Argentosoma – episodes 15 to 25 and episode EX

April 30, 2005 on 11:39 pm | In Argentosoma | Comments Off on Argentosoma – episodes 15 to 25 and episode EX

Sequel to this article from two months back.

Despite its clunky start, Argentosoma geared up in its second half to present a dynamic blend of intrigue, twists and drama.

Takuto realises that he is not exactly the nicest person to talk to, through the assistance of Hattie. Watching Hattie lash out and “not shut up” really opens his eyes; she also makes Takuto realise that she is not Maki, and he cannot treat her as such. Their resemblance and shared seiyuu are little more than anime-flavoured coincidence.

The questions of “what are we fighting for and against?” are answered more than satisfactorily, with at least one of the revelations being a true “anime shiver” moment – one where you can feel the impact in your spine (I have had this feeling only two other times that I can remember: once in Nadia, and the other in City Hunter 2). For this reason, Argentosoma graduated to something very special for me.
Adding another layer of excellence is the fact that after the conclusion there is an epilogue episode, set six years later. There is not only the relief of seeing a matured Hattie (she ends up fine, folks – her voice changes!), but also of seeing the growth of the rest of the cast (and Sue’s inexplicable makeover).
This is not the kicker; the kicker is that by the end I had come to love Mr. X. In grand anime tradition, he managed to provoke a strong reaction with his final appearance.

After this is the budgeted but unbroadcast episode EX. It is chronologically implacable, occurring before key events in the series but relying on the viewer to have knowledge of revelations. This episode deals with giving Sue a depth of history and is quite good, if unessential. It is definitely odd to watch after the series proper, but is worthwhile for the hilarious Takehito Koyasu/Horie Yui omake ED.

If anything, Argentosoma exceeds expectations. Patience pays off, and the ED makes divine sense after all!

Argentosoma – episodes 1 to 14

February 13, 2005 on 1:08 pm | In Argentosoma | 1 Comment

For some reason, I am eating Argentosoma. With a spoon. This is not a good thing, as the surgeon general warns against the ingestion of anime. From its ridiculously inappropriate ED to its young blonde girl with her giant black hat, Argentosoma somehow clicks.

In 2059, Takuto Kaneshiro (written onscreen as Takt, but subtitled as Takuto) studies metallurgy in university. Dr. Noguchi calls on Takuto and his girlfriend, Maki, to help him with his devious experiments. Noguchi has been collecting parts of aliens fallen from space and has fashioned them into a “tapestry” that he calls Frank. However, the experiment goes awry, with Frank killing Noguchi (who, frankly, had it coming) and Maki.
Takuto vows revenge against Frank and to that end enlists the aid of a man named “Mr. X”, who may or may not be an hallucination. Mr. X gives Takuto the identity of Ryu Soma. Under this persona Takuto infiltrates the government agency Funeral, who employ Frank to take out the other aliens descending to Earth.
At the same time, Frank has been discovered by a thirteen year old girl named Hattie. Hattie thinks that Frank is an elf, and Funeral now uses her to control him in their battles.

Argentosoma never offers too many plot threads at once, but it has a rather complex set up. Allegedly loosely based on Frankenstein, Argentosoma may be too damned literate. Takuto’s transformation to Ryu is a result of a Faustian deal – and this would not be such a problem were it not for Mr. X, a character that perpetually quotes Shakespeare and biblical verses. There’s nothing good about his character, and this is compounded by the fact that it is not even clear if he is real.

Hattie seems, for thirteen years old, to be fairly dim. Sue at one point asks if she needs help reading, and this is something that seems weird for several episodes – that is, until it is revealed that Hattie was in a coma for five years. This makes the characterisation somewhat more believable, and I do not classify it as a spoiler because this knowledge makes Hattie less infuriating to be around. What makes less sense about her is that she reminds Takuto of Maki – only explainable when it is considered that they are both blonde and share the same voice actress in Japanese.

Takuto has moments of being a total bastard, represented by the disfigured Ryu side of his face, but sometimes regresses to his former self and becomes interested in his work. Takuto’s attitude towards Frank is fairly random, and the “revenge” aspect of the series is ultimately not very interesting. Takuto is made up of too many conflicting emotions to be single-mindedly devoted to something as intense as revenge, so the idea of destroying Frank is only occasionally peddled out.

The other character who gets any sort of interesting coverage is Ines, the female commander of Funeral. Initially she’s just another hard-nosed woman, but through Hattie she rediscovers her maternal instincts. The way that she begins to handle the base and operations becomes, as a result, quite interesting.

The way that the characters intercept is a large part of what makes Argentosoma interesting. All of the aliens look exactly the same, so the action is definitely not what is interesting. Watching the characters work together and forming an actual team rather than a group of people is one of the more rewarding aspects of the series. It is no surprise, then, that the weakest episode features only Ines and a group of talking heads. An episode consisting of twenty minutes of talking heads discussing politics and the social ramifications of the aliens is very difficult to watch. This is the only episode in the series that comes close to boring, a small mercy.

Argentosoma boasts a high-profile cast list: Kuwashima Houko does double duty as Maki and Hattie. Hattie is distinctly against Kuwashima’s type as, since her debut in Nadesico, she has kept to the quieter characters. Hattie has a very high-pitched, squeaky voice. It is no surprise that in the English version she is voiced by Sandy Fox. Kuwashima fits the character, but the lack of meaningful dialogue she is given (“you’re a liar and a bad person”) does not make her particularly stand out as great. Hoshi Souichirou, who was fairly new to anime at this time, is good as Takuto. He is very angry, and while some of his anger gets tiresome quickly, he manages to sustain the passion.
There is a cavalcade of other greats of the nineties: Sayuri, Koyasu Takehito, Inoue Kikuko and even the darling of the late nineties, Horie Yui. They all do good jobs, with Sayuri allowed the most exploration of character as Ines so far.

The music for the series is generally good, with a particularly nice, haunting OP – Silent Wind is the sort of song not very common in anime any more, it would appear. The true highlight, however, is the ED. It is the greatest, least appropriate song ever. Horizon is a fast song about the joys of space travel, featuring pictures of grinning astronauts and the observation of space launches. This sort of stuff is nowhere to be seen in the series, so it’s nice to see such incongruous material at the end of a particularly heavy episode of Argentosoma. The joy of DVD is that you can either skip the song or jam to it. I jam, without fail, every time.

The characters, courtesy of Murase Shukou, look weird. Straight on, they look like they have no noses. To look at them in profile and see that they do, in fact, have noses. The sense of perspective makes no sense, and can be quite distracting. A bigger problem related to this is that a lot of series have guest designers, and it appears that Argentosoma is no exception. Straight on, then, some extras have noses!
Frank himself is such a conglomerate of alien parts that he ultimately looks like nothing. He is a shape, and the design gives him little character. As Hattie is supposed to empathise with the creature, this distances him more than it should.
On more positive notes, the backgrounds and scenery are pure SUNRISE. The palette is mostly blues, oranges and yellows, creating a good desert-scape. The mixture of Ryu’s face with Takuto’s is a nice look, and leads to some of the series’ best artistic direction. Argentosoma should also be noted for having the best English screen displays ever: the SARG’s HUDs proudly bear the inscription “Rock On.” There’s some hope in this world yet.

Argentosoma is not exactly great, but for some reason it is extremely compelling. I want to keep watching, and while I’m not confused I want to know what’s happening. That has to be some sort of praise.

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