After a week or so of trying to get my thoughts together, I think I’ve failed in that endeavor. I’ve been embroiled in this little title called Tom Clancy’s The Division, and to be honest, I didn’t think I would like it. But still, the release to DVD and BD of a movie did get me off my desktop and into my laptop for this post. I just hope by the time I’m done writing this, it doesn’t take me a week to write it.
Arpeggio of Blue Steel -Ars Nova- Cadenza
The movie continues off on the anime’s themes of free will and order. The story takes place after I-401 delivers the vibration warhead prototype and blueprints to the United States, then the only country stable enough and with enough in-house resources to produce it. The crew of the I-401 is out searching for the Fog Super Dreadnaught Yamato in order to negotiate a peaceful end to the hostilities without a continuation to the war.
This is made more important as the Fleet of Fog, through Shouzou Gunzou (Chihaya Gunzou’s traitorous father), announces their intention to exterminate humanity if they do not lay down their arms and dissolve their governments and place their care under the Fleet of Fog. In this we are introduced to the last of the Kongo-sisters, Hiei, the ‘President’ of the Fog Student Council consisting of the aforementioned Fast Battleship and the Myoukou sisters Heavy Cruisers. From the calm and collected Nachi, Hiei’s right-hand sniper Myoukou, the ever annoyed speed-freak Haguro, and the super-genki (and poor Maya substitute) Ashigara; their goal is to stop I-401 from mucking things about in the week-long timer to mankind’s destruction.
The movie also reveals other things, on why Iona, as a mere submarine, can outmatch ships way past her weight class or even enhanced capabilities. While having a human crew helps, it seems though, when Musashi defeated Yamato several years prior to the main series start, she had imprinted herself, or a portion of herself, into Iona’s core. While alone, Iona is no match against Musashi, it is with Yamato’s help that she is able to keep her ‘individuality’ until it took on a life of its own.
I think the best bit of it was when Kongo reappears in the battle in the Bering Sea, where talking with Iona, who at this point had been locked away from her ship-form by Musashi in an encounter in Vladivostok, was unsure if she was truly herself, or just a puppet of the Yamato core embedded within her. Kongo, having at this point given in to her own individuality, has been wandering the seas in her own peace, not joining Blue Steel but not returning to her duties as a Fog Flagship. She tells her one time foe that regardless of what her actual purpose in existence is, she herself, as Iona, will always resound in her heart as Iona. Not as Flagship Yamato’s backup or a puppet, but someone unique.
And that I think, is the key to the whole movie, which has taken a bit of a meandering way of getting to this point. It isn’t until we were halfway into the movie did we finally see the actual conflict between Iona and Musashi.
The background to all of this was that, when Shouzou embarked on his fateful voyage, he had met with the two Fog Super Dreadnaughts to negotiate an end to the fighting, and it was at that moment that Yamato and Musashi created Mental Models to better promote dialogue. While Yamato was quite friendly with the Japanese captain, Musashi was more of a shy child, and only really opened up in the end. Sadly Shouzou’s crew didn’t agree with his talks of peace and murdered him in sight of Yamato and Musashi, leading Musashi to fill her own core with hatred. Yamato, more understanding of what had transpired, nevertheless allowed Musashi to kill her. All this was revealed to Iona in Vladivostok, of Yamato’s fondness of humanity and of Musashi’s hatred of em, for killing their (her) ‘father’.
The entire second third of the movie was Iona coming to grips with the fact she is, as Musashi has said, Yamato’s puppet, the carrier of her core, and merely acting on the whims and final wish of the older Super Dreadnaught. Kongo though sees through Musashi’s hatred, as did all of Blue Steel. Iona is Iona. Regardless of what kind of order Musashi is trying to impose on the Fog and of Humanity, the Fog has irreversibly slid into disorder and chaos and they didn’t even know it, by creating Mental Models. To emulate humans to beat human, they became human.
While Musashi may be right in that Iona exists only because she shares Yamato’s computing power, very little of Yamato is evident in Iona until the end, where she accepts her dual personality and becomes the Admiralty Code, and ushering in a new era for both Fog and Humanity. And even then, in the memories and hearts of many others, Iona is her own distinct personality. It may be she was a puppet, a means to an end, but like all the other ships with Mental Models, she developed her own personality.
Hyuuga’s eccentrics, Takao’s tsundere, Kirishima’s tough-yet-soft personality, Haruna’s shyness, and even Kongo’s majestic, mourning-yet-free spirit. All of them are proving to be just like humans. And this isn’t even taking into account Hiei and the Myoukous, no matter how much they claim to not want to be like humans, but are. And Musashi herself, a child in mourning, and creating substitutes for her ‘father’ and yearning to be with her older sister.
Among others, Kirishima and Haruna listening to their ‘captain’, Makie was also nice. The fact that Blue Steel was able to fight on-par with an overwhelming force is to be commended, most likely due to the influence Gunzou and Makie had on the respective ships. On the other hand, I did like the Myoukou sisters having unique equipment that befits their personality. The surprise of the movie really was Kongo, with the full sized Grand Piano on her foredeck, representing Maya. Her changed appearance is beautiful, even if it’s in all mourning black, it shows a completely new style compared her former self.
In terms of the new characters introduced, Ashigara is a clear favorite. I think I’m a bit unfair in saying she was a poor substitute for Maya, but she was fun as a character and did like her personality. And I think I’m just a sucker for such characters, the fangs she had didn’t help. It’s like it was the chuunibyou stage of KanColle’s own hungry wolf on-screen. But apart from her and maybe Nachi, there really wasn’t much screen time to really get connected with the characters.
I guess to end my own rambling, the Arpeggio of Blue Steel movie is a nice end-cap to the anime series. The anime series that has to strike its own path due to the much better manga storyline, and it crafted itself a story of self-discovery and one’s place in the greater scheme of things. And of free will and just being accessories to something greater. For fans of the series, it may seem a little lackluster, and it was a tad slow to get to its point. It’s a very nice point, but I think there was more fun to be had when the movie was showing combat between Blue Steel and the Fog Student Council. It isn’t great, but wasn’t bad either.