20 CommentsManga Driver / By Scamp /

Manga Driver – Arpeggio of Blue Steel

arpeggio of blue steelVolume Count: 6 (ongoing)

One day, out of nowhere, a race of sentient, hyper-advanced battleships called the Fleet of Fog appear across the earth and blockade the entire human race onto land. The humans fight back and, despite being massively behind technologically to the battleships, they do far better than expected and capture one of the ships. The Fleet of Fog reason that this is because the humans used strategy and tactics, while the Fleet of Fog have no concept of time so cannot learn from the past or predict the future. How they come to this conclusion in the first place when they supposedly can’t learn isn’t explained, probably because it’s a glaring plothole, but anyway. The Fleet of Fog decide to create their own humans to command each of their own battleships so they can-

Look, basically it’s moe anthropomorphised battleships.

For a concept created simply so the mangaka had an excuse to draw both cute girls and giant battleships, Arpeggio of Blue Steel has a remarkable amount of thought put into its world. The politics behind how the world reacted to the appearance of the Fleet of Fog is explored in quite a lot of detail, and the manga focuses on how the politics and alliances work after that. The early volumes are about the politics behind which country the main character has to sail to because they can’t necessarily trust other countries, or even differing political forces within Japan itself. The science going on behind the ship battles in incredibly in-depth. You can tell the author is a massive navy-nerd with the amount of technobabble that goes on.

Arpeggio_of_Blue_Steel_v01_c05_180+181.neuquant

I just wish I knew what was going on in those battles sometimes. There will be these massive two-page spreads of a battleship firing its supercharged interdimensional laser, with the ocean splitting like they’ve got Moses on board and giant explosions and waves crashing into the sides of the ships. It’s pretty impressive to look at, but there’s so much detail I can barely tell one ship for another. For the first battle in the manga, I genuinely didn’t realise until after that there was apparently 3 ships taking part rather than just 2. I admit this my own fault as I’m terrible at reading manga and can never tell what’s going on in action scenes.

I’m not going to take the blame for struggling with the tactics though. The technobabble is not just there for its own sake. All the terms they throw out actually mean something. You need a bloody glossary to keep up with the battles, which the manga does helpfully provide. Remembering them all is difficult since fuzzy science like nanomachines and interdimensional lasers are mixed in with sonars and torpedos and resonance and actual real science, but you still need to know your acoustic torpedoes from your corrosive torpedoes. There is a lot of thought put in though, so I do kinda like digging into the broader concepts of their weird science fiction, even if I am rather confused by the fact they still use sonar when they can literally part the sea.

The world building and politics are a little easier to follow, and since the science usually ends up tying into the world, the two sides complement each other quite well. The actual main story is a bit of a let-down in comparison. It’s about this gang of college graduates who have taken command of the one Fleet of Fog battleship humanity have commandeered and how they play into the much larger role of the world politics. It could be interesting certainly, but again the author has trouble conveying all that information in an understandable fashion. The manga starts halfway through the story for whatever bizarre reason. They already have the ship, one of their crew members have left, and all sorts of other things have happened by the time the story begins. I really don’t understand why they did this, since it means you have to get used to a boatload (hur hur see whut i did thar) of characters right off the bat while trying to piece together the timeline of events at the same time.

Arpeggio_of_Blue_Steel_c30_008.neuquantArpeggio_of_Blue_Steel_v03_c17_166.neuquant

On the character front, I love the main character’s dad because he’s basically Gendo Ikari. I also like that the Prime Minister of Japan is a mute in a wheelchair. However the characterisation can be a bit all over the place, particularly with the battleship girls. The idea with them is they’re supposed to be not used to their human form and start developing emotions but don’t know how to deal with them. The one girl they do this properly with, the one with the massive coat, is probably my favourite character in the series precisely because of how they explore this side of her. On the other hand, a bunch of the other girls appear with their personality already in place, which neither makes a whole lot of sense and can also be super annoying when the girls fall into tired stereotypes.

If I’m feeling cynical, I’m willing to bet the stereotypes evolved out of the author wanting to appeal to popular archetypes for easy popularity growth. As the volumes go on, the less shots you get of massive battleships and the more it focuses on hot girls. Don’t get me wrong, the tsundere heavy cruiser does have a fine ass (now there’s a line I never thought I’d type). But if I want hot girls, I can go pretty much anywhere. However if I want a manga with massive battleships, I go to Arpeggio of Blue Steel (and maybe Zipang).

Despite all my belly-aching, I do quite like Arpeggio of Blue Steel. I wouldn’t have read 6 volumes if I didn’t. But I definitely prefer the ideas to the execution. If they did make an anime of it, there’s a lot of things I think could be improved. They could make the fights easier to follow, the story start at the actual beginning rather than halfway through, cut out some of the less important characters, and while I’m wishing for the improbable I’d also like a dakimakura of the tsundere heavy cruiser please.

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20 Comments

  1. Seppuku33
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    “the tsundere heavy cruiser does have a fine ass” Hahahahaha! That made my day!

  2. Fumoffu!!
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m deciding to just read whatever manga you happen to read as a way to get myself into it (because I’ve never read manga before). The main problem with manga is that I tend to read it far too fast. I started reading parasyte the day after you blogged about it, and will probably finish it tomorrow.

