The core to the fun of the Arpeggio experience is the 80s-esque naval combat; multi-layered, adaptable strategies that focus on overcoming a big resource deficit with tactical mastery. This week saw that in spades, as Gunzou’s squad had to come out with a win in a 2-on-1 with their biggest gun out of the picture and only 6 effective shots left. What actually won the battle wasn’t the most innovative twist in the world, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes. The battle itself was a thrill to watch unfold, topping itself repeatedly with increasingly larger barrages of heavy weaponry while still not defying the universe’s physics and keeping the sense of fluctuating advantage that defines an engaging confrontation high.
One of the other key advantages of the tightness of the battle is that I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the crew of the I-401 just by seeing how they handle crunch time minutes. Kyohei’s panicky, Sou is relatively unflappable, Iori is a shockable but ultimately brass-tacks kind of person. One aspect where the shoe is still lagging behind is in the characterization of the Fleet of Fog ships/avatars. Iona is getting there via her interaction with Gunzou and the crew, but the more malicious ships have a ways to go. Kirishima was, for all intents and purposes, a vindictive pillar man whose main contribution to the episode was aggression and suggestive posing.
Haruna’s word-collecting came off as more of a tic or gimmick than a real personality trait, but it does hint that she’s got an introspective nature that could spur some more interesting growth in the wake of their loss this week. I wonder how much time the show will have to do full character arcs for her and Takao while keeping the plot moving forward, but we’re also getting the point where this show is a very legit contender for the #5 spot in Fall’s average sales sweepstakes*, so there might be more than 8 episodes to maneuver in when all is said and done.
*Weekly Amazon Preorder Heat Check
1. Infinite Stratos
2. Kuroko’s Basketball
3. Kill La Kill
4. Little Busters Refrain
5. Arpeggio of Blue Steel
6. White Album
7. Non Non Biyori
8. Unbreakable Machine Doll
Aside from Strike the Blood, which has been surging up the rankings to number 13 overall in about a week, the only real competition Arpeggio has for that top 5 spot is Non Non Biyori, which rode a totally deserved bump from episode 4 into a week in the top 100. It’s been ranking slightly above Arpeggio for a few days, but it’s come down somewhat today. Barring any huge changes, the number 5 spot competition likely boils down to those 3. Not that winning it actually means anything – they’re all at least break-even unless somebody hazes a voice actor during a live promotional event.