That was certainly a lot to take in, in a good way. Mostly we got an episode delivered over to some of the best action of any series this season, but it finished by unzipping an enormous bundle of intriguing questions that should have a huge impact on the future direction of the series. And for me, this was the episode where Inaho’s strange inscrutability was most effectively utilized, thanks to those last few minutes – not knowing just what he’s thinking gives him an intriguing air of menace.
After what effectively amounted to a three-minute recap pre-credits (I really dislike those) events picked up right where they left off, and they certainly hit the ground running. It always seemed likely that we were going to see Inaho and Slaine team up at last, though I think it’s fair to say my expectations were exceeded. Not only did their respective brands of genius prove to be quite compatible, but we even got a de facto gattai move. Surely this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…
Ah, well – alas, for now at least things are a bit more complicated. There’s really nothing too noteworthy about Femianne and her Hellas – we see the exact pattern repeated for the third time. The Martian kataphrakts are strong with a fatal weakness, Inoha exploits it, and they’re destroyed. Like her predecessors she a plot device, but the results are good – not only is the entire battle sequence superbly executed, but it was really interesting to watch “Orange” and “Bat” take the measure of each other and figure out how to work together. Slaine is quick on his feet, instinctive and quick to adjust – Inaho analyzes and deconstructs with calm deliberation. Their combine move was literal and figurative – they made a powerful team. And it’s not insignificant that it was Rayet that took the final shot and killed Femianne, noting that “All Martians will pay for father’s death”. I think that settles any questions about where her loyalties lie.
It’s now that the questions start arising. I don’t think anyone should be surprised that Marito’s buried report turned out to be true, but we still don’t know the full import behind what was discovered at Tanegashima this week. We see a Martian kataphrakt – the “demon” Marito saw 15 years earlier. Presumably the Terran kataphrakts were reverse-engineered from this prototype, but without Aldnoah were nothing more than the walking tanks we’ve seen in action. But what was it that made the Captain and the others gasp in shock when they saw it? Was it the flying battleship that soon made it’s appearance, or something else? And why have the Earth authorities kept the existence of this secret base and its contents secret for 15 years – is it simply a matter of being unable to exploit them because of the lack of Aldnoah?
“Exploit” is a big word in those crucial last few moments of the episode. If Rayet has confirmed her loyalties to us, Asseylum has confirmed her identity to everyone by taking control of the battleship – presumably the only way it could be used unless or until she grants Aldnoah to someone else. It seems natural at this point for Slaine to join the cause officially, but this is where things get dodgy. With the immediate crisis over he and Inaho have time to really size each other up. The most simple explanation for what happened is that Inaho suspects that Slaine is one of the Martian faction that tried to kill Asseylum, otherwise how would he know she was alive? He gives Slaine a chance to explain himself, and Slaine refuses – he simply demands to see the Princess.
Inaho’s sphinx-like nature lends itself to another possibility, though. Slaine asks him if he intends to “exploit” the Princess, and his response is “Would it bother you if I did?” Slaine asks if Inaho is his enemy, and Inaho replies with “You are my enemy.” It’s a fascinating exchange, that, and here’s a question – Inaho has shown himself to be astute to an almost Marty Stu (Gary, if you prefer) level so far. Would he really so badly misread the situation here, after Slaine has just risked his life to help him? Or is it just possible that he has a plan to “exploit” Asseylum to stop the war, and he sees Slaine – whose role in all this he’s correctly sussed out (remember, Asseylum has talked about Slaine to Inaho) – as an obstacle to that plan?
Or, he could just be hot for her and doesn’t want the competition.
I suppose we’re going to know a lot more after the next ep, but it’s certainly intriguing to ponder. As to their exchange of hostilities, if you watch carefully it seems clear that it was Han Slaine that fired first. Also, it seems that Inaho fired a disabling shot rather than one intended to destroy Slaine’s ship. In any event it’s a wild finish, and it leaves Slaine in quite the bind. Saazbaum – who’s happily proving to have at least a modicum of intelligence – has now located Slaine (and seems dismayed to learn that it’s Tanegashima that he’s headed to). It seems there’s no refuge with the Terrans despite his assistance against Femianne, and soon enough he’ll be facing the threat of capture from above (though he does have the advantage in that Saazbaum needs him alive, making him a a far more difficult target). This is the sort of cliffhanger every action series should aspire to, and the anticipation starts as soon as the credits roll. Well played, Aldnoah.Zero.