Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova | Review: Ep. 1

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…

I’m a sucker for sci-fi in most of its forms. Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova interested me because of this, it’s a futuristic show where the main focus is naval warfare. Of course there’s more of a twist to it than just that though, the ships are controlled by humanoid bodies referred to as mental models, each boat having a body with a unique personality and look. Contrived? Maybe a little, but it’s fun enough to look past.

vlc 2013-10-09 00-12-37-16Arpeggio follows the outlaw crew of the I-401: Blue Steel, a ship that was originally developed in secret by the government before it was helmed by our main character, Gunzou Chihaya.

The show introduces us to his character, and touches upon his crew, in a flashback across two thirds of the first episode. The last third giving us a brief introduction of what the Blue Steel will be facing out in the fog.

The structure feels a bit off and could maybe have been better handled over the course of two episodes as it seems the show both wants to rush to get to the fun life of Gunzou as a outlaw captain while still insisting on giving us the full rundown on what happened before that. Apparently the original 2009 manga left this flashback out and just jumped straight into the action, for better or worse.

vlc 2013-10-09 00-10-25-19I mentioned that the episode only touches up on the rest of the crew, so it’s hard to give any detailed thoughts on them. But someone I can give thoughts on is Iona, the mental model body of the Blue Steel. While she’s presented as a somewhat emotionless almost robot-like person on the exterior, Iona manages to be really interesting. She clearly has a personality and her own interests in some regard, which something I hope is explored further.

vlc 2013-10-09 00-10-58-19The big thing that people have been afraid of regarding Arpeggio is the visuals however. This show is entirely animated in 3D animated CG. All the characters are celshaded CG and it shows.

While the characters in focus actually manage to look really good despite this, every single background character is modeled with far too little care and animated with such stiffness they might as well just left the backgrounds empty.

In order to look more like a 2D animation, the show renders the animation on the human characters at a lower frame rate than is common for CG. It does make it all flow better as you can kind of trick the brain into thinking they’re drawn frames, but it just begs the question why they didn’t just go with 2D animation if they felt the need to try and mimic it. Despite initial discomfort however, I did find myself enjoying the animation as the episode went on and we do need a stepping stone towards better technology now and then, maybe Arpeggio will be that stone.

vlc 2013-10-09 00-08-40-17The music is glorious as well. There’s a memorable tune that plays when the Blue Steel rises from the depths in the flashback of the episode that is still stuck in my head as I’m writing this. The opening theme is great too, offering a rocking tune that I can see ranking high this season. As for the voice acting, not enough characters got to speak enough this episode for me to speak on it as a whole, but I did recognized the lovely voice of the actress Yukana (Code Geass, Pretty Cure) when she appeared toward the end of the episode, and that’s awesome.

Experimental shows can leave a weird taste in your mouth before they set in properly, but Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova manages to instead just leave me excited and wanting more. It’s far from perfect, there’s no doubt about that, but I can’t wait to see more of it.

Episode Rating: 4/5 – Unsinkable… Probably.

Series Available on Crunchyroll


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