Arpeggio of Blue Steel is a Japanese manga series by Ark Performance, and currently stands at nine volumes. Other media includes a twelve episode anime series shown back in 2013, and it is on this story we will base our review. Currently there is a couple of movies, but I've not seen those yet unfortunately. Currently you can watch it on both Netflix and Crunchyroll, which you can get at by clicking that picture of Takao in the upper right there.
If one couldn't tell from the summary, this series is heavy on the sci fi, and really heavy on the Naval battle scenarios one might have in a situation like this. Honestly, it's almost a show case for the author's interest in Naval battles, their tactics, and how one might actually fight a truly superior force. The thing is, by putting us in this scenario it leaves a lot of questions about what the flying fuck is truly going on; some were answered and some were not. For example, The Fog themselves. It was shown in the beginning they just cut down the combined Naval forces of the world as easy as one might swat an insect. I don't doubt that nukes were involved in this fight as well. Problem is, these ships were protected by nearly impenetrable energy shields, and their weapons both radiant and kinetic probably should not be used in an atmosphere. So yeah, they pretty much stomped said Navies flat. The question here becomes, why did they bother adopting forms that resembled modern attack ships and subs? I mean, it was more than obvious they had no need to adopt these forms, that in fact these forms were little more than 'clothing' with the way they shift and change to activate their weapons. Another that pops to mind is how did Gunzō Chihaya's father manage to get Iona to defect. Still another question is, why did their "Admirality Code", the directives by which they prosecute this bit policing action (as I have no other word for it), mandate that they only stop us from communicating with each other? Theories come to mind, that perhaps it was some sort of "The Day the World Stood Still" scenario; that we're getting smacked upside the head and told to clean up our act. Other theories include the idea this is some sort of experiment; which would explain the actions of the Fog's individuals. Or even some sort of combination of the two...or something that only the author knows. This particular answer will set this series up as one of the best sci fi series of all time, or the worst disappointments since the pussification of everyone, but Goku in Dragon Ball Z.
Some of the questions mentioned above can be inferred, and make a lot of sense when you see their progression. Like the Transformers, the Fog appear to be natural mimics. I mean, what's the first thing the Transformers do on a new world? Adapt their alternate forms to it; to the point that in Beast Wars, they had acquired the capability to take on organic/cybernetic forms. It appears that this is what the Fog did as well when they first arrived. They're actually nanomachines surrounding a control core, and took the form of ships as this is what we used to traverse the oceans. Eventually they evolved to start mimicking humans, or a 'Mental Model' as humans have dubbed them; though not all of the Fog have yet to do this. However, they took the forms of women, as we dub our ships as feminine (rather a boring, but believable explanation), and then it starts getting hilarious. Because these creatures have no idea how to handle what they're now feeling or thinking. Trying to rectify what they now feel and think with their directives drives many to all sorts of mental problems. Take the ship, Takao, for instance. She's a typical tsundere, but this sort of behavior makes sense considering she really has no idea how to handle what she's feeling or thinking for Gunzō. To whit: she wants him as her captain. Inside of her. To lay her keel and apply some piston action to her lubed engines.
Iona herself is far better adjusted having been hanging around humans for a few years, though she comes off as 'the stoic' for the most part. Still, there are times when she just can't figure out what she really feels about what she's doing, though she has the crew to help her out a bit at times like that. Then there's Haruna, a battleship, who takes the form of a girl who wears a huge cloak covering her most of the time...though when you see what's underneath, holy shit. Watching her big sister/motherly instincts kick in over a prodigy child she discovered was both hilarious and heartwarming. It goes on and on for the rest of the ships they meet, how their new humanity affects them, and how they react to certain things. For example, they often seem to have some sort of moral problem in cannibalizing the parts and nanomachines off their dead friends. Only moral problems, as Iona took a weapon from one of the others she sunk (and whose core they captured...she's a rather humorous one, and they have no problem donating their own nanites to others). And towards the end when another completely abandons all pretenses at whatever is holding them back, you find out that yes indeed, the ship forms are just for show, and that one can coopt other ships for parts en masse, and it's as horrific as one could imagine with that kind of power being truly unleashed.
The humans themselves are far more believable than most, though I find the diversity that was in a Japanese Naval School to be humorously PC for such a thing. If nothing else though, Gunzō Chihaya, is not an anime spineless wuse, and is a brilliant naval tactician despite his youth; something the leaders of Japan have issues with. He's also far more patient than I would have been in several situations, and that speaks well of him too. Then again, I suppose he could be, at no point was he ever in any real danger in the situations where he wound up at odds with certain factions of the Japanese government. The others are much the same; brilliant if a little quirky in their behavior.
The animation is pure CGI, but unlike the likes of Sidonia, they actually managed to tweak it so that only at points where the motion is too smooth or the shadows don't fall just right, that you see that it's not traditional animation combined with CGI. I actually rather enjoyed it for what it was.
The music was actually quite nice. They went a little above and beyond this time, and so you can find yourself getting lost with the crew of the Blue Steel, as they sail the seven seas with a pretty decent soundtrack. They've not dubbed the series yet, but the Japanese voice acting and direction I had no problems with, though I admittedly can't help but feel that a few were voicing their charactures rather than actual characters at times. It's a problem I'm noticing more and more as time goes on.
This is a damn good series all around. There's not a damn thing about it that I would not recommend at present. However, I do again note that several questions are still unanswered, and that it will be those answers which will make or break this series. This is a truly legitimate concern as the Japanese story tellers seem to have endemic problem with actually ending something well anymore. They're either unwilling or unable (or both) to provide their audience with a satisfying conclusion in far too many of their stories at present. We shall see which one this one is. Until then, I look forward to more.