The Kingdom of Arandas alliance and the Countries Unification of Ingelmia have been at war for many years. The fortress of the Great Wall has remained firmly closed, but when it creaks open, the complexion of the war starts to change dramatically.
A new recruit, Susumu Tokimune, is waiting for his first battle. He takes the lead without thinking of the possibility of being trapped, and has a fatal encounter with engineer Jamie Hazaford and the Silver Trailkrieger, Argevollen.
The encounter takes place in a corner of the world where fighting has become the norm. This small coincidence is going to change the future of Tokimune's Independent 8th platoon, as well as the course of the war.
Allow me to preface this by saying that I find the concept of reviewing anime to be laughable. If you do not like the anime by the summary enough to pick it up, chances are a person will not be able to sell the idea to you. Furthermore, there is always the 1/4 rule, where you watch the first quarter of an anime before deciding to drop it.
The fact that I am making a review is a testament to how much this show caught my interest and became one of my favorite shows of the year.
This show has often been accused of being 'generic,' while
it is anything but. While by all means a show that could be called a 'Real Robot' anime, it is best to not even consider it a mecha-- rather a military drama, that features giant robots. More than anything, we are watching the daily life of a platoon of troops as they move from place to place.
We see tactics of military combat, rather than brute forcing using the super-protype, the Argevollen. While strong, all of the advantages provided by it are primarily a combination of psychological effect (a powerful machine capable of destroying a machine with a kick, while moving far too quickly to seemingly be piloted by a human), as well as the element of the unknown (most of the people who encounter it die, or are captured). And even then, the show constantly needs to remind you in the early part, that what our protagonists are using, is a prototype.
They can't fix it properly due to not having the full manuals on its assembly. They can't equip it properly, as all of their weapons are meant for another model of mecha. They can't change pilots, due to how the OS and UI of the machine was set up, only able to register the MC and activate with the Heroine.
The fights in the early part feel sluggish, as though these machines are not meant to be lightning fast warrior that we are used to seeing mecha portrayed as. It's something new. Another thing that is new, is seeing how easily the machines are taken down-- even the titular mech. We see them shot and shut down/destroyed by artillery fire, or even infantry. Sometimes, they don't even get in their robots.
Combining a refreshing concept for a show that is officially of the mecha genre, we have the character designer from To Love Ru: Darkness working on this, giving us something that is aesthetically pleasing. That is to say nothing of the soundtrack, which feels fitting of a military anime.
Characters all get their time to shine, but sadly for the life of me, I could not remember their names. Too many, but then I realized that most of the names that were memorable, were the nicknames that people gave the characters. This made sense, seeing as how in the military, giving nicknames to your juniors and other colleagues is something that the media loves to portray. It gives a sense of camaraderie.
Overall, I highly recommend Argevollen. If nothing else, you get a show that is unlike many others of the genre.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand Argevollen. First thought that comes to mind is a generic mecha show with warfare and military concepts adapted into a struggle between nations in a world of dominance. The first episode doesn’t stride far from that as we learn the current state of affairs between the two nations – Arandas and Ingelmia. During on brief struggle, we find out that the main protagonist of the series, a young man from Arandas’ 8th unit named Tokimune Susumu is able to pilot a mysterious mecha suit. It’s known as the Argevollen and its potentials can change the course of this
Essentially, Argevollen rides on the war theme quite a bit with its introductory episodes. As an original anime though, this show has a lot of unoriginal clichés. The military warfare between two sides, troubling pasts of the main characters, generic looking robots, and political affairs are just a few to name. In essence, you shouldn’t expect anything very unpredictable from the start of the show. In fact, the series sets itself up like a rock ready to be thrown. It has all the concepts and it’s just ready to bounce away at something in front of it.
