Active Engagement Through Timed Comments: Arpeggio of Blue Steel

Arpeggio of Blue Steel was a very nice anime, a naval-themed series with throwbacks to space-based anime of the 1980s, a light-hearted gear that popped up at all the right times, and loads of ambitious 3DCG animation. And it didn’t go unnoticed in Japan – the series itself was a huge success which moved disks and manga volumes alike. Too, just about an hour after this post is scheduled to go up the 19th annual Animation Kobe Award ceremony will be held, honoring, among others, Arpeggio of Blue Steel’s Director.

All of the above are macro indicators of how Arpeggio went over with audiences, but not so much on micro level ones. It’s kind of natural to wonder which parts of the series were the ones that won the largest fractions of the audience over – was it the bear-suit gags, the tense battle scenes, the quotable quotes, or the plentiful new-school takes on the Itano circus? Those questions are exactly the sort of thing a time-sensitive method of anime analysis is built to shed light on, which is why we’re about to take a moderately deep dive into Arpeggio’s scrolling comment history.

For more information on this analysis method, see this similar post on Ping Pong The Animation, or this introductory post covering particular episodes of Shingeki no Bahamut and Carnival Phantasm.

Comment data for each 10-second interval of show tape is assigned a z-score based on how it performed relative to the baseline of its episode. Data can be found on this doc and is plotted below:

(Note that the himado videos suffer a slight time discrepancy with the crunchyroll versions of the episodes; the former are 24:30 and the latter are 24:20. Presumably this is due to the former videos including sponsor titlecards, so I adjusted accordingly for the timing of things post-OP by going back 10 seconds before the data said the interval was supposed to start.)

arp1 arp2 arp3 arp4 arp5 arp6 arp7 arp8 arp9 arp10 arp11 arp12

Let’s take a deeper look at what these graphs are actually saying – what were the most engaging moments of the series? There are at least two ways to attack this question. One, which individual 10-second intervals had the highest scores? Two, over what periods did the show keep a positive score the longest?

Largest Z-scores:

Over the 1800 10-second intervals measured, there were a total of 31 10-second intervals which recorded a z-score in excess of 3. 5 of these occurred during OP/ED credits, leaving a total of 26 actual blips to sort through. That’s 26/12 episodes, a high blip/episode ratio relative to the series I’ve already studied (compare 16/12 for GochiUsa and 14/11 for Ping Pong). As for what in these moments might have led to that kind of comment density:

25a. Episode 11, 1350-1360 seconds (3.17)

Kongou shows up after absorbing Maya, decked out for all intents and purposes like a Death Star.

25b. Episode 7, 500-510 seconds (3.17)

-Hyuga internally fantasizes about spending romantic time alone with Iona.

24. Episode 6, 1100-1110 seconds (3.18)

-Iona shows up to rescue Makie and Haruna from the forces pursuing them.

23. Episode 1, 90-100 seconds (3.20)

-The introductory battle sequence ends and the show begins to introduce the broader setting.

22. Episode 9, 480-490 seconds (3.27)

-Takao and Maya get into some dueling laser-beam action, and Takao delivers her “Ai wa Shizumanai!”/”Love will never sink!” line.

21. Episode 5, 750-760 seconds (3.35)

-Haruna gives Kirikuma away to Makie as a gift.

20. Episode 5, 310-320 seconds (3.55)

-Haruna displays a significant contrast between her personality when she has her trademark longcoat on as opposed to when it gets taken off.

19. Episode 12, 1380-1390 seconds (3.57)

-In the ending montage, Takao’s body is restored to functionality.

18. Episode 9, 210-220 seconds (3.61)

-Takao shakes hands with Gunzou (and reacts to said handshake).

17. Episode 10, 1420-1430 seconds (3.64)

-During the “Carnival da yo!” scene, I-402/400 explain to Kongou what Maya actually was.

15a. Episode 10, 1390-1400 seconds (3.67)

-During the “Carnival da yo!” scene, Maya’s program starts to go buggy.

15b. Episode 11, 140-150 seconds (3.67)

-Hyuga offers to be Iona’s human chair, which is met with flat silence from the entire bridge crew.

