The Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide ARGEVOLLEN
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team, Jul 2nd 2014
Review: Shows like ARGEVOLLEN remind us all that the Sunrise “mech story cliche” gets picked on a little too much sometimes. You know the setup. An ordinary teenage boy is going about his ordinary teenage life when tragedy strikes him close to home and a very special robot tied to the war far outside his normal life comes callin’ for his pilotry. With either hesitance or blind rage, the young pilot joins some part of the ongoing war and is embroiled in conflict between forces that may not be pure good or pure evil alongside other pilots his own age, often serving under adults with dubious motives. It's a tale as old as dirt in anime, but it works for a reason.
Giving us an every-boy to root for puts us in a position of universal understanding for his emotional state and problems, as well as his ignorance about the war and just what he's getting himself into. Imagine if the protagonist was a soldier, fully prepared and trained for his job, in a war between unknown forces that doesn't seem to involve him personally at all. That would be boring. (That would also be ARGEVOLLEN.) The Sunrise model may be a little long in the tooth, but with a few gimmicks tacked on, it can continue to capture the attention of new audiences. Maybe the mech gives its pilot a vampire curse, like in Valvrave the Liberator. Maybe it travels through time, like in Buddy Complex. It may not make the show good, but it's something fresh to spin the old ideas around early on. Falling back on the archaic setup of “guy finds robot, turns it on, and it's REALLY STRONG compared to the other robots” is stakes-less and dry. Guess how ARGEVOLLEN's otherwise dull first episode ends?
What I'm saying is, ARGEVOLLEN is just boring. It doesn't have any new ideas done in any interesting ways. It begins with narration about a war we don't care about and ends with the most boilerplate standard “soldier finds the special robot” fight with not even the tiniest bit of seasoning peppered in to hold interest. There aren't any stakes here and there are literally hundreds of other robot shows that start the same way this one does or better. The production values are alright, and it's not too bad to look at, but there's nothing else to write home about. This is only for the starving-est of mech show consumers.
ARGEVOLLEN is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)
Review: The United Kingdom of Arandas, which is wealthy in natural resources and protected by a great wall, has been at war for a long time with the imperialistic National Federation of Ingelmia. Lately Ingelmia's offensives have pushed Arandas back to its main defensive wall, and a new breed of mecha capable of hopping over said wall may finally give Ingelmia a chance to breach it. Newbie mecha pilot Tokimune Susumu's unit is operating well behind the wall when the call to retreat happens. When they chance upon a seeming civilian vehicle being chased by a couple of Ingelmia mecha, he is ordered not to interfere, but being a hot-blooded fool he does anyway. Naturally he gets shot up for his trouble, and while his comrades are trying to rescue him he discovers that the survivor of the transport, a young woman named Jamie, is a technician transporting a prototype mecha called Argevellon, one whose cutting-edge technology could potentially revolutionize the battlefield. And naturally Tokimune is handy to give it a test-run. . .
The set-up and execution on this new offering from Xebec really couldn't be any more generic if it tried; how many mecha series over the years have used nearly this exact same scenario? What is shown in the episode offers not a single fresh twist, not a single reason to think that this series is going to do anything special, and its only vague sign of creativity is the hopping mecha. It even goes out of its way to make the Arandas generals look like generic assholes, so presumably this will also be a series where the colonel and captain figures introduced will prove to be the smart ones and the generals will prove to be worthless. And of course the main military unit being focused on has a basically even male/female mix, too.
So why is this one getting a halfway decent rating anyway? Because for all that it is run-of-the-mill in every story and characterization aspect, it is still put together pretty well. It looks good, is animated relatively well, and painstaking detail is devoted to the way the mecha move. Too many mecha series devote too little effort to actually making their mecha's movements look mechanical, and this one does it better than most. (And Jamie punches Tokimune. It deserves points for that.) Still, the series is going to have to show more than just that to stand out from the crowd.
Argevellon is currently streaming on Crunchyroll..
Review: I want to be witty. I really do. But it's hard to think of anything fun and original to say about something this utterly ordinary. It's not even the bad kind of ordinary; the kind where you can get some cheap shots in about how bored you were. Argevollen is ordinary, but in a meat-and-potatoes, mom-and-apple-pie kind of way: common, comfortable, and enjoyable. And like mom's apple pie, you've had it so many times that the ingredients and sensations are as familiar as your own features. You've got your sci-fi world, where two warring factions are caught in a mecha arms-race. You have your crackerjack unit that is for some reason a military outcast. You have your spunky, mouthy mechanics. Your tough-as-nails lady lieutenant. Your eccentric but brilliant commander. Your hot-blooded rookie pilot. You have your cynical politics. Your enemies led by a speechifying despot. You have your muscular mecha design: bipedal weapons that look like ugly, functional killing tools. You have your solidly-assembled mecha action, with emphasis on real-life movement and real-life risks. You have your reasonable thrills, your reasonably involving characters, and your reasonable possibility of romantic entanglement. When the crackerjack team sends the rookie and the lieutenant to observe a civilian transport under enemy attack, you know what the rookie will do. You know what's in the transport. And you know who's going to end up piloting what's in the transport. And yet, for all that you know everything that's going to happen before it does, the big rumble at the end is still fun, with a nice little edge of realism (the rookie has a hell of time getting the swing of his new machine). And there are some little surprises, the fiery lady contractor who ropes the rookie into piloting being the most delightful. Unmemorable, but not unlikeable.
Argevollen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll..
Review: How do you make a mecha show kind of dull? Wait almost seventeen minutes before the hero gets in the fancy new humanoid mech, spend the previous sixteen minutes showing either military dudes talking or clunky old mecha clomping through the forest (or the hero grimacing), and then just for kicks throw in a theme song by KOTOKO that's the most exciting part of the whole twenty-three minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Argevollen.
The story is set in a world where two neighboring countries separated by a Great Wall are at war. We are following Arandas (the guys in green with grey mechs) as they wage a desperate battle against Inglemia (the guys in blue with purple mechs). Inglemia appears to be winning the war and is in the process of taking down the Great Wall which has protected Arandas for untold years. When the Arandan generals refuse to stand and fight, choosing instead a safe retreat to the rear, the troops are told to retreat. This is how they spend most of the episode – plodding through the lush green forest, Tsukimune (our hero) griping and grumbling all the way. As they're wandering along they spy Inglemian forces attacking two civilians in a large truck. Unable to stand it (and because our hero has to be one of those guys who, despite being in the military, isn't good at taking orders), Tsukimune rushes to assist the young blond who is trying to get the truck open. The woman, Jamie, isn't happy to see him until she realizes he's a pilot, because guess what she has in her truck? A brand-new prototype mecha. The episode ends with about three minutes of Tsukimune kicking Inglemian butt, so it at least ends on a more interesting note.
None of this is to say that Argevollen doesn't have its positives: it takes pains to show us how the old machines work so as to highlight the benefits of the new, totally without narration so that the images do the work. Likewise the way the machines move is distinctly different in the case of all three types we see, so visually there are some nice features. The show also isn't afraid to show the horror of war, so it is very likely that things will pick up as the show gets going. It has real potential, but as far as first episodes go, this isn't particularly captivating.
ARGEVOLLEN is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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