Aldnoah.Zero – 02

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So turns out Aldnoah.Zero is a mecha series after all…

OP Sequence:

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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.

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ED: “A/Z” by Hiroyuki Sawano

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  1. R

    It's a thrill ride, indeed. I'm with you. I don't get why Inaho behaves like he is. I had the same feeling last week — he's too calm to see those missiles flying around and too different from his schoolmates. It's too early to judge his character right now, but I have the feeling that he will be conveniently given the role to lead the student fighters, now that most adults were killed leaving behind pretty much Lt. Marito and Yuki — assuming that she survives. Things also happened a little too conveniently for the plot, like the encounter between Inaho and Asseylum. Having said that, I'm still enjoying the show and hope that it will have more substance later on.

  2. R

    The moment Eddelrich (I think this is the correct spelling of her name) appeared on screen, it was obvious that the girl with her was Asseylum. Now the intriguing question is: who is helping Asseylum? The whole body double setup for her parade doesn't seem to be originally part of the preparation for her visit. For one, Cruhteo doesn't seem to be aware of it. If he was, he would have had the princess sent back to the castles and not have her running around in disguise.

    Gotta agree with you that Trillram seems to be an odd villain for an Urobuchi series.

    As for the mechs, the kataphrakts are named after historical armored cavalry units, seem rather appropriate. On the Terran side, I find those wings on the Knees of their mechs rather odd and impractical.

  3. R

    I lol'd at the MC "reaction" during the entire episode. It reminded me when there was fire in my neighborhood and I just sitting calmly in front of my house while everyone else is busy evacuating and yelling in panic. I got scolded because of it.
    There's actually people like that, because that's how they are (I know because I'm one of those people =p).

  4. Z

    Less exposition alcoholic guy was better, but I still don't know. I'm still getting the feeling that this entire affair could have been set up in a more interesting manner. At the moment it's playing like a paler imitation of Code Geass (All hail Britannia!).

  5. B

    If there's one thing I know about Urobuchi shows, it's that the one-dimensional villains get killed off pretty quickly and the morally ambiguous ones are saved for the long-term. I don't think we'll be seeing Trillram for very long- especially since promotional posters have Slaine standing next to the huge purple mech that he's piloting right now.

  6. m

    Watching the end of the first ep and this ep gave me the same feeling that I had when I saw Independence day as a kid. It has this big Hollywood blockbuster sense of magnitude to it which I find really thrilling to watch. Obviously it won't stay so action packed, but I can see it being a couple more eps before things start to slow down a bit.

  7. M

    Same here,although since it's 1-cour,I'm thinking that it might stay that way until the end. Not saying that's a bad thing though,as it's what the show seems to excel at. We'll probably get some more political intrigue eventually. I wouldn't expect much in terms of characters though.

  8. m

    With Gen dropping out of the mix soon I think we could see some development with the characters. My issue is the one cour though. I think you're right that one cour would likely lead it to stay action packed and miss out on character/political development, or have to drop the grandiose action stuff for s few eps. I think I would prefer it to stay action packed if it's only going to be 1-cour, but if they can get greenlight for season 2 early enough, I hope they go into more of the characters and politics of it all.

  9. R

    Yeah, I'm a bit worried that this is just one cour too. They have set up quite a lot in the first ep alone, so I don't know if 12 episodes would be enough to cover at least most of them. I guess the only characters that would probably get considerable development here are Inaho, Asseylum, and Slaine. I'm already quite interested on the first two, so I will be just waiting to see what they offer on Slaine's characterization.

  10. Several semi-reliable sources have reported that it's going to be two split cours.

  11. R

    Ahh, so that's why it's listed on Wikipedia as having 24 episodes. If thats indeed the case, then I am definitely relieved. They would have more room to explore everything. That was honestly one of my issues with Gargantia.

  12. H

    " 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?" THANK YOU, I mean I can accept the technology part (we found alien stuff works just well enough) but the motivations still baffle me.

