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.
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.
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.
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.*