We said goodbye to Hitsugi no Chaika today with a predictable but modestly entertaining final episode (which seems fitting), and another long-time fence-sitter in Argevollen is down to one ep remaining. There was certainly a stretch in the middle where this series solidly performed as a vastly underrated and thoughtful take on the mecha genre, but for me it’s lost a bit of steam as it winds down. I’m still invested in what happens, but I don’t think this final run has been the series at its best.
There are several reasons why Argevollen isn’t resonating quite as much for me at the moment, the first and most obvious being that the execution has gotten a bit sloppy, and the narrative muddled. There’s also the fact that the venal greed of Vitriveld and Kybernes – while certainly realistic – has taken on a bit of a mustache-twirling quality to it. Argevollen works better when its being subtle, using a scalpel rather than a hacksaw to be cutting. And then there’s the rehabilitation of Cayenne, which doesn’t take for me. I suppose there’s a valid point being made here that all leaders are bad, it’s just a matter of choosing your poison – but he seems a poor fit for the quasi-heroic role he’s been thrust into for the final arc.
As for Samonji’s somewhat confusing turn, it’s looking more and more like his goal all along has been to commit suicide – to punish himself for what he feels he did to Reika, and to take out as much of the fighting capability of both sides as he can while sparing Unit 8 from combat. It’s hard to see any other reason why, after chasing the Ingelmian forces away from the Great Wall, he would choose to disobey Cayenne’s orders to occupy and regroup and plunge forward with his army of marionettes.
At this point it seems the role of Unit 8 is to try and save Samonji from himself, which is going to have to happen via Jamie’s plan to re-take Argevollen by using her own “Look at Me” attack. But there’s a lot more going on here, because Holmes has seriously made his move. He’s finally taken out Lontar (who’s been working with Vitriveld, just like the two old generals on the Arandas side who’ve been feeding him Arandas’ troop movements) and seems intent to use the gift Samonji appears to be presenting him to amass as much power to himself as he can. But to what end? Does he intend to use Samonji’s captured puppet squad to lead the invasion of Arandas himself, or – as seemed likely earlier – does he see honorable peace as the goal that’s worth pursuing, rather than fighting a war for the enrichment of a corrupt military-industrial complex?
As others have pointed out, we’re almost at the end of Argevollen and none of the major characters has died yet – which, while, certainly dovetailing with Samonji’s quest, seems rather unlikely for a war story. Lorenzo could hardly have raised a more classic death flag than by asking Akane out – and on an open channel no less – and Richthofen is at the front, too, with no guarantee that Sturm Beta is going to be subject to Fascination. So it’s a pretty good bet that there will be blood in the finale, and not just the blood of B-list weasels like we saw this week.