Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 12 (Fin)

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Consumed with rage, an out-of-control Kongou has transformed into a massive sphere that destroys the entire American Fog fleet, then turns on I-401. When she disables the concept communication system, Iona volunteers to make direct contact with Kongou. When Iona arrives on her deck, Kongou fights her with everything she has, but the power of Iona’s will is enough to neutralize her onslaught. Finally, Kongou gives in, the sphere is dismantled, and the battle ends with Iona warmly embracing her. The I-401 arrives in Hawaii to successfully deliver the warhead.

When it all came down to it, Kongou whipped up a storm of anger not because she hated Iona or the other converted Fog ships, but because she was afraid. She didn’t know what was happening to her, and didn’t like it; she was fine with everything the way it was before, and wanted things to stay that way. When things continued to thoroughly not go her way, she lashed out—she is a weapon, after all; it was an extension of her purpose, multiplied 512 times. And we have to say, as final bosses go, she is a doozy; we’re slightly surprised the I-401 wasn’t blown to smithereens in the first five minutes. But that’s the thing: as much as she may fear it, change has come, and no amount of torpedoes, missiles or supergravity lasers can blow it up.

Iona realizes the best way to make that clear to Kongou is by going there in person in a truly badass gambit, hopping from missile to missile. She takes a beating, but ultimately Kongou’s cold (and now confused and unfocused) orthodoxy is no match for Iona’s awesome will. Gunzou’s order was only a formality; she came up with the idea on her own, which shows how far she’s come, and how futile Kongou’s attempts to deny it are. Still, we’re glad Kongou didn’t immediately join the gang, choosing to ply the seas alone and explore her new reality. And with the last Fog battleship converted, the show comes to a tidy yet satisfying close.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)
Final Cumulative Rating: 6.833
MyAnimeList Score 
(as of 12/23/13): 7.66

Stray Observations:

  • Some of the slickest battle CGI of the show happened here. Iona’s one nimble little minx, isn’t she?
  • Regarding Kongou’s tenuous state throughout the episode, remember that she did absorb (not merge) with Maya, destroying her in the process, and despite the fact Maya didn’t have a core, Kongou probably feels a bit guilty about that.
  • Takao gets her body back, and the first thing she does is pounce on Gunzou.
  • Meanwhile, Kirishima remains a teddy bear. WTF? It’s the end; give the poor girl her real body back!
  • The communique from Hawaii was in very good English, but it was still a little grating.
  • After all the emotion she unleashed in Kongou, we were kinda hoping for Iona to finally give her captain a kiss or a hug or something…but no love. Perhaps she’s merely abiding by the “non-fraternization with superior” reg…
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Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 11

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I-401, newly transformed by the merge with Takao (who is still alive within the ship’s systems), easily dispatches a fleet of Nagara-class cruisers and sets course for Hawaii, with I-400 and I-402 in pursuit. With a confrontation inevitable, Iona tries to talk to them, but they limit their exposure to her and open fire. Hyuuga and Haruna/Kirishima create decoys of the I-401, and the sisters are kept off balance.

When I-400 is unable to dodge an incoming torpedo, I-402 sacrifices herself for her sister, not wanting her to get hurt. I-400 is trapped in a wire net and also sunk, causing Iona distress. The I-401 resumes course only to be intercepted by a huge fleet of American Fog ships on one side, and a rapidly-closing Kongou, who has escaped custody and merged with Maya, on the other.

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Straying from the Code of Admiralty has its costs. In doing so by being sunk and siding with Gunzou, Hyuuga, Haruna, Kirishima, and now Takao have lost their ships; and now Takao’s even lost her physical model. While it’s somewhat disappointing the show didn’t have the stones give her a “complete” death, the fact that so many former ships are now limited to their mental models makes up for it. No matter how many chefs are in the kitchen, there’s still only one real kitchen: I-401. If she’s sunk, everyone sinks with her.

But the other cost in leaving the Fog is in the emotional toll, most pronounced this week for Iona, who has to kill her sister ships, whom she considers actual sisters, even if they don’t believe the same. They were the last of the Japanese fog ships that held true to the Code, but after their brief contact even I-402 can’t bear to see her sister destroyed. Iona pleaded for them not to fight her, and now she must live with the grief. Of course, with American battleships on one side and a seriously-pissed Kongou on the other, she may not have to live with it long.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The New I-401 looks awesome.
  • Haruna and Kirishima messing with the now body-less Takao (“Step into the light!”) was a nice moment of levity.
  • Nice underwater tactics this week, what with the decoys and wire trap. Those by-the-book sisters didn’t know who they were messing with.
  • Introducing an entirely new faction of Fog with just one episode left gives us the feeling that this might go another season. Not sure how we feel about that; we were kinda hoping things would resolve in 13.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 10

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The I-401 is sinking and Iona cannot repair herself. Gunzou orders her to cut life support and complete the mission without him, but she cannot obey. Meanwhile, Takao and the others are unable to find the I-401. Takao decides to take Hyuuga’s pod underwater to search. She finds that Iona has sacrificed her mental model to create a life-support pod for Gunzou and her core. Takao then sacrifices herself, merging with I-401 to restore her. Meanwhile, I-400 and I-402, convinced Kongou has lost her objectivity and is violation of the Admiralty code, relieve her of her command and detain her when she tries to go after I-401.