  13. R

    I found this from the show's website. Can you translate this Enzo? Since I can't read Japanese.

  14. Sorry, too many as-yet unlearned Kanji there for me!

  15. b

    I'll give a quick, partial translation for now, since it's kind of long. Might do more later if I remember

    1969: Apollo 11 moon landing is successful.

    1972: Apollo 17 finds remains of an ancient Mars civilization on the moon's surface. In the remains an instantaneous teleportation device, using previously unknown technology is uncovered, giving humanity the ability to travel between Mars & back.
    This device came to be called a "hypergate".

    1975: Under international guidance, plans to colonize Mars were drawn up, and the Mars Treaty was made. The treaty was ratified by all the U.N member countries, and they agreed to not use military forces on Mars, and such. Following this, the Cold War was for all intents and purposes finished. This same year, the First Mars Survey Corps was deployed.
    Prof. Leylegaria (unsure of the right romanization) followed with them as the official overseer.

    Those are the first three years. I'll do more later if people find it useful & if I don't forget.

  16. H

    Seconded! (cheers bokusenou)

  17. R

    Thanks a lot! Will be waiting for the other parts.

  18. w

    Here's a few more (robbed from MAL)

    1980: immigration starts and 340,000 settlers are sent to Mars.

    Starting in 1982, Rayregalia starts inciting anti-Earth sentiments among the Martian settlers, calling for an armed uprising. The UN immediately moves to suppress the situation, but the situation escalates. They later arrest Rayregalia, but a mob attacks and breaks him out of jail.

    1985: Vers Empire formed, with Rayregalia named as the first emperor. In fear of the empire, the countries of Earth form the Earth Federation and enter a cold war with Mars. Things are relatively peaceful for the next decade.

    1996: Martian terrorists bomb several cities, killing 3,267 people, causing hostilities between Earth and the Vers Empire to increase rapidly.

    1997: Rayregalia steps down as emperor due to illness, and his son Gilzeria takes the throne.

    1999: Gilzeria declares war on the Earth Federation. The Vers Empire fights using mechs called Cataphracts. During a battle on the moon the Hypergate goes out of control and destroys half the moon. Pieces form the Satellite Belt around Earth, and some crash into the Earth in an event called the Heaven's Fall. Earth is still rebuilding from that. During the battle Gilzeria is killed in action, causing Rayregalia to retake the throne and is still emperor as of the series' start. Gilzaria's daughter Princess Asseylum is born.

    2000: a ceasefire is signed by both signs, and a demilitarized neutral zone is formed.

    2003: Earth finished developing its own Cataphracts and first uses them to quell the rioting caused by Heaven's Fall. The riots are stopped in 2007 and things return to relative peace. Steps are made between Earth and Mars for peace.

  19. R

    Okay, so cataphract is a catch all term for the mechs in the series. Nice choice, actually.

    So, basically, Vers is just a newly formed empire. Now, I wonder who Rayregalia really is and how and why he incited anti-Earth sentiments in just two years. That amount of time seems a bit too short to really create any dissent within a colony.

  20. b

    Glad it was useful! I'll continue from where Wemleh left off & finish the rest of them.

    2007: Post-war clean-up on Earth finishes. Conditions continue to stabilize.

    2010: 10 years after the war. In every Earth country memorial ceremonies & top-level meetings are held, as both sides begin to march toward peace.

    2014:In the name of peace, Earth takes a growing interest in the Vers Empire. The peace negotiations are expected to continue.

  21. M

    The real truth regarding Mars civilization will be definitely the plot twist of the series, based on the released timeline there must be something happened that a normal professor suddenly decided to turn Mars is an empire and he's the emperor. Aliens? Ancient technologies are mind-controlling them? And to me it's still not clear how the Martians are genetically superior besides their technology.

  22. w

    I'm definitely more curious as to what Slaine's role in the plot will be. He's the character I'm most interested in at his point. Also hoping for SlainexAsseylum ending because I have serious shipping issues. Slaine she's alive what are you even doing go find her!

