Could I go a whole season without a mecha series? After this show’s very strong opening salvo, I’m inclined to think not. From the brain of Urobuchi Gen (Fate/Zero, Gargantia, Madoka Magica, and Phantom) comes an epic action sci-fi series in which an uneasy peace is shattered and all the humanity of Earth are threatened with destruction by…the humanity of Mars.
That’s right, rather than Sidonia, our foes aren’t horrific monsters driven by instinct, but an offshoot of the human race that emigrated to Mars and evolved into a powerful military empire. Biologically, the two sides are all but identical. But precisely because the Martians are human, there are some of them who would use any excuse to bring the hammer down on “Old Humanity”, AKA the ‘Terrans.” Absent peace, the natural state of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, no matter which planet they call home.
The other side of the political spectrum, Princess Asseylum (sounds kinda like “asylum”) has traveled to Earth for a goodwill visit in hopes of fostering amity and building a lasting piece after a brutal war fifteen years ago cleaved the moon in two, killing untold scores on Earth. In the new ring of moon rubble that circles the planet, 37 orbital castles run by 37 Martian lords lie in wait, sharpening their fangs, begging Asseylum not to bother with peace.
All goodwill and hope of escaping all-out war is snuffed out when Terrans (possibly working for those lords) destroy Asseylum’s motorcade with a barrage of missiles, apparently (but probably not) killing her. The Martian lords have their excuse, and send their castles crashing down like meteors, wiping out New Orleans, among other cities. It’s a race to see which lord can gain the most territory in the shortest time.
There’s no indication the “Terrans” have any real defense against the Martians. This is underlined pretty bitterly by a veteran of the past war, Lt. Marito, who now instructs students in the operation of relatively clunky-looking mecha that wouldn’t be fit to fuel their Martian equivalents if they were melted down and refined. Marito, drinking heavily, knows the training is bullshit, but he’s seemingly the only one who knows just how screwed everyone is, since he’s one of the few people to lay eyes on the titular Aldnoah.
The episode is brimming with characters, but the ones who seem to matter are Asseylum; her Terran aide Slaine, whom she rescued years ago; Count Cruhteo, one of the lords. On earth, you have the stoic protagonist Kaizuka Inaho, his big sister Yuki (who works under Marito), and his various school friends. The paths of the various Terran and Martian characters cross when Asseylum arrives in Japan, where Inaho & Co. are at the parade.
When a foe is bent on destroying you because they believe you are inferior, and more to the point, simply because they can, you can give up and die, like Lt. Marito seems content to do, or somehow prove that you’re not as inferior as your foe thought you were, and that destroying you won’t be as easy as buying reduced eggs online.
That typically means the underdog has a secret weapon in their possession to fight on more equal ground. That weapon hasn’t been revealed yet, but my guess is it’s an Aldnoah, and that Inaho ( and anagram of “I, Noah”…) will be the pilot. We’ll see how the show gets him into that cockpit and how he fares; his unexcitable temperament should serve him well. Still, the Martians have an awfully big head start.