The Infinite Zenith

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

Aldnoah.Zero: Review and reflection at the second season’s halfway point

“If I moved, he moved. If I stopped, he stopped. It was a duel.” —Jennifer Esposito

After a grand total of eighteen episodes, Aldnoah.Zero has remained a curiosity of an anime, managing to fashionably execute several elements while leaving other aspects inadequately answered. Since the second season started, we’ve seen Slaine with the most character development, and it turns out that my earlier speculation on Slaine’s actions were completely correct: viewers were griping about why Slaine would side with Count Saazbaum when the latter had made a brazen attempt on Asseylum’s life, and I had predicted that Slaine had an ulterior motive, but presently found being loyal to Saazbaum to be helpful in the short term. It turns out that after Slaine gained Saazbaum’s trust, he also inherited the title and craftily devised Saazbaum’s downfall to gain power for himself, with the intent of destroying the class hierarchy within Vers, capturing Earth and with it, Asseylum’s heart. On the Earth Federation side of things, Idaho has faced off against Slaine in combat, but aside from a few skirmishes with the Martian Knights, things have not progressed particularly far with respect to development of countermeasures to repeal the Vers invaders. The build-up is there, although even with Inaho’s activation factor, the Federation has not made extensive use of captured or reverse-engineered Aldnoah technology.

With only six episodes remaining before Aldnoah.Zero concludes, one must wonder where everything is going, as there are there are two separate storylines right now, and the only aspect that seems to link the two together is the rivalry between Inaho and Slaine. There is an additional twist to all of this: the original Asseylum has now regained conciousness, which may have implications on the wedding between Slaine and Lemrina, as well as the course of the Vers-Federation conflict. While there are only six episodes left to satisfactorily depict all of these events, I’m nonetheless hoping that details about the Aldnoah Drives themselves will be explored; one imagines that the backstory shouldn’t take more than an entire episode to explore, and doing so would add depth to the Aldnoah Drives themselves. Conversely, if Aldnoah.Zero chooses to omit this aspect, it would imply that the Aldnoah Drives were merely an enabling factor to facilitate Vers’ invasion. However, if this is the case, then one must wonder why the series is even called Aldnoah.Zero to begin with. This is the justification I offer for my frequent mention of a wish to learn more about the technology itself, given that Aldnoah must hold a significance to the anime if it is the series’ namesake.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The UFE Deucalion proves to be a critical asset for the Federation, although its role means that it’s ferried here and there for a diverse array of missions. Throughout the second season thus far, it’s participated in several orbital battles and has provided support for friendlies. Its Aldnoah drive was sourced from the Martian Kataphrakt of the same name, although its design is more traditional compared to those in something like Halo.

  • Inaho’s cybernetic eye gives him abilities similar to that of the CASIE social enhancer augmentation, an upgrade I used to great effect in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, while I used my own social cunning and the augmentation to effortlessly talk my way through some situations, Inaho’s still-inadequate social skills means all he does is manage to get Inko indignant when he comments that she’s gained weight.

  • The Tharsis feels a little like the Unicorn Gundam, with its pure-white finish and large V-fin. However, the Unicorn Gundam’s NT-D, and a Newtype’s powers would allow it to decimate the Tharsis in any confrontation. In a battle with Inaho, Slaine only manages to escape thanks to his suit’s superior technology, although it’s been shown that the Federation’s Kataphrakts actually have more than enough firepower to take down an unshielded Martian Kataphrakt.

  • The fight scenes in Aldnoah.Zero remain a thrill to watch, and one of the things the second season excels at is the depiction of scale: structures and battles feel bigger in the second season, capturing the intensity of space battles that the first season lacked.

  • As Slaine’s subordinate, Harklight looks up to Slaine as an example of someone who was able to transcend class barriers. Harklight himself was of a lower class, and with his parent’s support, did everything in his power to try and move up in a totalitarian monarchy where one can only be born into power and rank.

  • Apparently, I never even spared 140 characters to talk about Eddelrittuo in my previous Aldnoah.Zero talks, so for completeness’ sake, she’s Asseylum’s attendant and spent most of the the first season giving people the evil eye for not displaying proper etiquette in front of Asseylum. Come the second season, she’s Lemrina’s attendant, but continues to express the wish that Asseylum will recover.

  • The Stygis-class fighters feature a mass-produced Aldnoah drive for use by non-nobles and can combine to form a single unit for greater speed. They do not feature the same level of sophistication as the other Martian Kataphrakts, and can be destroyed by standard rounds.

  • Count Sauzbaam is taken out of the equation fairly quickly into the season after Slaine makes use of the Tharsis’ systems to anticipate his location and fired rounds to that position. Slaine’s actions indirectly lead to Inaho living to fight another day, and his actions finally make sense: it turns out that Slaine was indeed bidding his time until he could move in to avenge Asseylum while moving his own plan forwards.

  • Thus, despite being an improved version of its predecessor, the Dioscuria is knocked out of the picture pretty quickly. One of my friends, an expert in Gundam, expressed his thoughts that Aldnoah.Zero is quite similar to Gundam AGE in terms of premise, even if their execution are completely different. The unique story in the former made it interesting, but I never picked up Gundam AGE on account of the art style, which I felt to have detracted from the series’ intended message and tone.

