Aldnoah.Zero – 17

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Aldnoah.Zero continues to be the same combo platter of reward and frustration it’s been (almost) all along, but the overall result is still pretty entertaining.

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.

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  1. Z

    It's a little hard to route for Inaho when, in addition to his almost ESP-like powers, even the plot development is on his side. More interested in the power struggle on VERS. Slaine doesn't enjoy the same degree of co-operation his cybernetically augmented Earth counterpart does .

    Pretty low blow on the P-P2 front. That series didn't have the luxury of retaining the same staff, never mind the studio abandonment. People conveniently forget about that.

  2. B

    Disregarding all the usual Aldnoah.Zero ridiculousness, I thought this episode was pretty enjoyable. I really liked the character of Mazuurek.

    Inko remains a super shallow female character who is defined by her crush on another guy and seemingly has no other characteristics but her desire to get Inaho to notice her.

    I wish we could get more complex and interesting female characters like, I don't know, Akane from Psycho-Pass.

  3. s

    Akane has become quite the badass; especially after what ive read regarding the psycho pass movie (in which most reviewers say it's better than season 2). Cant wait to see it when it gets released on DVD and Blu-ray

  4. Z

    I don't think there's any question the film is better than Season 2. At the very least the film has the original creator, staff and studio as Season 1. They left season 2 to die.

  5. B

    I don't think Slaine's reached the point where he can be called a narcissist or a megalomaniac of that degree. They certainly seem to be planting the seeds for his character taking a dark turn, though. His fall from power and grace (if it happens) should be an interesting thing to see.

    Oh, and I want to see more focus on Inaho and Yuki's relationship. The opening scene in the previous episode won Inaho in particular a few points in my book. I think the writers have made him more believable this season- I find it easier to accept that he's a genuinely stoic boy with remarkable intelligence, rather than think of him as robot with a semblance of understanding human emotion.

  6. v

    Am I the only one who is tired of Captain Magbaredge's dating tips?

  7. No, that's a lame joke that wasn't funny the first time, never mind the 100th.

  8. Z

    They should just make those two a couple already.

  9. A

    Hm… now that you've pointed out the fact that every conversation with the teenage girls except Rayet involve fashion, weight or bust size, it's difficult not to notice it…

    It's kind of amazing, actually.

  10. Don't shoot the messenger…

    In a way, I find this kind of casual sexism even worse than an exploitative LN adaptation, which might be demeaning but at least is sort of honest about that being the whole point. Here, there's just no need for it.

  11. m

    I took Slaine's caged bird remark as a metaphor for Asseylum's comatose state. That Lemrina thinks of herself in much the same way might not be more of a coincidence for drama's sake than intent or insight on Slaine's part.

  12. C

    Is Slaine any closer to becoming Kotomine?

  13. Not in my opinion. But I do find it interesting that the fangoggles effect with Slaine is really starting to take off. You're seeing apologist explanations for everything he does, and it's manifesting in Inaho-hate as well.

    I don't know what Slaine's endgame is, but my guess is that his role in the story isn't so much as the villain but the anti-hero. I think we're supposed to feel as if he's definitely gone off the track in a big way, but that he's essentially still decent at heart and will eventually right himself before it's too late.

  14. C

    You're right. I guess he's still going towards the "reformer" route but I just find it somewhat boring. A "slow" descent into madness/evil would've been more interesting but that's just my preference.

  15. Z

    It's really not that hard to see why some people wouldn't like Inaho.

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