The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Aldnoah.Zero: Reflection at the halfway point

“Peace has cost you your strength! Victory has defeated you!” —Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

When one of summer 2014’s triple-A titles drew to a close back in September, viewers were presented with an ending that defied convention: the sudden, seeming deaths of Inaho and Asseylum were unexpected and appeared out of nowhere. The decision to have split Aldnoah.Zero into two twelve-episode seasons had been unusual, and originally, I was anticipating a season lasting twenty-four to twenty-six episodes, which would have provided the time required to properly develop character dynamics, progress further into the Vers-Earth Federation conflict and provide more world-building into a universe that has had a detailed history. What was delivered was a twelve-episode season that sees the Vers conspirators unmasked, as well as the Duecalion’s journey to the Earth Federation’s stronghold in Russia and the final attempt to repel Saazbaum’s assault. Through an unorthodox plan, Saazbaum is defeated after his landing castle is disabled, and the Federation mops up remnants of the Vers landing force. The ending leaves Inaho and Asseylum to an unknown fate, leaving viewers questioning what had happened. After a powerhouse performance throughout the season that featured plot twists to keep the audiences guessing and stunning combat scenes, the decision to seemingly leave two of the three major characters for dead ultimately leads one to wonder how such an ending would promote interest in a second season. While the ending was ill-executed and the two male leads were relatively lacking as characters, the remainder of Aldnoah.Zero leading up into its final moments were an absolute thrill to watch. The other characters had convincing development and interactions (such as Rayet, Yuki and Koichirou, to name a few): on the Federation side of things, we have a tireless and courageous people that the audience has no trouble sympathising with, and on the Vers side, characters whose motives and manners make them a contemptible group to act as the Federation’s enemy. Fight sequences are stunningly choreographed; I looked forwards to each episode just to see the combat that occurred between the Vers and Federation mobile suits. All in all, Aldnoah.Zero remains a reasonable series stymied by its ending that’s worth watching; I have no idea how the second season will proceed with two dead leads, or else credibly bring them back, but that will be a part of the anticipation for Aldnoah.Zero‘s second half.

  • It’s been a while since I’ve done a talk on Aldnoah.Zero, and while I’d been considering doing a talk on the anime after the first season had ended, I had a feeling that the talk probably would not have been reflective on my actual views of the anime. I therefore resolved to wait until things had cooled down before doing any sort of discussion, and as per the course with waiting, my schedule filled up with learning Maya and completing a term paper on visualising the results from protein motif mining.

  • When one considers that the ending to season one is in fact the halfway point of the series, what happens winds up being forgivable to some extent (or at least, I’m willing to accept what has happened). Thus, while I could have drafted an overwhelmingly negative post about the ending, this would have not been a fair reflection. A little bit of patience here helps, and so, I return at the true halfway point to continue discussing Aldnoah.Zero.

  • The Dioscuria is Count Saazbaum’s personal Kataphrakt; sporting the same features as several of the others before it, it also has similar weaknesses that Inaho subsequently exploits. I was digging through this site’s metrics, and found searches that aimed to compare Gundam Unicorn to Aldnoah.Zero: I imagine that was triggered because I mentioned in the passing that I was hoping that Aldnoah.Zero might go to the same depths to explore conflicts. However, as far as quality and execution goes, I find that both series have their own merits, although from a strictly personal perspective, Gundam Unicorn has stronger writing and better characterisation at present.

  • Slaine’s role in the first season put him at odds with both the Federation and Vers: he appears to be aligned entirely with Princess Asseylum, allying himself with anyone who is protecting her and growing to hate Inaho as the latter begins to grow closer to Asseylum. I find that the antagonists in the first half to lack the same depth as those found in Gundam Unicorn, as they are merely present to conquer earth and capture its resources. This simple-minded motivation means that it’s quite easy to sympathise with the Federation forces.

  • While it might be improbable from a statistical perspective, it is possible to survive gunshot wounds from pistols. As far as the mecha go, I’ve spoken with a friend who’s very familiar with mobile suits, and he asserts that the Martian Kataphrakts are lacking even compared to Jegans and ReZELs on the virtue that the former have been defeated by conventional weaponry, and because their designs are over-specialised. He conjectures that beam weapons would easily overcome any Martian Kataphrakt if dimensional barriers were not a problem.

