Aldnoah Zero Anime Review
Aldnoah Zero was released in 2014 with a scheduled second half for January 2015. Directed by Ei Aoki, with Gen Urobuchi and Katsuhiko Takayama being credited for the writing, the show had an interesting take on an alternate reality and the conflict between two opposing factions, as well as effectively displaying the ignorance and tension between both sides.
Set in an alternate variation of our current reality, with its history being identical to ours save for the events which transpired post to the discoveries of the Apollo 17 mission to the moon, Aldnoah Zero is based around the events which were sparked after this space mission lead to the discovery and extrication of ancient and unknown technologies, the first of which was the Hypergate discovered on the moon itself which would enable humans to terraform Mars with the ultimate purpose of settlement and in-habitation.
As Mars was slowly colonized by more humans, additional fragments of ancient technology, dubbed ‘Aldnoah’, was seized by these immigrants, who eventually abandoned their heritage and affiliation with Earth, accumulating into the Vers Empire. The conflict between the two human factions eventuated into a war in 1999. Within the ensuing battle, the Hypergate which enabled the terraforming of Mars lost control and ended with the destruction of the moon, resulting in a phenomenon known as Heaven’s fall, where fragments of the moon rained down of Earth, destroying multiple locations.
Fast-forward 15 years to 2014, where a peace visit to Earth from the Vers Princess, Asseylum Vers Allusia, is about to go underway. As she arrives on Earth and is revealed to the Earth populace for the first time, a group of mysterious killers assassinates her, in order to spark outrage amongst the nobility of the Vers Empire for mysterious motives, resulting in an all-out invasion of Earth. This invasion was to be led by the Orbital Knights, nobles of the Vers Empire with the privilege of being able to use the ancient and mysterious weapons, powered by a device called the Aldnoah drive. One of the primary invasion points of this force just happens to be in Tokyo Japan, meaning that the militant nation has gone so far as to conscript teenagers with military training into the armed forces to combat this alien species.
Characters of Aldnoah Zero
Our protagonist, Inaho Kaizuka, is a young Japanese student whose sister is a Warrant-Officer in the Japanese army. Obviously, like all protagonists, he has dead parents and has been living with his older sister. Although his sister is a rather loud and erratic person, he himself is quiet, calm and analytical, yet not in a good way. There’s nothing wrong with having an intellectual protagonist, but when he is so emotionless that he doesn’t even cry when his best friend is killed right before his very eyes, honestly, what’s the point in featuring him? The protagonist is the example to be set for the rest of the characters, so what he’s displaying is that anyone useless to the plot is expendable. Brilliant emotional utilisation right there.
Like all Japanese students, Inaho has undertaken compulsory military training, including mech operations and military tactics. He is usually the one who faces off against the overpowered mechs from Mars powered by the Aldnoah drive, and is ultimately the one that defeats them through various tricks in his trademark orange mech. I won’t speak much of his secondary role as that would lead into spoilers, but nevertheless he does end up having to grope 2 plot devices.
The other notable character, and the second protagonist, is Slaine Troyard, an Earth-born terran who has become a member of the Vers Empire through spoilers. He became a close friend to the princess after she saved him and his father’s life five years before the show begins. He obviously has feelings for the princess, yet is disallowed from pursuing a relationship with her due to the watchful eye of his superior. The orbital knight Count Cruhteo. He has a pretty 2-dimensional personality, and does nothing that he thinks the princess wouldn’t want him to, like a subservient slave. His only motive and goal is to avenge or assist the princess in any way he can, making him a rather shallow character. His endurance and tenacity is one thing, yet he cannot operate appropriately as a person without a single thought about the princess.
Soundtrack of Aldnoah Zero
The soundtrack was composed by the one and only Hiroyuki Sawano, ultimately one of my favourite anime composers of all time. He seems to have a talent for providing shitty or mediocre anime with a brilliant soundtrack, proven with a résumé consisting of shows such as Attack on Titan, Kill La Kill and Guilty Crown, all of which have amazing, multi-genre soundtracks. Hiroyuki has a talent for blending electronica, orchestra and rock in perfect correlation to create power and compelling main themes yet subtle and delicate compositions when the softer and more impactful scenes arise, and Aldnoah Zero’s soundtrack was no exception.
