In the year 2059, the earth has been plagued by aliens for several years. In an effort to learn more about these aliens, Dr. Noguchi and his assistants Maki Agata and Takuto Kaneshiro try to revive the professor's experiment, a large Bio-Mechanical alien named Frank. During this process the alien comes to 'life' and the lab is subsequently destroyed leaving Takuto the only survivor and the alien disappearing into the wilderness. While Frank roams the wilderness he meets Hattie, an emotionally distressed young girl whose parents are killed in the first 'close encounter' war. Oddly enough she is able to communicate with Frank and soon after they are taken into custody by a secret agency known only as 'Funeral'. Meanwhile, Takuto wakes up in a hospital bed with his life in shambles, and his face disfigured. Motivated by vengeance and heart break, Takuto accepts an offer from the mysterious 'Mr. X' and receives a new identity as a ranking Funeral officer named Ryu Soma.
When a show is described as a "hidden gem" or "obscure title" it immediately brings to mind something that you've stumbled upon by happenstance with no prior expectations. These are the titles that come in and out of focus partially thanks to the presence of much more all-encompassing shows made around the same time period. It's a common occurrence that spans across every medium but perhaps most notable in anime where only a handful of shows per year are thrust into the limelight, while the rest are left to gather up dust and become yet another mortared in brick to support the weight of the Juggernauts on top of it. These "hidden" titles were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Like 2015's superhero show Concrete Revolutio, which unfortunately had to compete for the views from the much more popular One Punch Man that aired that same season, or even self-indulgent pandering titles like Sword Art Online which ultimately received a far bigger viewer base than the other 2012 title made by the same author, Reki Kawahara, Accel World. Had these shows aired at a different time the chances of it receiving more attention could have been amplified, for better or for worse.
And when it comes to being at the wrong place at the wrong time Argento Soma could not have picked a more unfortunate release date, being produced during a time period where many titles with even the slightest implementation of Bio-Mechanical mechas and distressed pilots were quickly dismissed as "Evangelion clones". Other notable examples include RahXephon, Fafner of the Blue Sky, Gasaraki, Betterman, Brigadoon, Legend of Black Heaven, Mugen no Ryvius, Dual Parallel Trouble Adventures and much more that received that label for either legitimate reasons or simply for the sake of grouping anything remotely similar under the same umbrella. But does Argento's dismissal have any merit? Well sort of, it does pattern things similar to Evangelion with biomechas, a mystery revolving them and tone that had the same brooding ambiance. But that's where the line is drawn, Argento doesn't stay under the thumb of Evangelion and quickly blossoms into its own entity. To quote the words of the infamous ThatAnimeSnob, "Argento Soma, is to me a deconstruction of Neon Genesis" and honestly that serves as a fitting description. Instead of following the trendsetter at that time, it instead challenges it in a way not seen before. Argento Soma is a "hidden gem" if there ever was one.
Starting off in a semi episodic structure, we're introduced to our protagonist and residential edgelord, Takuto Kaneshiro, who, like many others, find themselves involved in a lifestyle where the military's far-reaching hand becomes a part of everyday life thanks to an ever-present threat of alien invaders. After a series of unfortunate events he found himself in a officer role for a sub-group of the military called 'funeral', which was formed as a defense group against the invading aliens.
The biggest precursor that should be brought to your attention before watching this is the show's pacing. Argento Soma is a methodical show that doesn't rush its narrative but slowly builds upon it before reaching its penultimate 3rd act, where all its careful planning exfoliates into a much bigger concept. It's a slow burn that takes its time putting the pieces of the puzzle together before unveiling the bigger picture in store. If the idea of a slower paced brooding title something you can't get behind I suggest watching this at another time when you're ready.
The benefits of this slower first act of the show can be seen with the metamorphosis of our protagonist as well as the side characters that make up his surrounding environment. As already stated in the synopsis, Kaneshiro is motivated by vengeance which gives way to a lead that's enveloped in a lot of mental grief and suffering due to his circumstances. He's possessed by this idea of getting even with the aliens that robbed him of his normalcy and happiness, and it's seeing this mindset mold him that initially brings a great deal of intrigue to the show. While the first half of the show is dedicated to a "monster of the week" formula, it never plays center-stage to the characters involved. In fact it could be argued that the first half is merely there to flesh out the world, give weight to the increasing alien threat and more importantly to add dimension to our cast of characters in what is a case study that help reveals what makes them as individuals tick.
