[Anime Review]: Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (Arpeggio of Blue Steel)

Arpeggio

Director: Seiji Kishi

Writer (of original manga): Ark Performance

Animation Studios: Sanzigen

Version Watched: Subbed

You know, if someone had told me that an anime about battles at sea could be enjoyable before I watched Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio, I’m not sure I would have believed them. It seems to me that there’s just not that much you can do out on the ocean. While I can’t quite say my opinion has been turned around, Arpeggio of Blue Steel (which is the name I’m going to use from now on, because I love the sound of it) has enough going on that it becomes an enjoyable and interesting experience in a number of ways. It’s not a classic, by any means, but it makes my recommendations list.

It’s 2056 and humanity is in dire straits. A 17 year blockade of Earth’s oceans and skies, preventing communication, trade and cooperation between nations, has been held in place by the autonomous naval force “The Fleet of Fog”. The Fog, consisting of ships controlled by individual AI programs, possesses incredibly advanced technology making resistance all but futile, and no effort to communicate has been made…until now. Gunzou Chihaya, a student of the Japanese National Marine Academy is the first to make peaceful contact when a Fog submarine calling itself Iona selects him to be its captain. The Fog have begun to experiment with projecting themselves into human forms to understand how their enemies think, though Iona, now under the command of Gunzou, is an enigma with only one order: To fulfil the ambitions of her new crew.

Arpeggio2

Arpreggio of Blue Steel’s story is pretty straight-forward. Humanity needs a saviour and, well, Gunzou and Iona are the only candidates. There’s a teeny bit of political manoeuvring and something about a new weapon that needs to be taken to America to be mass-produced, but the majority of your enjoyment will come from character development and the sea battles mentioned earlier. The idea of non-human beings becoming more human just by association is one that appeals to me and watching the changes undergone by the Fog vessels, or rather their personae, is both intriguing and entertaining. While, at times, the way particular events are intended to influence characters is a little too transparent, it didn’t have a huge effect on my enjoyment of the series. My major complaint about how the series handles its characters is when it comes to the human members of Iona’s crew. They get very little time in the spotlight and therefore remain two-dimensional, unable to contribute in any way to the story itself.

One of the reasons I’m not too keen on sea battles is that I’m reasonably convinced that there’s only so much that can happen during them – One side fires weapons and then the other side sinks. This isn’t a problem in Arpeggio, however. The Fog introduce a lot of interesting technology to the mix that keeps things exciting. The conflicts that occur over the course of the show’s twelve episodes are varied and don’t get old, and the addition of the physical projections of the vessels (or Mental Models) adds an entire ‘nother layer to what the anime can work with. This isn’t quite Death Note or Code Geass when it comes to strategy but it does play a part in keeping things fresh.

Arpeggio3

Surprisingly enough, it’s the visual component of Arpeggio of Blue Steel that gets the most attention for both good and bad reasons. Rather than traditional animation Sanzigen has decided to use computer generated (CG) models which, while not unheard of, are rarely used for an entire anime. To be completely honest, it doesn’t work as well as normal animation; character movements have an unnatural feel and a lot of the effects you see in other series just can’t be used. However! The CG animation is the best I’ve seen for a number of reasons. The quality itself is just that much better than in other series where CG is only used for action sequences and considering nothing is hand-drawn the character expressions are phenomenal. The bottom line here is that the animation style and other visuals can take a little while to get used to, but it’s certainly not bad and represents a step forward in computer generated animation in anime. As for the audio, I have no complaints.

Summary – I recommend Arpeggio of Blue Steel. It’s not a must-watch but it does a lot of things right and manages to be very entertaining overall due to its unique and interesting concept as well as its take on naval combat. A CG animation phobia is not enough to justify skipping this one, as the quality involved is the best you’re going to find and doesn’t detract from the experience.

Score: 8/10 – Good

 Arpeggio4

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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10 Responses to [Anime Review]: Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (Arpeggio of Blue Steel)

  1. Rocco B says:

    I rememer watching this anime back in 2013. All I can say is that this anime is very under rated. It is enjoyabe. For it to be over looked is a shame.

  2. Lazarinth says:

    We should have a discussion about characters and the effectiveness and realism of subtlety. When a group of characters are introduced and they start acting out their characteristic to the extreme it takes me as forced and contrived to the level of being cartoony, like to the level of the seven dwarfs in Snow White being called by their surface character trait.

    When a character has an obvious surface trait that’s one dimension, when they have an exception to this main trait that’s closer to the opposite side of spectrum that they try to mask or is contradictory, that’s another. So you can see that Tsundere girls are still, in affect, 2-dimensional characters (e.g. Takao). Also a lack of traits can in-turn be a trait also (e.g. Iona). To really make a 3-demensional character you need a subtle trait that’s a little harder to pick up on, something that was there the whole time but you couldn’t really put your finger on it as though the character was doing it subconsciously or suppressing it, and it’s generally a show don’t tell thing as well (e.g. bringing up certain angles in their conversations, tightening their jaw or opening and closing hands). If you can give a reason from their past, or from an event during, for that trait then you ‘might’ have a filled-out character.

