You know you are awfully moody for Alien…

April 3, 2010

“Beautiful ring… beautiful flowers…”

Extraterrestial life-form EX-1 “Frank”, Argento Soma

Yeah, I know it has been quite silent since the last carnival that was the B-07 Hall Of Fame for Real Robots. I thought I’d use some time from the final holiday break of my life as a student to catch up on non-mecha (read: harem) animes as well as regain my Audience’s Willing Suspension of Disbelief regarding said shows.

The reason for my current gorging on fanservice shots and dialouge fit for a p0rn flick that even hardcore perverts would shy away form was because of my last-watched mech anime; despite beating Setsuna F. Seiei in being obsessed about giant robots I am still, after all, human, … … … … … …

… … … … and those harem animes make for good comedy and the right dose of heartwarming, if a little on the thick, cheesy side. What? They do, right?

Anyways, on to this round of random mumblings about anime with robots. Some of you might already be able to guess the show, since I’ve mentioned it in the third instalment of the Hall of Fame; to be specific, the same anime the SARGs feature in: Argento Soma.

Argento Soma is one of three anime titles famous for being slapped with the title of “Eva clone” amongst anime viewers; the other two are Fafner of the Azure and RahXephon (despite Rahxephon being oh-so-totally based off Brave Reideen; this just proves that Evangelion’s infamous as a benchmark of f**king over the main character). As you guessed it, Argento Soma also features aliens in its back-story and animated plot.

The thing that sets Argento Soma apart from Evangelion, however(just like how Fafner and Rahxephon do) are the presentation of its characters and the enemies that the humans in each have to fight. Fafner has the silicon-based Festum who only know of communication through fighting and take a variety of different, often deadly forms; RahXephon has the totally sentient, communication-capable and literally blue-blooded Mu, and Argento Soma features…

Well, they’re simply called the aliens, and despite coming in differing variants all of them retain the same six eyes and human shape. They also have a voice, which oddly enough resembles a whale call. Or a cetacean call. Whichever floats your boat.

As for the main characters, Argento Soma features the silent and hell-bent on revenge Ryu Soma, the cool sniper lady Guinevere, hung-up Englishman Dan and child-like Sue as the anti-alien squad, which in this iteration is called FUNERAL. UNLIKE Evangelion, the show bridges a gaping chasm between humanity and its adversaries by also introducing Hattie, a little girl who ends up with FUNERAL and has the ability to communicate with the show’s resident alien Frank, who itself is a byproduct of many years of gathering up recovered alien parts and piecing them together, a la Frankenstein; hence his name.

Frank himself starts the plot; Takuto Kaneshiro, a university student excelling in all things regarding metals and their various alloys and creation, is scouted to take part in a grand scheme to revive Frank, created by randomly putting pieces of dead aliens together. The first shock of his life comes when he finds out his girlfriend is involved in it, and quite deeply as well. The second shock comes as Frank is revived; military forces storm the compound in an attempt to either stop the process or claim Frank for their own uses; the truth is never revealed, as an accidental power surge forcibly wakes Frank and causes the tiny underground complex to start collapsing. In the resultant disaster, only Takuto is left alive and severely injured; the alien is nowhere to be seen, and Takuto is understandably pissed at the alien.

The show then abruptly switches over and introduces Hattie, who lives with her grandfather; apparently Frank has escaped from the compound and hidden himself in a forested area; upon discovery by Hattie she has all the joy of a child meeting a real elf.

Argento Soma then proceeds to break the cutie in preparation to join both main characters together; of all times and places an alien descends, and Hattie, caught between the alien and some thugs from the local town, is forced to watch the alien incinerated everyone in the vicinity. Even her grandfather, who chanced upon the entire situation while looking for her, is turned to a cinder while trying to draw the alien’s attention away from her. At Hattie’s distressed cries, Frank reacts and charges the alien, blowing it to pieces. This catches the attention of FUNERAL, who went to look for Frank, but instead found the aftermath of a battle.

