Aldnoah.Zero – 12 (Fin)

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This final episode earns full marks for adrenaline-pounding zeal and sheer boldness, as well as remaining true to its characters until the very end. In the final scene, in the castle’s Aldnoah chamber, the very place where Asseylum snatched a Terran victory out of the jaws of defeat, we not only lose her, but Inaho as well. That’s a steep butcher’s bill than we expected even for a show we thought would be one-cour-and-done; it’s even more daring considering a second season is coming next year.

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On the one hand, it sucks to see Inaho and Seylum go down so abruptly after they had achieved so much. On the other, both had fulfilled their purpose. Seylum shut the castle down, Inaho had held off the baddies long enough to let her, and after she dies, it’s almost a given that Inaho too will either keel over from blood loss or, as is the case, gets shot by Slaine. Both were friends of the princess, and she would have wanted them to get along, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

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It isn’t until his final moments that his memories and feelings of Seylum rush over him like a crashing wave, so on the whole I’m okay with this, it’s a tragic but also oddly logical end for both of them, and it shows that the good guys can’t have it all. (I will say I am extremely glad Inko is still alive and hope we see get to see more of her in the future.) What wasn’t so logical, and what prevents this final ep of A/Z from a higher rating, is what led up to this final scene.

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I don’t mind at all the crew of the Deucalion being too wounded to assist any further, nor do I have any particular qualms with Yuki and Inka making their way through the castle with the princess (Your Princess IS In This Castle!). What turned me off was that here was his already overpowered kataphrakt getting even more buffed up and combined with others into one big Mega-phrakt in a transformation scene that goes on too long in a show that never spent this kind of time on such things before. It was a bit too Gundam-y.

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And you can call it ironic if you will, but after all that build up to how huge and powerful and invincible this guy just became, Inaho is simply able to survive far too long. Even if he’s the best Terran kataphrakt pilot in the world, his primative orange kataphrakt should be crushed like a Coke can in the first minute of fighting. What’s the point of an super-powerful mecha if its shields have such an obvious weakness? This was yet another case of the Martians possessing ridiculously superior technology but no tactics to speak of.

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In earlier battles this might have been excusable, but in particular with Saazbaum, a dedicated, decorated veteran and otherwise capable commander, to fall so easily to the underdog. At least the overarching message that has endured throughout A/Z remains consistent: Inaho and the Terrans only survive as long as they do thanks mainly to appalling incompetence on the part of the Martians. You can’t even say they did a good job with the initial invasion, because they were never able to finish the job.

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Those issues aside, this was still a thrilling and satisfying end to the series (the music-less end credits were particularly stirring)…were that the case, that is. I’ll confess I wasn’t aware of a second season, and it’s not something I’m 100% sure I needed in my life, but A/Z has definitely earned the right to get a close look. Like Inaho, it’s been a mostly level-headed, dependable and proficient mecha show, and I’m curious to see where it goes without two of its leads. But that’s not for a few months yet. Till then, farewell A/Z, and RIP Inaho and Asseylum. You’ll be missed.

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Final Average Rating: 8.50
MAL Score: 8.13

Aldnoah.Zero – 11

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Unlike SAOII, A/Z has no episodes to spare, and so really brought it this week, throwing us into the decisive battle. Even then, it had to cut things short right in the middle, just when things were getting interesting. But despite the fact it left a lot on the table, this episode excelled on its own merits, heightening the peril and tension for the finale.

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The win was truly strong with this one. You had Saazbaum launching the assault on UE HQ, half-destroying the hall where Asseylum made her televised address (which he had blocked), leading to the rather unexpected sight of Eddelrittuo at the wheel of a Humvee, speeding her highness to safety. I also didn’t expect Rayet to have a change of heart and cover them, but I liked the move.

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Inaho continues to suggest totally insane shit with a straight face and calm voice—and Yuki even calls him out for it!—but it doesn’t mean he’s wrong, and Asseylum agrees to be used tactically now that shes been proven ineffective as a means of securing any kind of political solution. Asseylum, who last week said she believes Inaho is kind, still understands that this isn’t the time to be kind.