14. Episode 7, 160-170 seconds (3.73)

-Takao is found sleeping with a body pillow that has a crude sketch of Gunzou on it.

12a. Episode 8, 1040-1050 seconds (4.02)

-During the beach party, Iona has a side-chat with Kongou while Kirishima floats face-down in the water.

12b. Episode 8, 990-1000 seconds (4.02)

-During the beach party, Makie messes around with Haruna by taking her coat away repeatedly.

11. Episode 11, 290-300 seconds (4.12)

-See #8 below

10. Episode 8, 890-900 seconds (4.20)

-The start of the beach party scene, showing the cast enjoying the grilled food.

9. Episode 12, 1460-1470 seconds (4.24)

-The end card for final episode. Presumably mainly discussion/opinion-sharing.

8. Episode 11, 280-290 seconds (4.25)

-The cast fake-mourns Takao, who cuts in mentioning that she is still alive.

7. Episode 8, 930-940 seconds (4.37)

-During the beach party, Kirishima plays in the shallows.

6. Episode 6, 1260-1270 seconds (4.42)

-Haruna asks Makie if she wants to be friends with her and Kirishima.

5. Episode 3, 1010-1020 seconds (4.61)

-See #1 below.

4. Episode 4, 1310-1320 seconds (5.05)

-After the end of the battle, the show cuts away to Makie for the scene where she finds Haruna.

3. Episode 6, 840-850 seconds (5.19)

-Kirishima, while in her bear-body, defeats a pair of soldiers in CQC.

2. Episode 5, 700-710 seconds (6.18)

-Kirishima, attempting to conceal her identity while hiding inside a stuffed-bear body, blows her cover by reflexively eating a carrot.

1. Episode 3, 1020-1030 seconds (8.10)

-Takao reads a (fairly primitive) picture book describing what a ship’s captain does.

By my count, that’s 15 blips based around comedy, 5 cooldown moments with the audience likely sharing impressions, and 3 each based around drama and visual spectacle. For the third time in three shows, blips show a predominant bias towards comedic content. Also noteworthy is that the top jokes in this one were particular standouts – the highest z-score recorded for either of the other of two shows was 6.12, and we’ve got two here that beat out that number, one by a mile and a half.

Longest Periods of Positive Z-score:

There were a total of 7 periods in the series where z-score stayed positive for more than 90 seconds (compare with 10 for Ping Pong and 2 for GochiUsa).  I’ll be focusing on the 4 longest ones like I did in the Ping Pong breakdown. Clips are low-quality, no-subs ones that I cut mainly for informational purposes; you can find better versions of entire episodes on the official crunchyroll page.

4. Episode 4, 1130-1250 seconds

-The end of the battle that the episode focused on, from the point where Iona unloads her entire payload on Haruna/Kirishima to Haruna’s go-to quote (that was neatly parodied in one Kirikumas short).

3. Episode 12, 1140-1270 seconds

-After a drawn-out combination battle/dialogue, Iona finally gets through to Kongou and the two become friends.

2. Episode 1, 0-170 seconds

-An interval including both the opening fog fleet-UN battle sequence and the beginning of the battle introducing Iona and her crew..

1. Episode 10, 1300-1480 seconds

-More or less the entirety of a single scene wherein Kongou gets deactivated by I-402 and I-400 for being in violation of the Admirality code. Notable particularly for Kongou’s reaction to the revelation that Maya was a non-sentient spy robot the whole time and a malfunctioning Maya’s “Carnival da yo!” dialogue.

Like Ping Pong, these “streaky” scenes tend to be more focused around drama and action. They also stand out as some of the stronger scenes in the show, lending further credence to the idea that this may be a fairly meaningful way of dissecting a show.

The overall prognosis from this particular case seems to profile Arpeggio as something of a good Hollywood movie, one which thrived with lots of well-placed humor and high-grade special effects. You know, the sort of attributes that would make it well suited to a theatrical version. From a broader analysis perspective, these findings mainly support what I’ve already found – “blips” happen for well-received jokes, “streaks” seem to happen during money scenes intended to showcase what the animators, writers, and storyboard-makers are capable of when running at first gear.

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