There was a singular problem that I have with the soundtrack, and that is its reminiscence to the Attack on Titan soundtrack. It isn’t a complaint, it still sounds amazing, yet there is something rather unsettling about hearing an echo paying respect to his previous works. It almost felt like he lowered the bar with his standards for unique soundtracks, yet in the process he still managed to make it sound good. The opening was rather nice as well, yet was eerily reminiscent of Yuki Kajura for some strange reason. It’s skippable, along with the ending, which is an 8-Bit remake of the main theme with added vocals.
Animation of Aldnoah Zero
The animation studio was none other than A-1 Pictures, whose other works consist of From the New World, Sword Art Online, Magi and My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute. The animation itself was a blend of environmental CGI and a rather plain animation style for the characters. Unlike multiple anime with CGI, the blending between the normal animation and the CGI of the mechs and several environments was nothing short of perfection, and each style complimented each other in a rather unique way. Much unlike C, Aldnoah Zero even had good CGI, yet I always find mecha anime are more successful with normal animation. Code Geass and several branches of Gundam are a testimony to that, but then again, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Thoughts of Aldnoah Zero
The characters for Aldnoah Zero predominantly features 2 simultaneous protagonists, both of which are terrans held under different circumstances, along with a plethora of shallow side characters merely fabricated to fill in the blanks for supporting roles and shoddy emotional reinforcement. Literally, aside from the protagonists none of the characters have any true relevance or purpose except to be an annoying plot point, shoddy emotional reinforcement, generic grunts or stupid. There was a limited amount of fascinating characters within the show, with one of the few meaningful characters being lieutenant, a survivor of Heaven’s Fall that just so happens to be *CENSOR BEEP*. The biggest thing for me about Aldnoah Zero is that it almost seems like a homage to its soul predecessor, Code Geass. Although the world and progression of humanity was rather fascinating in Aldnoah Zero and from a narrative stand-point both shows are merely similar, there seems to be an edge within the struggles of the people and the way they conflict with these apparently indestructible forces that causes me to compare the two.
Along with the story of invasion from a presumably undefeatable force set out to enslave or annihilate a native force and governmental militia, both have seemingly underdog protagonists who use their wits and cunning rather than brute force to perform the impossible and become the narrative hero. That being said, the largest difference between Lelouch and Inaho is their relatability and emotional fragility.
Lelouch ultimately became a warrior of justice and was enveloped by his passion and drive to overcome all his obstacles that watching him surpass the assigned trials felt triumphant and was something to be celebrated, whereas Inaho was merely an intellectual protégé of Lelouch without the passion or drive, and this attitude does more than reflect the character, yet extends to become a reflection on the show.
A protagonist is someone that should be able to guide the show’s trajectory and, specifically with this type of show, be the charismatic example to be followed by the accumulation of side characters. Yet he was all bite without bark, which was a rather big let-down. No awesome monologue, no conflicting morality, no clever witticism. Merely a blank canvas with equations.
Aldnoah Zero also seems to relish in its utilisation of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is defined as something that the audience or viewer knows about the narrative that the characters within the narrative do not. Although attempting to be used as reinforcement for some deep and emotionally charged narrative, this presentation of the story is overused, and therefore acts a foreshadowing for the climactic conclusion of the first half. I will not go into much spoilers, but will say that the ending was an almost successful attempt at being unique, and hopefully acts as a precursor to an amazing second half that will succeed in wowing me as much as this first season did.
Aside from that, I was rather disappointed in the presentation of almost all the characters. They have seemingly no motivation for any of the actions they set into motion, and certain characters such as Calm speak of actions they wish to fulfil, yet despite this murderous motive no actions at all are set into motion. If he was truly passionate or emotionally distraught, he would’ve acted regardless of the consequences. That, alongside other spoilerific blunders have me pointing at shoddy writing and plot devices such as deus ex machina, especially within the mecha battles. In some ways, the battle scenes are really clever in their reminiscence of Code Geass, yet are so technical in their explanations that it wouldn’t take anything short of a genius to figure out, especially given the time it takes to make such observations. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the greatest show in the world, but I loved watching it, and it is much better than the other project A-1 Pictures is participating in…. (SAO II).
Overall, Aldnoah Zero was a cool and interesting show to watch, despite its incompletion. It might not be the greatest thing in the world, but it’s still worth a watch.
– The Internet Bear