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The multiple subterranean layers of UE HQ fall like dominoes before Saazbaum’s bunker-buster bombing, and it isn’t long at all before enemy assets are inside messing up the place. As this is pretty much the Terrans’ last stand, the time for half-measures and retreat is over: either Saazbaum will fall, or they will. Saazy himself takes out the Deucelion, but Magbaredge manages to ram it into the castle, enabling access. They’re down, but far from out.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 10

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This week’s episode of A/Z was spectacularly efficient and moving right from the get-go, as Inaho figures out that the Deucalion is down because Seylum is. Does he panic or scream? Who do you think we’re talking about, fool? (You’re not a fool. I apologize.) He enters Inaho Lifesaver Mode, using the CPR he learned (and took seriously) in high school, not hesitating for a moment to do what needs to be done to bring the princess back.

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Lesser shows would have played up the embarrasment a teenage boy would have at having to suddenly be so intimate with the girl he likes, but A/Z is not a lesser show. The scene is immensely tense and thrilling, and as the sweat gathered on Inaho’s brow and Seylum isn’t waking up, I’ll admit to getting a little leaky-eyed. And while in real life only 7% of people undergoing CPR are successfully revived, this is thankfully part of that 7%. Her first gasp for air is a viscerally satisfying moment.

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Then Seylum fingers her attacker, Rayet grabs an automatic, and it’s Standoff Time. Rayet confesses, she’s a Martian too. All this time she’s been calling them the enemy and scum unworthy of trust, she’s also been talking about herself, or at least what she once was, as shes been trying to become a Terran since her father’s death. Seylum counters Rayet’s bile with contriteness and kindness, admitting her rash actions have only made Earth-Vers relations worse.

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Rayet’s frustration is rooted far less in politics, or even the fact her father died, than her jealousy over Seylum’s “transition” in the midst of all these intense events, and that the Terrans so readily accepted her. To Rayet’s eyes, she’s gotten everything so easily, and it has eaten her up inside. She’s so taken aback by Seylum’s response, she loses her cool altogether and turns the pistol on herself. That’s when BAM, INAHO ACTION MODE disarms and restrains her, quick as a flash. This kid is cool as shit.

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As awesome and powerful as this “shower standoff” was, it only took up the episode’s A-part, which also managed to squeeze Yagarai giving Magbaredge a DVD containing his interview with Lt. Morito, in which he lays out the tragic but also very understandable circumstances of her brother’s death during Heaven’s Fall, maybe paving the path for Magbaredge to forgive him. That’s quite a frikkin’ first half.

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That’s a nice segue into the second half, since the day of Heaven’s Fall also carries great weight with Count Saazbaum. He and his betrothed Viscountess Orlane were sent on an advance mission to Earth’s surface, and her kataphrakt’s flight systems failed after the moon shattered. He was forced to escape, leaving her behind to die just as Morito left Humeray.

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But he and Orlane wouldn’t have even been there if it weren’t for the Vers Royal Family, turning the peoples’ discontent over degrading conditions on Mars onto Earth by making Terrans the scapegoat. And while revenge is extremely important to Saazbaum, his motivation goes beyond that. He’s tired of pretending Vers is any kind of place to have a civilization, especially since that civilization has only survived thanks to Aldnoah, which is controlled by the royals.

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This is interesting, because Saazbaum isn’t your Vers true believer, and yet he isn’t simply in this for himself: he has no regard to the empire he hails from. He built up his lands and his wealth all by himself, as did other counts, but always he had to live in the same shadow of Aldnoah as everyone else. Inhabiting Mars is a “fool’s errand” to him; only Earth can properly accommodate them.

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That Earth is already inhabited is of no consequence to him…and in any case, there simply don’t seem to be a whole lot of Terrans left on Earth anyway. When the Deucalion finally arrives at United Earth HQ they find the undergound shelters under-inhabited and over-supplied. Still, it’s all they’ve got, and Saazbaum is headed there to put the Terrans out of their misery.