But despite the need for a slower paced show in the first half it's still a case where cutting off a bit of access fat wouldn't have tampered but improve the show's overall value. While it benefits from the time dedicated to making everything from the plot to the characters have merit, it also works as a double edge sword for those that simply can't be bothered with a show that moves at a pace far slower to what is commonly expected. This as a result has caused the few that have heard of it to either dismiss it altogether or shy away from it after getting wind of the unwarranted "Eva clone" mantra. This anime suffers not because of the actual content but because of the jaded anime audience that surrounded it. As condescending as this statement may sound, this anime is intended for a more refined viewer, someone that understands the fundamentals of proper writing and the need for carefully planned build up to give later events more substantial impact. This is the difference between a person taking the time to appreciate the fragrance and taste of aged wine as oppose to simply swigging it with apathy and the intent of getting shit-faced.
The show never view things through a ideological lens but rather allowed the content to speak for itself. This made the decisions on the part of the characters to hold greater meaning. No one was "good" or "bad" but simply being human and making whatever decision they deemed to be the best one. This sense of moral ambiguity wasn't limited to the main character but also those around him as well. And since the characters were primarily made up of adults it lend way for far more nuances in the way these people played off each other than what you'll get from a show with a plethora of teens for a core cast. Adults wasn't simply nowhere to be found while bishounen teens ran around "saving the day", this show had enough integrity and common sense to realize that the inclusion of adults in the decisions taken added a more grounded element to the situation. There's no red head tsundere or detached loli running the operations of the military, but grown competent leaders that think before they leap. Sadly this is something mostly lost in the clutter of anime tropes of today, where young teens seem to be the only characters of relevance... but in a way it's because of tropes like these that the cast of Soma feel so refreshing by default. Of course this isn't to say there isn't any any teens involved, but that the closest thing to it is young adults with exception to one other character.
The art and animation for Argento held up surprisingly well, with fights that have oomph to them and individual movements that don't feel hokey. While there are instances where the show's age becomes apparent, its strengths far outweighed the weaknesses. But perhaps the most memorable inclusion is the striking character designs, which appeared like a hybrid of the sleek models of Casshern Sins and the stone faced appearances of Gundam Wing's characters. To be more specific the appearance of the main character was, for the lack of a better word, cool. He's aesthetically appealing to those who are fans of the more rugged vogue look. Where the character design lost points for creativity was with the aliens themselves which lacked variety, being that it was the same design with exception to the one known as "Frank". It could of greatly benefited with a few more distinct aliens than the carbon copy lineup presented. While it could be argued that that decision to keep them all the same was done to correlate thematically with the show's latter half reveal, it would of still been more inviting had they taken more creative liberties.
The show's soundtrack is a mixbag of melancholic songs that synchronized well with the looming feeling of dread constantly painted over the series. There was also action song pieces in places for more 'intense' moments. While the ost served its purpose, tonally the genres were scatter brained. They were unified under the sense of dread each had but that's it. The opening theme captured the essence of the title quite well, having a bitter swooning vocal carried off by the swelling rise of the instrumentals. The same cannot be said about the ending theme however, which was quite jarring and far too bushy-tailed for the sobering tone the series gave off. It was like if someone started playing the Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" during a funeral session.
But the show does have a fair share of issues outside of pacing, for those bothered by the idea of slow buildup, and that's honestly the choice to name things in a manner that does nothing but scream CAPTAIN OBVIOUS. You see Argento Soma was Sunrises not so subtle attempt of trying to pattern certain name and events after a classical novel, and in this case that was Frankenstein. But outside the first episode and simply naming the found alien revived by a mad scientist 'Frank' and having facilities and organizations named 'Morgue' and 'Funeral', there was very little that paralleled the classical novel. Instead it's safe to say the show only superfluously borrowed these titles and it could of easily been replaced with something else without thematically changing the significance of anything. In short, ignore the relevance of these titles, it's just as irrelevant as Evangelion's pointless theology symbolism and was only there to add flavor to the show and therefore shouldn't be analyzed beyond that. But what the show did have that was thematically relevant was the true concept that it opened up in the 3rd act, but I'll save that bit of information for the spoiler section.
