I’m certainly not going to waste any “I told you so’s” on Aldnoah.Zero this week, because I don’t think it took any special foresight to know that Princess Asseylum would still be alive. Indeed, it was pretty much a lock – and that she would be revived via Inaho giving her CPR was strongly hinted at too (and props to the series for actually showing CPR properly applied). No, that’s all a given more or less – but there were some other predictable traps that I was rather hoping the series would avoid that it didn’t manage to.
My great fear was that this episode was going to rush straight to redemption for Rayet, and that certainly happened – but the way it happened was even more irritating that I expected. The inconsistency in Inaho’s character could hardly have been more unmistakably showcased if it had been the intent of the writing to do so. How can you possibly rationalize the way he dealt with Slaine and the way he dealt with Rayet? The answer is you can’t – it’s preposterous on every level. Slaine fights at his side and saves his life and because Inaho has a suspicion about who he might be, he decides he’s an enemy. Rayet tries (and technically succeeds) in murdering the Princess in cold blood, and he declares she’s not – and hands her the very gun she’s just threatened his life with, barrel pointing at his head?
The larger problem here is that Inaho’s entire reason d’être is that he’s the implacable, stoic figure who sees every situation rationally and thinks around corners. That’s the pretense behind why he gets very little development and shows almost nothing of who he is, but when you turn around and show nonsensical behavior like this the entire structure is compromised. However you try and write this off – cute girl armor, whatever – it’s a nightmare moment for Inaho’s character arc and any hope that it’ll end up being a compelling and believable one. We’ll see what happens with Rayet from here – if they let her walk without a trial (and even with one would be dicey) that’s going to be another serious blow to Aldnoah.Zero’s credibility.
That’s a lot to get past (and I sure hope instantaneous healing of bruises is revealed to be a trait of the VERS royal family), but if you can get past it there’s some better stuff happening with the main plot. Director Aoki Ei basically confirmed this week that the first cour was going to end with a bang, and we can certainly see the makings of that here. With Asseylum alive it’s a straightforward matter to get the Deucalion underway again, and that means it can finally arrive at United Earth HQ in Russia – a giant underground complex of shelters and military installations that’s supposed to have supplies for three years. Except there aren’t enough refugees to fill it to capacity, which suggests that things on the outside are even worse than those on the Deucalion had feared.
Arriving at the base also means a momentary farewell between Asseylum and Inaho, and her opportunity to at last try and communicate with her own people. That farewell seems to decisively rule out any romantic entanglement between those two, whose CPR session was like a clinical, sanitized version of the rather raw and primal one she shared with Slaine. As usual it’s hard to read Inaho’s reaction, but there might just have been a flicker of disappointment in his expression. As for Asseylum’s message to her people, it’s about what you’d expect – an unvarnished condemnation of the hostilities with Earth and a demand that they cease immediately.
Saazbaum is indeed turning out to the first villain in Aldnoah formidable enough to really matter, and the fact that he doesn’t act like he dropped in from Scooby Doo makes him that much the better for the purpose. He’s well-prepared – he controls the base on the moon that would relay the Princess’ message to Mars, so he can make sure no one back home sees it. That also means he can track it to its source, so he now knows where the Princess – and the Deucalion – are. That means the attack that’s likely to form the spine of this season’s grand finale, with Saazbaum leading an all-out assault on Earth’s assembled power structure. He gives Slaine a choice – join my assault, or flee to Earth and die defending it. But he does spare Slaine’s life and he does give him the choice, largely out of the debt he feels he owes Slaine’s father.
Saazbaum and Slaine are really the two most interesting people in this story, and I’m rather sad that they’re apparently going to split up. Or are they? I’m not saying that Slaine will be persuaded by Saazbaum’s tale of how Asseylum’s father caused the death of his fiancee Orlane (Noto Mamiko) during Heaven’s Fall, but Saazbaum revealing that he’s retrieved Cruhteo’s Tharsis (how did that work, exactly?) is an obvious invitation for Slaine to pilot it. Perhaps he’ll use it to flee and turn it against Saazbaum’s forces, but it does seem likely Slaine will use it one way or the other (and thus confirm that he’s been granted Aldnoah power by Asseylum).