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My first reaction to Argevollen was that it was channelling Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. It has since risen above that with stellar character work but risks my suspension of disbelief with its schizo tech.

Haven’t I seen this before somewhere?

If you’ve seen Stardust Memory run your eyes down this list and see how much you recognise:

  1. A bunch of craptacular standard issue mechs
  2. One spectacularly good mech – the eponymous Argevollen
  3. A novice who ends up as the only person who can pilot Argevollen
  4. The civilian blonde engineer providing technical support for Argevollen (and who may be developing a relationship with Argevollen’s pilot)

It is the last two in particular that evoke memories of Stardust Memory. Unlike Stardust Memory it has, so far, been the engineer Jamie Hazaford who has been the strongest element of Argevollen.

A Baptism of Fire

Jamie is tied to Argevollen as the only person who can boot it up. This means that wherever the military sends Argevollen, Jamie also has to go.

So Jamie is a civilian caught up in a hot war, very much does not want to be there, and has no choice but to be there. Over the first six episodes poor Jamie has been through the wringer, and the scriptwriters have used this for some truly excellent character work.

The first few episodes are a desperate retreat/rearguard action with Jamie given no time to think, rest, or even shower for days whilst being under constant pressure.

Then they get a lull and Jamie gets to have a shower and recover.

That’s when the adrenaline drains away, and the post-traumatic stress hits. I initially thought that the shower scene was going to be gratuitous fan service, especially as it was filled with other female military cast members. But as it turns out both the scene and their presence is essential: that’s where Jamie finds understanding and support from the veterans.

There’s a clear sense in this scene that Jamie has impressed these women, and that they are more than willing to provide the compassion that she needs.

I think that was the moment when I decided that Argevollen was definitely worth watching for the season.

The second operation that rounded out the first six episodes has also seen hard times and growth for Jamie, and by now the story of the newbie pilot Susumu[1] is almost secondary to me. It is Jamie that I am watching this show for.

The Pilot

That said, the script writers have made an effort to make Susumu an interesting character. To be fair, they’ve actually done a reasonable job of it too.

Susumu has his own problems, and the dependency on Jamie whenever Argevollen shuts down has put him in a nasty situation or two.

Unfortunately, the troubles that Jamie is going through make Susumu and his problems almost forgettable.

Susumu is a volunteer and signed up for this sort of thing.

Jamie isn’t and didn’t.

The Schizo Tech

The biggest problem with Argevollen is the Schizo Tech. The mix feels wrong throughout from the anachronistic uniforms[2] to the range of military/civilian tech on display.

I suspect a lot of viewers will be questioning this, and my only advice is to let it slide and focus on the characters.

The Interim Verdict

At this stage I’m recommending Argevollen for the strong character work. Survey[3] says that Argevollen will be a 24 episode series and I’m not sure there’s enough worldbuilding to sustain that. Hopefully the story and the other characters will come more into focus over the coming episodes.

In the meantime: come for the mechs, stay for the engineer.

I’ll finish with the high energy OP that does give an idea of how many characters this show has.

[1] Susumu for the record, and yes I had to look it up.

[2] Some of which look like they belong in black powder wars.

[3] i.e. Wikipedia