Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen – 16

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Is it just me, or was there something distinctly Valvrave-y about that episode?

The shit has really hit the fan on Argevollen, which manages to convey through a quiet episode an unstoppable sense of impending chaos and tragedy.  War is hell, even the most idealistically intentioned of them, but wars fought for reasons as crass and venal as the ones being depicted here are especially bleak and desolate.  And sadly, only reinforce the impression that this is one of the most realistic mecha anime ever, if not the most realistic.

That’s an interesting thought – irrespective of how you might feel about it as entertainment, is Argevollen the most realistic mecha series ever?  That would certainly give it a place in the anime pantheon, and I’m not immediately struck by another example of the genre that transcends it in this respect.  Perhaps the most fanciful aspect of it is not the NR Syndrome or the mecha themselves, but the notion that there might be mid-level officers of conscience on both sides both willing and able to make a difference in the larger conflict.  I don’t hold out a lot of hope for their chances to do so, mind you.

As I said last week, even soldiers who know the cause is hollow are obliged to try and kill each other if they want to survive.  And this is the conundrum facing Samonji at the moment – Ingelmia is running roughshod over Arandas on the battlefield, and the Arge is the only thing that might have a chance to slow their advance.  What would you do in such a situation?  At the very least it’s a step forward that Tokimune is being told the truth, but it’s a truth that leaves no good answers.  I don’t think we’d have seen so much time spent on the Arge being repaired if we weren’t going to see it in action again, and soon. I just hope the series doesn’t resort to the cliche of Tokimune taking the Arge out against orders, but it seems very possible we’re headed in that direction.

The manual may call it “Neural Rideover”, but the NR will always stand for Nanjou Reika to me.  As with most of the sci-fi elements of Argevollen this one is presented in fairly realistic terms – the interface with the mech sends the pilot aggressive impulses without their own subconscious filters to keep them in-check.  I was glad that Jamie was canny enough to realize that Suguru was BS-ing her when she called him demanding answers, but I fear she may have signed her own termination papers (take that as you will) by making that call.  And Suguru’s “Well, that’s because you don’t know what abnormal looks like” stands as the most ominous and significant line of the episode – even if it was said in support of a lie, it has the ring of truth to it.

Was Richtofen’s behavior what “abnormal” looks like?  It was certainly disturbing – striking a mechanic in the head with a wrench for disturbing your bonding time with a mech is not the behavior of a sane man.  It would seem he’s even father down the road of NR syndrome than Tokimune, perhaps too far gone to be saved even if he did stop piloting Sturm – and there’s no evidence that’s going to happen.  Of course Ingelmia is dominating this war even without Sturm, and there’s really no reason for them to allow this to continue – except that there’s no one on their side who’s in Samonji’s position, both aware of the situation and in a position to (at least temporarily) stop it.

As hard as I try I can’t imagine a scenario where Argevollen is going to end well – and I’m not sure it wouldn’t be inconsistent with the sort of show it’s trying to be if it did.  There’s not much connecting this series to Kakumeiki Valvrave but the parallel between Tokimune and Haruto at the moment goes much deeper than just Ohsaka Ryouta.  Each of them is faced with the reality that by piloting their mech they’re going to destroy their mind and throw away their life, but can see no option but to do so anyway. Perhaps a way will present itself for someone – Samonji is the most obvious candidate by far – to sacrifice themselves so that Tokimune lives on, but I don’t think we’re getting out of this without some serious carnage.

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9 comments

  1. R

    That's an interesting thought – irrespective of how you might feel about it as entertainment, is Argevollen the most realistic mecha series ever? That would certainly give it a place in the anime pantheon, and I'm not immediately struck by another example of the genre that transcends it in this respect.

    I have said it several times, but I will point you to the direction of Gundam: 08th MS Team as something that Argevollen seems to be emulating in terms of realism. And then there is Patlabor, which sets mechas in a more mundane, civilian environment.

    I guess one of the problems that some people has with Argevoillen is that, considering it is mecha anime, the mecha battles have become rather sparse. I have always seen the series as a hybrid mecha/military slice-life story, but I do notice that the latter tends to override the former most of the times. And then, there is the tendency off the show to cut off the mecha scenes at rather inappropriate moments. Most grating in this episode is how the show just casually says that Tokimune shot Silfy out of rage, instead of shyowing that actual scene. For some, that would undermine the importance of that development in showing Tokimune's increasingly erratic behavior.

    I don't get what you mean with the opening sentence of the review though.

  2. A

    In episode 15 you do see him shooting Silfy – at about the 17 minute mark.
    It's a 'blink and you miss it' kind of scene, but it's there. He's just blasting away with rage as he pulls his gun around in an arc and that's when he shoots her mech.

  3. R

    Hey, you're right. I guess it was a bit too "blink and you miss" for me. Still, the way the show casually handled that scene throws off its importance a bit.

  4. m

    It wasn't that much of a "blink and you miss it" moment. Perhaps the airtime. I'd have to go and count which I won't do, was short but it was a significant moment that very much stood out to me. It was emphasized with the whole "push the other mech away and run so we can blow it up" moment and when she tried to separate the two got shot by Tokimune in a crazed "stay the hell out of this" moment. Although short, it was a significant moment that emphasized his fall into a beast like rage, I'm surprised that it didn't stand out to you, but I do remember it being more of a shove or hit and not specifically a shot.

  5. R

    but I do remember it being more of a shove or hit and not specifically a shot.

    I guess it was more of how they handled the aftermath of the incident that really nagged me a bit. I was expecting a bit of a flashback rather than them just casually coversing about it, aggrevated by how the dialogue (or at least the subs) specifically says that it was a shot.

  6. A

    I like that nothing is hidden from those involved in this episode. There's nothing more frustrating than keeping secrets from your friends as a way to fabricate drama. For some reason just sitting down and talking is very rewarding to me– I noticed it when Jamie told Tokimune about overhearing the secret about his sister some episodes ago. That was my favorite episode of the show (the giant mech gun kata scene helped).

    With that said, this episode had an awful lot of "finding stuff out and talking about it". It feels kind of awkward to not keep secrets for longer than 7 minutes, but I guess I can't have it both ways.

    And about the ending, maybe the guy wasn't lying over the phone and he was a good guy all along? How about the power of love/friendship keeping Tokimune in check? Whatever it is, a happy ending is possible, but I have to admit that it would be so boring and farfetched that a tragedy still looks like the more realistic option, which is what this show is apparently about.

  7. After those conversations the guy has had with Cayenne, you're really prepared to allow the possibility that Suguro is a good guy?

  8. A

    Neither of them has really done anything. They're portrayed as evil masterminds, but the most evil thing they've done is to send the supposed death trap Argevollen into Samonji's hands. Until they cross the line on camera there is always the chance that one of them is just fooling the other.

    But like I said, a red herring would also be kind of a boring alternative to either outright overcoming the odds or a more tragic ending.

  9. A

    I think the nearest this show is liable to do to a happy ending would be if the arms dealers and officials who seem to have orchestrated the whole conflict are exposed, and the war stopped.

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