Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen – 18

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The more exasperating head-desk bullshit I see elsewhere in anime, the more I appreciate Argevollen.

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.

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  1. N

    So this show gets better? I dropped it at ep 4. Is it worth picking it up again?

  2. T

    It's slow, and a refutation to the three episode rule. But, say if you found Valverave too ludicrous to watch, or found the seeming perfection of Inaho in Aldnoah poor characterization and writing, you'd love Argevollen, which approaches it's material far far more seriously, with far better written characters and with better explored and more grounded themes. Tokimune in some ways, is a deconstruction of what happens when a hot blooded idiot is put in the Cockpit of a prototype mech.

    But because so many people are turned away by early Argevollen for some strange reason (maybe because of it's slow pace during the initial buildup at the start), I think we'd be getting more Aldnoahs and Valverave and less Argevollens.

  3. I thought the first four eps were pretty good, but it certainly gets better. Everything in this series happens for a reason – you just have to wait a while to find out what it is.

  4. i

    "Rewards patience," and also paying attention, I think. The thing that really pulled me into Argevollen in the first place were what I felt were a number of small, thoughtful visual details that told us stuff about the characters. It all felt very purposeful, and even running alongside a show with a huge flash factor like Aldnoah.Zero, Argevollen felt like the more confident, poised, and planned show.

    All that's coming into play now, as that trust that the show cultivated early on is paying off in the form of investment in the characters—and actually caring about the plot. This war we've been watching good soldiers and good people (I've thought Argevollen made a pretty big deal about humanizing the member of Samonji's squadron) fight for so long is turning out to be an elaborate hoax, and that makes this something I care about.

  5. j

    The intelligence IS Junios' direct subordinates. The conversation between Rontaul & Holmes is not to form an alliance but more of a test of loyalty: Junios knows their plan all along but will overlook it & even back them up (at least before the war is over) as long as Holmes continues to push their advantage against Arandas in front line. Eliminating Zarl was Junio's order too because the former's obsession with new mech was delaying their intruding progress.

    I have to say Mr. Suguro's VC portrays him very well. The acting in the testing scene was so over-exaggerated that was amusing, shady and somehow intense, all at the same time. He may be the cunning business man from the bad corporation, but I sure love his character.

  6. s

    Looks like i should dive back into this series and see if it is actually good; you sound pretty confident that it is. I was peachy with the slow pacing and respected the fact that this series wanted to be a realistic take on mecha war drama. But goodness was the writing and direction not up to par…that was my problem with the series and it's lack of making anything truly engaging. I loved the fact that the series had this air about it like an HBO drama, and was completely let down when it didnt have the quality to back it up, perhaps a bit more disappointed as usual because it tried to be realistic. When the writing to the series isnt that engaging, i look to the directing…if the directing isnt engaging either, i look to the art, animation, and shot composition….if that isnt engaging, i look to the voice of the series, which while it had something to say, i wasnt able to stay interested because for a show like this, it needs the other core parts of telling the story through this medium to make it work. But you said the show is pretty damn good now so my interest has been revitalized. Im definitely going to give it another shot. i stopped watching around ep 10 (not because i dropped it; i usually dont drop shows…have a thing about finishing what i start) but because i wanted the series to be close to finishing it's run before binge-watching the rest of the series and formulating a final opinion

  7. It's definitely gotten better, but I certainly liked it better at 10 eps than you seem to so I can't guarantee you'll feel the same way. At least take it through the episode that closes the first cour – if that one doesn't grab you it may be a lost cause.

  8. s

    will do

  9. N

    Argevollen is definitely a jewel in the rough. I liked it since ep1, but it has grown into a truly memorable Anime since then, with realistic, likable characters and compelling plot. But as usual, most people don't give a story a proper chance, and it doesn't help that this is not type of story that is to majority's liking :/

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