Aldnoah.Zero – 24 (Fin)

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I knew every Orbital Knight wouldn’t immediately heed Asseylum’s out-of-the-blue call for an end to hostilities, but that didn’t matter: as long as some of them stopped to see which was the wind was blowing, it was going to be a huge blow to Slaine’s power base, drawing things that much closer to an endgame.

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Neither Lemrina and Harklight want Slaine to give up, but neither of them have the benefit of his experience, all of which runs through his head in the corridor, where he has a clear view of the death and destruction taking place in his name. From there, he decides to evacuate Lemrina and order Harklight and the rest to surrender while he blows the Moonbase up.

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Harklight isn’t going down quietly, however, and neither are his Stygis comrades. They end up changing Slaine’s mind, at least insofar as he’d rather go out dueling Inaho one last time then dying in that control room. And so their final battle begins.

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When Inaho engages Slaine and asks him (via radio channel…SEE, Gundam G? Mecha pilots CAN communicate with each other once in a while), Slaine assumes Inaho wants to fight him as much as he wants to fight Inaho. But Inaho’s “different objective” isn’t that.

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Asseylum had her big badass announcement that turned the tide of the battle, so even though we know this has to be about Inaho and Slaine at this point, it’s a bit disappointing that all she can do here is clasp her fingers together, watch, and wait, hoping the boys don’t succeed in destroying each other.

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They very nearly do, too, exhausting their ammo, snapping all of their swords, and finally just pummeling each other like rock-’em-sock-’em robots. But Inaho, even without relying on his magic eye, is the better tactician, and he manages to neutralize Slaine as a threat and serve as an ablative shield for their mutual re-entry into the atmo.

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Once back on good old Earth, Slaine again gets the wrong idea, thinking he’s in a reversal of last season’s finale and that Inaho is going to put a bullet in his head. Inaho might want to do that, considering everything Slaine’s put him and Earth and Seylum through, but I knew he wouldn’t.

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That brings us to the epilogue, in which Empress Asseylum activates the first Terran Aldnoah Drive as a gesture of goodwill, and EYEPATCH INAHO visits Slaine, who is believed dead by the public, but remains alive in a creepy lucite prison cell.

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Not that the creepy cell is helping, but he’s not in a great place emotionally, and not eating his meals. He’s still waiting for Inaho to finish him, to exact justice upon him for all of his sins. But while Inaho has been many things throughout the run of this show—Mary Stu; know-it-all; humblebragger; cyborg; savior of mankind—but he’s no executioner, and he entrusts Slaine’s fate to the one most equipped to properly judge him: Seylum.

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Slaine taught Asseylum a lot of things about Earth (some of them, like why the sky is blue, weren’t accurate, but still). But it’s Asseylum who teaches Slaine something about Vers that he may not have picked up on while hanging out with all those Orbital Knights: pages can be turned, people can be forgiven, and lives can be redeemed in time.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 23

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With the Moonbase Chase and Princess Shuffle completed successfully, Asseylum is now in the hands of Count Cruhteo the Younger, and it’s confirmed that those are far better hands to be in than Slaine’s.

And hey, Cruhteo doesn’t seem to have an ulterior motive here: he’s simply loyal to the Emperor of Vers, who ordered him to retrieve his granddaughter. He even helps Asseylum hold firm in refusing to return even after Slaine tries to trick her with an offer to negotiate. Slaine isn’t negotiating anymore. If he says he is, you run.

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As I’d hoped, Mazuurek comes into play as Asseylum’s other ally. Between him and Cruhteo Jr., I can happily report the quality of Martian Counts has improved greatly in the home stretch. Here’s hoping there are other Orbital Knights who will take after them and do the right thing: abandon that little tyrant Troyard for the rightful princess.

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Slaine, obviously thinking he’s come too far to turn back or show weakness, is keen to launch an all-out assault on Earth, a repeat of the Shock-and-Awe campaign the O.K.’s started with, which, you may remember, ultimately didn’t work. Not that that matters to someone who seems to have developed a personal vendetta against Earth.

As he fiddles with Asseylum’s necklace in the chamber where Asseylum had once been in a coma, Lemrina pays him a visit to express how sorry she feels for both of them. I think she’s pretty much done with this palace intrigue bullshit, especially if she senses she may not be on the losing side.