But perhaps the biggest issue the show has comes with the involvement of a character simply introduced as Mr. X, which is something that I will also save for the spoiler section given that my gripes with him can't be expressed without letting the 3rd act be spoiled in the process.
So with the 1st half of the series being dedicated to buildup, it's the 2nd half that Argento Soma really struts its stuff. With carefully foreshadowed clues and moments that exposed new layers to the plot, everything comes together to a reveal that places the show on a league on its own. It stepped out of the realm of usual anime fodder and instead takes cues from cinema, more specifically one film in particular that I'll address in the spoiler section. It's like the slow climb up a roller coaster for the adrenaline filled drop to follow. It took all the mysticism that was hanging over the aliens and people and pulled that curtain away to finally present the larger concept at hand.
(Scroll down to enjoyment section to avoid)
What made the 3rd act so great was what it manage to do. Everything that it basically setup in the beginning resulted in the last few episodes being what I could only describe as 2001: A Eva Odyssey. It took the ingenious vision of Kubrick's film and pushed beyond it by introducing a prologue that showed the genesis of mankind as a species, and the exodus of a new stage of human evolution into a grander sentient being. It's an idea that could of easily crumbled under its own weight but somehow manage to pull it off with such gravitas. And since Argento had already committed to making the show as grounded as possible it made that plot twist far more potent as a result. This isn't to say Argento is on the same pedigree as Kubrick's magnum opus, far from it, but the fact that it manage to take and run with that idea is very impressive. It's truly one of the most spectacular latter half I've seen from any anime. But outside of this achievement the show does have a major plot hole that hurt it towards the end and that was the involvement of Mr. X.
David "Mr. X" Lawrence is by far the worse part of the show because with him brings a plot hole that I felt was a result of poor planning and a split decision making by the studio and writers. Earlier on in the series he was introduced as a sort of "devil on the shoulder" character that seemed to only exist in Soma's head. With his red hair, devilish features and constant consumption of apples (obvious forbidden fruit reference), we as a audience was meant to believe that he was in fact a figment of the protagonist's imagination. But due to what I could only describe as poorly executed retconing this character was introduced as a flesh and blood human being that existed all along. Where the problem lies is that throughout the show he seemed to have the ability to appear and disappear without anyone else outside of Soma acknowledging him, so when the reveal is made that he could of been seen by anyone it rendered many instances of him appearing out of nowhere, from what we were shown, to be bullshit. One could argue that because of Soma's borderline delusional state he simply saw Lawrence at times when he couldn't fully follow his movements and that Lawrence's high techy skills allowed him to evade cameras and personnel but that still leaves the question as to how and why others weren't aware of his presence. This was sadly a plot hole with close to no proper explanation given but one I dismissed given everything else the show was executing so well in regards to the "Space Odyssey" 3rd act.
***END OF SPOILERS****
I've never been one to care about the average scores accumulated by MAL users, but a 6.95 for this show is criminally low, perhaps the most underrated and sadly unwarranted score given to any series I've stumbled upon on MAL. Sadly misunderstood, a show with so many layers it effectively deafened itself to the general populace, and rather than take the time to decipher it, the quicker solution was to subject it to semantics and label it as a "Evangelion clone". I saw this at the right time in my anime viewing experience, I was never bothered by the episodic first half, as I found the characters, world and battles to be intriguing. The protagonist was one I've seen done wrong so many times that finally seeing his type done right was quite rewarding. This was a show that only grew on me as it went along, and after episode 16-18, it became an addiction I couldn't stop watching.