  • “Inaho is Slaine” presents a curious pun for English-speakers as the first season draws to a close. Admittedly, this was an ending that I didn’t even expected, and one of my main questions was how they would bring everyone back from the dead for Aldnoah.Zero‘s second half. During Saazbaum’s assault on the Federation base, I also noticed that the Vers forces were having trouble with the Federation forces, bringing to mind Halo, as the Covenant usually held the upper hand over humanity in space combat but found themselves surprised at the level of resistance humans could put up on the ground.

  • This post consists of images from both episode twelve of the first season and the first episode of the second season, since it is concerns the true halfway point. After one episode of the second season, I’m reasonably satisfied with the explanations they’ve given for what has happened shortly after the first season ended. In general, as long as the progression is logical, and set up with some thought, I can accept it.

  • It would appear that, in the 19 months that has elapsed since the first season, Federation Kataphrakts have been given slight upgrades to improve their weapons systems. As the first episode begins, I am reminded of Gundam 00‘s second season, which featured a similarly pitched battle that set the tone for their respective season’s first few episodes. However, as there’s no 00 Gundam in Aldnoah.Zero to help the Federation maintain parity, it’s not unreasonable to guess that Inaho’s ability to wield an Aldnoah Drive could very out even out the battlefield at some point in the future. There could even be a Federation-manufactured Kataphrakt that Inaho may pilot into battle.

  • One of the aspects about the second season is the increased number of shots that make great use of scale to emphasise the space environments that Aldnoah.Zero are set in; if trends hold, there could be a few more episodes set in the lower Earth orbit or the region between the Earth and the moon, which would be quite exciting to behold.

The ending to the first half is completely inconsistent with what happened previously in Aldnoah.Zero and indeed, lead to much controversy as a direct consequence of Slaine’s misplaced sense of loyalties. He appears to be motivated by his love for Asseylum alone, resulting in his selfish, short-sighted decisions. Initially, the final moments did not appear to be satisfactory: very few anime end abruptly with the death of two of the three main characters. However, with the second season now under way, it turns out that Inaho has survived, and moreover, the explanation for his survival is plausible. While Slaine did shoot Inaho, the round exited through his eye; surviving such injury is possible, as Phineas Gage (1823 – 1860) demonstrated after a freak accident in 1848 when a tamping iron entered his skull. Gage survived and after treatment, continued working as a stagecoach driver who, against common misconceptions that he’d become a sociopath, was punctual, dexterous and polite to his passengers. With Inaho now alive and sporting a cybernetic eye, he returns to combat with the same methods he’d been known for in season one, and perhaps as a result of changes to his frontal lobe, is more sociable and friendly now. Quite frankly, the new Inaho is quite a welcome change from his season one incarnation. Meanwhile Princess Asseylum is being held in a Bacta tank for her injuries, and another body double under Saazbaum’s bidding is now claiming to renounce the Earth Federation, declaring a second war to reclaim the planet. With these developments in mind, the ending to the first season, while far from being a good idea in regards to building anticipation, seems less jarring now that we know what’s happened, and the presence of acceptable accounts for Inaho and Asseylum means that the second season can now continue where the first left off.

  • The Federation forces meet the same fate at the Tharsis’ hands as did the Katharon forces after engaging the A-Laws. There is a lot of debris on screen during the fight, and while the Kataphrakts in Aldnoah.Zero look more three-dimensional and metallic (i.e. done in CGI) compared to the characters, but everything is woven together quite nicely. Slaine seems to have embraced his knighthood and carrying out Vers’ will.

  • Aldnoah.Zero decides that it’s a good idea to do a beach segment for the first three minutes of the anime after the orbital fight, and from a technical standpoint, I imagine that with this minor bit of relaxation over, the remainder of the series could do well to delve into some serious world-building behind the Aldnoah drives’ origins, and while I certainly don’t expect the same kind of depth that the Halo extended universe goes into for the Forerunners, half an episode dedicated towards this exposition would be quite nice.

  • I originally had something else for this figure caption, but I am engaged in a discussion with the aforementioned friend about Aldnoah.Zero, so whatever thoughts there were previously will give precedence to the new stuff. This relates to Slaine’s mens rea, which he notes as hypocritical: Slaine’s actions indicated that he in jealously in love with Asseylum and is willing to go to any length to protect her, but his reasons for siding with Saazbaum are never adequately explained.

