I don’t know what’s going to happen as regards Argevollen and my blogging schedule next season – there are a lot of variables at play here, both in terms of what happens with the show itself and otherwise. But given that this is the end of its first cour (next week it’s taking a break) and it was probably the best episode so far, it only seemed right to address it with a full post. It certainly offered enough grist for the mill.
This is a quintessential “tortoise” show, not making a big impression out of the gate and providing very little flash, but slowly grabbing a toehold in the imagination. I’ve made it clear what I like about Argevollen – primarily that it’s one of the most matter-of-fact and realistic mecha series I’ve seen. That’s a low bar, for sure, and there are plenty of things in the first 12 episodes (including this one) that stretch credulity some. But on the whole it plays very much like a RL war drama if there were mechs in RL. I also like that Satou Tatsuo has structured it more as a mini-series than a true series – each episode plays like a stand-alone mini-movie, but they all fit together nicely.
But it was this episode that really started to fit the pieces together in a big way, and I thought very effectively. It brought us the full backstory on Nanjou Reika (Hikasa Youko) which is really the pretext for the entire character side of the series. I’ll certainly grant that the unmanned Kreiger program she was working on isn’t one of the more realistic technological angles Argevollen has played, though given what we’ve seen of the Arandas military leadership the nation that they’d manage it in such a callous and frankly stupid manner is at least consistent.
What we saw was quite a bit different than the picture Samonji painted for Tokimune last week, but there’s a very good reason for that. As I mentioned in last week’s post, it struck me that Samonji was trying to get himself punched by Tokimune, and I was very glad to see that turn out to be the case – the writing did a great job of suggesting it without beating us over the head (something Argevollen generally does well). The reasons, however, were beyond the simple assuaging of his own guilt – he was trying to get Tokimune taken off the Argevollen assignment so as to avoid seeing both siblings die under his watch (and I think we can assume Reika asked Samonji to look after Tokimune). It doesn’t work, of course – the brass needs Tokimune in that cockpit and a stray punch at a disgraced officer matters not a whit – but it was an interesting attempt anyway.
The hard truth is that Samonji in fact has very little reason to feel guilty about Reika’s death. She was engaged in what she knew was a deeply flawed experiment, and one in which the brass likely intended to push her until she broke permanently – but she believed in the overall cause and did it anyway. And he effectively destroyed his own career in the final attempt to save her from herself. Even then it’s clear Cayenne was a dangerous guy, and he may have been in even deeper than what we saw – I would bet he intentionally planted Tokimune in Samonji’s unit for a variety of nefarious reasons, some plain and some still unclear.
I liked the dialogue across the board here as well (Quasimodo is always a good addition) – it was quite natural and even very funny at times, which Argevollen normally can’t pull off. This was certainly the first time we saw Samonji turn himself loose emotionally, and while that’s risky for a character this deep into a series I though the build-up made it very believable. In the final analysis this was an episode that played to Argevollen’s strengths, and that’s almost always a good strategy – it just so happens that this was a more ambitious and dramatic 22 minutes that any we’ve seen so far. It piques my interest for the second cour, and for an episode at this spot on the schedule that means mission accomplished.