Series Recommendation: Argento Soma

Who am I? Where do I come from? And where am I going?

For a mecha series, the scenes that always get the most attention are the action scenes – where the focus of the animation team lies to deliver epic battles that get us excited. As a result, non-action scenes tend to be glossed over, which is particularly true with more modern series. However, back when the era was transition into the new century – the year 2000 – an anime that execute every scene perfectly with great screenplay and composition no matter which scene was created – and its name is Argento Soma.

Argento Soma is set in a semi futuristic world where space travel has somewhat stagnated but the technology progress of human has been impressive. But the Earth is facing the threat of an alien species that arrived from deep space. Our main character, Takuto Kaneshiro, was recruited by his university professor along with his girlfriend to “resurrect” an alien specimen. The resurrection, of course, went wrong and disaster struck, causing Takuto to lose everything. He then came to hate the aliens, including the specimen that they tried to recruit. In order to exact revenge, Takuto decided to become another person and became a commissioned pilot at FUNERAL – an organization that specialized in alien-combat.

+ Plot: The starting premise is pretty unique and interesting. With just a short time, the anime managed to established everything we need to know about the character’s motivation, as well as a brief look at the world’s situation. The characters started out exact archetypes of the usual trope we saw in mecha anime – we have the arrogant ace that is headstrong but can be soft-hearted sometimes, the cheerful young genius, the level-headed and calm ara-ara female, a responsible and understanding leader and a stern commander with a weak side. Argento Soma basically lay the groundwork that we’ve seen many times in other series and proceed to subvert it with interesting character drama and using the “enemy” to drive the plot forward.

One of the focus of the story is Takuto/Soma’s obsession with Frank – the resurrected alien. Frank has virtually no dialogue for the whole series, being a combat machine most of the time with no facial expression whatsoever, however, when we see him on-screen, we can “read” his emotion, his “tone”, and feel his anxiety and aggression, as well as Takuto’s feeling towards him. An intricate relationship formed between those two is the lynchpin of the series and was executed perfectly.

+ Animation: The majority of the series is 2D with some construction background being 3D but it’s very unnoticeable. The animation is fluid and well done, with the usual “funny face” for background character which is understandable in all series. However, the beautiful screenplay and composition of the anime really elevated the series. Every scene transition, every frame with some special effect is like a work of art that depict not only the scenery but also the inner dialogue of the characters present. There are no “wasted” or unnecessary scene and every scene has a purpose with how it was drawn.

It is unbelievable how the director and script writer could come up with such a masterful blend of animation and dialogue, as well as hats off to the animation team that executed that vision perfectly. Even though the series doesn’t have grand battles the likes of Gundam or Macross, but your eyes will be glued to the screen, even in scenes where there’s no mecha

+ Mecha Design: The design of the only mecha in the series is by Kimitoshi Yamane – who is a legendary veteran designer that worked on Escaflowne, G Gundam, Gundam Seed, Cowboy Bebop, and many more. The SARG – the mecha used by Funeral – is very reminiscent of a transformable Gundam cross with Macross with its overall shape and transformation sequence. The design is pretty unique especially the cockpit and mechanical detail. The animator also did a splendid job depicting various transforming mechanism that unit has. Setting aside the “real life practicality” of the mech, the SARG is a beautiful and unique mecha.

+ Music: Argento Soma has already nailed the look, but what about the music? Oh don’t you worry, cause the music department is not an inch behind the others. The opening song is a melancholic song filled with both hope and sadness, which really fit the atmosphere of the series especially the main char’s emotional ride. The ending is an upbeat song that, strangely, has a very, very unique “bridge” that sounds almost religious, followed by a catchy chorus that is basically a love letter, which, also suit the main char’s feeling. It is a very intricately blend of audio-visual goodness.

+ Conclusion: Argento Soma is quite an obscure series as not many really talk about it, due to some of its slow segment and lack of “colorful” combat, but it is a thought-provoking anime about humanity, space travel and the law of cause-and-effect as well as understanding between individuals. The masterful audio-visual manipulation makes the anime a gripping experience that you can’t tear your eyes away from, despite having relatively “tamed” combat. It is quite hard to “describe” what makes Argento Soma such an experience, but we highly recommend you to give it a try until episode 3 or 4, as that is when the story finished its setting up and ramping up the main plot.

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