Aldnoah.Zero – 19

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The arrow is loosed, in more ways than one.

I would adjudge that the course of events in this week’s Aldnoah.Zero has been cast for some time, but the awakening of the real Princess Asseylum was probably the last event that could have turned Slaine’s arc from it.  Based on what we saw in this episode it seems as if the opposite has happened – Asseylum’s revival has persuaded Slaine to go all-in on the mad dictator and conqueror route, in the belief that that other door has already been closed forever.  What he’s already done has ended any chance that he could win Asseylum’s heart, so the only option left is to possess her.  A caged bird, indeed.

At this point, all the pieces for Slaine’s tragic downfall at the hands of his own arrogance seem to be in place.  He’s launching a Stalin-esque purge not just of any Knights that oppose him, but those that might potentially oppose him.  He’s moving to crush Earth utterly so that he can remake it in his own image.  He’s decided to imprison Asseylum in secret (or worse, if you interpret his “tragedies do happen” comment in a certain way – though I suspect it refers to faking Asseylum’s death), locking her away in a gilded cage of his making and telling everyone – most especially his fiancee – that’s she’s taken a turn for the worse and is near death.  And in all these machinations he seems to have a willing partner in Harklight, who questions none of his master’s increasingly outlandish orders and indeed, seems intoxicated by them.  So much for that notion of a democratic revolution.

I suppose we’re intended to feel sorry for Slaine because we see how conflicted is over how evil he’s become – he cries and punches walls and all.  But in the end, I think he’s right – he’s chosen this course, and he has to live with it.  If knowing how horrified Asseylum would be at what he’s become tortures him, well – it should.  And he’s quite good at being a strongman, unsurprisingly – even Barouhcruz is toeing the line for now.  Mazuurek seems likely to fall victim to Slaine’s purge – he’s back behind VERS lines, and he seems pretty naive about what constitutes the new normal there.  Baroucruz tries to warn him off being careless – perhaps hoping that by biding his time, he might use Mazuurek against Slaine later – but caution doesn’t seem to be Mazuurek’s strong suit.

Slaine isn’t without worries, that’s for certain.  There’s still Inaho, who surely represents the greatest threat to him both militarily and personally, and the rage Slaine surely feels after hearing Asseylum speak fondly of Inaho surely isn’t going to lead to calm and detached thinking.  Eddelruito is smart enough to know what’s going on here, and it seems quite clear she’s turned against Slaine – though how that will manifest itself is unclear.  And when Lemrina – who to her credit seems genuinely aggrieved by what she’s been told is happening to Asseylum – discovers the truth, things are going to get mighty ugly.

For now, though, the pendulum is solidly swinging in Slaine’s direction.  Meeting no internal resistance, he’s launched an all-out strike on Earth led by Harklight.  And with the Martians finally abandoning their practice of politely attacking one Knight at a time in order to let themselves be slowly decimated, not even Inaho’s superhuman ability is going to have an easy time fighting them off.  And there seems little hope of help from Earth’s military leadership, who are incompetent and complacent as only anime military bigwigs can be.  The Deucalion is really the only weapon Earth has that’s capable of bloodying VERS’ nose, and the authorities don’t even trust it – and even with Inaho doing the thinking, can the Deucalion really hold off multiple landing castles and kataphrakts at-once?

Something is going to have to happen soon to change the momentum or else we’re reaching the endgame too quickly – perhaps some freakish new bit of genius from Inaho, a clumsy overreach by Slaine, or Asseylum breaking free of his clutches and causing trouble back home.  If I were Slaine, I’d certainly be doing everything in my power to make sure Edelruitto has no access to the outside world – indeed, I’d be nervous even allowing her access to Asseylum, given what she might say.  Superficially Slaine might seem to be in a position of security and strength, but it’s built on an increasingly complicated web of deceit – and when it comes crashing down, it could do so quickly and spectacularly.

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  1. B

    Apparently there were quite a few mistranslations during this episode. The most jarring one came from Slaine, and it pertains to the "tragedies do occur" remark. What he actually said was, "it all frightens me." . Considering the context of the conversation with Harklight, I think it's safe to to say "it" refers to the event of Asseylum waking up. A few more minor errors included the aftermath of Darzana's scene with the higher ups, and a line in Barouchcruz's conversation with Mazuurek.

    I like how aware Slaine is of his situation; he got himself into this situation because of lies, and he knows he has to continue lying to keep everything precariously in place. He's resigned himself and is already trying to brace himself for the explosion he knows is coming, but whether he'll actually be able to take the heat is another thing entirely. I think the tragedy of his character hits especially hard when one compares how he is now to the optimistic, docile boy at the very beginning of season 1.

  2. M

    I still felt that making Asseylum becoming amnesiac is such a waste of a game-changing plot. It's like she only served the purpose of making Slaine becomes conflicted for a while with her waking up, after all it's already established that Slaine is walking on egg shells before this. With only 5 episodes left, I doubt she will do anything noteworthy in the series and remained a symbol for Slaine and Inaho instead a character of her own. She really better off dead from the start.

  3. R

    Yeah, provably everyone saw the amnesia coming from miles away. I has always been a lazy gimmick and will always be one. I hope she gets her memory back with plenty of episodes to spare, otherwise she could have been comatose until the last episode just to get rescued. I hope they give her story and character her due, cause it would be a huge waste just to leave her hanging.

