itself. Kongou said that Iona had almost convinced her. “Back there,” Kongou said, “I thought I understood what 401 meant by ‘fun.’ But that was a cunningly prepared trap… The Fog are weapons. Weapons should not feel motions like ‘fun'” (21:29). 

Despite the evidence of her own eyes and tastebuds, Kongou rejected the idea that pursing anything other than the Admiralty Code was worthwhile. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kongou had rationalized that a basic element of humanity — enjoyment of food, for example; or just hanging out with friends — was a trap. Because admitting otherwise would be admitting that her entire world view was wrong, and Iona and her Mental Model friends were right. 

Fear is what makes dogmatic discussions so difficult. And if your opponent happens to have a fast battleship at her disposal? Well, that might just ruin your day, as our heroes found out.

Do you think the bell pepper actually played a role? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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