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Can Inaho and the others wriggle their way out of it? Is Rayet destined to sit out the remainder of the show in the brig? Will Darzana forgive Morito, and will Morito be able to move forward? Heck, Asseylum even made Inaho flinch by calling him a kind person, no matter what practical excuses he gives for all that he’s done for her. Will these two go anywhere? What side will Slaine pick? There’s an awful lot of questions to answer. I sure hope two episodes is enough to do it.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 09

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With the human crew out of constant immediate danger for two episodes now, A/Z has had more chances to demonstrate its sense of humor. For all the horrors it’s presented, the show can be pretty funy, and its outlook has remained optimistic. One look no further than all the little side moments that have peppered more tense situations.

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Now those moments have more room to breathe, whether it’s Yuki’s alleged ability to interpret Inaho’s mood from his stonelike face, to her teasing of Inko and Rayet, to Nina managing to snatch up Asseylum’s princess gown for reasons both practical and selfish. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the continuation of the wry banter between Magbaredge and Mizusaki; a nice blend of bitchy and chummy.

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All this joking around early in definitely lightens the mood, but also softens us up for the blows that come later, as the episode suddenly descends into darkness. The seeds are planted when Rayet is in the simulator, and Yuki dials up the purple kataphrakt that killed Rayet’s dad right in front of her. The experience shakes poor Rayet to the core, and continues to be baffled by Asseylum’s calm, collected outer facade.

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What Yuki did was an accident, but Yagarai gets the idea to use the simulator to recreate Marito’s own ordeal. Again, the comedy peeks through when Marito initially dismisses the simulation as “blocky” crap. His mood changes on a dime when he sees a blocky version of the kataphrakt he and Humeray encountered fifteen years ago, and we dive along with him right into that memory in its entirety.

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Long story short, they were outmatched, tanks are cramped and suck, and there was nothing he could have done for Humeray other than what he did, which is shoot him so he doesn’t have to endure being burnt alive. It was an impossible situation, and he shouldn’t blame or torture himself for what happened. We’ll see how many more times he lets Yaganai make him relive it.

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But hold on, that flashback isn’t even the darkest, most fucked up thing to go down in this episode. Asseylum doesn’t mean it, but her very presence is driving Rayet crazy. While she and Eddelrittuo come in the shower prattling about how awesome she is, it’s the last straw. While Eddy is away for a moment, Rayet, seemingly in some kind of trance, slowly walks into Asseylum’s stall and strangles her with her necklace.

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Then the Deucalion shuts down and crashes, since Asseylum was its source of power…a fact we had forgotten right up until that point! I’m not yet buying that she’s dead—just unconscious—but it’s still serious business that Rayet’s passive disdain has turned active and unhinged. It’s also ironic that after all the Vers traitors’ attempts to off Asseylum in the most public and flashy way possible, it’s a human that ends up “getting to her” in the shower of a floating battleship.

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Finally, Slaine is now the guest of Count Saazbaum after the latter killed Cruhteo. Saaz comes right out and admits he is the traitor who plotted Asseylum’s assassination, but it’s not what we initially thought: Saazbaum isn’t just a selfish rich asshole, he’s a selfish rich asshole who felt used by the royalty fifteen years ago, whipping up wars to distract the masses back home, which led to the death of his beloved betrothed. He’s committed to taking out the royal family—Asseylum included—and no amount of surprisingly sharp butter knives will stop him.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 08

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For the first time, Inaho, his friends, and the other Terrans aren’t on the run or fighting for their lives, nor is anyone in particular looking for them…unless you count that ridiculously brief cease-fire (we’re not). Those who would are either defeated or in the dark. Now they have their flying battleship Deucalion and their Aldnoah Drive-activating Princess, what’s left of the world would seem to be their oyster.

The show makes the very unexpected decision not to have the Terrans recover Slaine after he’s shot down. Instead they flee the area, and Cruhteo is the one who finds him. While Inaho, Rayet, and Asseylum have to endure a mildly stern debriefing from Magbaredge and some rather amusing interactions with Inko, Nina and Calm, Slaine is tortured mercilessly for information about why he went to the island.

