Arpeggio of Blue Steel is one of the more unique anime I’ve watched. The Fog is a fleet of sentient warships and submarines equipped with technology that is centuries ahead of anything nations can muster. The Fog quickly cut all undersea cables, destroy communication satellites, and trounce every navy in the world. Countries are now isolated and unable to trade over the seas. Now, imagine a world where there was zero trade between countries. No more Toshiba computers or Nintendo systems. No bananas. No coffee or chocolate. Unfortunately, the anime fails to convey this point well. The impact of the Fog is profound. On top of that, many nations have lost all communications. The United States is cut off from all other nations. The Japanese government is uncertain if the US still exists until a single communiqué managed to be pushed through the Fog’s blockade.
I am a sucker for stories that involve characters becoming human. Data and Seven of Nine from Star Trek are favorites. Eureka from Eureka Seven is another. Arpeggio of Blue Steel has several of the Fog’s mental models, as they are called, learn what it means to be human. These girls (ships are female after all) learn what it means to be something beyond a weapon over the course of the anime. Iona, the mental model of the I-401 is one of the stars of this development.
The production values of the anime are high. Action sequences are interesting and gripping. The technology used by the Fog is interesting as well. The tech is based on nanomaterials and energy fields. The nanomaterials allow the mental models to regenerate their ship bodies and create decoys. As long as the nanomaterials are in supply, anyway. In labs, there are self-healing materials based on nanotech, so this isn’t too far fetched. Although the anime takes this technology into the realm of fantasy when entire ships bind to each other.
A mental model is an interesting idea. Instead of interfacing with a console, you can simply tell the mental model what you want done. She provides feedback in real time. However, it would be difficult to see a girl wince in pain as her hull takes damage from attacks. The anime plays around with this idea. Mental models can exist without her ship body, but her capabilities are reduced. She can generate Klein Fields, as the force fields are called, and use limited nanomaterials. However, the models are useful when they interface with other machines or with each other. One of the main limitations is processing power. Each ship class has different processing abilities.
Arpeggio of Blue Steel is refreshing, It has a unique idea and a realistic portrayal of a world without sea trade and communication. The mental models learning to be human is also a nice touch. The action is well done, and the animation quality is high. It’s not a mecha or high school anime: more points in its favor. Check it out.