    Slaine really got that momentum going, and now the Orbital Knights mean serious business, Inaho will have to pull some wizardry out of his ass next episode just to get away and maybe eliminate at least one Knight. Earth's incompetent leaders will be the biggest disadvantage for the war efforts of Inaho just as all the Shakespeare going on in Mars will be for Slaine.

  4. I didn't get the sense that she was amnesiac, per se – just foggy, which would be perfectly normal for someone coming out of an 18-month coma. She remembered Eddie and Slaine, and she eventually remembered being on Earth with Inaho.

  5. R

    Perhaps, I just hope she gets to do something before the finale, otherwise she will just be a waste of character whose only purpose is to be fought over. The most logical role for her will be of the person with reason that will try to bring peace between the two worlds. I am sure both Inaho and Slaine are willing to go for it if she gives them a push, but I'm afraid it won't come up until the last episode when they are both fighting like dogs over her :(

  6. r

    Another very good episode. I am surprised at how much the series has improved from S1. I think the heroes (esp Inaho) remain unlikeable, but flops like Edelruito behind the wheel of a jeep seem so far away now… Thanks for the review Enzo.

  7. H

    Perhaps arrogance was what started it all, but I don't think I can use that word to describe Slaine at this point of the story. He knows of what he stands of lose (it was hinted that he was somewhat aware of it in the earlier episodes, but he's owned up to it now) and has resigned himself to a tragic fate. . He doesn't like what he's become and realised that he's caused himself to lose any chances he's had of fully mending his relationship with Asseylum. He's reached the point where being honest wouldn't be of much help, so he continues with the lies and deceit. There's some of old kindness and humility left, but the truth is that his actions have been based on lies as far back as season 1, and they've only become worse with his involvement with Lemrina and the Martian political scene.

    It's like you said- whatever he gains will ultimately be superficial, because, he lost the one thing that would have made him truly happy many months ago. He doesn't really have an emotional support system right now- Asseylum was his pillar in that regard, and I don't think Saazbaum, Harklight and Lemrina really count- and now he's too far gone for even Asseylum to help him. This is in stark contrast to Inaho, who's always been bolstered by a caring sister and good friends, and has led a comparatively simple life. The director stated that the staff initially wanted Inaho to become obsessed with Asseylum, but they scrapped that idea because Inko and Yuki would never have let that happen to him.

    In short, Slaine has become less likeable as a person, but infinitely more fascinating as a character. The exact opposite happened to Inaho, but I'm generally quite pleased with where the story's taking the two boys and the princesses. It's generally good stuff- the juxtaposition between Slaine's tumultuous life and Inaho's stable one. I wonder though, if the show's trying to send a message about the "Emotion/Intution vs Cold Logic" divide, seeing how Slaine always has something worrisome or potentially threatening to deal with, and Inaho doesn't.

    Speaking of Inaho, I don't think he'll escape this mess completely unscathed, either- there's been a lot of shots focusing on his bionic eye, lately…

  8. After last week I mentioned the possibility of a Valvrave ending for Inaho, and I certainly wouldn't bet the mortgage that he'll get out of this show unscathed.

    In contrast to you, I find Inaho to be more interesting this season than he was in the first. I see him as a kind of reverse Pinocchio, a real boy who wanted to become a robot. And now that he's sort of gotten his wish, he's actually acting more human than he ever did.

  9. Z

    Fascinating/interesting > likeable.

    This was the reason everyone (well mostly everyone) loved Lelouch, flawed tragic character with an empire similarly based on deceit and manipulation of events, over do-gooder, morally upright Suzaku.

  10. R

    Reverse Pinocchio? Nice observation! Good to see some character development.

  11. R

    Well, the "mostly everyone" that you mentioned includes me…always prefer flawed character who bounces between good and evil — more room for interesting development — than Mr. Always Right, whose world evolves around him.

  12. s

    i sorta wish the romance between inaho and asseylum was more compelling so i could care more but in all honesty it's all one-note (and boring). I agree with enzo that inaho's character this season is an improvement from the last season but it's still no where near enough to be an engaging character let alone someone you really want to root for. They introduced a cool story element with his robotic eye and consequences that he may have to face from it but instead of allowing that to give Inaho some character introspection and engrossing personal conflict with layers,……it's sort of just there like "here you go…this is what Inaho's fate might be…..DRAMAAAA!!!" At this point im more interested in Slaine's eventual downfall. The fact that he knows he done fucked up and really doesnt know how to stop his descent into darkness is way more entertaining than anything else going on

  13. R

    Yeah, I don't really remember the budding romance between Inaho and the Princess to be that interesting. Why did they like each other again? I would need to watch those episodes one more time to remember.

    Slaine is really f*cked! I'm still kind of rooting for him but not that much. Should he win the war he will probably lose Asseylum, and if he tries to wuss out or look for a peaceful way he will probably be brought down by pretty much everybody. I hope to see him go batsh*t insane just cause it would be pretty f*cking amazing, but we will probably get a more reasonable ending just cause peace n' stuff is more logical.

  14. Z

    The situation with Slaine, and Vers in general, is far more interesting, where there you have several characters able to have an influence on events. Compare that to Earth where everybody aside from look-at-me-I'm-a-real-boy-nao! is pretty much a non-factor.

  15. s

    yea and even though slaine's descent into tragedy isnt executed well enough either, there's still more value to it in my opinion than most of what's happening.

  16. Z

    Well no of course the execution isn't so wonderful, and the entire thing is still laughable, but that's the kind of show this is, like Valvrave before it.

  17. K

    The rise and fall of Slaine Troyard – a compulsory reading for citizens of the Vers Empire.

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