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Interspersed with sense of his sickening treatment at the hands of Cruhteo as Saazbaum looks on, the show—and Slaine himself—flash back to happier times, which show that after Asseylum saved his life, Slaine was the one who inspired her to want to travel to Earth and seek peace in the first place. He was the spark, but it was only ignited because she was also a good and decent person who saved him regardless of his homeworld.

Cruhteo looks to be on the verge of extinguishing the spark for good when Slaine finally pipes up, telling Cruhteo he killed Sir Trillram because he tried to assassinate the princess, who’s still alive. Like Slaine, we couldn’t know whose side Cruhteo was on, and so had to assume he was an enemy…but he’s not. Once he learns of the assassination plot, he asks Slaine’s forgiveness, genuninely impressed a lowly Terran risked his life for Asseylum.

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Then Cruhteo springs into action…perhaps too quickly and recklessly. If you know other Orbital Knights have conspired against the crown, you’d think he’d be a little more careful acting on the very dangerous information he’s just received. Still, it’s in his character to be all noble and bombastic and arrogant to a fault.

Calling for a cease-fire, asking for Terran assistance in locating the princess, and vowing to punish the traitor knights are all well and good, but blurting it all out on open channels where your enemy can hear you and know you’re a sitting duck…it smacks of incompetence and naivete. Saazbaum descends on his bridge, and Cruhteo is so clueless he just stands there calling for his kataphrakt to be readied…as if Saazbaum would wait for him to mount one so they could have an honorable duel.

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Nope, Saazbaum just kills him. Having a loyal, powerful knight like Cruhteo on Asseylum’s side seemed like a good idea at first, but knowing how ill-prepared Cruhteo was for the game Saazbaum had set up makes us wonder if he wouldn’t have been more a hindrance than a help. The sensible knights seem to have no honor, and the honorable ones no sense.

It gets to the crux of Rayet’s bitter monologue in the Deucalion’s briefing room, which I really dug, so here it is verbatim:

We can’t trust you Martians, either. A nation that latched onto an archaic feudal system that relies on the superscience of an ancient civilization called Aldnoah…Commoners who are obsessed with proving themselves in battle to win social standing…and nobility who casually betray them and grind them into the dirt…How can you possibly trust people like that?!

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Rayet has said often that All Martians are the enemy, but we hadn’t truly appreciated the efficacy of those words until now. Still, as Calm so eloquently puts it during his fantastic flip-flop (thoroughly un-impressing Inko and Nina in the process, as he caves because Asseylum is so cute), there are good and bad martians.

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Yet Between the self-involved knights and the uninformed commoners, the only two good Martians so far are Asseylum and Eddelrittuo. The rest, be it by virtue of their hostility, ignorance, or ineptitude, are indeed the enemy. If there are any other Martians out there—be it knights or their retainers—worth a damn to the cause of peace, we haven’t seen them yet. Will that change, or are our heroes on their own?

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Aldnoah.Zero – 07

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AZ delivers yet another action-packed, cinematic tour-de-force of an episode. After fighting with little but their wits and some luck, Inaho & Co. finally catch a break when the sorta-deserting Slaine tracks down the Princess and “Orange”, his nickname for Inaho’s trainer, and they finally have a decent weapon in his sleek Sky Carrier with which to do battle with their latest Martian foe.

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I’m not going to mince words; Femieanne is not much of a character at all, but we can see how her sturm und drang routine would scare most humans into submission. Not Inaho; he continues to keep his cool and pinpoints all her weaknesses, such that by the time she stops playing around and getting serious about the fight, it’s too late. Meanwhile, Inaho, Yuki, Inko and Slaine buy valuable time for Magbaredge’s ship.

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When a secret cave is revealed in the island’s rock face, the ship is steered in and collapses the opening. What they find is something even the Martians apparently didn’t know about: not only is the very red “demon” kataphrakt that Morito battled fifteen years ago, but an entire Aldnoah-powered hover-battleship, the reveal of which is suitably bad-ass in scale and intensity.