  • Despite being a warrant officer, Yuki maintains an easy-going, carefree spirit, acting as a foil for Inaho’s stoic mannerisms. Presently, Aldnoah.Zero is all over the place with its story, but I’m personally banking on an optimistic ending. I personally dislike Nihilistic endings with a passion: their authors (including Gen Urobuchi) imply that humanity is doomed to failure regardless of what path it takes and therefore, shouldn’t be trying. This is a very irresponsible outlook on life, since its core tenant is that our fate is death, and as such, there’s no need to better ourselves.

  • Mazuurek is a Martian Knight who holds no contempt over the people of Earth, preferring not to fight if he can help it. His Kataphrakt, Sirenum, makes use of gravitational manipulation powers, although these powers are limited to the horizontal axis. This is exploited by Inaho and Koichirou; the former provides some orbital fire for the latter, allowing him to capture Mazuurek.

  • By the second season, Koichirou appears to be improving with respect to his post-traumatic stress disorder after the War of 1999, where he’d and witnessed first hand the power of the Aldnoah drive and one of his best friends was killed in that battle, leading to his PTSD, but after psychiatric assistance, he’s no longer turning to alcohol as an escape.

  • With the advent of the Microsoft HoloLens, what science-fiction writers are depicting as technology of the future is in fact, soon to be a reality, much like how Siri and Cortana have fulfilled the role that Bramen played in Thunderbirds. Slaine here is showing the various birds to Asseylum and Eddelrittuo.

  • Thanks to his CASIE augmentation, Inaho decides to trust Mazuurek and lets him in on the secret behind Asseylum’s fate, before assisting his escape on the condition that he determine what Slaine’s true objectives are. Inaho’s choice is motivated again by what’s practical, and this deed may eventually return in the future to reward Inaho with some help in the future when he most needs it.

  • Here’s a prediction that’s full of bollocks: out there, someone has predicted that “Slaine [has an increased likelihood of] experiencing Motive Decay. [They’re] kind of expecting Slaine to make is power grab at this point, in the name of “changing Mars”, and in the process hurting Asseylum to do so. Then as he’s crowning himself VERS ruler, Inaho shoots him. Because why not?” Slaine’s actions insofar are unlikely to hurt Asseylem because, for his determination, he’s taken care to always put Asseylum first. In fact, Slaine’s rise in rank has done little to harm Asseylum and it’s likely this will remain thus. It’s also unlikely that Inaho will be able to time things that effectively: I foresee a duel between Slaine and Inaho in their respective mobile suits, ending in a draw. Lastly, “because why not?” is a pitiful excuse of an explanation, and I do expect more from those who purport to have a Masters in Creative Writing.

  • Count Marylcian holds ill-will towards Slaine: in his eyes, Slaine is a Terran unworthy of serving as the Princess’ Royal Guard and this dislike is strong enough for him to formally challenge Slaine to a duel. I haven’t seen such a duel since Gundam 00‘s Second Season, which saw Setsuna going against Graham Aker. Despite the latter’s formidable skills as a pilot, Setsuna comes out on top.

  • While Slaine is gearing up for his duel with Marylcian, Inaho and the others engage a Martian Kataphrakt with a beam rifle that rivals Gundam 00‘s Super Substratospheric Altitude Gun, which allowed the Dynames to strike orbital targets from the ground. This battle demonstrates that Inaho is now much more willing to cooperate with others and work as a team, making use of his cybernetic eye to provide the coordinates for the Deucalion’s main guns to destroy it.

  • This almost feels like a showdown between the Sazabi and Nu Gundam, although as I’ve noted in a private conversation with my friends, it would be an insult to compare any Gundam to a Kataphrakt. With that being said, the duel was well-choreographed, and the choice of opponent for Slaine was appropriate: if Slaine can predict the near future, the Herschel’s funnels’ ability to overwhelm opponents means that Slaine can’t individually engage his weapons.

  • Slaine’s cunning soon prevails, and he lures the Herschel into a tunnel to limit the funnel’s effectiveness. After destroying them, Slaine takes the offensive and defeats Marylcian, acquiring all of his assets in the process.

  • Now this is the moment that’s torched off more speculation than every other moment in this post combined. One wonders if Lemrina was deliberately keeping Asseylum subdued for her own ends, and whether or not Asseylum will make a return is something that tomorrow’s episode could touch on. I’ve been just-in-time for most of this season’s halfway point talks (except for Saekano), and this pattern continues with Aldnoah.Zero. Coming up next will be talks on Saekano after three episode and Expelled From Paradise. This is about it for February, and March will see talks for Aldnoah.Zero and Saekano once their finales come out, as well as a pair of talks for Kantai Collection (one for the third quarter and one for the finale).

Given that Aldnoah.Zero has thrown surprise after surprise at the viewers, I’m not particularly certain with respect to what the final six episodes could entail. With that being said, one can reasonably imagine that Asseylum will take on a much larger role once she returns, and this could set in motion the events that lead the conflict to a conclusion, driving Slaine on a collision course with Inaho. Of course, her arrival will also have repercussions for Slaine and Lemrina: as a character whose depiction is that of unwavering good, she’s projected play a major part in rectifying the conflicts that plague the two. However, as Aldnoah.Zero‘s one “sure thing” is that nothing really is a sure thing, anything could happen in the final six episodes. My expectations for the remaining episodes are quite simple: the story has to reach a conclusion that could logically have occurred based upon what has already happened. In other words, the ending must make sense based on the events from the episodes audiences have already seen. Slaine randomly choosing to shoot Saazbaum and Inaho did not follow, for instance, so if Aldnoah.Zero can avoid this and deliver a reasonable ending, it will have been an anime that performed reasonably well.

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