Argento Soma takes a pretty short number of episodes to gel things together; after Frank’s acquisition by FUNERAL, Hattie, who has accompanied it as a communicator of sorts, escapes with the alien. FUNERAL then chases both of them to a nearby city, where -lo and behold- Takuto is currently staying in the local hospital as a patient. His hatred of the metallic beast has not abated at all, and seeing Frank up close (it crashes into his hospital room) and more importantly, Hattie (who resembles his dead girlfriend) only serves to light a blazing fire and create OVER 9000 questions in his mind. His inability to get answers for them are solved by a mysterious man, who is willing to offer him entry into FUNERAL – as a SARG jocky, no less – in exchange for being their undercover agent, mole, and all-purpose informant; Takuto accepts, and is reborn as Ryu Soma, former Air Force pilot with a mean haircut and a silent countenance, to say the least.

Anime like Fafner, Evangelion and Argento Soma all rely on inter-character relations to carry the plot along. Fafner’s interaction lines are mostly between the pilots and the Festum and vary from positive interaction to angst matches to outright slicing and dicing. Evangelion is too complicated for me to explain with words, but most of the time everyone is taking a chance to have a dump on Shinji who accepts it like bread from the heavens (as he doesn’t get a choice in that matter). As for RahXephon… eh, I can’t remember. Shait.

Ahem… Anyways, Argento Soma’s inter-character relations are somewhat like Evangelion, with a differing point; conflicts between characters are not solved by someone backing down, but by an understanding on both sides; Ryu himself has to come to terms with the fact that he has to hide his hate of Frank, now an ally of FUNERAL (apparently Hattie can call on him for some anti-alien action) and that while he is offered his chance at revenge, he doesn’t get to choose when, as well as his own interactions with his FUNERAL comrades also come to serve as a sort of anchor for the vestiges of his humanity several times in the series. He also has to grapple with his feelings of Hattie since the memory of his dead girlfriend is too fresh to forget and he often stops just short of treating Hattie like her; he earns several What a Jerk moments due to this three points.

Eventually however, when the truth about the aliens and Frank, as well as Frank’s true actions during his first awakening are revealed, Ryu finds that he is completely empty; having lived all this while for revenge, his entire existence is left devoid of meaning once the need for revenge is gone. Amongst all the characters, he ultimately gets the worst ending, and at the same time the best. Each of the characters also get their own endings that are ironically linked to whatever they resemble the least; though, their endings are applied in such a way that they learn to appreciate it and prevent themselves from becoming their most hated object.

Argento Soma also features some interaction between the rear-echeleon-motherf**kers who see the aliens as enemies to be fought and destroyed upon sight and the frontline fighters from FUNERAL themselves. As the show progresses, the people from FUNERAL increasingly find themselves referring to Frank as a comrade instead of a tool, though the one-episode-apperance military morons and scientific eggheads continue to see Frank as a metallic corpse and wonder why the nuts from FUNERAL would care so much about Frank. As the plot reveals the aliens’ history and back-story however, and watching how the aliens exhibit so much human-like behaviour in their fight against FUNERAL, you’ll eventually find yourself wondering if humanity’s decision to destroy the aliens whenever encountered, without question, are indeed the right choice to be made.

Argento Soma, in a nutshell, isn’t so much about superior firepower as it is about the struggles of different characters faced with a crisis without knowing the whole picture, and how people struggle with the likes of revenge, loss ‘n boatloads of emotional stuff. The people at FUNERAL, despite being labeled as “problem personnel”, are un-arguably more level-headed than their mainline military partners when it comes to alien matters; this is further strengthened by Frank, and their bonds only get closer when the military decides that its hardline approach is better than FUNERAL’s case-by-case basis, and  in their first anti-alien operation after upsurping FUNERAL f**ks up so badly it would make Shinji Ikari look good.

It might not be a masterpiece of an anime (still some ways to go, in fact, mostly about how all the plot is kept till the end), but it’s certainly worth watching. At least I can assure you there will be no after-show headache trying to figure out if humanity is screwed in the evolutionary line, or destined for greater things still.


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