At the start of the 2013 fall anime season, I was looking at different synopses for different series. One that seemed interesting to me was for a series called Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova. The description didn’t sound great, but the ship designs looked cool. When the first episode came out, I watched it, but was ready to drop it at any moment. The show seemed low budget and wasn’t well rendered. However, I liked the first episode and decided to keep watching. I ended up really enjoying the show. The story turned out to be quite good and I appreciate the attention to detail throughout.
In the 21st Century, a mysterious fleet of naval ships resembling WWII ships take over the oceans of the world and destroy all means of intercontinental travel and communication, effectively destroying the economies of different nations. The mysterious fleet of sentient ships is known as “The Fog.” Our story starts when the fog submarine I-401 (yon-maru-ichi) appears and the student Chihaya Gunzo comes in contact with it. The ship then activates and makes contact with him via a humanoid figure it possesses called a Mental Mode, under the name Iona. Iona then tells Chihaya Gunzo that she was sent to contact him and become his ship. He then sets out with a small crew to learn about The Fog and save humanity, even if it means losing their home as they become exiles to the Japanese Government.
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Arpeggio of Blue Steel. The ships are characters and I really appreciate how they interact and behave as such. They struggle as they try to find a purpose and search for why they exist. The entire reason, they have human form analogues to understand and figure out how to defeat the ingenuity and creativity of humans. This also begins to raise questions about meaning and desire that were never there before.
I also really enjoy the battles in the show. They are very well planned and choreographed. They blend an interesting mix of modern and sci-fi naval concepts into believable and enjoyable sequences. And finally, I love the ship design. The Fog ships all look like World War Two naval vessels, but glow different colors on the outside and carry an impressive and ridiculous amount of weaponry.
My only issues with the show are its attempts to make multiple characters like the main characters, which is nonsense since they are ships. I do really appreciate the relationship between Iona and Chihaya Gunzo, and I believe it makes up for this. I recommend this show. It is a bit odd at first and the art isn’t the best at the beginning, but the show gets so much better. It is definitely worth trying out. An no, it isn’t as weird as the synopsis claims it to be. Also, the ending is a little bit open ended as there is a movie series in production that takes place after the main story.