    For this reason, in the end, all of the characters in this show were two dimensional for me, dominantly because their first or second traits ‘became’ the characters to that point that there was nothing subtle about them, especially the ships. Take Bebop for comparason, I could name all three dimensions (surface, contradictory & suppressed) for each of the four characters. Spike: laid back/philosophical/cold killer. Jet: tough/logical/paternal. Faye: sassy(lucky)/ clumsy(unlucky)/ lonely(dependence on others). Ed: cheerful & cooky/genius/searching for people (because of her father). At least one these traits have a reason linking back to their pasts and for me this made them filled-out characters. I know blue steel didn’t get as much time to do this but I noticed nothing subtle about them. From their being actually good ones out there I don’t think being animated is an excuse either, I EXPECT MORE FROM MY ANIME.

    This is the reason I don’t like most visual novels either, it’s because they try so hard to make the different characters unique to the extreme that seem forced and that the hidden side to them is also usually an extreme case. None of them seem realistic to me, only cartoon cutouts of extremely generic traits, and yes this is how I feel about the characters in Muvluv as well.

    • Silvachief says:

      Without having the same background in literature as you (and therefore being completely ignorant of the academics of literature), I think that there are places in media for all dimensions of characters. Putting strong personalities together to see how they react to each other can be just as entertaining as watching deeply characterized individuals develop, as evidenced by stories like Dangan Ronpa (yes, it does have more than just one-dimensional development, but the proof of concept is there especially early in the piece).

      When a time-limit is put in place (as you’ve acknowledged), writers have to prioritize their goals and in some cases characterization is justifiably put to the side in favor of whatever else needs to be accomplished. On the flip side, the conscious decision to have undeveloped characters can be made (or the writing can simply be bad, which is less acceptable). I don’t think you can say that poor characterization = poor writing or bad anime (since you mention Muv-Luv, that’s as far as I need to look). I don’t even think you can say excellent characterization = excellent writing or good anime (as evidenced by Cowboy Bebop, since you’ve brought it up, though I know we feel differently there). I personally think that Arpeggio of Blue Steel was entertaining despite its lack in that department (and I partially acknowledge that in the review). Analyzing characterization only becomes really important when productions try to have deep characters. If it’s not aimed for, i’m not so concerned about it. I think it’s necessary to consider literary merit separately to subjective enjoyment. Similarly, I don’t think character quality can or should be broken down into component parts and as such I try to avoid it as much as possible XD

      Also, as far as my score goes, an 8 means that I would happily watch whatever i’m reviewing again. And I would happily watch Arpeggio of Blue Steel again, along with any sequel seasons it may get.

  3. The anime is too short, in my opinion. I watched the anime and wasn’t satisfied with what I got. I mean, the battle scenes were great but the final battle scene was kind of a letdown. Somehow, the strategic combat of naval warfare turned into a Mental Model skirmish. Gunzou’s father was also an completely unmentioned subject, whereas in the manga, he played a pivotal role. I wish that they would reboot the series and give the human counterparts of the anime more screen time and development. But, yup, Arpeggio of Blue Steel is really underrated. I loved it but the potential in the plot was wasted. What a shame.

    • Silvachief says:

      I’ll agree with you on the length. I’m not sure how much of the manga was adapted but i’d like to see more of the series.

      It may be because I haven’t read the source material but I actually enjoyed the mental model fight at the end of the show. We’d seen that they were quite capable physically in earlier episodes, so it didn’t seem out of place to me. It’s interesting to hear that they cut out such important stuff from the manga (that’s not new in the realm of adaptations, unfortunately >.<).

      As someone who has read the manga, do you plan to watch a second season if one is released?

      • Definitely!
        I definitely would! I’d prefer if it’s a reboot ’cause the way the anime is being produced looks like it’s about become KanColle! All moe and no point.

        • Silvachief says:

          Was the manga more serious than the adaptation?

          Also, do you feel that the use of CG worked well?

          • The manga was a notch darker and grimmer than the anime. The manga tackled the serious themes head-on like political uprisings and the human nature, unlike in the anime which the themes were barely mentioned. Like how there was almost no mention of a civil war in Europe nor Gunzou’s or any of the humans’ past at all. While I don’t mind cheering things up, but drowning out the backstories are not the way to go. But I still adore Takao though, at least the ships’ personality problems are still there. With the Admiralty Code and everything.
            And yes, the CG. I personally don’t mind but the plastic feel of the animation was unpleasant at worst, curious at best. The battle scenes were awesome though. I still love Arpeggio nonetheless, no doubt about it. Thank goodness it didn’t turn out to be Mars Needs Mums.

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