You have to watch this anime to find out whether their wish will come true or not.
As mentioned in my last post, the second title I will review here for this blog‘s ‘Anime of the Year ‘ audition for this year, is for the mecha anime series titled Aldnoah.Zero. At least that’s what I have expected when I started downloading this anime this year, but it turns out differently in the end. If you want to know what have changed, then go on to read the rest of the review below.
In an alternative version of Earth, the world is under an uneasy armistice for 15 years with a high-tech alien-like human civilization that lives on Mars. As if in cue, the said armistice become invalid in the very first episode of this anime when the princess of the said high-tech alien-like human civilization was assassinated during her visit to Earth. The Martians then invades Earth with their overwhelmingly superior mecha robots, and our typical lackadaisical main male high-schooler protagonist then has to get off his ass and starts the counter attack.
Take the main male protagonist from Hyouka (I watched a few episodes of this anime in Animax), borrows some plot devices from Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (the princess, the high-tech alien invaders, a world where Microsoft’s Metro GUI actually got popular) and then combine them with a space opera-like storyline, and you will got this anime. As a whole, this anime’s storyline is fairly solid, better even than the first title in this audition. But still, this anime does has some chinks in its plot armor, like two poorly-executed and cringe-worthy events that happens in the last third of the series, amongst others, that will be explained below.
Let’s take a look at the storyline first. Superficially from the outside, this anime looks like, smells like and sounds like a mecha anime title, but this is where you will get it wrong. This anime may have robots in it, but the mechas are merely a minor part of it. The last anime title I have watched that does this is Bokurano, where its mecha is merely one cog in a machine. While the latter leans more towards the dramatical slice-of-life genre, this anime instead gravitates towards a soapy space opera that borders with the seinen territory.
One thing I like about this anime is the fact that its main male protagonist fought the alien invaders that possessed overwhelming technological superiority over Earth humans, merely using a normal mecha machine while aided by comrades that has nothing better either. Even in Bokurano, the children there managed to get themselves a overpowered and deadly mecha of their own. Throughout the series, I half-expected that the princess a.k.a. the main female protagonist will eventually gives him his own Aldnoah activation power, but she didn’t, which is a good decision by the writer.
You are going to spend significant portion of your time watching this anime waiting for him to be relevant. He has too much airtime spent on him for a secondary character. I will not be surprised if he become the main male protagonist for the second season.
From the start, the storyline branches into separate but equally important sub-plots, with each of them revolves around certain characters. The first one revolves around the main female protagonist (the princess) which then bind the main male protagonist with her. This plot line is probably the closest one to a typical mecha anime such as Majestic Prince. The second one revolves around the princess’ Earthling retainer from Mars which then bind the main antagonist with him. This plot line is arguably the best one in the anime, so far. The third one revolves around the Kaji-like character shown in the picture above which may bind several characters like the female ship commander and also the main male protagonist’s older sister. This plot line consists mostly of character developments, so far. Those ‘so far’ statements exists because this anime will have a sequel next year.
The first two subplots are actually quite OK, and both developed nicely up until the last third of the anime. Nearly simultaneously at that time, those two subplots’ quality are marred by two cringe-worth events that definitely will cause the scoring to suffer. For the first subplot, that would be the attempted assassination of the princess and her groveling aftermath. For the second plot, that would be the interactions of that subplot’s main characters right after the retainer was kidnapped.
The actions of the princess at that event makes me cringe inside with her cliché-laden declarations (and the groveling – damn that groveling). Meanwhile, the kidnapping in the second subplot is actually the most important event in the whole series, and it serves to prepare the princess’ retainer for the finale, supposedly using character developments and also flashback storytelling. The biggest problem about this kidnapping event is its execution, which is poor as I mentioned above. The transition of the retainer’s characterization from the start of the kidnapping to the beginning of the finale has not been fleshed out properly. What the transition process need is more airtime so that the main antagonist can do the conversion process properly.
As for the presentation aspects of this anime, I don’t think there is anything to complain about. The pacing of this anime is much better than Majestic Prince, although maybe it has slowed down a little near the end. Contrary to what you may think, this anime does not exactly have any best characters per se, mainly because this anime is such a story-driven title, and its principle characters are merely cogs in the machine that is this anime’s multi-subplot storyline. The retainer is probably the only character here that may and can assume such a distinction, mainly because of the ending.
And oh boy, the ending sure is at least better than what is seen in No Game, No Life and has a cliffhanger-like feeling in it that approach the one seen in the first season of Code Geass. It comes to my understanding that this anime will have a second season next year, which I will definitely watch, and the ending in this anime is set up perfectly. But after watching this anime’s ending, I have some concerns about what may happen in the sequel, and hoped that certain things will not happen in it.
In the ending, this anime first sub-plot has ended when both of the main protagonists died. Meanwhile, the second sub-plot has been completed with the retainer’s burst of character developments finalizing his transition to a certain status as a main character in the sequel (he could become the main protagonist or main antagonist). He does so by ending the first sub-plot indirectly and also eliminates the main antagonist. The third sub-plot was paused at the verge of the final showdown, and definitely will only be restarted in the second season.
My only hope for the second season will be for the writer to resist bringing any or both of the main protagonists back to life. I wouldn’t have had to mention this if not for the fact that the writer of this anime also wrote Blassreiter. An excerpt of my review of that anime 5 years ago:-
The most defining aspect of this anime is its high character churn rate, with many characters dies left and right. That would have been a good thing for this anime, if not for the fact that this anime also revives dead characters more often than the DragonBall series.
The writer better not revive the main protagonists of this first season in the sequel. People who has been shot in the head don’t come back to life, unless as zombies. Even zombies don’t come back to life after getting a head shot. And no, the Aldnoah power cannot bring people back to life, or else the princess’ assassination plan wouldn’t have been conceived in the first place. Trying otherwise will blow a plot hole so big, Mars can fit into the said hole.
Character designs in this anime is just ordinary, and frankly speaking, the bland designs here is inferior to what is seen in No Game, No Life (which is not exactly that good either) or Majestic Prince. Or even Blassreiter. In an anime that takes place in an alternate version of Earth in our present time, black hairs are quite common though, which is a good thing even when there are aliens and robots in here.
Just like the character design, voice acting in this anime is also ordinary and just about average in quality. While it is hard for me to remember any characters whose voice actors has done any noticeable jobs, at least this anime does not have any bad gigs either. Inferior to No Game, No Life too in this aspect.
When it comes the OST, what you can hear in this anime is better than the ones in No Game, No Life at least. But as for OP and ED themes, both anime are just the same (read: none of them are good at all).
Animation quality in this anime is good and smoother than what you can see in No Game, No Life. This applies to both general and character animations. Unfortunately, integrations between 2D animation and CGI sequences isn’t exactly seamless though. This anime isn’t the place to go if you expect good mecha actions, because choreography for those scenes overwhelmingly underwhelming. The directing is flawless, but quite a little bit on the conservative side.
8 out of 10. Same score as the first entry of the audition: No Game, No Life. The next entry in the audition is going to be the 4th installment of the Cardfight! Vanguard anime series, titled Cardfight! Vanguard Legion Mate.