Actually, if you want to really parse it there are a lot of reasons why what happened in this week’s Aldnoah.Zero isn’t netorare at all (not least that Inaho is at least as much the protagonist as Slaine is), but I won’t deny that’s the first thing that popped into my head when Asseylum made her “You’re always a part of me, too” declaration (which she topped off with a talismanic gift). But whatever you choose to call what happened, there’s no doubt what happened – Asseylum has made her choice, if there was ever really a choice to be made. What remains to be seen is whether that choice will have any practical application.
You certainly have your choice of headlines in this episode, which threw everything but the kitchen sink at the audience in true final arc fashion. As speculated here, the mission the Deucalion was conscripted for was an invasion of the Parnassus base – but only as a kind of multi-layered bluff. In the first place its half of he assault force was effectively a decoy to draw the VERS forces away from the real target, and in the second the whole thing seems to have been a cover to get a special ops team inside Slaine’s landing castle to assassinate the princess. If you stipulate that the Earth’s top brass aren’t smart enough to listen to Inaho telling them Asseylum is an imposter, I suppose killing her makes sense strategically – though I’m not sold on why it should be the top priority.
Of course preventing that from happening is Inaho’s top priority. And this being Aldnoah.Zero, the two adolescent arch-rivals are going to be several steps ahead of the likes of Earth High Command. They’ve both anticipated that a covert operation was going to happen, and each taken steps to keep it from succeeding. Yes, our long-waited bishoudown is finally upon us – sort of – when Slaine goes to the scene himself when things start to get dodgy in the princesses’ evacuation. Though the fight itself is kind of a letdown – Slaine wings Inaho with a bullet to the shoulder, but the real drama in this episode (and there’s plenty of it) is sandwiched on either side of this event.
Also sandwiched on either side of this event, and the invasion itself, is Klancain’s role in the story. It seems a bit iffy to have a character appear so late and play a critical role, but it appears likely to happen. At first Slaine takes the very logical approach of trying to figure out where Cruhteo’s son stands – trying to make an ally of him before classifying him as an enemy. There are hints that Klancain may be working with those close to the dying Emperor to try and undercut Slaine, but it’s not wholly clear what his long-game is. And that question becomes especially important in light of the fact that it’s he who ends up by Asseylum’s side at the close of the episode.
Then there’s the Haruto Effect and Inaho’s eye, which ramps up exponentially this week. Obviously using it is having a more and more debilitating impact on Inaho, but the reverse Pinocchio, the real boy who got his wish and became a robot, ends up casting logic aside and risking everything to save Asseylum. Their meeting makes it absolutely clear that it’s Inaho Asseylum loves, though not that it will ever matter. In a somewhat outlandish development Inaho’s eye goes all Dr. Strangelove and takes over his body after Inaho passes out. What does this mean exactly – is Inaho now brain-dead? I tend to doubt it, as Eye, Robot did say “temporarily take over” Inaho’s cognitive and ambulatory functions – but what kind of prosthetic is capable of doing that in the first place? It’s certainly unlike any other technology we’ve seen in A.Z.
In the final analysis, then, Aldnoah.Zero has turned out to be a pretty traditional and simple anime story – two teenage boys moving Heaven and Earth to try and win the heart (or at least custody) of the girl they love. I don’t see any happy endings in the pipeline for either of them, though. Inaho has been giving off a strong self-sacrifice vibe for a very long time, and he really should have been dead at the end of the first season anyway. And Slaine has been systematically sneering at fate and practically daring the Universe to smite him in its vengeance for his arrogance and conceit to an ever-increasing degree. His fall, when it comes, is likely to be really spectacular. But before that happens it seems as if Inaho is going to get one last crack at him – he’s taken two bullets from Slaine, and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get a chance at some payback.