Arpeggio of Blue Steel
Humanity is cut off from ocean travel due to a mysterious invincible navy blockading the earth. The Fleet of the Fog make no demands, instead simply waiting and sinking any ship or aircraft traveling over the sea. Nations aren't fairing well with international ties cut, and the situation is becoming increasingly desperate.
Gunzo was a naval cadet when he first encountered an odd girl named Iona. Iona is in fact an avatar for a ship of the fog: the submarine I-401. Gunzo goes freelance with a few fellow cadets. With the only ship effective against the fleet of the fog, he's in an enviable position. Gunzo is hired to deliver blueprints for a powerful new weapon. It's the first of its kind found to be effective against the fog, but it's believed only the United States has the resources to mass produce it - assuming the U.S. still exists. However the doctrine of the fog won't allow them to pass easily.
When I watched the trailer, I was stoked. Awesome looking sci-fi naval combat anime? Yes please! My hopes of a great anime were dashed as I realized Japan is determined to take interesting ideas, and funnel them through the "generic anime crap" filter. Yet, I still liked this anime. Provided you can accept the reasons to watch Arpeggio of Blue Steel are essentially anime girls and explosions, it's a decent watch.
Anime Girls: While I looked forward to the naval combat, I quickly saw where this was headed when it's explained ships of the fog have girl avatars. Unsurprisingly, they have the usual catalog of personality quirks. While they add a personal touch to the ships of the fog, they're clearly pandering service in most cases. Some I found annoying, but I did at least like the blue haired girl.
Explosions: Arpeggio of Blue Steel utilizes 3D animation in a way rarely applied to anime. This gives life to minor details often left out, like the occasional breeze blowing through hair. When utilized for action combat scenes, it truly excels; great stuff far above what you'd expect from a TV anime. With so many girls using huge guns, it's disappointing they don't destroy the biggest problem of this anime: the central male character.
Gunzo is the amazing wiz kid out to save the world. He has no personality, and is cited as being a "master strategist", although it's mostly due to "good instincts" (of making it up as it goes, since they can't think out a proper plot based on true strategy). Iona is the main female lead. As an emotionless doll type character, she and Gunzo do not work well together. As the anime mostly revolves around these two, I found that detracted from the show quite a bit.
Is that all? No, there's a story too. Some side stories aren't bad, and the main concept is interesting (what's told so far anyway). With so many mediocre points, I'd hesitate to recommending this one to the lack of conclusion. Even so, Arpeggio of Blue Steel isn't bad provided you're clear on what you want to see (anime girls and explosions). Much of the anime comes down to "stuff happens", but in this case it's enough to pass the time.
Takao: If it's you Captain, I'm fine with showing you... everything. Like my engines...
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