We knew this outing would explore the “we’re so screwed” scenario, but we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of emotional depth we got along with the physical depths into which I-401 sank. The emotions involved were nothing fancy, but that’s what made them work: Gunzou has changed Iona so much, she’s willing to disobey his orders to save him. She’s basically in love with the guy, and doesn’t want to live in a world he isn’t alive in. The use of silence throughout the episode, particularly during Iona and Gunzou’s descent, was outstanding—not bad for a show that’s been at its best when it’s loud and explode-y. Devoid of explosions or fanservice, the episode was able to breathe (even as Gunzou increasingly couldn’t) and provided serviceable interpersonal drama.

But this wasn’t just about Iona and her captain. The show also demonstrated a degree of efficiency and pragmatism by not only eliminating Takao, the tragically extraneous love interest (let’s face it, she wasn’t getting Gunzou as long as Iona was around, and wasn’t heartless enough to yank him from her), but also serving up Kongou’s just desserts, courtesy of Iona’s twin sisters. Whether Kongou likes it or not, she’s become one of the very “defectives” she sought to purge, while her companion Maya was merely an emotionless spy puppet (not surprising at all, considering how vapid she was). Now that Kongo has met her downfall and is in the same boat as the other misfits, we may just start rooting for her…unless she ends up merely seeking revenge.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 09

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Hyuuga defends Iwoto against Kongou’s attacks, buying time for I-401 to make a an escape while Takao engages Maya. Kongou senses Hyuuga and Takao are merely diversions, and once she detects I-401 she heads after her at full speed, enduring the punishment of the minefield set by Hyuuga. She admits to Iona that she too feels emotions, and says she hates her. She fires her supergravity cannon a second time, Hyuuga hacks her systems, and she misses I-401, who escapes at full burst. Takao reveals to Kongou that Gunzou entrusted her with the vibration torpedo and his crew, while Iona was only another decoy. All is for naught when I-400 and I-402 ambush I-401, sinking her.

With the previous week serving as a “calm before the storm” prologue, this week’s battle with Kongou was being built up as the biggest challenge to the I-401 yet. The fleet of Blue Steel is officially forged but suffers a difficult infancy, as Kongou holds no quarter. We’re reminded that Haruna and Kirishima don’t have physical ships at the moment, so they can’t participate in the battle. However, Hyuuga and Takao prove enough to keep Kongou and Maya at bay, and more importantly, grind Kongou’s gears. If they can feel emotions, so can Kongou, which means she can lose her temper and let it affect her judgement. Tired of all the delays and frivolous gum-flapping, Kongou goes straight for Iona with extreme prejudice, and ends up paying for it. It was a hell of a battle, replete with layers of tactics, obfuscation, momentum shifts, and the aforementioned psychological warfare.

Mind you, Iona doesn’t mean to mess with Kongou; she just can’t comprehend what her deal is. In their philosophical debate, one could see Iona as being just as guilty as Kongou of trying to impose her values on others. The major differences, of course, are that  Kongou wants to kill all humans, and is acting out of hatred for Iona and the chaos she’s caused; Iona is acting out of unswerving devotion to—and perhaps love for—Gunzou. The battle may end with the I-401 safely away and Kongou beaten and humiliated, but after yet another new ED we’re treated to a harrowing post-credits sequence that sends I-401 out of the frying pan and straight into the freezer. To have victory so abruptly torn away and to see such ugly chunks taken out of I-401 by her sister subs made for a gut-punch of a cliffhanger, but whatever happens, Takao now holds humanity’s trump card.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 08

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When Kongou’s fleet surrounds Iwoto, Chihaya invites her and Maya ashore to talk. He serves them tea and throws a beach barbecue party, giving Kongou an opportunity to observe the other Fog mental models interact and even have “fun.” However, Gunzou’s “trap” to “contaminate” Kongou and Maya are for naught, as they are merely decoys; their cores remain aboard their ships offshore. They return and begin bombarding the island. When Hyuuga’s shields weaken, Takao, Haruna and Kirishima combine their strength to reinforce them.

