A (qualified) defense of Arpeggio of Blue Steel - Ars Nova
I have been rather down on Arpeggio so far but its ending actually managed to change that; not because the ending is great by itself but because it forced me to change my idea of what the show was about. I still don't think Arpeggio is great but for me it is now somewhere on the decent to good line.
(My reconsideration started from the thought that the ending felt pretty satisfying, and then I wound up thinking why it was that way despite what happened in it.)
On the surface Arpeggio presents itself as the action-adventure story of Chiyaha Gunzou (and his ship and crew) making a dangerous trip from Japan to the US to save humanity and fighting their way through the Fleet of Fog to do this. This is what you'd expect from the premise and from the presentation of most of the episodes, although as time goes by you may notice a certain amount of digressions from this straightforward plot. As this action-adventure story the show is, well, competent but unexciting.
But this is not really what Arpeggio is about. It's really about the ships of the Fleet of Fog (and Iona, I-401, Gunzou's mysteriously renegade ship) and most especially the battleship Kongou, leader of the hunt for Iona and Gunzou. They are the real protagonists of the show and the most interesting characters (not Gunzou or his crew); as a result of this, they get all of the character development and the ending of the show is a resolution of Kongou's story. This whole aspect is actually decently interesting, affecting, and well done, with some real twists to it. It's also not obvious as the show played this aspect reasonably subtly (by my standards, and admittedly I can be kind of oblivious to things).
As a straight up action-adventure story of the I-401's trip from Japan to the US, Arpeggio is kind of a bust; it has acceptable battles but it's no Girls und Panzer or Yamato 2199 (and the ending is going to disappoint you). As an action-adventure character story about the ships of the Fleet of Fog, it's actually reasonably interesting and decently done and the ending fits. As a result I now have a rather better opinion of the whole thing than I did before.
Written on 27 December 2013.