I’m beginning to think (well, not beginning if I’m honest) that it’s no coincidence so much of the anime I’m enjoying at the moment is in the hands of elder statesmen and women. But it mangaka, directors, or series writers, so much of the good stuff at the moment (Mushishi, Shingeki no Bahamut, Akatsuki no Yona etc.) is basically old-school. And not just in a tossed-off catch phrase way, but literally – the people that matter with these shows have been in the industry for a long time, and many of them are over 50. And as a product of the mind of Satou Tetsuo (and directed by Ootsuki Atsushi) Argevollen definitely falls in this category.
I feel less and less need to put qualifiers in front of my praise for this series these days – it may not be great, but it’s certainly damn good. Argevollen is definitely a show that rewards patience, but it’s remarkable how crystal clear everything is at the moment if you’ve been paying attention. This is a very complicated plot with a lot of twists and turns, but the telling is elegant and articulate. Everything (almost) makes sense within the context of the story and characters. There’s no sense of improvisation or indecisiveness – this is clearly a story Satou-sensei had nailed down well in advance, with a specific beginning, mid-game and endgame in mind.
None of that would matter, of course, if that game weren’t interesting. Judging by the MAL and Anime Planet scores most viewers don’t think it is – though I’m guessing most of them gave up long ago. I’m here to tell you they’re wrong, because Argevollen is telling a story with a real sense of consequence, and one that cares about ethics and morality and has studied its history books. There are characters here who could easily come off as cartoon villains in the SAO mold, but the fact that I seethe with anger as I see them manipulating good people to their venal ends is proof of the quality of the writing (at least for me). It’s not easy to make abjectly evil characters compelling, but Argevollen – as much through the situation as the characters themselves, though it is both – manages to get it done.
There are a lot of interesting terms thrown around in this ep. We have “Akatsuki” (dawn) – officially known as “Perphevollen” – the new mech being developed by Vitriveld (the umbrella conspiracy of which Kybernes is but a part) from the data obtained by setting off Argevollen against Sturm. We have “Shirogane no Ishi” – “Silver Will” – the codename for the U-link system, in what I believe is the first time the series title has been used in the narrative. And we have confirmation, via Suguro, that NR does in fact stand for Nanjou Reika.
As for our pilots, Richthofen is now back in Liz’ hands – which begs the question of why he wasn’t captured by Samonji’s unit after Tokimune kicked his ass – awake, and raging. And Tokimune has woken after a three-day coma (watched over by Jamie and Namie) seemingly none the worse for wear. That’s certainly the expressed opinion of Suguro, who shows up in ghoulish fashion with a team of lackeys in-tow, proclaiming Tokimune’s health to be better than ever and his coma to be unrelated to NR Syndrome. Rarely have I felt so hateful towards a character as I did when he was rhapsodizing about how “wonderful” it was that Tokimune had finished the U-link system his sister had started. Suguro comes off almost as a sexual predator here – menacing and despicable. He’s obviously lying, though the exact nature of the lies he’s telling Tokimune and Jamie is still to be determined.
Betrayal is happening everywhere now, with Ingelmian Intelligence having deemed Zarl an obstacle (presumably they too are in-league with Viltriveld, though the deceit may run deeper) and eliminated him. This seems to present an opportunity for Holmes, though it’s pretty obvious that for both he and Intelligence this is a marriage of convenience – an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. The suggestion here is that Intelligence may be fomenting a coup against Emperor Junios himself, which might once again make their goals mutually convenient with Holmes’ – but ultimately I don’t think these two are on the same side.
I continue to believe the deck is stacked against anything resembling a happy ending here, both in historical genre terms and within the story itself. But there’s still an awful lot left to shake out. Cayenne seems to finally be tightening Samonji’s leash, Viltriveld is going ahead full-steam with the Ingelmian invasion of Arandas, and then there’s the very Evangelion-like moment Tokimune experiences in Argevollen’s cockpit (apparently his sister smelled like pancakes). This could be looked at as a sort of chess game, with most of the cast as pawns – but there are definitely more than two players aiming to control the board.