Chihaya’s mission is to get that weapon to America in hopes it will ultimately create a situation whereby the Fog will be forced to negotiate and the human race will be saved, not take on Kongou’s fleet when he only has half the numbers. With that in mind, he does everything humanly possible to try to neutralize her without fighting. He may have failed this week, but not before a lot of valuable facetime (or at least decoy-facetime) with the stern, humorless, ruthless flagship. Despite her confidence her time with Chihaya and the misfit Fog had no effect, the fact is, Kongou saw and heard what she saw and heard. It seems to us that’s enough to plant a tiny seed of rebellion in her core.

When she felt the heat of the tea, watched Hyuuga and Takao fight over grilled meat, or Makie and Maya having fun taking away Haruna’s coat (she’s apparently quite attached to that coat), or took a nibble of that kabob, she was experiencing things for the first time, which should stay with her. Hell, the inviolable “Admiralty Code” she speaks of says nothing about meeting with humans, talking with them, or going through all of the seemingly pointless motions she went through this week. We’re not ready to give up on Miss Kongou; she’s merely a tougher nut to crack, that’s all. Of course, at the moment Chihaya and the Blue Fleet just needs to slip past her; not convert her.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • As we suspected, all the Fog ships thus far have had female mental models because of the human penchant for referring to ships as female. That being said, watch Kongou’s superior be a dude…
  • So one of Iona’s special powers is that she can see into the future. Kongou also seems to think she’s responsible for that dream-like mental contruct the Fog use to communicate.
  • Maya doesn’t seem particularly swayed by Chihya’s tactics either, but only because there doesn’t seem to be anything in her head whatsoever.
  • It’s a shame Kirishima is still a teddy; we relly dug her regular character design. Still, getting heavy from the water was pretty funny.
  • It seems like Iona was “born” (or whatever) without the need to follow the Admiralty Code, but only her own code, which was to be Chihaya’s ship.
  • The cut from Iona to Takao suggests Iona fights for Chihaya because she “loves” him, but still can’t quite comprehend what that is. Maybe if she hung out with less cardboard humans?

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 07

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With Makie, Haruna, and Kirishima aboard, I-401 docks at her secret home base on Iwoto. The fast battleship Hyuuga, a former fog flagship, is there to welcome them, and she has the wayward Takao in custody. In a virtual meeting with Kongou, Haruna refuses to return to the fleet, vowing to stay by Makie’s side, while Kirishima wishes to continue observing Haruna. Chihaya gives Takao the choice to return to the Fog or stay with what Hyuuga calls the “Blue Fleet.” As repairs on Iona near completion, Kongou orders Maya to rendezvous at Iwoto. Gunzou intends to abandon the base and get the vibration warhead to America.

“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” Those are the words that precede the end credits, the visuals of which this week went from being the Fog ships’ mental models to their true ship forms, which we thought was an interestingly-timed switch. Those same three questions are recited by Hyuuga, discussing with Takao why she’s abandoned her the original mission. From the first time she spots and gropes Iona, Hyuuga’s hots for her are played for laughs that never occur, but she’s genuinely interested in Iona; at this point, more interested than she ever was in subjugating humans, because that route was never going to help her answer those nagging questions. Hyuuga isn’t the only one with those questions rattling around in her head.

At this point, Iona’s crew has basically been supplanted in show precedence by all the Fog ships, now wrestling with emotions. Chihaya & Co. were merely the catalyst that started what could be a major Fog revolution, or evolution, as Hyuuga supposes it could be. Iona was a mutation: a Fog ship that rather than destroy humans, sought one out and was genetically predisposed to following every order. Iona’s always been comfortable in this role, but when the competitive Takao asks her if she has feelings for her, she can’t answer, and it troubles her. Meanwhile, Kongou is clearly getting annoyed by losing so many Fog ships. But all the events since Iona and Chihaya joined forces suggests she could be on the wrong side of history. Iona is most likely the harbinger (intentional or not) of a future in which Fog and human coexist in harmony.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Chihaya is delivering the warhead to America in hopes that its mass-production will even the playing field and force Kongou to enter negotiations. But that’s pretty naive of him. Who’s to say the humans won’t use their new superweapon to simply annihilate the Fleet of Fog?
  • This show is no stranger to superfluous fanservice, and this week it drives that point home with Hyuuga’s attempted undressing of Iona as well as Takao, Haruna, and Iona relaxing on the beach in swimsuits, just ’cause…
  • That said, we hope Kirishima gets her regular body back at some point.
  • We really enjoyed the dinner scene: humans and Fog putting aside their past conflicts and simply sitting down for a meal. This could be a glimpse of the future.