Aldnoah Zero: The love triangle I really couldn’t care less about

The wrong quote for the wrong show?

Finally onto the first anime review of the more recently finished anime! I know I am always a little behind on times because I always drag out finishing my anime (I watch most anime episode by episode, especially when they are the airing ones. This goes back to my point). But I did want to blog about Aldnoah Zero ever since I finished S1. I only held back because S2 is a continuation of the story and it made more sense to review the entire story and anime as a whole. *some spoilers ahead!*


This story features a war between clashing factions of humanity; those whom we know as the remaining descendants of Earth versus a fraction whose ancestors had migrated to Mars and discovering a new power, Aldnoah. This power was used to found the new autocratic empire of Vers, ruled by a monarchy. Earth remains the Earth we are mostly familiar with, a crippling democracy with corruption and incompetence steaming through its ranks, but bountiful with resources and hence the source of envy of Marsians, who are sorely lacking in such luxuries and only boast of military and technological superiority thanks to Aldnoah. Such inequality in resource distribution has always been a thorn in the side of the Marsians and a cause of the rising tensions throughout the years between Terrans and Marsians. However, the war is really only triggered when Princess Asseylum vers Allusia comes to Earth with the intention of improving diplomatic relations, and is seemingly assassinated by the Terrans.

A semblance of what normalcy could have been on planet Earth at the beginning of the first episode was shown, but it soon explodes into chaos and terror. Earth was never the same since. We see the events unravel through the eyes of a normal student, Inaho Kaizuki, who is caught up in the war together with his classmates/friends. His role in the story clears up when his ability to outwit the enemies through seeing through the technological and scientific defects in Vars military equipment and mecha (called ‘Kataphrakts’ here) is shown. On the other side, we have Slaine Troyard, a former Terran who’s now a Martian as his father was one of the main scientists involved in harnessing Aldnoah for the use of the monarchy. He is, unsurprisingly, treated as scum and as a low-classed citizen and is only comforted by his friendship with Princess Asseylum  which seems to give him all the strength he needs to move forward.

Some people may say this is essentially a story about a love triangle.

Aldnoah Zero is mostly a tale of war tactics and lots of mecha and military action. It delivers an acceptable standard of entertainment value due with its constant attempts to veer off course and set the pace for the next episode with relatively well done cliffhangers. Of course, its also laughable in that as the series progresses, it is clear that all small and large successes for Earth’s side are mostly due to Inaho’s intellect. Its just a tad unbelievable that a 16 year old which no military background whatsoever can rely on the laws of physics, quantum mechanics and science to figure out the fatal flaws of each Kataphrakt that comes to attack them, and he is the only one who can. If so, he is really the budding Einstein of his time and the ones sitting right up the military ranks are merely incompetent imbeciles and clearly display their ignorance by which show in the battle tactics they adopt. This would not have been so out of place if it wasn’t actually attempting to be a ‘serious’ tale, as opposed to, say, the crazy, illogical, bombastic but highly entertaining trainwreck that was Kakumeiki Valvrave that acknowledges its outrageousness but was audacious enough to continue on that route anyway.

It also probably doesn’t help that for most of the episodes at least, Aldnoah Zero adopts pretty much a monster-of-the-week formula. Each episode mainly went like this:

(a) One Orbital Knight comes in one Kataphrakt with a type of special power.

(b) Kataphrakt kills many phlebians, Those Who Will Never Be Named, while arrogantly hurling insults at Earthlings in general.

(c) Inaho climbs into his ‘outmoded’ orange Kataphrakt, ignoring the pleadings of his sister and his friends.

(d) Inaho calmly and dispassionately analyses the opponent Kataphrakt, pointing out its fatal weaknesses

(e) Inaho owns the crap out of enemy Kataphrakt, with said Orbital Knight being utterly defeated, in glorious Team Rocket style. Why didn’t he get promoted to Chief Commander already??