The main protagonist Tokimune is your typical main guy with the skills to pilot the Argevollen. As the title stands for itself, the series bases off the mecha by its literal term - Silver-Willed Argevollen. This actually has a bit of a meaning besides just a flashy name. Apparently, the show plays around the idea that the pilot and the mecha can become a unit where it can only be piloted by those it accepts. While it doesn’t mold with Sentai tropes (as in the pilot actually transform into the mecha), the concept still feels peculiar. Nonetheless, the show preys on several developing routes for Tokimune. He becomes more confident in combat, improves his piloting skills, and even begins to form interpersonal connections with his other comrades. The most prominent of this is seen with a young woman he saved named Jamie. Although incompatible, there’s an innate connection between the two. The problem is that their relationship really suffers from development. The war drains most of the screen time for this series and leaves room for little else. There are a few breather episodes here and there but most of that is played off vaguely with its almost sarcastic-like atmosphere. Jamie herself isn’t exactly an interesting girl either as she is often worried about what she needs to do. Likewise, Tokimune is a character that I find to be monotonously dull as he is too much of a soldier on the battlefield and less so as a person.
As the series carries on, we learn more about who Tokimune is fighting including against ace pilot Schlein Richthofen. Take their relationship as a sort of archetype rivalry like a snake and mongoose. While Tokimune does have the skill to use Argevollen, Richthofen proves his skills in combat through his natural instinct and abilities. His skills can be easily recognized in the beginning stages of the series as he takes out multiple opponents on the battlefield. At the same time, it’s also noticeable that Richthofen isn’t a cold-hearted man as he values his comrades shown in several episodes when his forces are decimated. Nonetheless, his encounters with the Argevollen brings about the best of what technology can do. And speaking of technology, that’s actually a funny thing to bring up. Technology in this show is very fictional. While it’s believable that mecha doesn’t exist, there are also hardly any other modern weapons of war such as cruise missiles or fighter jets. In reality, the world this show takes place in is more like an example of an alternate universe.
As a 2 cour show, one should also carefully consider investing time with its characters. There’s no doubt that the show has a wide range of characters from various backgrounds whether it’s the serious commander of Unit 8 (Ukyo), experienced pilot Silfy Appleton, lone soldier Masaru Okui, or freshman recruit Namie Portman. Although the show isn’t able to fully focus on all of them on an individual basis, it does succeed in getting people to notice them. I’m not just talking about their roles on or off the battlefield but them as people. Besides Tokimune, we learn more a bit more about their characteristics, background stories, and even their purpose being part of the war. And to be honest, that is quite important as reasons is what drive people to do things such as fighting. Likewise, Tokimune’s reason regarding his past involves his sister as he plays an avenger-like player in their cruel world.
Throughout the course of the show, it’s also easy to ask questions yourselves about the purpose of the war. There’s also certain aspects of themes involved such as the propaganda-like atmosphere going on. Surprisingly enough, there’s a decent deal of realism (not counting the world and the mecha suits). War efforts can be felt similar to actual world wars with what commanders do to obtain absolute victory. This includes strategic sacrifices, authoritative discipline, and even potential coup among its country’s factions. I think the message the show is trying to achieve is to depict the reality of what war is like and how no one should be a doorknob. While it can feel repetitive and seemingly endless, the show never deconstructs itself from what it started originally. It can get to some people’s skins after they realize just how much the show tries to fire up their premise. Yet from my perspective, this show finds itself having fun at times with the story it has set up with its characters and concepts.
On most parts, artwork is pretty standard. Although I don’t have anything big to complain about, most of the character designs are just downright dull and generic. Almost everyone has that military-like expression whether you’re a newbie pilot or commander of a unit. The fact is, the character designs are belong average with little to write home about. On the other hand, we do have some creativity when it comes to mecha designs. The most-talked about robot would obviously be the Argevollen with its sheer metallic design covered by silver scales. Looking at it carefully, the Argevollen is the main mascot of the series for both its innovative design and symbol of hope. Other noticeable designs include the Trail Kriegers, which takes the form of walker-like war machines. It’s a war after all people.
While not very prominent, the soundtrack does play some noticeable roles throughout the show. For starters, the OP and ED songs has a serial-like war theme with its experimental tones. Meanwhile, the second ED song of the show depicts more of sadness, perhaps the horrors of war. In retrospect, OST is moderate on most parts although it can strike quite the cord during climatic battle scenes. As the show lacks comedy on most occasions, there’s also a quiet feeling for emotional scenarios and conversations. Dialogues remain very straightforward though so don’t expect any prude jokes except on rare occasions.
