This was a strange sort of episode for Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen, perhaps most acutely for the fact that I’m not sure how the audience was supposed to interpret it. There was a weird dichotomy between the ultra-morose and serious thread following Samonji and Cayenne, and the fluffy surprise party for Tokimune thread. They never felt like they were part of the same episode, but that disjointed quality may have been exactly what Ootsuki-sensei was going for.
Then we had the behavior of Cayenne himself, which is likewise a mystery to me. When he tells Samonji that he intends to use the U-link system because he doesn’t want the lives of the soldiers who’ve died in the war against Ingelmia to have been lost in vain after a bad peace settlement, are we supposed to see that as a sort of rehabilitation for his character? It would be a partial one admittedly, as his logic is twisted even if he’s being straightforward – but if we’re being asked to see him as a misguided general who has good intentions, I’m just not sold. Knowing what we know about what he’s done, I don’t think that character gets to go there now. A corrupt leader in league with a cabal of weapons dealers doesn’t get to have noble intentions about stopping a war he’s partly responsible for propagating in the first place.
Of course, Satou-sensei may be in that same camp, and this may be just be one more bit of craven manipulation by a venal and despicable man – and the fact that Suguro was standing behind him as he made his case supports that notion. Samonji certainly seems caught in the middle here – all the more so when Col. Izumi tells him that the politicians are planning to cut a deal with Ingelmia – giving up significant territory in the process – and that the militarists are cooking up a secret plan to foil them. Samonji (and we) know that plan of course – a fleet of mass-produced Perphevollens and the same U-link control unit that Nanjou Reika died in (and which according to Samonji still smells of her blood).
It’s hard to believe Samonji would allow himself to become a pawn in this knowing what he knows, but the fact that he didn’t share the details of Cayenne’s spicy plot with Izumi is worrisome. What the shrewd Cayenne is playing on, of course, is Samonji’s sense of guilt over Reika’s death, and the notion that he might be willing to chase her fruitless “army where no one dies” dream by playing along with the usage of the U-link system. It would be a terrible mistake but I suppose he’s just unhinged enough that it might be possible – and is he thinking of having Tokimune pilot it, or of doing so himself?
As all this is playing out, the crew is planning a surprise “recovery party” for Tokimune, which they’ve also decided not to tell Jamie about because she’d surely spill the beans. And Suzushiro – clearly sensing something is very wrong – is searching desperately for Samonji. The whole party plot is very lightweight and silly, but because of what’s going on with the rest of the episode (including a strange seizure of sorts Tokimune has while staring at Arge) it has a kind of bleak fatalism to it (again, perhaps intentionally). And Suzishiro is a very sad case – it seems obvious that Samonji doesn’t feel the same intense devotion to her that she does to him, and even when we finally see them sleep together it comes off as rather tragic and bereft. We still don’t know the whole story of what happened between those three when Reika was alive, but it’s clear that her death has pushed Samonji’s heart to a remote place where Suzushiro can never truly reach it.
My sense has never been stronger that there will be major sacrifices before Argevollen reaches its conclusion. The pathos when Tokimune and Jamie are talking enthusiastically about how he’s going to pilot Arge again and how she’ll support him is thick enough to cut with a knife – their youthful naïveté hits like a blow to the solar plexus. It’s a great contrast watching the two of them together and then Samonji and Suzushiro, so wounded and defeated by life, and the likes of Cayenne and Suguro with the craven and detached greed and megalomania, heedless of the lives they’re destroying. That’s powerful stuff, and Argevollen has earned that power patiently and diligently over the course of these past nineteen episodes.