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.