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Old 2017-03-01, 12:48   Link #1
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Aldnoah.Zero (both seasons)

Top to bottom: Inaho Kaizuka, Asseylum Vers Allusia, Slaine Troyard

There’s a splash of racism in Aldnoah.Zero (AZ) from the Versians toward the Terrans, and considering how bland the Terrans are, I really can’t blame them. Despite the screen time between both factions being roughly even, we learn almost nothing about the Terrans beyond their own brand of racism; what are each of the characters like? How do they fit into the story beyond the fighting? What are they thinking? All of this and more…are never addressed proper

It’s especially egregious with the main character of the Terrans, the tactician Inaho Kaizuka. The good news is he’s a breath of fresh air from the folks piloting an overpowered mech, being a guy whose mind is the incredible weapon as strategy after strategy topples supermech after supermech. The bad news is we scarcely get a sense of who he is. It’s like the writers wanted to make a silent badass and instead created someone emotionally dead. A character like him can work, but it’s vital to know what he thinks else he’s just going through the motions

There is a scene in the first episode where Inaho and his friends are out in the city. As a missile approaches for a terrorist attack, he says ‘We should get out of here. A missile is coming’ with no sense of urgency. To call him emotionally reticent would be an understatement. I could possibly explain that Inaho’s required military training might have made him stoic, except the Terran veterans are more reactive to everything than he is. There’s a better sense of what he’s like in season two, but his strong sense of non-reaction makes for one of the weakest characters of the entire series

Sorry, I ranted too much and didn’t explain the situation proper. The story goes that people from Earth (Terra) have managed to colonize Mars (Vers) thanks to the discovery of super technology from thousands and thousands of years ago. But, the technological superiority of the Martians (AKA Versians) has somehow sparked a war between them and the Earthlings (or the Terrans). I’m not sure how this causes war since they moved to Vers of their own will, but the series does a decent job at explaining how the conflict started as the story goes on

After a terrorist attack on a Vers diplomat visiting Terra, the Versians see fit to continue fighting a war that had halted some 15 years before the story. With the super technology of Aldnoah at their backs, the 37 Orbital Knights of Vers crash Terra with supermechs that are more than a match against the greater Terran numbers. Unfortunately, it’s hard to care for the Terrans despite the Versians being initially painted as the ‘bad guys’ of the ordeal. Like I said earlier, the problem with the Terrans is we don’t get a sense of who they are

Not that knowing who they are necessarily makes anything better. We have one character who suddenly becomes a love interest of sorts for Inaho during season two, another character whose war scars don’t add anything to the story, and a bunch of other characters whose most noticeable thing about one being an ironic name. We’re supposed to care for the Terrans because the Versians are clearly the ‘bad guys,’ but we should be able to care about them on their own merits

I say this as if the Versians are awesome, but overall they’re a few ranks short of well written. A lot of them range from stereotypically evil to a hilarious degree to some genuinely nice characters who are somehow more likable than most of the Terrans. Saazbaum’s story especially shows why there’s a war at all, and it’s difficult not to sympathize with him despite his actions. And while we don’t see it much in the story proper, flashbacks of the relationship between Asseylum Vers Allusia and Slaine Troyard are just decent enough to anchor the struggles they face through both seasons

Speaking of, let me talk about Slaine AKA the only well written character in the series. Aside from his backstory giving a sense of why he fights, it also ties into the overall story by acknowledging that even the Orbital Knights can only achieve so much without Terran help. His conflict in season one explores what it means to want to serve your country (or…planet) despite all opposition, and during season two his relationship with Asseylum becomes the perfect metaphor for Terra-Vers relations; the further apart they grow, the more hostile Terra and Vers are to each other

The only complaint I’d make here, is how Slaine is so often short-ended that his struggles almost feel unnatural, as if the world was made for him to suffer in rather than him suffering in the world. The amount of times he’s literally and figuratively kicked around just stop him from being anything more than a good character. Otherwise, every action he takes even during season two is mostly believable. It’s easy to find him unlikable for some of the things he does, but the story takes care to explain the actions he believes he must take despite himself

And when Slaine, Inaho, or anyone else take action, a fight often follows. In a word, AZ’s aesthetics are positively slick. The coloration between the characters and backgrounds meshes flawlessly with the mecha CGI, while the mechs themselves adhere to a design philosophy to easily tell them apart; the Versian supermechs are sleek, smooth, and shiny, while the ordinary mechs of the Terran side are rusted rundown robots. There’s a real sense of bullet for bullet superiority from the Versians, to say nothing of how the fights often play out

The fights themselves are almost a microcosm of real robots VS super robots. The Terran mechs are slow but methodical, as they won’t be doing too many crazy stunts if at all, and don’t hold well if a strong round of bullets so much as crosses them the wrong way. Compare this to the Versian supermechs, who can take it as well as they dish it out, and can dish it out faster than most of the Terran mechs can keep up with. The only thing keeping the fights down is also its greatest strength; the fights are tactics VS power, and because ‘power’ is on the ‘villain’ side,’ most fights are a foregone conclusion. Still, knowing who’s going to win isn’t the same as knowing how somebody wins

Accompanying the epic visuals is an equally grand soundtrack. There aren’t that many tracks in and of themselves, but what’s there is instantly recognizable. ‘Keep On Keeping On’ and ‘aLIEz’ are excellent pieces that perfectly set the incoming mood whether things are going to change for the better or worse. Series’ music composer Hiroyuki Sawano does an excellent job elevating action scenes that would otherwise be hard to care about, and despite all the bombast the show knows when to dial down the music as some of the more intense moments revolve around deafening silence

Unfortunately, ‘deafening silence’ is a philosophy that ended up going to Inaho and brought down the Terran side of the story to a large degree. Honestly, I do LIKE AZ, but my gushing for Slaine isn’t nearly enough to suggest this series even as something passably enjoyable. The Terrans are completely ineffectual while the Versians are decent at best. Aldnoah.Zero isn’t a bad anime, but its efforts to be decent have been absolutely Slaine
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