Aldnoah.Zero (Season One) Review

aldnoah1

Transformers, Robotech, Voltron and the often-ridiculed Gobots (they had a spin-off movie featuring Rock Lords who turn into um boulders.) Those are the cartoons I grew up with as a wee lad, which may explain why into adulthood I remain a devout fan of all things mech. With that in mind, I was really looking forward to Aldnoah Zero’s UK release. Not only does this A-1 Pictures show feature plentiful scenes of giant robot action, but Gen Urobuchi (who is responsible for creating stellar shows such as Psycho-Pass) also scripted it. A little over a year after its Japanese TV airing, the series is now available to purchase on DVD starting with this collection containing episodes one to twelve.

OVERVIEW

Aldnoah Zero takes place in an alternate version of Earth, where back in the late sixties astronauts uncovered advanced alien tech on the lunar surface. The discovery allowed mankind to eventually build settlements on Mars, leading to the birth of the Verse Empire. As any Gundam fan knows, Terrans and space colonists rarely get on – so it should come as no surprise that years later the Verse led Martians declared war on Earth. The conflict ceased after a fierce battle resulted in the Moon getting obliterated. Ouch that sucks, but on the plus side I guess we won’t have to worry about werewolves anymore!

Fast-forward to the year 2014 and after a brief armistice Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia of Mars decides to visit Earth with the intentions of brokering a permanent peace treaty between both planets. The diplomatic mission fails however when Earth led terrorists assault the royal motorcade. Incensed by the unprovoked attack, Verse’s nobility order an immediate invasion of Earth. Thus the stage is set for a titanic tussle between Earthlings and Martians (not to be confused with the big headed aliens who die when exposed to musical tunes.) Time will tell who will emerge victorious and whether the Mars conquest is nothing more than a ploy to secure natural resources. Terrorism being used as an excuse to take over a nation? That could never happen (cough, 911, cough.)

VERDICT

My rating for Aldnoah Zero (Season One) is a four out of five. The series strikes me as something that Code Geass fans would enjoy due to its combination of political conspiracy and mech fuelled carnage. Just like Geass, the cast’s motivations are clearly defined and the narrative does a good job of showing how the war affects both sides of the conflict. At this stage my favourite character is Slaine Troyard, a downtrodden Terran who serves the Verse Empire. Slaine has been put in the uncomfortable position of fighting against his homeland but he dare not protest, as he owes his life to Princess Asseylum. I can forgive his betrayal of Earth because who wouldn’t pledge their allegiance to a cutie who resuscitates you with some steamy mouth to mouth?

Although I like Aldnoah Zero’s supporting cast the same cannot be said of protagonist Inaho Kaizuka, an emotionless student who has been drafted by the Earth army. A tactical genius that possesses no people skills, his personality borders on autistic savant. Inaho’s deadpan demeanour can be grating, but on the plus side his presence makes the CG enhanced action sequences a treat to watch. Despite piloting an antiquated Kataphract it’s fascinating to see how Inaho outwits enemy bots that can wield beam weapons, strike from afar with rocket punches and seemingly absorb all damage. Against the odds Inaho always finds a way to triumph, so I am keen to see how episode twelve’s cliffhanger will play out. Unfortunately for me the next DVD collection is two months away. What should I watch until then? I know, the Gobots movie! Who cares what the critics say, I think that film “rocks.”

13 thoughts on “Aldnoah.Zero (Season One) Review

      • Totally agree. I was loving the way that they were dealing with Thundercats, so to see it cancelled was a shame for me. I still have fond memories of the original run, but the newer one did a far better job of storytelling in my opinion.

  1. I can’t really agree with you on this one… I enjoyed the first three episodes of this show, but after they swapped out Gen Orobuchi for a new director, it just got dumber and dumber. Inaho was a huge part of the problem, being the motionless mary-0sue that he was, but the story over-all just didn’t make much sense. I’d say the best thing to come out of it was all the hilarious social media backlash it faced… From “Slainegate” on Twitter, to a handful of viewers figuring out what the big twist of season 2 was going to be mere weeks after season 1 ended, and then laughing about how ridiculous it was.

    Hint: “Magical princess spit.”

  2. I recall watching the first episode of this and it reminded me of Guilty Crown. I also dropped it as I knew it would be to complex to follow on a weekly basis, especially when I’m watching a dozen other shows at the same time. But, as I don’t get Anime Ltd review discs, this may stay on the shelf until such time I may wish to rent it or pick it up for a fiver in an Amazon sale! 😛

  3. RE: “protagonist Inaho Kaizuka”
    I think I liked the character more than you. I liked how he figured out ways to beat the enemy’s machines.

    Overall I like the series. I watched episode 12 and 13 (13 starts season 2? )and was disappointed. The next episode (13) worked to change all that happened, so it seems they can change the rules or mislead the viewer. At some point why should we care what happens to a character when it can all be changed later?

    • Oh so that ep 12 or 13 was the end of a story arc. Not a season. I was watching it on CR. I binge watched the rest while my wife visited her cousins.

