We are now halfway through Anniversary Review Week, today being Day 4. Are you all getting tired of me yet? Not yet? Good! Today’s anime is one that had a great first season, one that left be questioning just what happened, but then the second season fell a little bit flat. Which is one of the worst things that can happen to an anime, and makes me as a fan a little angry when the second season to a promising anime series falls short of the expectations you set for it. Of course you also should not set the bar too high for these things either…I am rambling now so that means it is time to stop my train of thought. Moving on! I always like to pick a mech show to review during this week because mech shows are one of my favorite shows to watch. I had originally planned to review Gundam Build Fighters Try but then I realized that I had already done the first series, and decided to save that for either a later review or a Sequel Saturday.
Anyway, here is my 41st Anime Review and Day 4 of Anniversary Review Week, the review for a show that still leaves me with mixed feelings: Aldnoah.Zero.
The first season of Aldnoah.Zero aired in July 2014 as a part of the Summer 2014 Anime Season. It released 12 episodes before it finished airing in September 2014. The show has a manga adaption that started in 2014 and ended in 2015. The show’s second season starting airing a few months after the first season’s ending in January of 2015. It too consisted of 12 episodes, bringing the series episode total to 24 episodes. The second season ended in March 2015. The show was done by A-1 Pictures and TROYCA, produced by Shizuka Kurosaki, Directed by Ei Aoki, and created/written by Gen Urobuchi.
It is a mech show so we have a lot of typical world building to start with. The story surrounds an alternate timeline where in 1972 the Apollo 17 mission uncovered a hypergate on the moon that allowed for the fast travel to Mars. Some people then decided to migrate to live on Mars, and also discovered even more technology on the moon that they dubbed “Aldnoah”. The Martian migrants formed a new nation on Mars, named the Vers Empire, and they decided to declare war on the “Terrans” (people who still lived on Earth). There was then a battle that was held on the moon that lead to the accidental destruction of the hypergate, forever known as “Heaven’s Fall”. The two opposing forces then agreed to a cease fire, but is a very tense one that could end at any time. We then fast forward 15 years and are introduced to high school student, Inaho Kaizuka. While walking home from school with his friends one day, Inaho and the gang witness the attempted assassination of the Vers Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia. The princess had come to Earth in hopes of building peace between Earth and Mars, but instead the Martians go crazy because they think she’s dead, they break the ceasefire causing war to break out once again. Inaho and a few of his friends then joined the United Earth Forces to fight against the Martians attempting to invade Earth.
Before we move on to characters I want to take a minute to talk about this plot. It was no surprise that war was going to break on in this show, why explain all of that and make such a huge effort to emphasize the tension if you were not going to do so. The people on Earth are just waiting for Mars to attack, and are training high schools kids to fight in mechs (called “Kataphrakt”, because that’s easy to say). It also does not help that the Martian Empire have 37 clans known as the “Orbital Knights” who have space stations or “castles” just waiting to invade. So when the war breaks out you think “Oh so the mechs will show up, get land for the castles, and then the castles land”. Well that’s what I thought, but oh no. The first episode are two show the Martians landing these castles on Earth, which results in the destruction of entire cities and the deaths of millions of people. Like what a crazy way to start a show. It really worked to show not only how little regard the Martians have for the “Terrans”, but also just how high the stakes are that the UEF wins. Because if they do not, everyone on Earth could die. It’s so good!! So much plot!! Suspense!! So good…in theory. But we’ll get to that.
Now for the characters!! First off, I know Inaho gets a lot of crap for being…well an emotionless log most of the time, but you cannot doubt he is a tactical genius. Which at least makes him helpful and not just a protagonist that has no real value at first and then develops it. That would have taken too long, and the show did not have enough time for a training montage. The one thing that bugged me about him was really just what…well the thing that he survives. I call baloney on that. I do not want to spoil it, but if you’ve seen the show I think that you’ll know what I’m talking about. The characters we really focus the most on after Inaho are Asseylum and Slain. I once wrote a whole post about how much I princess characters in mech shows, but Asseylum is the best example that I have seen lately. She knows finding peace is going to be hard, and actually experiences life on Earth first had which at least gives her a first person example of what is going. It is not like she has been sheltered her whole life and all of a sudden declares she wants to help them and then expects them to want to do it *cough* Euphie *cough*. So I actually kind of liked her, which makes it stink when she’s unconscious for like half of the second season and is replaced by her half-sister….who…is just being manipulated and does not care about helping the Terrans. Then we have Slaine, who I really liked during the first season! He was hated by the Martians because he was a Terran who’s father left Earth, and that causes him to be abused (like whipped) by his superiors. And all he wants to do is be there for Asseylum, and be respected by the people around him. Until season two when he becomes an unlikably, coniving, evil crap bag. It made me so bad because I liked him! I was rooting for him! Then he goes to the dark side and is plotting to take over everything. Ugh, so aggravating.
The show had a huge cast of characters, most of which you either loved or hated, but a lot of them grew over the course of the show or changed. Heck! Marito had a whole episode dedicated to his PTSD and his drinking problem. The show will all of a sudden add things like this to the story to let you see who they are as people and possibly relate to them. Sure not every character had this, but a lot of them did and it made their motivations to be very clear while you watched the show. Even if you did not agree with what they were doing, you could still understand why they were doing it.
As I said before, the show was animated by A-1 Pictures and TROYCA. A-1 Pictures is one of the biggest animation companies that there is right now, while Aldnoah.Zero was TROYCA’s first anime with it working on two anime series sense then (Beautiful Bones and Re:Creators). TROYCA was founded in 2013 by Ei Aoki, who also worked on Aldnoah.Zero. The show may have a few problems, but it is absolutely gorgeous. The colors, lighting, designs are just all so pretty to watch. I would watch the show even if it was a huge pile of junk with animation this good. Okay…that’s a lie, but it did up the enjoyment factor for me. It also helped that the soundtrack for this show was amazing. The first season had the opening theme “heavenly blue” by Kalafine and two ending themes, “A/Z” and “aLIEz”, both by Hiroyuki Sawano. The the second season had “&Z” by Hiroyuki Sawano for its opening, and two ending themes as well. The first was “GENESIS” by Eir Aoi and “Harmonius” by Sora Amamiya (Asseylum’s seiyu). All but one of these songs made it onto my iPod. I also want to say that as a whole both openings of this show are absolutley beautiful to watch, and are some of my favorite openings out there. The music and the animation just blended together beautifully.
Overall, I award Aldnoah.Zero with a B. Is it the absolute best mech show out there, god no. Inaho, as a main character, does have issues with his character and I get that some people may not like him for it. He was not my favorite character in the show by any means. However, the show does have a very good story that is worth watching if you are looking for a show just to watch on a whim. But I do warn you that first season ending is insane. It is what made the difference between me giving this show a C or a B. I had to sit there for a little bit just to comprehend what had happened. The show also keeps things moving so there are not really any dull episodes where not a lot happens. I never knew what was coming next, and when something did happen I was always surprised. The story and plot twists that happen make this show WAY better, even when the characters fall a little short.
That is all that I have for my 41st Anime Review and Day 4 of Anniversary Review Week! What do you guys think? What is your opinion on the show? Or, what is your favorite mech show? Let me know so that I can try it out if I have not seen it yet!! Anything else you want to add? Leave all of that down in comments!!
See you next time!!
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