I think the jury is still out on whether Aldnoah.Zero is one of those series where it’s better not to think too much and just enjoy the ride, but the verdict on whether or not the ride is enjoyable is definitely in – guilty as charged. This show is a blast in more ways than one – visually pleasing (Shimura Takako character designs really should be a requirement for every mecha series) with a high-octane soundtrack and a relentless narrative momentum that makes every episode a breathless experience.
The artistic impression scores, then, are impressive (even from the East German judge). As to technical merit, as I said that’s still a bit up in the air for me. Translations of the timeline on the series website have done nothing to allay my doubts about the timing of events leading up to the current situation, and some of the science as relates to the Martian Kataphrakts and their barriers seems a bit dodgy to me. And how is it that no one in any of the earlier skirmishes noticed a small army of spy satellites hovering nearby to every VERS kataphrakt?
I’m not a purist for that sort of thing though, to be honest – with mecha series if the entertainment value is high enough I can overlook a lot as long as the illogic doesn’t extend extensively to character behavior, and even at that we’re still looking at questionable rather than preposterous when it comes to the details. It’s a function of this sort of series that teenage heroes can figure out stuff the top brass of the military can’t, and that Rayet and Asseylum should conveniently possess the technical skills (heck, either the driving age in Japan is different in this timeline or Rayet is a helluva fast learner) necessary to carry out their part in Inaho’s counterattack is par for the course.
Inaho remains in interesting mystery, still betraying almost no emotion in any situation apart from the odd GAR line of dialogue, and the import of his actions themselves. I continue to hope we learn what makes him tick (and why he’s such a technical and tactical whiz), but for now he’s a solid badass peachfuzz warrior of the stone-cold type, and I quite like the way he dissected the information from earlier encounters with Trillram and calculated a potential weakness in his kataphrakt. If we accept the basic genre premise of teenagers being the vanguard of the human race as it fights off invaders, this was set up about as realistically as one could hope for. Simply put, there was no one else left to fight and Inaho had both the nerve and the wit to make an effective commander. Plus, these students have had a measure of military training as part of their school curriculum.
Another element I liked here was Rayet and Asseylum ending up fighting side-by-side, which is certainly ironic given their respective backgrounds. While it hasn’t been explicitly stated it seems pretty likely that Rayet knows why her family was executed, which gives her the advantage over Asseylum. I might quibble with Asseylum’s willingness to go head-long into battle with units from her own world when, as far as she presumably knows, they’re fighting a good-faith battle prompted by their belief that she’s been assassinated by Terran terrorists (terranists?). Either she knows more than she’s let on or she’s incredibly cold and detached and decided that Trillram and his crew were a necessary sacrifice in the interest of longterm peace, but there’s no denying she’s a trooper – and now there’s no denying that she’s some sort of mahou shoujo, too. That explains her ability to slip away unnoticed after the attempt on her life, but mahou shoujou in a mecha series? Even for Urobuchi Gen, isn’t that crossing the streams?
The ending of the episode was a cracker, and it definitely sets Slaine up as a pivotal figure going forward (not that it wasn’t already obvious). He’s the consummate boy caught between two worlds – I hope we find out how he got into his current situation – but his loyalties are certainly going to be tested now that he knows the truth about Asseylum. His initial reaction certainly reveals serious sackage – he palms Trillram’s pistol and blows him away (frankly, he won’t be missed by me). But what does Slaine do now – does he join the Terran resistance? I think it’s likely his next steps are guided by Asseylum’s, but it seems as if he and Inaho are ultimately destined to be joined by fate, and the Yin-Yang nature of their personalities (which is so extreme as to suggest there may be an even deeper connection between them) only strengthens that impression.