Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Military, Psychological
Age-Appropriateness: 13+ (Violence, profanity, suggestive themes)
TheAwersome Rating: 7.3 / 10 (Not bad)
Premise: In the year 2039, effects of global warming have caused sea levels to rise, resulting in drastic losses of land. To make matters worse, a mysterious fleet of powerful warships named “The Fog” equipped with advanced weaponry emerges and blockades all sea travel, dealing devastating losses to the world’s navies. Seventeen years later, Gunzou Chihaya stumbles upon a captured Fog Submarine which has created a “Mental Model,” a humanoid avatar which sides with humanity for unknown reasons, but only will respond to Gunzou.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: This one was pretty interesting, albeit pretty predictable. The animation style is all in 3D, so it takes a bit to get used to, as basically all non-action scenes feel awkward. Arpeggio does kind of pull a sneaky on you, but it isn’t so sneaky because they kind of spoil the premise in the show’s ending song. What starts out as a “How can we outsmart these alien superweapons using our smart human tactics?” becomes an “A.I. becomes too human” psychological exploration.
The twist here, of course, is that the Fog, to combat smart human creativity and thinking, created Mental Models in order to emulate that ability. The issue, of course, is that once you fully understand your enemy, you understand their motivations, their joys, their emotions, and how your actions affect them. I’m a sucker for the whole “learning to be human” thing (DDLC, Violet Evergarden, etc.), and I really liked the way it played out here.
Overall, I liked this series more than I expected to, despite its flaws of genre-shift, tropey characters, and over-the-top “anime comedy.”
TLDR: Strategic Naval Warfare meets A.I. Becoming Too Human Psychological Exploration.
There is a movie: “Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova Cadenza” that exists but it isn’t on any streaming platforms so I haven’t checked it out.
In reviewing this I feel like Joey in that episode of Friends when he’s eating the trifle that has good things in it that usually shouldn’t go together. “What’s not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Good!” Yeah, the three vibes of this show (Military strategy, A.I. Psychological, Tropey Anime comedy) don’t really go well together, but it’s still a fun ride. Dece soundtrack too.
The manga is available for free with a Crunchyroll subscription, which definitely goes in a slightly different direction from the anime. To be honest though, I prefer the way the anime played out simply because the manga is guilty of shonen-drag (adding endless, mostly needless complexity, and not having any clear arcs). The manga is still on-going, so if you really got hooked by this go ahead and pick it up, but I feel the anime encapsulates the Arpeggio experience well.