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I can forgive Femieanne being a bit lame because of that and pretty much Inaho does this week, always carrying the expression that it’s, like, no biggie. He decides to put his trust in “Bat” and climbs aboard the carrier so he can gain more height in his fight with the enemy Kat. As I said, he determines the fingers and engines of Fem’s arms are weak points. But between his cool heroics and the battleship reveal, this wasn’t a bad romp at all.

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After that battleship runs Fem over, leaving her a heap of twisted metal and red lights, it’s Rayet, piloting a Kat, who delivers the killing blow. Then Inaho does something unexpected but not out of character: he shoots Slaine down, calling him an enemy, and who can blame him? The humans will need the power of Aldnoah to defeat the Martians, and if Slaine aims to stop them for Asseylum’s sake, he is indeed the enemy.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 06

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The Orbital Knights of Vers got what they wanted: an official declaration of war by their emperor. Upon hearing this news, quite a few mecha protagonists would gnash their teeth and tighten their fists in indignation, but Inaho just shoots Asseylum a look that says “Well, looks like your plan went nowhere, Princess!”

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With the war resuming, Captain Magbaredge and the ragtag combination of crew, trainees, and civilians, has little choice but to run and hide where they doubt the Martians would bother them: Tanegashima, an uninhabited land scarred by Heaven’s Fall. It’s a homecoming for Lt. Marito, as that’s where he and his friend Humeray fought Vers kataphrakts with obsolete tanks 15 years ago; a fight only Marito survived.

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Adding fuel to his fire of guilt, Darzana discloses that Humeray was her brother and she blames Marito for his death. I must say I wasn’t expecting that kind of connection between him and what seemed like a side character, but I did enjoy that whole scene of the three adults drinking on the flight deck.

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AZ continues its trend of keeping the peril cranked up and not giving its underdog heroes much of a respite. They could have done a momentum-killing rest episode of mostly character work and it probably would have been just fine, but AZ’s got things to do, so we meet the first female Orbital Knight, someone who apparently was interested in planting her flag on a ruin.

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In fact, it’s that calm, reflective drinking scene on the flight deck she interrupts by launching the four arms of her kataphrakt at the Terran ship like missiles. Even HE rounds won’t penetrate her armor, and the most they can do after Morito himself jumps in the cockpit of a Kat (and after having another panic attack) is to deflect her arms with the blast force of heavy ordinance. Even then, they’re on the verge of defeat when Inaho runs out of bullets.

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They’re saved in the knick of time by Slaine, freshly escaped from Cruhteo and looking for the orange trainee Inaho favors. Now, even if most of them don’t know it yet, the Terrans have the only one on Earth who can control Aldnoah tech (Asseylum), and the son of the lead researcher (Slaine). Combined with the cool-as-a-cucumber Inaho, the vengeful sister, and the functioning alcoholic vet, there’s a nice team coming into focus.

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Stray Observations:

  • I liked how Yuki told Inaho to address her as Warrant Officer Kaizuka on the ship, but when they’re in the cockpit, she allows “Yuki-nee”, which is as good a callsign as any.
  • The rivalry between Slaine and Inaho begins before they formally meet, as Inaho corrects Asseylum on why Earth’s sky is blue; Asseylum having been taught by Slaine.
  • Saazbaum brings up wanting to interogate Slaine now, when Slaine is on the run? Great timing, guy.
  • Even upside down, or out of ammo, Inaho stays cool.
    “Wait…We’re not dead?” Oh Inko…please don’t die!

Aldnoah.Zero – 05

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To their enemies and detractors, Slaine and Inaho are insignificant, pathetic, impudent nobodies. Even so, Slaine is able to contact the Emperor of Vers, while Inaho must face off against Vlad a second time, and a second time shows him the door, only this time it’s a permanent arrangement.

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Unfortunately, Slaine’s efforts have the opposite effect that he intended, because Count Saazbaum got to His Majesty first. The emperor may know Slaine since he was a child rescued by his granddaughter after crash landing on Mars, but right now all he cares about is exacting justice for an assassination that didn’t really happen, and certainly wasn’t the UE’s fault.

