Image source: 「武装少女マキャヴェリズム」アニメ公式 on Twitter

Armed Girls Machiavellism is a predictable series. But, it’s that predictability allows for other aspects of the series to shine through.

After being expelled from his old school for fist-fighting delinquents, Fudō Nomura transfers to the Private Aichi Symbiosis Academy. But, the Academy has strict rules enforced by an all-female group called the Supreme Five Swords. Or to put it another way: The girls discipline the boys with weapons. Now Fudō is constantly hounded by the Supreme Five Swords to either conform to the rules or leave the Academy.

The mere fact the basis of Armed Girls Machiavellism is a group of five girls trying to kick Fudō out of the school (or make him kowtow to the rules) seems like the setup to a “harem series” that embraces all the tropes. But, while it does keep in line with many major tropes, these tropes are a narrative tool that allows other aspects of the series to shine through.

Tropes allow the viewer to quickly understand the base structure of the story—to predict in broad arcs what is to come. Each episode, for example, we know that Fudō will beat one of the Supreme Five Swords and that she will promptly fall in love with him. By treating this pattern as a given, less running time is needed to set up each conflict and instead be allocated in other areas.

This predictability is what makes Armed Girls Machiavellism work so well. It allows the viewer to focus on the characters, action set pieces, setting, and the conflict that is brewing between Fudō and the character Kirukiru “Empress” Amō.

This is doubly important for a harem series like Armed Girls Machiavellism. We need to learn each of the Swords’ identity, her defining qualities, what set’s her apart from the minor characters, how she navigates the setting, and how she acts during the action scenes—and all in the single episode that focuses on her.

The third episode is a fantastic example of how this all comes together in the series. Member of the Supreme Five Swords, Mary Kikakujō, wants to discipline Fudō. So, in the episode we are introduced to Mary, all her characters quirks, her sword fighting style, why she want to discipline Fudō, and why she ultimately falls for him.

That’s a lot to unpack in half an hour—especially when anywhere from five to seven minutes is used strictly for an action scene. If it weren’t handled carefully, it would compromise Mary as an interesting character we want to care about. Yet, with the episode following a predictable framework, we are given the opportunity to see the facets of Mary in more detail.

What’s more, because Armed Girls Machiavellism embraces an episodic predictability, the larger plot points are explored at a very good pace. The greater conflict between Fudō and Empress is one such case. It’s not just a friendly rivalry between delinquents or an all out war between them. In fact, it’s been shrouded in mystery, but as the series progresses, we’re slowly learning about why the two characters want to fight each other again. That’s the real beauty of the predictable episodes: It forces us to pay attention to the conflict brewing in the background that will play a role in climax of the series. Thus, in the end, we get fun episodes while also being treated to a larger conflict looming in the shadows.

Or to put it another way, Armed Girls Machiavellism shows that being predictable isn’t inherently a bad thing: It’s what you do with predictability to make other aspects of an anime shine.

Armed Girls Machiavellism is streaming on Amazon Anime Strike and AnimeLab (AU/NZ)

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