And this repeats itself for x number of episodes. Mind you, they are all in the general scheme of things, but sometimes I couldn’t help wonder whether there was a point to it all.

However, one thing I admit is that it was indeed entertaining to watch Inaho do that. After all, who doesn’t love an OP protagonist?


The most unfortunate flaw that is consistent through two cours of Aldnoah Zero is the lack of balanced characterisation and development. We know close to nothing about Inaho’s motivation for fighting the war, since it was never really quite explored. We do know he cares somewhat about the people he knows, and of course cares for the Princess to an extent as well. He – may – have developed romantic feelings for her, but even that is hinted, at the most.


This certainly doesn’t help either.

On the other hand, Slaine Troyard seems to have gotten the better end of the straw. His character arguably sees the most change and growth throughout the series, though his behaviour at the end that led into the lackluster finale had really negatived whatever positives he had achieved. Slaine is ultimately one of the most pitiful characters I have ever seen, as his initial pure intentions were increasingly clouded by the mistakes in the decisions he makes and ultimately leading to his demise. To make things worse for him, he also seems to be the only one suffering while all other characters enjoy what seems to be more or less a Happy Ending (minus the romantic resolution, of course.)

It is arguable that Princess Asseylum actually plays one of the most pivotal roles in the story despite having none of those characteristics that make her stand out as an anime character, having been merely depicted as both kind and peace-loving. Plot points revolve around her and she was also after all the trigger for the war. Her personality and persona were both manipulated to turn the war around throughout the series. It is no wonder she made a politically correct choice of marriage partner as a form of a conflict resolution strategy, though we know she harbours a torch for Inaho.

The hime can offer us a lesson on how to resolve your own love triangle: choose guy C instead!

One particular flaw in the writing stands out as we inevitably compare her to Lacus Clyne of Gundam Seed, who played a similar political and character role – the mediocre dialogue as compared to Lacus’ speeches (and her songs, as well.)


I am a fan of love triangles. I love shipping characters all over – even crack pairings where if the characters’ eyes ever meet or if there’s the slightest tint of a blush on their cheeks, I’d assume there is something between them. However, I consider this love triangle experience the first where I couldn’t be even bothered about who Asseylum chose – I was glad she didn’t choose either in the end. This actually exposes the deeper problem of lack of character development in this show for two of the main characters when they were clearly many chances to do so (they could have expounded less on Lt. Marito’s backstory, for example! Which was by the way, never actually resolved.)

Don’t get me wrong – Aldnoah Zero is by no means a bad story. Its strongest points actually lie in the plot twists and artfully created cliffhangers. Just don’t expect anything that’s spectacular or any particularly tight narrative, or characters that will make you emotionally attached to them. For me, I admit the main reason I still hung onto each episode on a weekly basis was because I could watch and be inspired by the spectacular OPs and EDs and soak myself in the battle OST, composed by the extremely talented Sawano Hiroyuki.

For those who have watched Aldnoah Zero, what do you guys think? Feel free to leave a comment below! 🙂

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*

Sword Art Online II: What the first season wasn’t

Yes, I admit that I am late to the review-hype bandwagon. This was a Summer-Fall 2014 anime though I did take longer than that to finish it; also by taking breaks in the middle since I was watching it only as a continuation for the first season, which I felt was too overhyped. I was also curious – was the same formula going to be repeated, given the wildly popular first season? I figured that it wouldn’t be a real waste of time just to try and see how everything went, and true enough, I am glad to have stuck to the end in time to see the multifarious faces of the world of Sword Art Online.


Why is Klein still obsessed with 2D girls when he could have the pick of the 3D ones? … oh wait, they kind of belong to Kirito.