    Anyway, for another manga to read this looks kinda amusing. I’ll probably give it a go.

    • Seppuku33
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      I marathon manga as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a problem bc if you find it gripping, naturally you want to read more. It’s like how people finish novels in a day or two. The same can be said for almost any form of entertainment really.

      On the other side of the coin, pacing yourself is wise as you get more time to digest and reflect on the material. I watch 2 episodes of an anime a day while biking at the gym. For new seasons, I wait each week for a new episode to be released rather than marathoning it. However, the wait for Attack on Titan is killing me after that amazingly intense last episode! After I watch an anime or read a manga I give myself a few days to let it sink in before I start another.

      So I do both but how fast I take in something depends on the situation.

      Also, how do you add an icon on your post?

      • Hanasra
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Right, if you find it gripping, you would hardly notice as time passes through and realized you just read dozens of volume or chapters.

        By icon do you mean avatar or…?
        For avatar, you need a gravatar account that tied to your email that used for posting on this site.

      • Scamp
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been marathoning manga at the moment, but I’m sure I’d turn to a volume a week once I’ve been reading them for a while.

      • Seppuku33
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for helping me with the avatar. I appreciate it.

  3. Hanasra
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Arpeggio of Blue Steel drawing on battleships and its political and worldbuilding is fantastic. I really can’t have my focus taken away when the battle began or when a political character make their first appearance(The MC’s Father beard is awesome, and so does the crippled prime minister). The moe anthropomorphisation (perhaps) have its place there, since ships referred in feminine manner from ancient time. I never really bothered about them though. But it is true that their appearance become even more apparent that the battleships or political event itself, which is a letdown for me. I really hope though that those moe anthropomorphisation back to become side dish and have both the naval battle and political event return to its state as the manga main course. I mean, come on, have those awesome character have their places too, not just moe anthropomorphisation showing their ass off.

    Also, Musashi is the best girl (ship).

    • Scamp
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      Pah, not a chance. Haruna is the best ship.

      …yo, just realised how confusing this would be if people started talking about their favourite pairings, or ‘ships’

      • Pusswookie
        Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:38 am | Permalink

        “Yo dawg we heard you like shipping…”

  4. Stef
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Sci-fi, politics, battleships, cute girls and wheelchair-bound mute prime ministers?! God bless Japan.

  5. fathomlessblue
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    I pretty much agree with you; it’s not a perfect series but I do enjoy the general concept of Arpeggio. I do need to get back into it though. I stopped around 2-3 volumes in, & at this stage would certainly need to start over again to remember all the terminology & motivations.

    Anyway, good stuff!

    • Scamp
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      If you stopped 2-3 volumes in, I’m pretty sure you haven’t got a chance to see the tsundere heavy cruiser’s fine ass yet. So yeah, you should probably catch up

  6. Seppuku33
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    I like this change of pace with the manga posts. Is there any other manga that you recommend? I’ve never heard of this before and experiencing something unique is right up my alley so thanks!

    Speaking of experiencing unique entertainment, I’m glad that your overall top 30 and individual lists are varied and not generic. I would have passed off JoJo as being too over the top if it weren’t for the posts. Now I can’t get enough of it. I’ve been reaching out for anything under the grossly broad term of “good” no matter the genre, category, or release date. You three have some interesting tastes that usually coincides with mine. Thank you.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      Glad to be of service! Those top 30 lists are exactly for folks like yourself.

      Can’t really recommend you any manga since this new Manga Driver project is supposed to be me getting into the medium. So errr, read Parasyte?

      • Seppuku33
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

        When you said cried over the same manga that has DICK HANDS, my curiosity peaked. Hahahaha!

  7. IssacandAsimov
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Well, if you like it, I probably will, too. Our approaches to anime are eerily similar, so why not our approaches to manga as well? As yet another on the train of people lacking sufficient experience with manga, I really appreciate your move into this territory. These articles are poised to become my second most anticipated ones on this blog. You’re really refining my time wasting. Thanks.

  8. Chipp
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink
    • Scamp
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Booo Seiji Kishi booooo

      Fully CG animated by Sanzigen? Errr, yay maybe?

      • Chipp
        Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Yeah fuck Kishi and that stupid sriptwriter, I hope they won’t ruin Danganronpa too.
        The pic with the announcement doesn’t look that 3D-styled though.

  9. Hanasra
    Posted June 1, 2014 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Just come back catching up with the manga after I put it down for no reason in the past, it still good as ever. The fight it still engaging, the technobabble is still important, and the politics keeps thickening. For me the recent battles become esier to follow than the earlier one, though Ark Performance still have troubles telling the story narration especially when the perspective changed.

    And rereading your impressions with the new knowledge recently shown in the manga, I would to point a few point: (1) The Fleet of Fog probably come with that conclusion in your opening paragraph after they received their mental model, exchanging information between them and do a retrospective; (2) In regard to some ships have an established personality, I think this is have to do with the fact that some ships received mental model earlier than the other. Even when they capable of creating one, some of them even refuse until their superior ship in the fleet forced to do so. Of course, some of the new ships still completely eclipsed by Haruna in term of persoanlity, but since they aren’t the focus of the ongoing plot they would served as eyecandy just fine. Though things that bother recently is that some of the mental model design is kinda stupid. Fortunately it not reached the level of Kantai Collection stupidity.

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