First the housekeeping: as far as naming conventions go, I’m following the studio’s lead on this one. If they want to call this Episode 13 rather than 2.1, that’s good enough for me. And it’s rather fitting, given that despite the passage of 19 months on-screen and 3 months off-screen, very little seems to have changed. Aldnoah.Zero is still crazy, still beautiful, and still the undisputed current reigning champ of asspulls. Oh, Aldnoah – don’t you ever change!
Seriously now – you didn’t really think anyone was going to stay dead, did you? Asseylum alone has gone through more lives than a clowder of cats. There was a time when I would have been really pissed off about the ending of the first cour being a complete non-event, but over the course of the last three months I’ve come to terms with the fact that expecting anything different of Aldnoah would be pointless. If one is going to follow this show I think they have to accept it, warts and all – and there’s not much point in looking for logic or consequences.
Episode 13 brings us right back into the swing of things, delivering us ample evidence that this is still very much the same show. We get a disposable Orbital Knight-of-the-week brought down by hubris and a fatal flaw in his Aldnoah quirk. We get Inaho (yeah, he’s alive by the way) riding in to save the day with instantaneous and flawless analysis of the enemy’s arsenal. We got blatant sexism. We get body doubles and extraneous fanservice, and some gorgeously drawn combat sequences. It really is the return of an old friend who’s full of annoying habits but always manages to entertain you.
As far as the explanations for the survival of the three characters who should be dead. I think Saazbaum is the most straightforward. He was shot in the torso, and Slaine effectively gave him a combination ultimatum/pledge of loyalty in sparing his life. As for Asseylum, the episode does a nice job of head-faking that she’s actually now supporting the Martian cause but in fact, the Asseylum we see giving jingoistic speeches is another princess, Lemrina (Natsukawa Shiina) using the shapeshifter techniques we saw Asseylum use earlier. Is this Asseylum’s sister, or perhaps a cousin? In any event, she seems a willing conspirator in Saazbaum and Slaine’s continued war on Earth. As for the real Asseylum, she’s being kept alive in a tank, seemingly unconscious – and there’s no evidence Slaine’s obsession with her has abated in the least.
Of the three, it was always Inaho whose survival was going to be most difficult to justify, but there isn’t much of an effort to come up with anything especially radical. He’s been shot through the eye by Slaine, but he’s still alive when Inko brings him to the bridge of the Decaulion. The hook here is that he’s apparently inherited Aldnoah powers from Asseylum through their CPR session, and thus his touch is enough to get the ship’s Aldnoah drive re-started and thus, get himself emergency treatment quickly enough to survive. He’s apparently some sort of cyborg now, which is loaded with its own set or ironies.
Despite the fact that Inaho should certainly be dead and his survival amounts to a pretty ridiculous narrative cop-out, I find myself kind of glad he’s alive because I like the dynamic of he and the now top boss Slaine as arch-rivals at the center of the opposing planets’ forces. It should be fun watching the two of them go at it for military and political supremacy, not to mention eventually for Asseylum’s heart. It seems that Aldnoah.Zero left its initial feints towards realism behind at about the same time it detached any involvement from Urobuchi Gen, but there’s still a lot of entertainment value here as a semi-intentional farce. Since the first cour ended I’ve made my peace with what sort of series this is, and accepted the futility of expecting it to be anything else. The fan reactions to this episode are all over the map and I think that’s to be expected, because the show is asking a lot from the audience. But as long as it manages to be entertaining and outlandish, I’m prepared to give it.
OP: “&Z” by SawanoHiroyuki