All things considered I was pretty happy with the second episode of Aldnoah.Zero’s second season. Every scene with Inko continues to have an uncomfortably dated sexism to it, and the short passes at fanservice feel crass for the same reason. But the show continues to look really great, and it’s still quite entertaining most of the time. When Aldnoah goes big, it tends to do very well – and the existential staredown between Inaho and Slaine has a certain Shakespearean gravitas.
I’m not sure how much of the current developments with Inaho’s character have been written tongue-in-cheek – I may be giving Takayama Katsuhiko a bit too much credit in thinking that he understood the absurdity of the character all along and is currently riffing on that. In the end, though, I don’t suppose it matters because it’s pretty hilarious seeing where the character has gone. In addition to his already robotic facade – and abilities – his new hardware has given him the ability to act as a human lie detector (although in no way lessened his emotional tone-deafness). The practical import of this is that he’s spotted the lie in Princess Lemrina’s impersonation of Asseylum.
How in the world is Inaho still an Ensign, anyway? He’s pretty much the only reason the Terrans aren’t speaking VERS already. I confess I’ve come to rather enjoy his arc, very much for the reasons I expounded on in the S1 posts – there had to be a reason for the way his was, narratively if nothing else. And there is – Inaho has turned out to be a sort of musing on a reverse-Pinocchio, a real boy who acts like a robot and eventually becomes one (though through a gunshot as opposed to magic – does that make Slaine his Gepetto?). I wonder if he might be somewhere on the autism spectrum, but at the very least I think it’s now clear he’s not simply extraordinarily calm and impassive – there’s much more going on here than that.
As for Lemrina, there’s an interesting little interlude between she and Slaine. It turns out that she’s Asseylum’s half-sister, presumably via a peasant mother – and as such she’s unsurprisingly resentful of Asseylum (and by extension, Slaine). The sense here is that she and Slaine are using each other – she to try and usurp as much of Asseylum’s power (and life) as possible, and he to try and rise to the head of a victorious Martian army, bring Asseylum back to life and eventually cast Lemrina aside and probably eliminate her to ensure her silence. I saw their little dance – which culminated in a kiss – as a lie (the entire VERS Empire seems propped up by a web of lies) neither one of them really believed, but at the moment it’s better for both of them to act as if they did.
The orbital fly-by of the Earth and Martian bases doesn’t represent a huge plot advancement, but it does give Aldnoah.Zero a chance to stage another lovely battle epic in space. And, of course, for Orange and Bat (now promoted to Gull) to size each other up face-to-face (in space) once again. This is the only relationship in the series that really matters in the end – this is the fated pairing, and now they know each other by name. I suspect this is going to be teased out unti the final episode, but that’s fine – at this point I don’t think there’s really anywhere for the series to go once these two have their adolescent high noon, so you might as well build to that as the crescendo which caps the show.