I finally got around to finishing Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen last night, and for a full-season robot show, it was a pretty enjoyable ride. It didn’t really innovate anywhere special, going for a run-of-the-mill war story, but like Full Metal Panic, they had to throw in some gimmicky hardware to spice things up. But unlike FMP, it actually stayed close-to-the-chest and finished out decent enough, with a few issues.
It’s a war story, but it’s a tragic war story, or so we’re told. Frankly, it has about as much to do with war as Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book. We’re never told really why Arandas and Ingelmia are fighting. It might as well be about buttered toast. But we assume the usual suspects of land, resources, and power, but they did say unification in the beginning. Even still, it was difficult to put this in any other frame of reference other than “We’re just killing each other for fun… with robots!” Along comes Independent Unit 8, commanded by the quiet and stoic Samonji Ukyou and XO Suzushiro Saori.
But it involves robots, and I love robots, especially when they’re real robots. Real in the sense that there aren’t any backpacks, bullshit Kira Yamato plot shields, and bit funnels. The Trail Krieger seemed like the most clunky robot, and a perfect explanation for why both sides were stalemated. So from the start, you thought “Hey, this’ll just be a good ol’ fashioned war story, right?”
Good ol’ fashioned capitalism and greed kicks in, with a borderline-super robot controlled by your MIND. Okay, fair enough, that can’t be that bad, right?
Tokimune just screams overeager soldier, trying to fit in where he doesn’t really want to. The guise is finding out what killed his older military sister. Without Argevollen and Jamie, he probably would have been Angst McShinji and this would be a different show, but thank god for Jamie Hazaford. She was the element that cut the tension this show tried to portray but fell short on more times than not. Behind her, we had a dynamic support cast of male and female characters that stood out more than the main characters. The female mechanics, the trailer operators, Seeker, the other pilots, everyone felt more fleshed out at times than Tokimune, and for those who expect their main characters to lead the show, they were probably disappointed. The mid-game character route for him was to finally explain the circumstances of his sister’s death, and her connections to Samonji and Suzushiro, but when that confrontation happened, it was muted and weak. I get having a lot of respect for someone maybe takes some of the heat out of your anger for his lack of explanation for your sister’s death, but since they tried to build that up through the first half, your expectations fall flat.
But speaking of flat, for me, that was the second half, and ending. It’s one thing to have a mind-controlled robot, and the origins of the system powering that robot, but mashing an anti-war sentiment against pro-war/pro-soldier, and corporate influence themes just made things silly. Schlein Richthofen being set up as the mid-boss, completely putters out when we find that overuse of the system causes the crazy, followed by the (non) twist that the robot manufacturers were driving the war, culminating in Samonji driving a bunch of unmanned robots. Richthofen was an after-thought, a weak boss at best, serving one, maybe two episodes as some kind of rival that never comes to be.
Gundam Wing’s ending in full-force, because the goal of any sufficiently advanced army is to eliminate the need for fleshy mortal meatbags piloting your robots in war. It’s even worse when Samonji mutely tries to show emotion by driving himself into some self-deprecating sacrifice for the sake of some guy’s sister who had an ideology he didn’t initially agree with until she died. It wasn’t a bad ending, but it just wasn’t the ending I might’ve expected a stalemate war’s beginning to start.
In the end, like Butter Battle Book, it ended with two sides on a wall, holding their weapons, casting doubt on what their next action is going to be. Like all cold wars, this one stays frosty. At least until Argevollen: Destiny.
Title: Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen
Sub Group I Watched: Horrible, Crunchyroll
Rating (1-10): 8