  • I offer the suggestion that Slaine may see Saazbaum as someone he can dispose of later when convenient. For all of his power and intentions to kill Asseylum in revenge for his lover’s death, Slaine may believe that working for Saazbaum and keeping his trust will be beneficial in the long term, even if it means serving an enemy in the short term. There exist the possibility that Aldnoah.Zero‘s writers might not be going for this route, but if that is the case, I expect to hear an equally logical account as the show progresses.

  • Viewers would have been originally surprised that Asseylum is suddenly renouncing her support for the Federation, but both Inaho and the sharp-minded viewer will note that this Asseylum erroneously cites the blue skies on earth as being a consequence of diffraction even though Inaho once explained to her that Reyleigh scattering is the reason Earth’s atmosphere take on their characteristic blue hue; diffraction refers to interference phenomenon when waves encounter a slit.

  • Lemrina Vers Envers is the second Princess of the Vers Empire, Rayregalia’s other granddaughter and Asseylum’s younger half-sister. She despises her background but compelled to serve Vers in order to remain useful. Slaine is on friendly terms with her, and she is the individual impersonates Asseylum to declare a continued war on the Federation.

  • I’d crack a joke about the Winter Soldier here, having watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier en route to Hong Kong during the winter break, before 2014 ended (as per a promise that I would watch the movie before 2014 ended). Here, Inaho returns to combat in a stunning manner, making use of airburst grenades to keep the molecules in his Kataphrakt vibrating long enough to reach close quarters and destroy the Frozen Elysium. While using the Aldnoah drive’s powers to lower the energy of molecules is clever and capable of stopping conventional munitions, I note that EMR ignores entropy. Had the Federation developed a directed microwave weapon with a high output, they would have been able to triumph by cooking the molecules in both the pilot and the Kataphrakt.

  • Inaho returns with a friendlier personality and is now partially cyborg (although not to the same extent as Adam Jensen); I was quite disapproving of his personality throughout the first half, but then I recall Gundam 00‘s Setsuna F. Seiei, who was equally unsociable until the events of the second season. In the time skip, he’s much friendlier now and is willing to make small talk, but retains all of his combat efficiency.

  • Inko expresses joy that Inaho is alright: she has feelings for him back since the first season, and the new Inaho may very well pick up on this. For now, though, I think it would be better if Aldnoah.Zero dispenses with romance and focuses on story-telling and world-building. I don’t do shipping, so I will refrain from talking about which character Inaho would do best to get together with.

  • The explanation for how the Federation gains access to the Aldnoah drives is that the power to activate them is transferred through exchanged of body fluids: Asseylum gave Slaine CPR when they first met, and Inaho did the same for Asseylum after Reyet nearly kills her back during the first season. It’s a convenient mechanism, but for the purposes of setting things up, it’s satisfactory. With this in mind, the Federation could turn the tables around: with a more disciplined military, the Federation would decimate Vers if the technological playing field were level.

  • I mentioned a Bacta tank earlier, although Bacta is more effective than whatever Vers has, being able to heal much more quickly. This first episode to the new season alleviated any doubts I had about Aldnoah.Zero, and while I’ll be scruitinising things more closely from here on out, I also expect that maintaining an open mind will make this a fun anime to watch. I realise that I originally intended to do talks on Amagi Brilliant Park and Sora no Method first, but forgot that Aldnoah.Zero was returning. Both these anime will get talks very soon, I promise.

Slaine’s role in the second season is not unexpected, showing that his feelings for Asseylum have transcended reason and reached madness; he is now allied with Vers fully and pilots the Tharsis against Federation forces, determined to defeat Inaho and the Federation to claim Earth for himself and the princess. The makings of this story may appear generic at first glance, but with an additional eleven episodes on the table, I am personally hoping that more details behind the Aldnoah technology itself is revealed. Rather like how Halo’s origins and the Forerunners were introduced halfway into Halo: Combat Evolved, it would be quite nice to learn more about where the technology came from, how it operates and whether or not its creators are still present in some form. Unlikely it may be, Aldnoah.Zero’s creators may even serve as the true antagonist, forcing Vers and the Federation to cooperate, or else side with the Federation after observing the atrocities Vers has committed with their equipment. This is but one of the possible directions Aldnoah.Zero could take, but even if it choose to dispense with world-building, Aldnoah.Zero has been characterised thus far by fantastic audio-visual elements, so at the minimum, the episodes will be a visual treat to behold. Consequently, I look forwards to seeing what the second half has to offer: the first season may have ended on a difficult note, but if treated as the end to the first half, then what has transpired is not so unforgivable, and the second season will be, at the minimum, an exhilarating ride.

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