Is it me, or has Aldnoah.Zero actually started to make sense? And if it has, is that a good thing? If you put a gun to my head, I think I’d have to answer yes to both questions. The thing is, I don’t think this show every totally sold out to batshit insanity the way, say, Valvrave did – so as a result, when it goes into full asspull mode rather than agreeably crazy it was more just irritating as hell. But the events of the last two episodes actually a show that’s actually going somewhere with a sense of purpose, and that some sense of logic is governing things (after it got the big asspulls out of the way in the S2 premiere). Of course, if Saazbaum survives this one you can pretty much scrap that whole paragraph.
As I said last week, I’ve come to rather like the growing battle of peachfuzz genius brewing between Slaine and Inaho. I think we’re still owed some explanation of just why Slaine is capable of seemingly superhuman feats of prescience (not even Inaho has figured it out), and I think the ship has pretty much sailed on getting one for pre-gunshot Inaho’s level of genius. But at least now what we’re getting from bizarro-Pinocchio Inaho makes sense – in his own words he’s about “70-30” relying on his own brain for his Gary Stu (at least in chess) with the implant (which we now know is much more than just for vision) providing the rest.
The narrative seems to be split pretty much 50-50 between the Earth and VERS sides at the moment, with some interesting stuff happening on both sides. Inaho suggests to Captain Romance-counselor that it might be best for all concerned if he doesn’t risk his neck in the upcoming battle royale with the Mars forces, given that he’s now the only way his side has of accessing Aldnoah. But there’s an essential contradiction here, because it could hardly be more obvious that the Earth forces would have no chance in battle if Inaho wasn’t performing his usual superhuman feats. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t – but it’s clear Earth has no chance without putting all its eggs – on sale or otherwise – in Inaho’s basket. If you’re going to play the genius teenager saving the day trope card, I guess you may as well play it to the hilt.
No question though, the biggest dramatics this week come on the VERS-ian side. The reminder of how much of a cartoonishly evil caricature most of the Orbital Knights are isn’t exactly welcome, but it does serve a larger purpose – the taunting and threats of two of them (Barouhcruz and Marylcian – if it matters) prompts Saazbaum to proclaim Slaine his son and heir. This seems to offer him some measure of protection, though it’s obvious the “Terran Dog” ought never to turn his back on his fellow Knights.
Slaine’s gambit here – using the brilliance he expects Inaho to display in the coming battle to spring the trap he’s laid for Saazbaum – is a brilliant if credulity-straining stratagem. Inaho is unwitting in all this, but even if he’s not the victim he’s certainly the one being played in this round – though it’s Saazbaum who pays the price. I’m of mixed feelings about this – Saazbaum was always the most nuanced and interesting of the VERS nobles (though that’s a low bar). But this makes Slaine’s character a lot more interesting, and it was never really believable that he’d honestly swear fealty to the man who pulled the trigger and put his beloved Asseylum in a tank (though Saazbaum seemed to buy it). Needless to say I sincerely hope Saazbaum really is dead this time – again, nothing against the character – because pulling yet another false demise would really be a bridge too far in the asspull department.
The other thing – probably the main thing – Slaine’s betrayal does is to make the VERS storyline infinitely more interesting. Slaine is now a true subversive, a revolutionary who obviously plans no less than to overthrow the VERS order and remake the society in more egalitarian terms. In this endeavor Harklight (Hirakawa Daisuke) with his common birth seems a logical ally, and Princess Lemrina another tool to be used. The dynamic of the series just leveled up in a big way – we have not just the Earth vs. Mars/Inaho vs. Slaine drama, but also a stealth coup taking place within the VERS society. A society with VERS technological superiority but freed of their antiquated and dysfunctional feudalism is actually a much scarier prospect for Earth than the enemy they’re currently facing – but is it just possible Slaine’s endgame is to seize power and then pursue Asseylum’s dream of a peaceful coexistence with Earth? We don’t know yet how this will play out, but I’ve become much more interested in finding out.