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Somehow, Inko is able to retrieve Inaho, something that happens off camera that I wish we could have witnessed. While sitting with the Captain and Doctor, Inko learns Inaho has given over part of his brain to the AI in his eye, taxing his cranial nerves, which must lead her to wonder if she’s slowly losing the guy she likes.

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Asseylum is surprised but happy to learn that Mazuurek has come to her side, in part, to pay a debt he owes Inaho. Like Cruhteo, his true colors are proven pure: paying his debts are more important to him than grabbing power. While resting aboard his landing castle, Asseylum wonders what became of the gentle, peace-loving Slaine she once knew. Eddelrittuo tearfully corrects her, saying Slaine hasn’t changed at all, insofar as he’s always cared for her, even at the risk of his position or love.

Perhaps Eddelrittuo is right, or perhaps it’s only wishful thinking. My take is that a part of Slaine may still care for Asseylum, but she woke up too late, and as long as she doesn’t feel the same way about her, he will never be at peace.

In an echo of one of the more beautiful scenes of this cour, Inaho wakes up to the sound of his relieved big sister, sitting by his side. When Inaho resolves to get right back to work immediately, Yuki knows she can’t stop him, and not just because he outranks her. Instead, they wish each other good luck and agree to have dinner when he gets back, though Inaho remarks that to promise such a thing could be construed as a death flag.

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Inko tries to stop him too, showing her concern without going so far as to confess or anything, but as Calm knows, no one is going to stop Inaho from going out there and fighting. This leads to an oddly meta exchange:

Inko: Do you think you’re some hotshot ace? That you’re special?
Inaho: I’ve never thought that about myself.

Inaho is joking here, right? He’s just super deadpan about it.

When Asseylum is finally able to contact her grandfather, she sees that he’s too far gone mentally to be fit to rule, knows what her next step must be, and takes it.

Her gramps is also upset that his son died in Heaven’s Fall, but revenge is no reason to subjugate another planet, even if he was of sound mind.

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As the UEF musters for a Final Showdown, Slaine prepares to address his fellow Orbital Knights with a motivational speech. Unfortunately for him, Cruhteo II has more clever techs, because Asseylum is able to override that speech and broadcast on all channels.

She’s got some big news for everyone: First of all, she declares her succession to Empress of the Vers Empire. Then she confirms her betrothal to Baby Cruhteo. Finally, she expresses her, and by extension, the royal family’s, desire for peace with Earth.

Inaho helped get her here, but she had to take the stand, and she did, even if it dooms Slaine. Now we’ll see who among the Orbital Knights will recognize her authority.

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Though I consider myself a strong Seylum+Inaho shipper, I’m not perturbed by the fact that Asseylum—the real Asseylum, not her sister in disguise—must ultimately sacrifice any possible romantic future with Inaho for the good of the empire.

It just makes sense: she’s going to have a hard enough time garnering the support of the Orbital Knights with a real, non-adopted Count by her side; asking them to accept a Terran would be too much, so that’s that. But hey, if Inaho survives, maybe he’ll get smart and pursue Inko. She’s an ace too, you know!

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Aldnoah.Zero – 22

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The Deucalion launches into the Satellite Belt with its space loadout and catapult module, and with it launches the best chance of Inaho saving his princess.

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Before that, Captain Magbaredge is briefed on the particulars of the battle, in which, no surprise, the Deucalion will be used as little more than bait to split the Vers defenses. Darzana doesn’t like it, and neither does the crew, but they carry that plan out…with one slight adjustment.

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Asseylum, Lemrina, and Eddelrittuo locked in the observation room is about what you’d expect: Lemrina blaming Asseylum for waking up and ruining everything, and Asseylum picking up the fact her sister must care for Slaine quite a bit to have gone this far for and with him.

What angers Lemrina more than Slaine loving her sister more than her is the fact that Asseylum won’t return that love. She tells Lemrina her heart belongs to the world and people of Vers—or so she’s always been raised to believe. We’ll see, won’t we?

