Ryu’s Musings – Arpeggio of Blue Steel vol 01


Title: Arpeggio of Blue Steel
Direction: Right to Left
By: Ark Performance
Language: English
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Format: Book
Type: Manga,Series
Genre: Seinen, Adventure


In the early 21st century, the majority of Earth’s landmass is submerged due to rising sea levels. Enter the Fleet of Fog, a host of sentient alien battleships of unknown origin who easily decimate earth’s naval forces. Humanity is now on the verge of extinction. In the year 2039, the stalwart Captain Chihaya Gunzou and his intrepid crew on the Blue Steel fleet may be humanity’s last chance to fight off the alien invaders. The Blue Steel fleet happens to contain a secret weapon that could turn the tide of war: a mysterious I-401 submarine that can transform into a girl.

Arpeggio is frankly one of my all time favourite manga, I’ve followed this since it first appeared and have been praying that a decent publisher would pick it up. When it was made into an anime i was both overjoyed and a little heart broken. The anime does change things, and the translation team got some key elements completely wrong. However it was still a really good anime, and brought the cast of characters to life in a almost perfect way. Good all round solid personalities, well acted and animated.

So when i heard that Seven Seas had picked up the manga i was pretty much bouncing around with joy, both because it was getting  release and because a decent publisher had picked it up!

What’s the story about, and why is it so good?

Blue Steel is the name of  the submarine the crew sail on, named so because it (the sub) has a blue hue to it’s skin. At the core of the vessel is Iona, who is essentially a computer core running the entire vessel. however for some reason she has taken on the form of a young girl.

However that alone is not what makes this ship so strange, Iona is an enemy of the human race, as she comes from a vast flee called the Fleet of the Fog. This fleet is huge, and appeared out of nowhere driving humanity from the seas and the air, to the land. For some unknown reason a single vessel of this overwhelming fleet turns traitor and ends up in the hands of Chihaya Gunzou, a young top student from a military academy. His farther, one of the most respected admirals pre-fog turned traitor and joined the Fleet of the Fog.

Almost all of Chihaya’s crew are also from the top of the academy lists, with two exceptions. Kyouhei and Shizuka. Kyouhei, while not as academically smart as the others seems to have the street smarts that shine in fights. Where as Shizuka is wrapped in mystery and no one knows anything about her.

Although the entire crew is wanted by the government, for stealing the Blue Steel, the fact is that the vessel has accepted the crew and they work effectively, being the first since the war to destroy Fog vessels. It’s hinted in the series that the government had put other crew on the sub in the past and sent them out, only to have it return to port with everyone mysteriously missing.

So, while they (the government) want to recover the I-401 as a research commodity, they also recognise it’s better to have a crew aboard the ship has accepted, and to use them to get things done. Though, different arms of the government have different views on this, and don’t necessarily agree…

I love this series because while the initial impression is humanity = good, Fleet of the Fog = bad, as the series progresses we get to see there is no really good and bad, only the shades of grey that are always there when humans are involved.

I love the art style for this series, Ark Performance have done a FANTASTIC job with the ship designs, they’re pure sex in water Open-mouthed smile The character designs are just as well done as well, with some excellent variance in the designs. There’s no odd looking designs or flaws in the art. The settings are well done and look pretty good. Though it’s one of those times it’s hard to really judge since most of it is a confined space.

The story they created is bloody awesome, no other words to describe it, i love the character interactions and the way the characters grow. This is especially true for the Fog ships, who start out as pretty much a computer program, but grow and change over the course of the series.

So as i said this was licensed by Seven Seas, and on a quick flick through they did a superb job. They the colour pages that were in the original release, which frankly look bloody awesome. They also kept in all the afterword and the glossary with it’s pictures. These are all amazing additions and frankly elements i was expecting to see removed. I’m so glad they were kept in.

I would dearly love, and it was my intension, to praise this series to high heaven and demand you all go out and buy it so as Seven Seas keep on getting awesome titles. However after the grating first volume, I’m gonna say the opposite. Don’t buy this title, in the hope that Seven Seas realise they screwed up and fix it!!

So what’s wrong with this volume? After reading through who did what in the volumes i think it’s safe to point the finger at Ysabet Reinhardt Macfarlane, who is responsible for the adaptation. She (I’m guessing a woman based on the name) has clearly not read the original material, nor seen the anime (which as i said has it’s flaws, but got the personalities perfectly). She apparently just decided the personalities arbitrarily. which resulted in the horrific trash talking personalities we get in her version.

I’m gonna go through some examples, and I’ll admit here an know the translations I’ve read could just as easily be wrong. However they fit the setting, the characters and their personalities, and they flow better, which for me is all important.

So, with that disclaimer out the way lets get started.

SSE: Page 3, last panel, Chihaya says: “windy nights like this always remind me of the night i met a really special girl.”

Mine: Page 3, last panel, Chihaya says: “I met her on a night exactly like this”

The Seven Seas version is overly wordy, and as someone who has followed the series for a while i know it doesn’t fit Chihaya’s personality well. Where as the version i have, does, and isn’t as word heavy.

SSE: Page 15, last Panel, Ryuhei says: “Well look at that, if it aint a danged fog cruiser”

Mine: Page 15, last Panel, Ryuhei says: “There she is, isn’t that a cruiser from the Fleet of the fog?”

When i first saw this i didn’t have TO much of an issue with it, while i preferred the version i had already as it felt like it fit Ryuhei’s personality more, the SSE version was ‘passable’, but it did raise my concern about how they were going to portray Ryuhei.

SSE: Page 18, 3rd Panel, Ryuhei says: “Not exactly a piece of cake izzit? So what’s the plan Cap’n?”

Mine: Page 18, 3rd Panel, Ryuhei says: Doesn’t seem like it’ll be a piece of cake, what are your order Captain?”

Again the difference is subtle, but again i feel the SSE version doesn’t really fit Ryuhei’s personality.

For me the problem became all the more prevalent after the first part of the volume, where Chihaya and Iona are talking and Kamikage arrives. The entire exchange between them, and then with Kamikage and Cruz was just jarring in how bad it was. I mean seriously, Chihaya referring to someone as ‘G-Man’ was just painful. Chihaya comes from a once highly respected naval family, his father was in charge of the last Fleet, and he was 2nd top in the academy (iirc). There’s no way someone like that would trash like he’s a kid from the streets. I don’t care how much he’s rebelling against the system, some things just don’t change.

Kyuohei is another prime example, granted he’s not the top of the academy like Chihaya and the rest of the crew were, he’s around the 200 mark. However he’s still a military academy student, and in charge of the weapons. Yet for some reason he was made to sound like a stoned surfer. I get they wanted to add some comedy to the crew, but they didn’t need to, the personalities of the crew already added the comedy needed. While this isn’t the blatant in your face comedy, it’s the perfect fitting comedy for the series.

I could go through and list countless problems with the manga, some are minor, and some are (IMO) bloody huge, i just don’t see the need to any more.

I’m hoping this isn’t a sign of the quality we’ll be getting from Seven Seas in the future, if it is I’ll be heart broke as they’ve licensed some of my favourite manga and i really want to support them. But i won’t buy titles i consider to be terrible.

One odd thing to note however was Amazon, i had this pre-ordered and it was shipped to me at the end of June to hit it’s original 1st July release date. However it’s since been pulled from amazon and relisted with an August 1st release date. No idea what’s going on there

Author: Ryu Sheng