What They Say:
A shipment of the latest model of Trail Kriegers arrives, along with a new pilot, but while Unit 8’s combat strength is greatly increased, the enemy Ingelmian forces have received upgraded technology as well. As a mysterious Ghost mech, piloted by Richthofen, wreaks havoc in the Arandas lines, Tokimune Susumu and the Argevollen are thrust onto the front line of battle repeatedly.
Meanwhile Jamie worries that while Tokimune’s linkage rate has continued to climb, his ability to control himself seems in jeopardy. As the two sides repeatedly batter at each other in a heavy metal slugfest, it seems that the only winners in this war are the companies supplying military equipment to both sides. The carnage continues and the mystery of what happened to Tokimune’s sister will finally be revealed in the second sense shattering collection of ARGEVOLLEN!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo where it uses the DTS-HD MA lossless codec to bring it all together. The series is one that works a fair bit of action into it but it comes across more as a character driven show amid a country in chaos with war descending on it so it’s more focused there. The action sequences for it certainly work out well, though there’s a kind of restraint about it that plays more to it being a somewhat realistic approach to war as opposed to a big, flashy event. The impact is given to the mechanized units they use, the weapons themselves and vehicles, but it doesn’t overdo it and make more of it than it is. The dialogue side is fairly straightforward as there’s nothing added to those inside the mechanized units and most of what the cast does is straightforward center channel material without a lot in the way of directionality or placement.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this series are kept to one disc as it’s a monolingual release with some room to spare. Animated by Xebec, the show has a rather solid look about it overall with some good attention paid to the military design aspects and the Argevollen itself. The CG blending with the rest of the animation works well for the most part as it doesn’t stand out in a glaringly bad way and the color design for it is solid and problem free. Colors in general are good throughout without any problems such as breakup or noise and the high fluid animation sequences hit some very good notes when it gets moving in the action sequences. The series has a good sense of design about it and the transfer captures it well to make it feel like a well realized world.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray cast that holds the single disc inside. The front cover artwork essentially reworks the idea behind the first volume as we again get Tokimune and Jaime in the foreground, though this time they’re looking confident and almost smirkingly aggressive. The Argevollen gets the background nod once again, with Samoji mixed in there as well, with the mecha in an action post to change it up a bit The layout works well enough with a concrete background that gives it a bit more weight while the green on the bottom adds a bit more color. The back cover is fairly traditional with a shot of another of the mecha looming dark and dangerous along the right while the left breaks down he premise of the show in a decent way. There’s a decent selection of shots from the show, a nod to the episode count and that it’s the first collection as well. The production credits are cleanly laid out and the technical grid breaks it all down in an accurate way. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is very straightforward as it works off of the cover design elements in a good way, giving it all a bit more of a pop of color to it. The bulk of the screen is given over to the image from the cover artwork of the Argevollen and the cast, though zoomed in slightly while the concrete background is expanded to flesh it out more. It’s got a good look to it and works to set the tone of the show well enough from the start. The navigation side works the green and silver color theme well enough with the episodes by name and number along the right but it’s mostly just straightforward and without too much to connect it to the show itself. Everything loads quickly and easily both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
The opening half of Argevollen is a series that I really wanted to like because I enjoy a good range of military/political shows that combine some good mecha to it while attempting to play it a bit more realistic and straightforward. The setting in its own world, a conflict between two nations where there’s a long history of conflicts and other recent acquisitions of lands and smaller countries means there’s already a built-in sense that there are important things happening. Combining that with some decent mecha designs and working off an original story that didn’t have to adhere to cute girls and other serialized cliches had me hopeful.
Unfortunately, the first half of Argevollen really didn’t work for me a whole lot, mostly because it felt like it didn’t quite know what it wanted to do and really was unable to establish compelling characters across the board. The weak foundation essentially makes the second half even more untenable because it requires you to have made the investment in it and carry it forward. The show spends its time balancing between three main acts that unfold and connect towards the end and while there are moments where it does click and work well enough, it’s an in the moment kind of thing and not something that changes your overall view of the narrative. The result is that you like these small areas and keep thinking about how it could all really come together better in some form.
The confliction between the nations is something that has its own twisted path along the way and I do appreciate that they attempt to spend time with the upper layers of the military structure to show how some of them are dealing with it. It comes more from the Arandas side since we know more of the lower structure that gets pulled upwards at times, but I found myself interested in what was going on with Ingelmia since there’s an attempt by a subset of the intelligence side of the operation that sees that the leaders are weakening in their resolve and looking for a way towards peace without an ongoing conflict. That has some dangerously subversive and traitorous moves going on in an attempt to gain power and push forward towards the goals of conquest and I like how it drew in some of the military proper side players from Ingelmia as well, even against their better judgment simply because they knew that going against people like this would be even worse. The downside is that you never really feel or connect with any of these players so it’s almost like a montage element that’s just more drawn out and with dialogue.
Tokimune’s storyline through a lot of this has some interesting moments as well as we see him continuing his use of the Argevollen – at least for a little while. Events play out in a bad way for him early on during one of the more intense fights he gets involved with and there’s a kind of level of violence coming from him that, while not unhinged, does not do him any favors in perception of him from those above. While independent units are sometimes given more leeway, they’re also easier to write off because of it. With the way Tokimune goes too far it ends up landing him with some real downtime and being removed from the Argevollen for a while. Where it has the potential to become interesting is in that Jaime learns that there’s a kind of violent tendencies syndrome that pilots of the machine can suffer from. There’s an investigation into that which spans a bit of time, but the frustration I have with the Argevollen as a whole really does come down to the fact that so little information is given to the mechanics and Jaime to really work the machine. It’s experimental, yes, and there are trade secrets, but it plays out in poor form here because you do begin to lean in the direction that it’s best not to use it because you have no idea what dangers are really being hidden within it.
So with Tokimune on the outs for a while with it, we do get some downtime that helps to humanize everyone a bit and some fluff moments that gives them all a little more personality, but nothing that really cements anyone as an interesting character. It allows for the quiet before the storm with the fight that hits, with Captain Samonji ending up in a next-gen experimental machine that has its own issues. The Perfevollen isn’t a surprise as things have to have the ante upped along the way, but since we were so little invested in the Argevollen and Samonji wasn’t exactly a compelling character either, it’s hard to care as he almost seemingly “goes bad” in a way here and we get this weird mix of it seeming like Tokimune and Jaime have to save him even though he’s working the battle in a way that would killed them. The poorly structured narrative and storytelling simply can’t help smooth out the ending big sequences of the war, which while they do have some good action moments are little more than that because of everything else that has come before. It brings the three storylines together but with the problem in that none of them were well realized.
I love supporting original works, I love mecha series, and I’m a fan of well done political and military oriented storytelling. Bringing all of those things together felt like it was going to be exactly what I was looking for yet the end result just doesn’t connect. While there are flaws that are simply inherent in it from the start, the biggest issue for me in the end was that the characters simply never felt compelling or interesting. The basics were given and even that felt simplistic and by rote when you get down to it. As it progressed and things got more serious, the lack of really connecting with any of the characters or feeling invested in the war – for either side – just made it worse. Combine that with lackluster opponents at best and it just doesn’t work. Fans of the show will definitely like what they get with the release, however, as it’s well put together and looks great, so they can most certainly enjoy the show.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 12th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.