This title is a methodical one that requires patience on the part of the viewer. For those that enjoy titles that slowly crafts and builds upon its end goal, the payout is satisfactory. Anyone seeking instant gratification shouldn't watch this. I don't like advocating the saying of "you're not ready for this show yet", but in all honesty it's something that could only be appreciated by those past a certain threshold with their experience with anime. This is a title only accessible to those well versed in the medium. Until you as a viewer personally feel ready to commit to this series, I suggest keeping this tucked away for a later date. I can't promise the same payout I received, but I can assure that those in the know would appreciate the ambitious piece of work before them. read more
The anime was fantastic, yes the main character may might have been a bit villainous, but he shows his true self in the end. The anime is very mysterious, and it does have its fun moments, but it is a serious type of anime. I personally thought this was a masterpiece, and beats all the junk. Yes it was a bit repetitive in the middle, but it was all in the plot.
Overall 10/10 and it is a must watch, if you think the main character is too "emo" like the other review, then DON'T EVEN bother watching this.
This Anime was almost dropped. There are some problems with this show and they mostly revolve around the primary character Ryu .... err sorry Takuto is his name in the beging and this guy is an exreteme emo! He is a victim and he wallows in it. I won't go into his reasons for victim hood, but I will say that he starts as a emo and ends as one and I get the feeling he would be a wife beater. Needless to say, I greatly dislike Ryu. Fortunately, he is not the only character, more on that later.
Aside from Ryu, there is another annoying aspect of this show, the music. Music was by Katsuhisa Hattori, a famous and accomplished composer / conductor. Argento Soma is a military show, based in the US, so they used military style music, kind of. It was more like music from a military graduation ceremony. Maybe in Japan, that is what they think of when they think of American military music. I don't know, but it didn't work for me.
But wait, the show is based in the US? Well, that is different and I like different. Also it is a military show, meaning adult characters, something else I like. In fact there is only one child, Hattie, in the show and she truly acts like a kid. Wow, an anime that realistically portrays the characters! Now, don't get wrong here, all is not peachy with the characters. Yes you already know I dislike Ryu, the others are likable but a bit shallow. After a few episodes they become fairly predictable but there are some surprises toward the end, so yeah, it's okay. They really take the edge off of dealing with Ryu and any one of the characters can carry a single episode with ease.
There are more things to like fore this is a Giant anime. Giant Mecha, Giant Aliens, and a Giant Robot. Yeah, the Mecha are pretty cool, the design is nice, and I really like the flight conversion, they are pretty unique although a bit underpowered. The Aliens, well they all look the same, but react differently, too bad they have no personality. The Giant Robot, Frank, I think he is the real star of the show. Frank is just a big bruiser, to fix things you just run up and hit it. If that doesn't work, hit it Harder! He also has a thing for young blonds, go figure.
Now the story. You have Giant aliens landing on earth for an unknown reason. The military is helpless to combat them. A special force is formed with advanced mecha to fight the aliens. The name of this force is NERV....... no no no it's Funeral.... Heheh, okay so the basic story is pretty much a rip of Evangelion without the religious overtones or teenage angst. But there is Ryu, he is full of angst! He is Shinji all grown up and he is still a whiner! Still the story does heavily borrow from Evangelion, transplanted to the US with Pilgrimage Point replacing Tokyo. It's okay though, there are no EVA's attached to extension cords, at least not really, there are no cords and the Mecha are not really EVAs , for the most part that is. Oh, yeah, and the ending is completely unlike anything in Evangelion, in fact it's pretty different and unique. Which is why I am glad I did not drop this anime.
Over all, it's Okay. Ryu is nauseating, the music is bad and the story is formulaic, yet I held out to the end and that is saying something. read more
Some anime fans have condemned Argentosoma as another "Neon Genesis Evangelion clone." It does bear some similarites, especially when it comes to the mechas and the secret that lies beneath their armor. Otherwise, they're two different concepts. The scenes and dialogues in Argentosoma are much more serious, while in Evangelion they are often sprinkled with comic relief (like those funny faces) and "fan service." The actions scenes in Argentosoma are often much more intense than those in Evangelion. My favorite aspect of Argentosoma is the character design. It is less "kiddie" and the protagonist, Ryu Soma, is probably the coolest and sharpest looking anime character ever animated. I recommend this series if you like mecha-themes, and especially if you haven't seen Evangelion.read more
Put on your helmets and prepare for the explosions. This is a collection of the 20 best war anime from the thrilling 2D battlefield! So what exactly separates them from the rest? Explosions? Drama? Political intrigue? You name it, they've got it.