Aldnoah.Zero, Urobuchi Gen’s latest offering, is a mecha centered around a conflict between the Earth and a race of people living in space. Only four episodes are out so far, but I’m quite surprised at how strong Aldnoah.Zero is. His last show, Suisei no Gargantia, was also a strong, character focused show, so I was wondering how Aldnoah.Zero would fare. It could very well be the definitive mecha show of this season, and may very well be one of Urobuchi’s strongest works.
Aldnoah.Zero is set in the backdrop of a world where war between Earth and Mars was waged just fifteen years ago, and the results were devastating; the Earth was bombed repeatedly, a teleportation device used by the Martians blew up and took out a good chunk of the moon, and stranding many of the martian forces in Earth space. After the princess is an assassinated at a diplomatic event, conflict begins anew, thus kicking off a quite explosive plot.
The plot skeleton may not be the most original, funnily enough seemingly similar to the other mecha show this season, but the plot flesh, so to speak, is quite interesting. One element that really impressed me about the show is how the show started with a bang (the destruction of several world cities), but the show builds on that momentum in a totally natural way.
The ultimate strength of the show lies in its characters. The two protagonists, Inaho Kaizuka and Sleine Troyard, are cleverly implemented foils. While both of them are caught up in a war neither desires, both recognize that they must thrust themselves into it to solve things, a far cry from the protagonist that gets dragged into war kicking and screaming. Inaho Kaizuka is perhaps the more relevant of the two protagonists, and interestingly enough, a stoic to Slaine’s more passionate personality.
Slightly disappointing is the main heroine, Asseylum Vers Allusia, who exhibits some Mary Sue traits, but she appears to be learning. She’s not unwilling to get her hands a little dirty, and appears to be a little receptive of wartime politics (such as recognizing that her presence on the battlefield would be dangerously alarming).
I’m a bit worried about the show skewing the Martians as all around jerks, and the Earthlings as all around good guys, but I believe that’s to be expected. The only Martians we’ve seen are military commanders, the ones who would be willing to wage war, while we’ve seen a range of Earthling characters. Speculation on the part of Marito Kouichirou, a veteran of the war 15 years ago, also leads me to believe that the Earthlings did something to egg Mars on, so I imagine we’d start to see a more diverse cast rather soon.
The attention to detail in Aldnoah.Zero is stunning. Perhaps the best example I can pick is at the end of the first episode, when a Martian structure crashes into New Orleans, where we can see the explosion from the crash causes people to turn to ash before being swept away, individual glass shards are shattering from buildings, and cars are sent flying. While the CG here is a little more noticeable than in this season’s other mecha, the fights have been brilliant from both a technical and written standpoint. Only two major battles have been fought, but both show a great deal of strategy being employed on both sides. With most mecha shows, it’s usually the main character using an experimental or prototype mech to take out grunts, but it’s just the opposite here: the main character uses grunt units to take out special ones using his wits and teamwork.
The music is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, and is as usual quite great. One complaint I had about Sawano’s previous work, Kill la Kill, was the lack of variety, as one particular track always played during battles. I’ve already noticed more variety here, so that’s another plus in my book. The opening theme is also performed by Kalafina, and is also quite great.
Overall, Aldnoah.Zero is a very solid show. It may be one of Urobuchi Gen’s best efforts, and it may be one of Hiroyuki Sawano’s, too. Couple that with the director of Fate/Zero, Ei Aoki, Yuki Kajiura, and Kalafina, and you have a pretty well written mecha show with solid characterization and a great amount of attention paid to detail.
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