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.