Another very strong episode of Aldnoah.Zero this week, albeit one that felt a lot more conventional than the premiere did. We’re still in the part of the story (the first three episodes) that Gen Urobuchi says he personally supervised, but for the most part this was tried and true mecha canon that didn’t especially bear any outstanding features that would identify it as a personal work. Rather, it was just a well-executed thrill ride that didn’t mess around with subtlety and went straight for the gut. It should also be pointed out that the success of this episode is driven to an unusual degree by the relentlessly urgent soundtrack by Sawano Hiroyuki, who always seems to be more than up to the task.
What’s the deal with M.C. Inaho and his stone-faced lack of emotion? If you were hoping for an answer you didn’t get it this week, though you certainly received ample evidence that he’s a hard nut to crack. I do hope there’s a better explanation forthcoming than his simply being that way by nature, because it’s pretty unnatural – but in point of fact, the students as depicted here seemed quite cavalier about things, considering just how messed up the situation was.
And messed up it certainly was – if there was a dominant theme here, it was “Earth is seriously fucked”. Basically we got 22 minutes of testimonial to the fact that the Terrans are hopelessly outmatched and overpowered, even if they’ve convinced themselves that their 15 years of preparation meant anything. The Martian menace is personified in Trillram (Sakurai Takahiro at his most ridiculously campy), one of Cruhteo’s lieutenants who’s put in charge of securing things on the ground and “investigating” the death of Asseylum. Frankly if Gen is behind this it isn’t his best work – I’ve never been fond of these sorts of overplayed villains who mug for the camera and delight in toying with the enemy just so we know how evil they are. If Trillram had a moustache I’m pretty sure he would have twirled it.
No, there’s no doubting who the white and black hats are here, at least so far – the Martian humans are a wicked bunch. I’m still not clear on how the timing of all this works out – how exactly did this civilization establish itself, spawn another generation and eternal enmity with Terran scum, and attack Earth within less than three decades of the Apollo mission that discovered the artifact? In any event, we do get our confirmation that Asseylum is alive and that her assassination was the work of Martian undercover agents – agents that Trillram wipes out to avoid any risk that they’ll spill embarrassing information later. One “rat” escapes, however – Rayet (Misawa Sachika) the daughter of the man in charge of the assassination mission. She’s rescued by Yuki, the last functional member of the mobile suit platoon that’s been sent to intercept Trillram and nearly wiped out, and handed over to the transport carrying her brother and his friends for safe keeping.
Lots of questions remain about all this, not least of which whether Yuki survived (it’s not clear to me one way or the other) and whether Asseylum’s survival was part of the original Martian plot. It seems to me that she survived by pure chance (illness, supposedly) – she was truly expected by the Martians to be part of that motorcade. One way or another she’s now teamed up with Inaho (who she encountered by chance in the nearly-deserted streets) and friends, and her existence is certainly a potential problem for the invading Martians. And they could use a few problems, because right now things are way, way too easy for them.
After seeing his friend Okisuke (Yamaya Yoshitaka – what tragedy to have Kaori and Yuuki reunited and then ripped apart so quickly) killed before his eyes and still not reacting, it seems pretty clear than something is broken inside Inaho. But he’s certainly capable of outrage at the very least, and seems destined to step into a crucial role as part of a ragtag Terran resistance force (Lt. Marito has definitely survived and will be a key player, too). It doesn’t get much more boilerplate than a bunch of students gathering together to fight off alien invaders, but we’ll see where Gen and Takayama plan to steer Aldnoah.Zero in this minefield of potential cliche – it’s clear there are very talented people behind this series at all levels. Right now things are way more cut-and-dried than I expect from an Urobutcher series, but it’s early yet – hopefully there’s some moral ambiguity on the way to spice things up.
ED: “A/Z” by Hiroyuki Sawano