Rule of Three Review: Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen – Episodes 2-3

Calling a show “competent” is really damning it with faint praise, but if the combat boot fits…

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Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing particularly bad about Argevollen. In fact there are a lot of things that, on paper, mean I should appreciate it quite a bit. A mecha show that focuses on adults in the military rather than child soldiers. A mixed cast with women in “non-traditional female” roles as combatants, mechanics, and businesswomen (all in subordinate positions, mind you, but still, it’s a start). A story that is diligently paced, competently executed, and thoughtfully planned out. All of these are good things.

…And yet, my feelings every week are ones of mild interest bordering on slight boredom. I just can’t seem to care, and after three episodes, I ought to care at least a little, right?

The problem, really, is that while everything is utterly competent, there’s nothing here to really latch on to. The plot is straightforward and coherent to a fault: two nations at war with one another, fighting with “Trail Krieger” mechas, locked in something of an arms race. It’s a fine premise but there are no world mysteries to uncover, no plot points to unravel. (Plus the CG mechas are just a tad under-animated, so that they seem to plod along rather slowly, making the action sequences much less interesting than I think they’re supposed to be.)

So with a plot that’s solid enough but doesn’t leave much in the way of intrigue, my investment in the story hinges on the characters, who are… honestly, pretty indistinct. There are a lot of them and while there have been flashes of round edges we haven’t seen enough of them to care – the story is too focused on the episodic “missions” to spend enough down time letting us get to know the soldiers.

And the one character we HAVE seen enough of (our MC, Tokimune) doesn’t do much for me. If anything, I find him a bit out of place, as if an action hero got plunked down at a real-life military base. Jamie has more to her in terms of potential backstory and motivation, but her character is based almost entirely on her relationship with Tokimune, which means she ends up feeling as incongruous as he does.

There are anime seasons where Argevollen would have stayed on my schedule simply because it wasn’t doing anything wrong, but Thursdays this summer are busy days and there are a lot of shows doing things right, too. Simply put, I don’t have any real reason to STOP watching this show, but now I need a reason to KEEP watching it, too.

Well, Episode Four looks to be a “day of rest” style episode, which will be a nice change of pace at least. This is the series’s last chance to connect me with its cast and make me care about their battles. If it can’t, then I’m going to have to call this one a failed mission.

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