The first arc of the story kicks off in in the form of an online MMORPG, Gun Gale Online, set in a world unfamiliar to the fantasy themed Alfheim Online featuring swords and sorcery. GGO is, in contrast, a dark and gritty urban world where the primary mode of weaponry is the use of guns. As Kirito seeks to help the Ministry of Internal Affairs crack the case of the mysterious Death Gun who could apparently, murder the person behind the avatar at the same time he kills off the avatar in the game, his unwieldy maneuvering of this foreign land catches the eye of Sinon, a girl skilled at sniping. Together, they not only help to solve this mystery and apprehend the perpetrator of this serial virtual killing phenomenon, but they also discover the true meaning of strength along the way. In the next mini-arc, we return to the colourful world of Alfheim Online, where Kirito and friends (I really mean harem + the one odd guy Klein) seek out the sword of Excalibur, one of the most powerful weapons in the game. The catch is, the consequences behind the failing said quest could potentially drastically change the fate of Alfheim Online, serving as a motivating factor for Kirito’s team to acquire it with proper means and ‘save the world’ at the same time. Lastly, we finally have the Mother Rosario’s arc, primarily focusing on Asuna for once and her confrontation with her family as she befriends a girl, Yuuki, said to be the strongest (beating even Kirito!) swords(wo)man in Alfheim Online.


Dem feels.

While I liked the world-building, adventure style of the first season, what particularly stood out to me here is the more in-depth exploration of themes of the impacts, both positive and negative, of technology on our lives. The blurring of lines between the virtual world and reality is a very real issue with the advancement of technology, though arguably still not commonplace currently. We have Sinon, a girl trying to ‘cure’ her past traumas where the sight of a gun has her breaking down and going into a nervous fit by turning to the online world. The realisation of how negative experiences, contrary to holding you back, has the potential to propel you forward, as in the case of both Kirito and Sinon, is also portrayed here. The philosophy that virtual reality is a mere extension of one’s own personality, making online experiences as real as real-life experiences, resounds throughout the series, especially with the beautiful, heart-wrenching tale of friendship between Asuna and Yuuki.

I am personally a big fan of the much toned down pacing. This is so even in the first arc where most viewers were still unable to view SAOII as a standalone and distinct work from the first season. For me, the fact that so little material was stretched out over thirteen episodes did give us time for much needed character development and exploration of the theme of overcoming one’s past. Precious moments like these were rushed out and, I daresay, were sought to be mitigated by the overpowering focus on romance that got the fans going in the first arc of the first season. Moreover, it was entirely unhelpful when the second arc negated all that carefully built up portrayal of Asuna.

Thankfully, the Mother Rosario’s arc restored my faith in the franchise by fleshing her out and letting us get to know the Asuna I know most people adored in season one arc one. I admit that I was never a huge fan of the Kirito x Asuna pairing for reasons unbeknownst to me (I just liked Sachi more >.< ). But. We got to see Asuna taking charge and leading a group for once instead of the damsel in distress role which she had been delegated to for the previous x number of arcs. We saw her confront her unsupportive family and fight for what she wants. Our heartstrings tugged at seeing her bond with a new group of friends and how that revelation of genuine and heartfelt friendship tied in with her personal struggles, enabling her to gain the strength to speak out and tell her mother what she really needs. Kudos also goes to avoiding the gradually tiresome, age old formula of Kirito as the main spotlight who saves yet another girl in distress so that he could add her to his growing harem. 


There are of course, those who still insist that season 1 was a better season if only because of we got to see Kirito improving his abilities by leaps and bounds, overpowering his enemies, the blossoming romance between Kirito and Asuna, or even by the more detailed exploration of the vibrant and lush worlds of Sword Art and Alfheim Online. However, what season 1 lacked, Season 2 did indeed take care on improving, doing all this without really compromising the gorgeous world-building (I mean, we did have that Exaclibur arc after all). Still, I do strongly believe that it still boils down to personal preferences and what one seeks in his/her viewing experience, with lovers of the adrenaline rush of good visuals and living in a close-to-reality virtual MMORPG world preferring the first season, as opposed to those that prioritise pacing and character development who would find the second season more to their liking. I am an advocate for the second camp, though.