      Still, I don’t see how getting shot in the eye cannot kill someone. They cheated us, as they made it apparent the two characters were killed.
      There was a joke about that in a Woody Allen movie where a mobsters wife said “they shot him in the eyes” Woody replies “You mean he’s blind?!?! … Oh right, the bullets go right through.”

      Overall it was a good series. I have been finding it hard to find a new series that I like. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack. All the Crunchy roll descriptions look/sound alike almost.

      Thank’s (as always) for your recommendation on your blog.

  4. Ahaha, Gobots! You could say that series . . . set the “foundation” for many mecha shows. No? How about . . . it laid the “ground” work. Yeah, that’s all I got. Transformers occupied a hearty slice of my childhood. And it still holds up today, so that’s nice.
    I had similar thoughts on Aldnoah, more on it being good than bad. While most of the anime community was up in torrents about it and the directing shift, I was actually still looking forward to each week’s episode. The mechs were really neat-looking and the music was fantastically epic. Thanks for that, Sawano.
    I’d also like to add my thoughts on Inaho: It’s hard to root for a guy who always wins, yet never expresses his joy for it. He never seemed to suffer from any psychological sickness, so it makes me wonder how a teen boy piloting a giant robot during the apocalypse never either a.) went crazy from the war trauma or b.) celebrated his victories in a more outwards, exclamatory manner. I say all these cons, but then I still feel some sort of relation to him deep down. Not sure how, but it’s still there whenever people dis him.

  5. I tend to look a little at what the project’s goals were when the anime set out. They were looking for a “Madoka Mecha.” Madoka Magica hit a chord by being a fundamentally dark and bleak world that, at first glance, would be rife with tales of joy and friendship. Almost every ‘magical girl’ themed anime up to that point had these very wondrous ‘friendship is magic’ themes involved. Hence, when Madoka Magica turned into an adventure in lolicide, it made a big splash.

    So, to that end, I look at what most mecha animes have in mind. Every mecha anime tends to be rather dark and menacing. Gundam was full of main cast characters dying. Evangelion is almost depressing – particularly with the movie addition. Even more recent entries like Guren Laggan are actually rather dark in the progress of their character arcs. The main teenage character is often very moody, and there is occasionally some kind of ’emotional enhancement system’ to basically allow a machine to benefit from ‘friendship is magic.’ Yelling louder and flailing wildly at the controls makes the machine love you in return and work better. While Guren Laggan embraced this trope to the point of absurdity as a sort of parody, Aldnoah seems to juxtapose this trope with a more resolute mecha platform.

    The martians use a device at the core of their civilization that is akin to magic. Their mechs are all based on nearly mystical abilities that all render standard weaponry seemingly ineffective. They are piloted by screaming elitists who sit behind their superior tech. They are ‘classic mecha.’ Friendship is magic, war is hatred, politics and conspiracies.

    Then you have the Terrans. A group of people who just want to not be invaded by the moody elitists. They are completely overwhelmed as their technology is not magical and deliberately depicted as constrained by laws of physics. The main character is neither surprised by the realities and tactics of war – and simply acts as a vehicle for the means of survival. Inaho is the anti-Shinji – he is going to pilot the eva and kill the enemy because he can process the reality in front of him. He analyzes threats and finds their weaknesses to exploit them efficiently and without much regard for more superfluous concepts such as ‘honor.’ It’s a jab at the hypocrisy of most mecha series – where machines and physics become mystically bent to become little more than magic.

    At first, I was thrown off by “episode 13” – but, after I thought about it for a minute… it follows the pattern. It’s a stark contrast to what would normally be expected out of a mecha. Further – it is not an impossible scenario – there are documented cases of just such injuries being survived with rather impressive recovery of function. I had been wondering when the slaughter of the cast would begin … but it is here that I realize there will be no such slaughter of the cast, and likely not a single significant death among the protagonists. It would be departing from pretty much every mecha out there in doing so.

    I think that is why there are so many mixed responses to it. There’s something about it that is appealing… yet… seems off. And that is why – it’s a subversion via juxtaposition of mecha tropes. The Martians represent classic mecha and the Terrans represent Homura Akemi (Madoka Magica) or Kiritsugu Emiya (Fate/Zero). I’m sure there’s someone in Psychopass who embodies the same idea – but I have yet to see that.

    It’s easier to see the clash of expectations when you turn on a sailor-moon looking thing and are met with nihilistic carnage and deep philosophical exploration of human motivations. It’s much more difficult when it’s a mecha where the extremely realistic, yet underdog, faction can play an almost lossless season. But, after looking at it, I see a lot of Urobuchi’s influence on the series in its setup. Inaho is Kiritsugu and Homura – people in a magical world relying mostly on the techniques of the real world. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Urobuchi was intending on developing such an idealistic plot in the first place. From reading his interviews, he has a very antagonistic sense of humor – he enjoys provoking people. Whether or not his departure from the series dramatically changed the course of the story or the nature of its plot is hard to know. I suspect it ‘all went as planned.’

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