    Incidentally, Earth IS fucked. You're right there, Ted. I think we're gonna need a situation where a Terran goes "I'm gonna hijack that gunman!" to get out of this.

    Also, off topic: Enzo, have you watched Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?

  23. R

    lol it's terrible

  24. Z

    Due to young Koutarou's financial circumstances, he is forced to live in a small rokujouma (6-tatami apartment) on a budget of 5000 yen a month. On the plus side, he lives rent-free, but on the minus side, that's because room 106 of Corona Apartments is cursed. The ghost is a cute young girl, and hijinks ensue when she tries to drive him out. Between the haunting, Koutarou's nosy neighbors, and a self-styled magical girl flying to the unneeded rescue, there's way too much for the impoverished young man to handle.

    *Universe explodes*

  25. w

    Well I thought it was pretty funny…

  26. Didn't that show air on NoitaminA last season? I didn't like it the first time – I considered giving it an ep because of Shin, but I really don't have much incentive to watch it again…

  27. w

    Fair enough. I thought the first episode was very funny in that sort of silly, zany way. The characters seemed quite fun for the most part and the lead was likeable. I can't really say you should watch it since it's all subjective anyway. But as far as harems go, this looks to be pretty fun.

  28. I did end up watching the first ep after you planted the seed in my head. Not too bad, but seemed like pretty generic LN stuff to me, to be honest. About on a par with Nanana's Buried Treasure.

  29. w

    I don't disagree with that, thanks for the honest opinion :). I'm hoping to enjoy it the same way I did the early eps of Gaworare last season. It's not at that level, but I need to get my hyperactive comedy fix from somewhere.

  30. m

    Part of me wants this show to keep the focus on the Earth side with the exception of Slaine and the princess. I can't think of many shows that focus mostly on one side of the conflict like that, but when it's done right it makes things a lot more intriguing. I like when you don't always know what's going on with the villains side of things and you learn it as the main characters do. Obviously it can backfire and end up with too much exposition dumping at the end, but it can also give the invaders a bigger air of mystery and make them seem scarier for being unknown. I said this show is reminding me of watching independence day, and the fact that you didn't know much about the aliens in that movie made it all seem so much more ominous. I like that we don't know why they are invading Earth yet, and what we know is only that they feel like a superior race.

    Trillram is definitely a very strange Gen villain, but I think (and hope) he is about to meet his end in the next ep and that he's only there to be so much of an evil douche that he is what drives Slaine to switch sides and keep the Martian gunman like Whemleh said.

    I gotta say I love the force field of the Martian gunmen being so strong that it just evaporates missles, buildings, roads, and even one unfortunate human. It's a cool touch that was added in to show just how superior their tech is. The only issue with it I have would be that if that doesn't become the way to take the machine down (shoot it from bellow where it can't use the force field or else it would melt through to the center of the earth) it would feel like they are missing out on it's weakness. I guess it could fly to prevent that, but if the shield was a bubble whenever it turned on it seems like it would start sinking immediately since I don't think the Martian gunmen have flown yet.

  31. Z

    More than likely the good guys will get their hands on an even stronger mech that basically haxes it.

  32. R

    The orange one in the opening? If they do throw that "good guys get mecha hax unit" plot here, I don't know. Am a fan of those cool botsm but this just doesn't seem to be the right series for it.

  33. t

    Since the incident has been confirmed to be more Mukden than Sarajevo, I wonder how far the Imperial Japan comparisons will go. Princess Asseylum as Hirohito? Hmm. I mean, I do think there will be some surprises along the way.

  34. H

    More entertaining than last week, but almost humorously predictable. Don't know how the school kids plan to out do the Kataphrakt, but I'd like to see 'em try.

    Maybe Gen's name is being thrown around too liberally, A.Z feels pretty rote so far. Then again, Madoka…

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