So, which season do you guys prefer? Please feel free to leave your thoughts!

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*

Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV Series): Checking in just before S2 starts!

On the eve of the day the first episode of the second season of Fate Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works) (TV series) with its mouthful of a name is slated to air amongst fervent anticipation, I decide that it is apposite for me to finally get down to writing my thoughts on its prequel which aired in Fall 2014.

UBW tells the story of an age-old ritual and fight to the death, named the Holy Grail War, of which the prize is the omnipotent Holy Grail, said to grant any wish of its possessor. To do so, seven masters are given seven heroic spirits chosen by the Grail, namely: Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Caster, Assassin and Berserker. Each master will then enter a contract with their Heroic Spirit or Servant, and then battle other masters and their servants to the death until one pair remains.

I have always had mixed feelings about the Fate franchise. Spawning many animated works so far, Ufotable and the legendary Gen Urobochi’s version of Fate Zero, the prequel to Fate Stay Night, has blown my mind away with its animation, quote-worthy dialogue, stunning action and character development. Unfortunately, Studio Deen’s adaptation of Fate Stay Night had left much to be desired and left a very bad taste in my mouth. Fortunately for me, this was again Ufotable’s adaptation and they were also animating Rin Tohsaka’s route this time so it was really good news for me (sorry, not really a Saber fan in the romance department, though undoubtedly Saber is a really cool character.)

UBW specifically focuses on Rin Tohsaka, who enters the War after due preparations as the heir to the Tohsaka Household, a heralded house of mages of which generations have participated in the war. However, she saves this boy, Emiya Shirou, who had been unexpectedly caught up in the battles, from the brink of death, bringing him into the world of the Holy Grail War where certainly Rin never expected to, and Shirou much less.

Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that this is Shirou’s story, rather than Tohsaka. I have always been a little impatient with Shirou as a character in Fate Stay Night, mainly because I found his ideals very unrealistic and too goody-two-shoes as a hero. Possibly because what he also said, below.

Most intelligent line ever. Even when taken in context.

But enough of that. That was Studio Deen. This is Ufotable. The animation studio DOES make a difference.

Thankfully, though Shirou still maintains much of his core ideals to my chagrin, he comes across as more earnest, more realistic and less eager to jump into shit in UBW where he knows he stand no chance of winning given his meagre magical powers as opposed to the people who have trained relentlessly for years just for this War. He is also actually more developed as a character and makes decisions and carries them out in more measured steps and after some thinking.

What makes things better is also the focus on Tohsaka and her servant, Archer. I have always found Archer interesting as a character so I was glad that the focus was on him (and I still haven’t figured out his identity though I think I was supposed to know already. Goes to show how much I bothered to remember from Fate Stay Night.) Archer does deliver some bombastic lines to knock some sense into Shirou, enough to make me pause and replay his monologue anyway.

As for Tohsaka, she has always been Best Girl for me. Sorry Saber fans, Rin is way more holistic and has more endearing reactions, for me anyway. Saber is a little too stubborn for her own good and her and Shirou together is one huge giant no for me. Its a little strange though, I have never been fond of sassy female characters when there are other girl options but Rin really won me over.

My favourite girl tsundere, even though I have a well-established dislike for girl tsunderes in general.

The only other thing left to commend is Ufotable’s razor-sharp animation and the way each screen oozes ‘bottomless budget’ to me. The fights are sometimes even too fast for me to catch what is going on – its really pretty amazing. Not to mention the extremely well done backgrounds and scenery. In fact, I think its hard to see animation of such a high quality as Ufotable’s works. Unfortunately or fortunately, they seem to be only intent on animating Type Moon’s works.

That’s all my thoughts for now; time to jump into the second season head-on for the ride to the finish! Who else’s gonna watch this as well? Leave a message! ^^

*All images belong to the respective owners and licensees of copyright and do not belong to me.*

Tokyo Ghoul: the Shingeki no Kyojin counterpart with a better main male protagonist?

