「その身を捧ぐ」 (Sono Mi o Sasagu)
“Devotion of Self”
As its final episodes approach, Ars Nova continues distancing itself from the rest of the pack. What started out as a mere “epic naval combat series” has since developed into more than I ever expected, and this episode was a shining example of how one can develop a great series. Shocking twists give way to emotional developments, layers of philosophical complexity unveil themselves through the story’s solid execution, and dynamic characters give you fond memories from which to remember them by. There just ain’t anything like a show that does the human element right, and Ars Nova literally hits this nail on the head by giving us a tale of what it means to be human. It’s a tale about a species defined by its unrivaled capacity for innovation and an equal capacity for failure—powered by illogical choices that make us unlike any other.
With Iona and Takao both sacrificing themselves for Gunzou at some point in the episode, it’s this illogical nature that ends up being on display this week, and it ends up being a touching conclusion to what’s been an amazing transformation on their part. There are few greater shows of what it means to human than the act of self-sacrifice—a notion that is as cruel as it is beautiful. Because ultimately, there are few things more agonizing than finally realizing something about yourself (and your feelings toward someone else) and then having to say goodbye to that same person shortly afterwards. There isn’t even a chance for Gunzou to acknowledge Takao’s sacrifice at the end, and it’s a development that makes it all the more painful considering the kind of character she was.
That said, the initial build up to Iona’s own sacrifice arguably set things up to be as dramatic as they were, and it’s hard to put into words how great things were developed here this week. Seeing Iona watch the Gunzou’s life slip away… seeing her struggle between obeying and disobeying Gunzou… this is how emotional development should be done, and it bought a tear to my eye to see the agony she faced as she fought against herself and the principles she had previously thought to be absolute. But, it goes to show that change can happen whether or not you realize it yourself, and it’s a change that has manifested in all the members of the Blue Steel fleet and the Fog themselves.
Even Kongou ends up unable to escape the change her fateful encounter caused, and it’s just one twist after another as it’s revealed that Maya’s mental model was nothing but a surveillance AI sent to monitor her and her effectiveness as a member of the Fog. But again, it just proves how even the Fog have changed—at least, their tactics have—as the removal of Kongou as the flagship and the act of watching her in the first place are arguably things that they never would have even thought of implementing previously. It’s a domino effect that set off the moment Iona and Gunzou met so long ago, and it’s just fitting that the culmination of the Blue Steel fleet’s transformation comes with the two ending up alone again at the end of the episode—just like they were in the very beginning.
Ultimately, there are just few words to describe this episode, or the series in general. I love how the series continues to exceed expectations on a daily basis, and I love how they’ve carried through the Fog’s transformation into actual humans. The addition of that great vocal insert at the end just adds icing to the cake, and there’s just so much else I haven’t even touched upon with this episode. One could just go on and on about the true value of comrades, the notion of not wanting to be left alone (or behind), and the irony of having a fleet of Fog looking to help you instead of destroy you, and it’s just sad that a fair amount of people gave up on this series a while back. Looking forward, the penultimate episode is upon us, and I’m going to be sad to see this series go. For now though, let us leave with a moment of silence for the almighty Takao—even though it’s entirely possible that “Gunzou, my captain” may yet find a way to get her back…