Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen – 15

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And so it begins.

It seems to me that Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen’s patience is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness – the latter at least in terms of connecting with fans.  This is the mecha series that’s antithetical to mecha anime in so many ways, more akin in structure to an HBO mini-series than a TV anime.  It’s a series that amply rewards patience, and as we’ve seen patience is a quality in short supply among anime audiences these days.

I won’t dispute that there are times when Argevollen strikes me as too patient, and I like the show a lot – while the episodes that focus on the mundane aspects of warfare are interesting, after a time they can become almost hypnotic.  But when the series delivers climactic moments, they tend to have more impact because the buildup to them is so patient and so extended.  The episode that closed the first cour is one such example; this one is certainly another.

What happened to Tokimune this week is certainly cut from the cloth of classic mecha anime for decades, but rarely have we seen the case for its occurrence to convincingly presented.  It was only a matter of time before Tokimune lapsed into Nanjou Reika Syndrome in battle, and it was a deadlock-cinch to happen in a battle against Richtofen and his Sturm.  It’s a moment we’ve seen presented many times over in mecha anime, but I can’t remember a case where it felt so logical.  The drama in the event comes from the pathos in Tokimune’s circumstances, but it could just as easily have happened to anyone unlucky enough to slide into Argevollen’s cockpit.

For a series that’s as low-key as this one is most of the time, Argevollen can be very intense when the situation demands it.  The battle between Argevollen and Ghost was certainly intense – it was a real nail-biter.  Everyone was engaged in a well-choreographed dance, each side willingly stepping into the trap the other was laying for it with the same ultimate goal – to destroy the enemy’s greatest weapon.  And Samonji of all people knew exactly what was likely to happen to Tokimune once the battle started, and tried to prepare for it – but in the end, his words held no sway over the berserker Tokimune in NR mode.

Argevollen has convincingly presented the case for war (this war most specifically, but not just this one) as a state of affairs where the soldiers on both sides are victims, sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed.  Yet the war does continue and each side is obliged to try and kill the other in order to survive.  The current situation is littered with questions – what is Richtofen‘s fate, and the Ghost’s?  How long will Tokimune’s ban from piloting Argevollen last (I’m guessing not long, since he’s the only that can do it and the war drones on) and has he already suffered irreparable damage from Nanjou Reika Syndrome?  How was Namie’s cooking?

Those who’ve been patient enough to stick around this long are starting to reap the rewards for that patience, I suspect, as those questions and others the show has raised begin to be answered.  For my part I’m still quite invested in seeing how this turns out, both in terms of the personal tragedy of Tokimune’s family and the efforts of reasonable people on both sides to bring the truth of their leader’s corruption to light.  Exposing corruption during wartime is a perilous endeavor – the sort of thing that can easily get you shot as a traitor – and while Argevollen does have a sort of idealism to it, it’s the kind of idealism that’s been battered and bruised by long-term exposure to what life does to idealists.  At heart I think this series is a tragedy, and I suspect that’s the direction its final nine episodes are going to run.

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  1. M

    Slow paced Mech shows are having a lot of trouble connecting with modern audiences, it seems. I think part of it is that everyone is used to 13 episodes and the frantic pacing that most of them have.

    And to be fair Argevollen does have some pacing problems of it's own.

  2. R

    It's funny, because the whole drawn out aspect of Argevollen is almost quaint for me considering I'm a shoujo fan and man you haven't even seen the tip of what drawn out can mean.

    Granted, for a lot of series that's a negative, where the story kind of flops around trying to squeeze every little drop out of the current plot thread, but I'll tell you if you don't give in to rage quitting, that'll teach you to have heaps of patience XD

    I think in all honesty, I like Argevollen because it doesn't try to rush everything for the sake of action and bombast or to get to the juicy bits as fast as possible. And I don't think it's too slow, but hey that's me.

    I love tragedy, but I still get the feeling that this series isn't going to be one. Call it innate mecha sense or something, but mecha series just always seem to end at least someone idealistically. I don't think I've seen a real downer ending since Ideon in all honesty (Kill'em all Tomino at his finest I guess XD that may not be a compliment) but I'm always up for one 😀

    And of course the resulting chaos from the fans if it does happen.

  3. Honestly, I think mecha series have downer endings more often than not (I won't mention titles in case people still haven't watched those series and plan to). Maybe not outright tragedy, but you very rarely seem to get a happy ending for the MC.

  4. R

    I don't know if it is because I already expected this to happen, but Tokimune's freakout felt a little bit lacking in its sense of urgency. Don't get me wrong, it was still very engaging, but it somewhat fell a bit short of creating the panic that the scene is supposed to imply.

    And here we are with the "I won't let you pilot that mech again" plot. It kinda reminds me of Majestic Prince's later plot (and that hilariously brilliant literal take on the "putting on a leash" idea). Though I don't expect this one to go as upbeat as that one.

  5. m

    "The current situation is littered with questions – How was Namie's cooking?"
    Hahaha nice!

    It is undeniable that Argevollen has hopped back and forth across the line of acceptable slow pacing on a few occasions, but I still say that, when it has, it was never too extreme to make the show unwatchable. The slow pacing truly makes the big intense moments that much more exciting and important. I've been saying since early on in cour 1, that this show was primed to be an all time great mech, or at least best of the season this fall Clearly there's still a whole lot it would need to do to get to that point, but from the end of the first cour ti; the current ep it's steadily getting better and better, and all of those slow moments have only served to make me care that much more about the characters. They've successfully avoided forcing the whole Jamie/Tokimune relationship the way many action shows ruin romantic relationships. Yeah, there's been some pointless stuff there, but it gives the feeling that if it played out it would feel natural even though it's hardly been a main focus. I also like the way its a gender role reversal of sorts between Tokimune's sister and the captain, while setting up a scenario where he gets a second chance to fix his mistakes, this time with his lost love's brother. There's a lot of great things going on on a individual character level, and simultaneously the big storylines about the greed and corruption that fuel war are slowly coming to light. Argevollen has put itself in a position to be a superb show, and even though it still has a very long way to go, I think it'll get there. I think it's the type of show that greatly rewards the people who stuck around, and one day will get the recognition it deserves. When (and if) it ends well and solidifies itself as a high quality show I think people, who didn't have the patience initially, will watch it again and it will become a pretty well known mecha show. It's easier to watch a slow building show when you don't have to wait a week between eps. The fact that it plays out like a HBO miniseries (really does remind me of Band of Brothers) makes it better suited for watching in 1 hour intervals instead of 20 mins a week.

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