The world has been divided… the oceans are no longer safe, taken over by a mysterious fleet of incredibly advanced sentient ships known as the Fleet of Fog who appeared out of nowhere, blockaded all of the world’s ports, and cut off all communication by air or water – effectively isolating the world’s nations from each other and causing the gradual decline of civilization. One of these ships was recovered and kept in dry-dock, but all attempts to try to access it or even study it have led to nothing…. until one day, years later, when Chihaya Gunzou – a young outcast at a Japanese naval academy – approaches it, it begins to show signs of activity…
As mentioned, the Fleet of Fog’s ships are sentient – they operate without crew or captain… mostly that is. Many of these ships have ‘Mental Models’, physical representations of the sentient aspect of the ship that are able to act independently from the ship. Our main character’s ship – the I401 – is represented by a small, blue-haired girl named Iona. It is in this form that she first interacts with our protagonist. After being awakened by him, the one command she has is to make contact with him.
This contact provides us with a form of prologue to get some basic introduction to things, but it doesn’t work all that well. This slow start, and this attempt at introduction completely fails at both creating intrigue and grabbing attention. To be quite blunt, it was very difficult to push myself to watch past the first episode…
I am glad I did, though. It is here that you begin to be introduced to the various other Mental Models of the Fleet of Fog, and that you begin to see the way things really are in the world. The Fleet of Fog, meant to be sentient but completely and entirely devoted to a code they call the ‘Admiralty Code’. begin to start acting of their own desires and it is in this that the real story unfolds.
Like many recent anime releases, this show also features a bit of a harem vibe, with multiple characters showing an awkward level of interest in Gunzou. Not to the level of a lot of anime these days, but it’s definitely present. They use this to show development from these Mental Models as they gradually lose their blind devotion to their Code, and begin to show true personalities. It is in this that the real interest of this show can be seen…
Fortunately, the show takes some time to poke fun at the harem concept itself with a few interesting counterpoints… they’d be spoiling some pretty good scenes to go into too much detail, so I won’t – but it does create some of the most entertaining and humourous moments in the series.
War for the Ocean
While this show does have a pretty strong focus on the characters, and the story is really fascinating… they also do a lot of ship-to-ship warfare. Like most ship-based battling, there’s of strategic discussion on the bridge accompanied with your actual battle. Fortunately, thanks to the fact that the technical terms are kept fairly self-explanatory, you’re rarely left wondering what they’re talking about. And the action itself, while slow, is quite interesting – although the outcome is rarely a surprise.
The concepts seen here are not exactly completely new, but the way they’re applied to the show creates a unique and engaging show – once you get past that slow opener. With good character development, a well-used sense of humour, and accessible jargon, Arpeggio of Blue Steel is a show that I find myself wishing wasn’t going to end with just one season. Oh… and the opening is addictive and entertaining.