I think I should get at least one more review out before I go back to school. I’ve been stuck on other reviews, so I might as well get the most recent one out of the way. Today, we’re taking a look at Aldnoah Zero.
The Story: In 1969, humanity gained the ability to colonize Mars using the power of a lunar hypergate. Those that went received the bounty of Mars including powerful technology from an ancient civilization: a seemingly limitless energy source known as Aldnoah. Using this new power, which was far superior to that of Earth’s, the Vers Empire was founded, relying upon Aldnoah to advance its civilization. Over time, the colonists and Earthlings (known as Terrans) began to drift apart, eventually forming different identities, and, due to the power of Aldnoah, political tensions between the two planets. 30 years later, the Vers Empire, straining under Mars’s lack of resources, declared war on Earth, and sent the imperial army, led by the 37 Orbital Knights (think feudal lords) to claim Earth’s bountiful resources for its own. Things were going well for the Martians, until a battle on the moon destroyed the lunar gate, as well as most of the moon. Isolated from Mars, the imperial army was forced to reside in orbiting “castles” in the newly formed asteroid belt and agree to a ceasefire. That was the way it stayed for another 15 years.
In 2014, a goodwill visit from the Princess of the Vers Empire turns into a deadly terrorist attack and her death. News of the assassination galvanize the Knights and the war begins once more.
Aldnoah Zero follows the story of two boys caught up in the outbreak of the war and forced to fight for each side. At first, I thought it would be similar to Fire Emblem Fates, where you have two sympathetic sides, and you don’t know which to back, but still have to watch them fight each other. Although that is not the case, the Vers Empire is not as evil as you might think. There are sympathetic characters within the Empire as well as scumbags. And the Terrans had problems of their own, though they were almost never portrayed as evil. However, what this does is create some moral ambiguity. The Martians aren’t all bad, and the Terrans aren’t all good; if anything, they’re actually kinda similar to each other, which makes for a much more interesting story up until the end. Or so I want to say.
The biggest flaw in Aldnoah Zero was its lack of depth. Because of its premise, it had the opportunity to address some really interesting questions. And you can see some themes come up throughout the story. The show touches on topics such as hatred, forgiveness, trauma, and guilt. Early on, the writers did a really good job incorporating aspects of these themes into the story. You’d see characters say things like, “all Martians are the enemy” or “you’re the reason my brother is dead.” Bottom line, everyone has some sort of character flaw; they’re usually wrestling with something. By the second half, most of that is thrown out the window in favor of the whole war story. The Martians are portrayed in a more antagonistic light, and the show loses its moral ambiguity.
Ultimately, Aldnoah Zero suffers the same fate as Sword Art Online. It had potential to explore some very deep topics and ask difficult questions. However, it was never able to fully address said topics and ended up rather shallow. It could only settle for decent, not amazing.
The Characters: I want to say something good about the characters. I really do. Unfortunately, I got my hopes up too high. The secondary characters were not very complicated, but that’s almost to be expected. However, they were overlooked in favor of the main characters, who could have been better. A lot better.
Inaho Kaizuka: Inaho is my main problem with this show.He is a type of character known in fanfiction as a Mary Sue (or Gary Stue, if it’s a guy). He’s supposed to be perfect at just about everything. He’s the one who solves the problems, kills the bad guys, and saves the day. Now, that isn’t a problem in and of itself. After all, Kirito in Sword Art Online has also been described as a Mary Sue, and I liked the guy. Inaho’s problem is not just that he’s a Mary Sue. It’s the fact that he’s a boring Mary Sue. Kirito had a personality. Inaho doesn’t. He’s bland, unemotional, and otherwise just a boring character. Combined with his overall perfection, it’s just hard to cheer for him. Main characters, I think, should be relatable, and Inaho fails to make that connection. Especially in a show where most of the other characters have some sort of flaw, Inaho stands out even more, making it hard for me to like the guy.
Slaine Troyard: To contrast Inaho, we have Slaine. He has a personality, which is good, but it’s not constructed well. Unlike the stoic Inaho, Slaine is moody and very linear in his character. It makes him predictable and overall, very shallow. However, his story is the most interesting part of the show. Slaine is actually a Terran, whose father traveled to Mars to study Aldnoah. When his father died, Slaine was stuck on Mars, adopted by one of the Orbital Knights, and treated horribly. So at the start of the show, I was pulling for this guy. He’s initially a very sympathetic character, just trying to do the right thing. However, as the show progresses, you see him turn into a warmonger, who ultimately leads the charge against Earth. Slaine’s fall is the best subplot in the show, and it makes the second half more interesting than the first, which is good, because otherwise the second half would’ve been a really long grind.
Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia: The princess of Mars, Asseylum, is one of the more complicated characters (spoilers, she’s not dead). She’s a voice of reason on the Martian side. She’s more sympathetic to the Terrans, so you do support her, even though she’s “the enemy.”Her overall objective, peace, doesn’t change throughout the show. At first, I thought her steadfast dedication to reconciliation would be annoying and make her dull, almost like a Princess Peach-like character, where she does nothing and everyone fights over her, but that isn’t really the case. The war changes her, and she participates in her fair share of battles, even if she kills no one. The fun is watching her “grow up,” and experience the war whose end she naively calls for. She is corrupted, yes, but not to the level Slaine was; she retains the parts of her character I liked so much. In other words, I think she had the best character development in the show.
Rayet Areash: I want to put this girl down as an example of Aldnoah Zero’s lost potential. Rayet starts off as one of the dislikable Terrans. She harbors this deep hatred for Martians, and comes close to actually killing the princess. So, although she is a little annoying, her status as a vengeful Terran was useful, because she contributed to that moral ambiguity; I thought maybe she’d redeem herself by the end, but that isn’t the case, because the writers completely forget about her hatred in the second half. Or, if anything, they actually justify it when they make the Martians look more evil.
Final Verdict: Aldnoah Zero had a good run. While it wasn’t a bad show, there was much to be improved upon. It’s got giant fighting robots, a little bit of romance, war, explosions, and a lot of good things. Ultimately, however, it failed to be different or do anything new and falls flat. It could be worth a watch, but do not get your hopes.
Final Grade: B-