Levi and Kaneki (Attack on Titan , Tokyo Ghoul) by Madara-RO

                                                           … I wish.                                                                                  

Tokyo Ghoul has been a popular manga series that has spawned a two cour anime series – the first 13 episodes debuting in Fall 2014 and the next cour airing currently in Winter 2015. The contents of this post will relate to a quasi-comparison between the first season of the Tokyo Ghoul anime, and the Shingeki no Kyojin series.

Tokyo Ghoul is set in a grim alternate reality of Tokyo where human-eating ghouls roam and terror the streets at night. The story is told from the point of view of an ordinary college student, Kaneki Ken, who gets inadvertently thrown into this darker side of Tokyo when he encounters a girl, Rize.

With such an all too familiar set-up, Tokyo Ghoul at first glance looks like any other ordinary horror story told in a linear plot line: in this modern backdrop with supernatural beings a pretty much accepted part of reality but looms on the top of the food pyramid and usurping human beings of their place, an ordinary human boy encounters a life changing event that thrusts him into the world of ‘the other side’. Sounds familiar? Shingeki no Kyojin comes to mind – in all gory and fear-inducing detail.

Aside from their immense popularity with both Japanese and international viewers, there are actually undeniable similarities between SnK and TG that may not be immediately apparent to most viewers. The most glaring one would be adrenaline pumping action scenes that are drawn with the finest details, exuding rawness and emotion which is impactful on the minds of viewers and adding a dimension of reality to what is going on in the scene (as opposed to the clean cut, swift, razor sharp graphics of ufotable’s Fate Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works) TV series, a topic for another day).

However, the way the story line actually progresses and the way events are introduced and resolved also leaves are also more subtle similarities between the two. Both have a linear storyline in which one event happens at a time and fully consumes the attention of the viewer. Yet when this event are supposedly resolved and we come to the end of the arc, the story leaves enough questions unanswered such that these can be touched upon later in the story to become fully resolved. I realise that I am talking in very abstract terms here, but if one has read and watched enough manga and anime, this is actually quite a common plot planning tactic that mangakas use (another example that comes to mind would be Gakuen Alice). It may be apposite to point out here that the entire first cour of TG actually comrpises of many more arcs than the entire two-cour SnK, and that there are probably more differences between the two stories than I could list. (for example, SnK spent no time in character development, but rather jumped straight into the execution of the story, of which I will elaborate on later.)

This brings me to my main point here. Even when there it is merely a clear linear plot progression, its execution is so fascinating that it captures the audience’s attention fully. What I mean by this is that both anime really know how to draw out the fringe emotions in its viewers so well, its almost like going for a roller coaster ride in the dark. One is immersed fully in the shoes of the protagonist and experiences fear, despair, pain, excitement and foreboding. SnK is undoubtedly the best in this department. TG meanwhile, spends more time on making sure the audience gets to know the world of the Ghouls at the same pace as Kaneki, our protagonist, actually does. But when the action scenes come, they astound the viewers with the same impact. (this applies to all major revelations in SnK, and most action scenes in TG especially towards to the end of the cour.) I have always preferred complex plots with interweaving plotlines, but the way these two series actually executed their plot has earned all the brownie points in that department, sufficient to make up for their lack of texture.

The major diverging point of both series, then, would have to be its main male protagonist. Eren Jaegar is fuelled by mostly anger at the Titans, and that is really his main motivation for improving his combat skills and ultimately, the X-factor that pushes him beyond the abilities of the average human to surpass even his most talented peers, in the most tight-knit situations. His strong willpower and determination to kill all the Titans in the world even spills over to his behaviour in his non Titan-fighting aspects of daily life.  Honestly, the one word I would use to encapsulate Eren’s character over 25 episodes would be: angry. Moreover, he is angry from the first episode, and he is still angry at the last episode. Enough said.

