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Posted 7/30/14 , edited 8/8/14
by Zerogouki

There isn't a whole lot to say about ARGEVOLLEN. If you've seen a mecha series before, any mecha series, you've roughly experienced it or some version of it. Even if you haven't, things will feel familiar. In the first three episodes, it fails to distinguish itself, but the question of whether it has to is still up in the air.

Things start with an infodump informing us of the status of the world, with two fictional countries at war on a presumably fictional continent. It situates you, but without any real benefit -- Going in expecting something where the nature of the two forces is important, ala Armored Trooper VOTOMS, or that uses a completely created setting to give the characters and the conflicts a chance to stand on their own (for instance, in Pumpkin Scissors) outside of political reality, but the series pivots rapidly into telling a very traditional mecha story.

Susume Tokimune is an inexperienced soldier frustrated with the realities of war and with his inadequate equipment. He charges ahead (violating a direct order, I might add, because he just cares so much!), stumbles upon an experimental mecha and a cute girl besides, and fights back against the bad guys. In the second episode, he struggles to control it and their unit makes a stand against the enemy force.

All of this sounds familiar and rather uneventful, because it mostly is. But I can't in good conscience condemn it, because it's worst crime is not doing more with what it has. The relationship between Susume and Jamie Hazaford, the representative of the company that manufacturers the Argevollen, is rather charming in it's clumsiness, and although it too feels slightly familiar, it's nice that it isn't completely telegraphed and we don't need to wade through any romantic comedy tropes superimposed onto what is ostensibly a serious mecha show.

Visually, it excels, despite not necessarily covering any new ground. The characters look nice, and everything is more or less smooth. The mecha design is quite interesting, and the contrast between the utilitarian, Jeep-like mecha that everyone else uses and the shimmering, techno-organic Argevollen is just lovely. Argevollen itself looks nothing less than a cross between an Evangelion Unit and Kamen Rider Tiger, or if you prefer a more contemporary reference, the main characters from Majin Bone. It's a nice aesthetic, and watching it get rough and tumble is fun and sure to continue to be so as the series rolls along.

Normally, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it without qualification, because I believe that mecha anime is valuable and strong enough that I'd wave the banner for even the most utilitarian series, especially one written by an unsung mecha luminary like Tatsu Sato, the mind behind Martian Successor Nadesico, Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars, and Rinne no Lagrange. In fact, I'm still going to do that, because the potential exists for something exciting here: In a world so lacking in choices when it comes to contemporary mecha series, something serious and old-school like this is absolutely worth watching. It is precisely what it is, and it may not go any further than that, but in today's world, where we lack a traditional Gundam tentpole for our mecha universe, a little imitation Gundam goes a long way.
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