There’s some mighty interesting stuff happening with Aldnoah.Zero at the moment, as the larger story is continuing to evolve in a disquietingly logical direction. Unfortunately there’s really still annoying stuff like the creeping chauvinism (seriously – must every scene with the females at Trident Base be B-grade fanservice and shallow self-obsession?), but as with most of this second cour, right now that’s thankfully not prevalent enough to derail the train.
It’s worth remembering at this point that Takayama Katsuhiko is a pretty good writer, based on his track record (let’s not discuss certain obvious exceptions) and, with the skeleton of Urobuchi Gen’s story to flesh out, he seems more than capable of delivering something more interesting and coherent than, say Psycho Pass 2. I very much like the way he’s building up to the eventual bishoudown (I’m using that until the world acknowledges its brilliance), with both geopolitic and adolescent hormones slowly coming to the boil, with the future hanging in the balance.
For those who’ve been complaining that Inaho thinks too small (a tactician rather than a strategist) I think this episode conclusively proves otherwise. He’s taking matters into his own hands in a big way, and well he should – Inaho is smart enough to realize that he’s the smartest guy in the room, and relying on military lifers with a mixed track record (at best) to save his planet and his beloved probably isn’t the best plan. In Count Mazuurek he sees a real opportunity – I think he would have even without his left eye – yet he knows the authorities will never be able to take advantage of it. So what does he do? He moves himself – first interrogating Mazuurek to confirm his own suspicions, then engineering his escape once he’s convinced him that the circumstances surrounding Asseylum stink like week-old sashimi.
It was interesting that Inaho chose Rayet to help execute his plan – though whether or not he’d have done so if she hadn’t walked in on his interrogation is debatable. It occurred to me, too, that Rayet might just try to kill Mazuurek as she did Asseylum, so I’m glad the ep acknowledged the elephant in the room. I could do without Rayet’s crying jags (can we see one of those from one of the boys, maybe?) but compared to the other teen females on Trident, she’s a veritable tower of strength and depth of character.
There was another Inaho-related bit slyly inserted at the beginning of the episode, in his conversation with Dr. Yagarai. Did the bombshell that the mods Inaho has made on his analytical engine could eventually destroy his brain foreshadow a Valvrave ending? Gods, I hope not – that would be so tired and irritating – but Chekov’s Gun obviously applies here. There’s more than enough inherent drama between Inaho and Slaine to push this story forward without needless distractions like that one, especially given what Inaho’s gambit may do to Slaine’s plans for VERS.
The giant question hanging over Aldnoah.Zero is, of course, just what Slaine’s endgame is. Is this entire power grab a cover to eventually do what Asseylum would want – peace with Earth, with reform of the feudal system a fringe benefit? If we take what Slaine is doing at face value, it would certainly seem to be a betrayal of Asseylum’s wishes. But then, as we see Slaine speaking wistfully to the tanked Asseylum about flightless birds and birds in gilded cages, it’s impossible to discount the possibility that he’s gone balls-out sociopath – his narcissism and megalomania convincing him that Mars, Earth and everyone attached to them (especially Asseylum) are his to toy with and dispose of as he pleases. It’s no coincidence that the last thing Inaho asked of Mazuurek was “Find out what Slaine Troyard’s objective is” – he’s smart enough to know just how much rides on that information.
Slaine, for his part, has plenty of problems of his own. As expected Lemrina is chafing at being Slaine’s tool while he lovingly coos to his caged bird, and this has led to her granting a live audience to Marylcian and Barouhcruz. Marylcian takes the opportunity to bare his racist fangs and challenge Slaine to a duel (and, interestingly, to use the exact same “caged bird” analogy to Lemrina that Slaine spoke of with only himself, Asseylum and Eddelruito present) over who should inherit Saazbaum’s Royal Guard role. Slaine will obviously win this – it’s like Floyd Mayweather fighting Niles Crane – but the development itself is a testament to how precarious Slaine’s stranglehold on Saazbaum’s power is, and how vulnerable he is to internal threats. At the moment, it’s advantage-Inaho.