There’s no denying this show is about war and what it means to both sides. If the first few episodes doesn’t get you into the war-like atmosphere, then consider Argevollen enter your on-hold or drop list. There were times when I considered how a 2 cour show can build itself with all these overused archetypes. In fact, it gets to be increasingly difficult to craft a plausible show based on something so hackneyed. But looking at it carefully, the show manages to keep pace with itself. It’s not just the premise or characters but the overall development of what it’s trying to execute. Either on or off the battlefield, the show doesn’t kid around and maintain its mature atmosphere. It settles with the reality of war through death and destruction that doesn’t kill itself by just bringing in casualties. No, instead Argevollen combines general clichés with a list of generic pieces to fuse it into a big puzzle. Whether you want to be part of that is up to you
Argevollen isn't as bad as people made it out to be after the first episodes rolled out. It was a rare and appealing experience to a military history fan in that the plot structure is often focused around the political and military dynamics of the conflict. Unlike in a lot of other anime, we're simultaneously privy to the strategic momentum of the war from both sides' perspectives, their internal divisions and agendas, as well as progress on the field involving a whole array of tactics and plans. This means that there's more to it than a screaming protagonist smashing bad guys. Unfortunately he just has
to be there in the first place.
Indeed, to be blunt, none of the characters in this show were good. They had so much time in the quieter filler episodes to make things interesting, but the dialogue and artistic direction outside of action sequences really didn't hit the mark enough to create memorable character-based moments and foster genuine character development instead of empty sentences thrown back and forth between Tokimune and Jamie. There was a lot of time wasted on the numerous side-characters whom it's hard to really connect with except on a very basic level, such as the primordial charm of the two other pilots of the Independent 8th (though don't be expecting them to receive any development at all). This is especially true of Namie, who was simply a plot device from start to finish. Moreover, although it was supposed to be a story based in war, there's a distinct lack of tension and tribulation. Nobody ever seems to feel under pressure, everyone is always clean, laughing and comfy, dramatic emotional sequences are kept to a minimum, we're very rarely exposed to the grimmer sides of conflict, and throughout it feels like we're watching a bunch of kids pretending to fight a war for a school play rather than the real deal.
To be fair, however, it's an action and plot-driven show rather than one based around characters, and things were kept fairly interesting for me because apparently unlike a lot of other viewers I'm quite happy with a bread and butter of honest warfare between two sides and some background political/technological dynamics that keep you guessing how things will end up. There were sprinklings of good drama at odd points though perhaps not enough to warrant the wooden characters and attempted seriousness of the mood most of the time.
Essentially it's the SAO of mecha to me - very fun and watchable when it sticks to its guns (literally) and gives us plenty of high-class action, but usually falls short when it tries to be deep or create interesting characters.
Some notable complaints about this show in other reviews are: it's one dimensional characters, paper thin story, lack of character development, by numbers, mediocre, run of the mill. You get the ideal. All these issues do exist and I'm aware of them. So by now you're wondering about the nine. It's because I DON'T CARE! This is exactly what I want! Hot mech on mech action without whiny teenagers! Following the curved line to the hot mech on mech action! First of all, the enemy is other humans, not monsters, or robots, or aliens, or demons, or lucifer hawks etc. but other people piloting the
enemy mecha. There's not enough of this in anime. Characters are one dimensional, so much so that they only fill their roles with no deviation. And it's fine because they are a well oiled military machine working together for sometime. So this getting to know you process is reserved for new characters as it is in real life. The animation is sluggish in the first 12 episodes but they find their rhythm and style around this point. The character distinctiveness is rough in the start but as characters fulfill their roles their identities become clear. But I love how the 8th independent unit is mere pawns in this chess board of war. They can't single handedly win the war. The argevollen is not the last hope for winning this war, It's battles are part of the war as a whole.
There's nothing better than getting EXACTLY what you want in an anime and that's what I got here. war, mecha, human enemy, no whiny teens, a sense of the world they live in. I loved every second of this.