So I originally began watching Aldnoah.Zero–this season’s quasi-realistic mecha anime series–because of an older blog to which I once contributed (in case you were wondering from where the older posts on this blog originated…that’s where), as one of my weekly reviews. Originally, I was kind of excited about it: a mecha show by Gen Urobuchi? Last time that happened was Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, which turned out to be both gorgeous and satisfying. After a couple of episodes, though, I was getting bored. The first two episodes were laughably predictable, and I lamented the show ever getting good.
Well, thank goodness for the three-episode rule.
Aldnoah.Zero, round about episode 3, goes from a rather predictable mecha anime show in the military SF vein (Gundam, etc) to a clever and action-packed…mecha anime show in the military SF vein. This is largely thanks to the actions of the main character, Inaho, who is flat-faced (I don’t think he emotes even once, except maybe during the last few minutes of the last episode, which I’ll get to in a minute). Inaho is a genius, who uses physics and tactics and simple intelligent badassery to defeat his opponents. At one point he uses water pressure to crush an enemy robot.
So the show is good. It’s really good. The predictability doesn’t really go away, but it’s more of an “Oh, I hope what I know is going to happen doesn’t happen” kind of thing and less of a “*sigh* Saw that coming” kind of thing, which is a subtle but important difference.
But a little about the plot:
We discovered a space-gate in 1972, followed it to Mars, got attacked by a race of humans living there that were separated from Earth sometime in the past and survived using the dregs of an ancient race’s power, a technology called Aldnoah. Aldnoah is basically Phlebotinum: it’s a power source and a shield and can make objects stupidly dense and–you get the picture. The Martians (“Versians”, whatever) have it, the Terrans don’t. Moving on.
The Princess of Mars, Asseylum, goes down to Earth to negotiate a peace, where she is promptly assassinated by her own side, casus belli<em-style. She survives and is picked up by the Terrans, who plan to use her to stop the war (it’s hoped that the regular Martians will overcome the traitorous ones). Meanwhile, her Terran-held-by-Mars friend, Slaine, is hunting for her after the Martian Knight (the nobility and warriors) to whom he is attached reveals the plan…just before Slaine, who loves Asseylum, shoots him.
There are a number of other plots: the soldier who was forced to mercy-kill the brother of his CO, the daughter of the Martian traitor who attempted to assassinate the princess, a few other things. Long story short, eventually Slaine finds out that the leader of the Knights wants to destroy the Martian Royal Family by killing the Princess, because it’s the Royal Family that controls Aldnoah and keeps Mars angry at Earth to distract from their problems. He’s especially mad that the Royal Family is, by starting the war, responsible for the death of his betrothed. Slaine, who has no love for the Martians except through Asseylum, decides…that’s okay? I don’t really understand that part, but it’s important for what I really want to talk about.
So Inaho eventually has to face down the leader of the Knights, while Asseylum goes to shut down the Aldnoah drive on the Knights’ attack base. Just as he’s about to strike the final blow, Slaine, in a robot that somehow activated for him (the big Aldnoah robots can only be activated by a member of the royal family or one of the Knights), tackles him and saves the Knight Leader (it could be because Inaho was kind of a dick to him last they met, so it might make sense that way).
As a result of this three-way robot interaction, they crash through a wall and into the Aldnoah drive chamber, where Asseylum has just shut the whole thing down with her Royal Command Voice, or whatever. Since all the robots are disabled, Asseylum goes to the one she recognizes–Inaho’s–and pulls him out, just in time to get shot three times in the back by the leader of the Knights. Slaine, absolutely wrecked by the fact that it’s all his fault that his crush got shot, shoots the Knight Leader, then Inaho (he’s trying to get to the Princess because I guess he liked her or something? This is the problem with characters that don’t emote). Then he walks away.
That’s it. There’s one more line–something about how Asseylum’s body was never found–to close out the series.
Oh yeah, there’s going to be a season 2. Because gyahhhh.
Seriously? Twelve episodes, leading up to a perfectly capable conclusion, and we get a FUCKING SEQUEL HOOK? Who gets shot three times in the back and walks away? I’ve seen anime bullshit but this is some real anime bullshit.
And it hurts so much because this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It’s smart and dark and never lets up for a second and then it goes “LOL WAIT A SEASON FOR PART TWO LOL”.
Aldnoah.Zero is a fantastic show. I will be watching season 2, and as much as it would sort of ruin the “anyone can die” vibe of the first season, I want Inaho to come back and lay the intellectual smack-down on somebody. If Asseylum can walk away (and no doubt she’s alive. I don’t trust this show to have Slaine carry her body away like some kind of weirdo even if her dying is realistic), Inaho can survive an ambiguous gunshot wound (Head? Chest? Unknown)
I think, to be perfectly honest, this show is trying to do what I secretly always want these kinds of shows to do: not let anyone I like die. Even though the point of good writing is to create characters that you absolutely love and do horrible, awful things to them like killing them or letting the people they love die, I always just want everything to turn out sunshine and rainbows. Sacrifices have to be made, yes, but that’s a role for parents to fill, not teenagers. I’m a sucker for the romantic subplot, provided it doesn’t detract from the important characterization, and what I want in the end is a heroic sacrifice and a romantic resolution.
That’s another thing: Aldnoah.Zero did what is almost impossible in anime these days and gave every character at least some sort of sympathetic aspect. All the characters made decisions (giving the benefit of the doubt here pretty hard, though) that made sense for them to make the way they made them, which lends an air of tragic inevitability to the show, which really adds to the atmosphere.
I’m interested in more, but Urobuchi-san is infamous for the fantastic lead-up and the shit ending. If I didn’t know season 2 was coming, I’d say this was one of those times, but this Winter is supposed to be when it airs next, so that’s not too long to wait.
Don’t screw this up, Aldnoah.Zero. You have my attention.
Aldnoah.Zero is available on Crunchyroll.