Image result for kaneki kenMeanwhile, we have Kaneki Ken, who starts out as the slightly reserved, lonely bookworm, who is kind and nice, and the guy that girls would probably choose to bring home and show their parents. At first, we think, what is an absolutely boring male protagonist doing in such an exciting setting? But as we see him being introduced into the world of ghouls, we see him turn from an absolutely horrified human being into someone who is more cautiously accepting of ghouls as he realises that they do also demonstrate what humans term as attributes that make them ‘human’: love for their family, love for their friends, camaraderie, the ability to organize themselves intelligently; and not the mindless human devouring predators as they are made out to be. Though he considers himself to be merely an observer, he gradually gets involved in the affairs of various ghouls. It also comes to a point in the confrontation with the ghoul-hunting organisation (really a specialised branch of the national security force of sorts) that he realises the grave misunderstanding that has alienated both humans and ghouls and put them at eternally opposing sides of the field. He then realises that, being half of each, his identity poses as the greatest weapon and tool that could potentially bring both sides together. He suddenly realises the weight of the duty and responsibility that has come to lie on his shoulders, and his own – and that gets him to firm up his resolve to act correspondingly, with that end in mind.

I have not even gotten to the most exciting character development that Kaneki has experienced, but one can see the immense amount of thinking this character has done as we see the world through his eyes. His transitions in thinking mirror that of the audience as we follow his thought processes. Our perceptions also change together with his. That level of engagement with the audience humanises him more as we unconsciously put ourselves in his shoes. This makes it feel like Kaneki’s reactions and actions are a realistic alter ego of ours, and its precisely what we would have done if we were in his shoes. (for example, being in self-denial and rooted to the spot when we are scared. There is a difference between a character being simply wimpy and one that only reacts they way he does because that’s what a normal person would do). This is actually the first reason why we are so enthralled with Kaneki Ken as a character.

The second reason, of course, comes from his transformation. We are referring to one of those rare total transformations in character even in anime, where logic does not match up with reality. What may seem like an entirely bizarre change is actually very well accepted even though at first blush, it seems to reek of a total deus ex machina of sorts or a poorly executed plot device. Why? Simply because Kaneki has been humanised enough to us that there simply isn’t any other way that he could have developed, given the experiences he was brought through. Hence, we are ready to accept his transformation, managing to satisfy at least two types of audiences: firstly, those who, from the start, have been disappointed with Kaneki’s lack of ability to defend and fight and being always overpowered and have finally been given the action they were eager for. Secondly, those who are looking for wholeness of character and have accepted Kaneki’s ‘wimpy’ reactions as purely normal; but were thrown into a pleasant surprise. After all, this total transformation is the part which deviates from reality (because there is a higher chance of becoming mentally deranged than actually turning out to be stronger mentally AND physically). However, Kaneki Ken has made the juxtaposition of badass and kindness so possible: and honestly, who doesn’t love a badass character? Moreover, though his mannerisms and behaviour are nothing alike the first character, his innate kindness and compassion towards those he cares about is retained, though not easily shown, but in existence nonetheless.


             Who would have thought?

Don’t get me wrong; Shingeki no Kyojin is in my top 5 anime of all time, but Tokyo Ghoul ranks nowhere close to my top 20. I absolutely adore SnK in all its glory; but to me, this highlights the difficulties in rating anime; to call an anime one of your favourites is to also recognise its flaws, but accept them nonetheless. Tokyo Ghoul does a much better job at character development, and I can’t help but recognise that strength it has.

That concludes my comparison on the two arguably most talked about anime for the past two years. I believe I have managed to avoid any overt spoilers in my post, though please let me know if there are any crucial or major ones I have mentioned. Both anime are seriously worth a try if you haven’t had the chance to, and I would also recommend reading the Tokyo Ghoul manga as well to get a fuller picture of the setting 🙂

*All images used in this post were sourced from Google Images and Deviantart and do not belong to me, but to their respective owners.*