This is a first for me. I had read the manga for Arpeggio of Blue Steel before watching the anime. It’s not fantastic, but it had great ideas that an anime adaptation could really improve on. Mostly I was determined to not be That Guy who claims the manga is soooooo much better. Certainly with this episode it’s hard to make any judgement call because most of it was anime original material. In fact, it did exactly what I asked an anime adaptation to do and started the story from when the main character meets Iona for the first time. The manga never even touches on their meeting and starts right at the point where Gunzou is asked to transport the new torpedo. This makes their story way easier to follow and allows you to understand the character dynamics much better. Shame they just did it really fucking badly.
One thing I am grateful to Arpeggio for is it gives me the rare opportunity to talk about bad pacing that’s bad because it’s way too fast. The setup for this episode ended up being quite similar to the first episode of Code Geass, but completely messing up the opportunity for world building and character defining by rushing through the introduction. Take Gunzou’s character. We are told that he has a dad who defected to the Fleet of Fog, but this is told through a character whispering “is it true that his dad defected to the fleet of fog” and that’s about it. It does nothing to establish Gunzou’s character, except a little bit where he’s maybe a little annoyed people say this. In the first episode of Geass, Lelouch plays chess against nobles because he’s an arrogant little shit who despises the uptight nobles and has a chip on his shoulder against the establishment. It’s both just an inherently funny idea that he goes around beating nobles at chess just to annoy them, and does a fantastic job of establishing both Lelouch’s character and giving you greater insight into the world around him.
When Iona shows up and asks Gunzou to board her (hur hur hur), Gunzou’s reasoning comes out of nowhere. He’s apparently angry because he can’t move anywhere? Where exactly does that come out from? It’s terrible dialogue that seems like he’s just chosen that out of thin air. When Lelouch accepts C.C’s offer, you understand why it is he would accept it. The dialogue in general is just terrible. There’s so much “as you know” dialogue where characters explain to each other what the other already knows. I got a giggle from the fact that apparently the entire flashback was told through an “as you know”. The rare occasions the show tries to give the characters personality through their dialogue, it’s horribly forced. “So this is what it’s like to be human” kind of speech. The manga has this problem too, but the anime should have fixed this nonsense. If anything they just made it worse.
As for the animation…[sigh] One day full CG anime will look good. Some day they won’t look like they were farted out of a PS2 graphics engine with low frame rate, stilted movement and bland facial expressions (although the stilted movement at least matches the stilted dialogue). When reading the manga I assumed an anime adaptation would CGify the ship battles, and they are far and away the best parts. The CG there actually works, even if they’re quite unambitious with it. But the people just look so awkward. Their faces look stretched out like it’s a reptile alien creature wearing the skin of a human but doesn’t quite get the specifics. None of the movement looks natural. Something I try to remember during CG anime is that all anime is unnatural with its stupidly big eyes and spiky hair and whatnot. CG anime can look good. 009 RE:Cyborg looks amazing. Arpeggio of Blue Steel does not. Arpeggio of Blue Steel looks like arse.