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The emperor had initially issued an armistice this week, but you wouldn’t have known it from Vlad’s actions. Apparently repairing his personal honor through a rematch with the “Orange Brat” trumps an imperial decree. But when the cat’s away the mice will play, and the cat is between 54.6 and 401 million km away.

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Vlad lands on the deck of the aircraft carrier where Inaho & Co are aboard and starts wrecking up the place, but while the professional soldiers in their top-of-the-line kataphrakts are carved up like a cake, Inaho is ready for him with more unconventional tactics, making full use of explosive armor, putting Vlad’s kat into a hold.

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Vlad’s so confident he’s going to make mincemeat out of Inaho’s orange trainer, he neglects his surroundings. Inaho has the helm tilt the ship as he has Vlad caught in a hold, then bails out as the two kats fall overboard. The heat from Vlad’s own swords causes a steam explosion that destroys him.

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All in all, pretty awesome battle, though he makes the other soldiers look bad, they’re products of their conventional military training, which won’t work against Vers. It’s also a nice touch that the one to pick him up from his escape pod is Rayet, holding out a hand, seeming to say wordlessly “I like living, so thanks for saving us. Again.”

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Rayet also seems to do Asseylum a favor by discouraging her from revealing herself to the ship’s captain and asking them to contact her gramps. Gramps is convinced she’s dead, and unless she can sneak into an orbital knight’s castle and contact him directly, he’ll stay convinced.

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Since Saazbaum is now aware of Slaine’s treachery, further communication with the emporer by anyone with the actual truth in their possession will be no mean feat. The armistice is off again, as are the gloves.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 04

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This was yet another tour-de-force nail-biter of backs-up-against-the-wall, all or nothing action. Again, it’s not a question of whether humanity can defeat Vers; that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But you take small victories where you can get them, and for Inaho and company, every day their cargo of civilians is safe from harm is a victory.

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Even if their hometown of Shinawara is a meteorite-ridden ruin, they’re still alive; an act of resistance against Vers in and of itself. After Inaho saved her, Asseylum decides to reveal her true identity to him, and he’s his usual cool-as-a-cucumber self. It’s ironic that there’s another character named “Calm” who’s a lot less calm than Inaho; none of what this show has thrown at him has really flustered him.

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With the civilians safe, their new mission is to find the means for the princess to contact her grandfather the emperor; she believes knowing she’s still alive will halt the war in its tracks, but that’s an exceedingly naive assumption. Even if grandpa wants peace with the Terrans as much as she does, the Orbital Knights have landed, staked their claims, and blood is in the water. It’s a veritable feeding frenzy down there, and glory is the repast.

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Still, that’s the plan. Inaho may not consider the princess the enemy, but Rayet won’t hesistate to expose her if she deems it necessary. That becomes a possibility when the navy hovercraft they’re aboard and the installation where they’re resupplying falls under the attack of a Vers kataphrakt, one that wields a really bright, noisy light katana. One by one, the forward Terran kataphrakts are felled, and a great tension builds as the enemy draws closer and closer.

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Asseylum volunteers to go out there and speak to the pilot as she did before, but she’d be flipping a coin over whether he’s loyal or one of the co-conspirators who tried to assassinate her (and still believe they succeeded). Instead, Inaho and Calm go out in their trainers and do what they do best: improvise. Using a cargo crane to knock the Vers kataphrakt on its ass was particularly inspired, and I loved Inko’s sheepish reaction when it doesn’t work a second time.

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But again, Inaho & Co. aren’t trying to pull off miracles, only buying time, plain and simple, for the cavalry to arrive in the form of another naval vessel armed with enough teeth to compel the enemy to bug out. When you’re such an overwhelming underdog, sometimes you need to depend on things other than your own strength and skill—like luck, timing, and the enemy’s arrogance or indifference—to survive the day.

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And then there’s Slaine, who gets in his plane and heads right back to Cruhteo, lying that the meteorite bombardment did Trillram in and not mentioning that Asseylum still draws breath. Even if Cruhteo didn’t conspire against the princess, he’s still exploiting the situation for all it’s worth. And While he gets smacked around, Slaine seems to convince his superior to let him continue to participate in the battle, meaning we can’t rule out him and Asseylum reuniting again.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 03

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Last week A/Z left the two bands of Terrans we’re following in Tokyo with some steep hills to climb: Lt. Marito to save the civilian stragglers and his students, and Inaho and his friends to mount some kind, any kind of counterattack against Sir Trillram’s purple pillbug. The damn thing has to have its weaknesses; they turned out to be very glaring weaknesses in the end, but time, prodding, and a good deal of decoy work was needed to reveal and exploit them.

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After Inaho devises plan and they prepare as best they can, It’s SHOWTIME, Everybody! and A/Z does not disappoint with the righteous action that follows. I particularly liked Asseylum handling a grenade launcher while Rayet handled the wheel of the decoy truck. Inko pilots a Terran kataphrakt along with Inaho and Calm, so the ladies aren’t sitting on the sidelines here.

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As it turns out, Trillram’s kataphrakt is totally blind without help from recon drones in the air, easily obscured by smoke bombs, and while most of the pillbug’s surface is covered by that impenetrable barrier, there are “bald spots” that enable it to function at all, which Inaho finds when the pillbug falls into the bay. As Count Saazbaum pointed out, there’s no time to waste; the kataphrakt’s technology revolved around a strategy of quickly and utterly defeating the enemy.

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But the “rats” who survived the initial onslaught were small, crafty and had enough time to chew through that technology. Needless to say, it was extremely satisfying to see the damn thing finally go down, with Inaho dedicating his coup de grace to the friend whose hand slipped out of his the day before. He and his friends old and new proved something this day, both to the rest of the world and their conquerors: the Vers aren’t invincible, and if they want to play at war, they’ll get one.

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Another nice shift in momentum for the good guys: Slaine shedding his status as Terran lapdog, when he comes to pick up Trillram and learns of the plot to assassinate the princess. Trillram is still too arrogant for his own good and turns his back on Slaine, who snatches up his sidearm and terminates his command with extreme prejudice. Now if only Slaine can somehow meet back up with Asseylum. There’s far more work to be done…and traitors to expose, if any of Vers will still listen.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 02

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Vers landing castles have touched down in New Orleans, Maputo, Beijing and Tokyo, and even the defenses Earth has been preparing for fifteen years have absolutely no effect on their invaders. F-22s are swatted like flies and primative kataphrakts are sliced up like cold cuts. Count Cruhteo sends Sir Trillram to “retrieve” the Vers operatives who carried out the Asseyleum assassination, but that means killing them all so that no word gets out about the conspiracy.

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One member of the group of what Trillram deems “rats” manages to escape his initial attack: Rayet Areash, whom the Kataphrakt forces consisting of Lt. Marito and Yuki mistake for a civilian. Yuki scoops her up and rendezvous with an evacuation vehicle with her brother Inaho and his friends aboard. Inaho, who had himself just recently been picked up, has with him two “foreigners” who we know to be Eddelrittuo and none other than Princess Asseylum in disguise; only her body double was the one killed in the motorcade assault.

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While these four cities have all but fallen and all attempts to counterattack are futile, the Terrans aren’t done yet, as long as they refuse to give up. Even though they’re only students, Inaho, Inko & Co. are still called upon to help evacuate civilians from the battle zones. Even in the face of certain death, Lt. Morito and Yuki fight with everything they have to delay and hold back Trillram and allow the innocents to escape.

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They do this unaware that right beside them sit not only one of those responsible for the plot that served as the justification for the Vers invasion, but Vers’ own discarded, peace-loving princess her group thought they offed. They’re not done yet, either: the ferry with the bulk of evacuees needs cover. Inaho & Co will pilot training kataphrakts with live ammo and do what they can, which may not be much against the might of the Vers invaders, but who knows: maybe those bastards’ arrogance will end up being their undoing. In any case, they’re not giving up quite yet.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 01

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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