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Meanwhile, Lord Troyard meets with the newly-arrived Count Klancain Cruhteo. It’s a meeting replete with mutual etiquette and flattery, but in between sips of tea, it’s clear Klancain is sizing him up. It’s obviously suspicious that Slaine speaks of starting a new kingdom, but the princess he claims wishes for a “dream” is nowhere in sight.

Slaine, on the other hand, seems hopeful he can bring Cruhteo to his side, which he believes will cause a domino effect with the other “loyalists”, consolidating his position. Cruhteo doesn’t strike me as that pliable, and despite his successful coup against Asseylum, Slaine doesn’t strike me as that capable.

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As for the slight adjustment to the Deuc’s mission: Inaho consults with Darzana, who apparently approves his plan to sneak into the moon base and rescue Asseylum. He and Inko spot a friendly transport dropping off a covert ops squad Inaho suspects are tasked with assassinating the princess.

This discovery betrays a surprisingly shrewed, if unethical, competence on the part of the heretofore appallingly dunder-headed UE military brass. It’s clear they were never going for a tactical victory with this attack; the idea was for a loud and shouty battle to obscure the death team that would take out Slaine’s Aldnoah source.

If Magbaredge sent Inaho and Inko off to save Asseylum, she’d be ruining the brass’ plans; but it can’t be called insubordination, because she was never officially informed of their true plans. Even so, her trust in Inaho is formidable. There’s also something sad about poor Inko having to literally (and figuratively) “let go” of Inaho so he can go save another woman. But hey, she volunteered.

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Another miscalculation by Slaine is sticking the princesses with the most inept bodyguards imaginable. Sure, they’re up against hardened special ops infiltrators, but shouldn’t that be exactly the kind of foe they should be able to hang with? Instead, like rats in a maze, they dart all over the moon base and get headed off time and again.

In the middle of this chace, Lemrina stops and tells Asseylum and Eddelrittuo to continue on without her. It’s not because she doesn’t want to slow them down, but because she has nowhere to go, which is also really sad and lonely. A/Z is not being particularly charitable towards anyone with unrequited feelings this week.

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We also get—at last—the much-anticipated square-off between Inaho and Slaine, and…it’s pretty underwhelming. I guess that’s par for the course; neither are what I’d call brawlers (I think I’d rather have Rayet on my side in a hand-to-hand fight), and the zero-g conditions contribute to a stalemate after a brief exchange of gunfire. That, and the ever-wily Inaho hits some steam pipes, the steam of which covers his escape.

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By that point, Inaho has really used his Google Glass implant way too much, to the extent that just moments after finally reuniting with his beloved Seylum, he passes out. That’s when something strange and unexpected happens: the implant takes over his brain and voice; a totally artificial “backup program” for Inaho the human being. Whoa.

For a second I wondered if this Inaho was an android—it would explain a great many things—but the AI puts that matter to rest at once with these deeply romantic words:

Even though this boy is aware that Princess Asseylum is a separate individual, he misidentifies her as a part of himself. He therefore placed maximum priority on her safety and has acted to protect her.

What a novel way to confess. The AI also tells Asseylum and Eddelrittuo where to go to get picked up by Inko, and Asseylum tells it to thank him when he wakes up, and confesses that she also thinks of Inaho as a part of herself. As if there was any doubt.

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With the last standing assassin cornering Asseylum and Eddelrittuo, combined with Inaho’s breakdown, those who are loved by the one they love didn’t have it any easier than the losers.

When Eddelrittuo valiantly stepped in front of her princess, I feared the worst, but the assassin is taken out by none other than Count Cruhteo…who may either be our new best friend, or a cure that’s worse than the disease if he intends to exploit the the princess just as Slaine did.

He’s quite the wild card, but the glass-half-full part of me wants to think his intentions are honorable, but I do wonder what will become of Inaho, unconscious behind enemy lines, along with Mazuurek, who was a no-show this week.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 21

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Slaine’s preoccupation with the battles on Earth, combined with Lemrina’s relative freedom of movement, means it doesn’t take long for Lemrina to find her sister awake and well, and learn that her fiancee has been lying to her face.

Lemrina had certainly showed signs of increasing obsession with besting her sister, and when she pulls a gun on the real Asseylum, it seems like a natural extension of that attitude. But at least, here, she stays her hand.

Perhaps its the fact that a part of her is genuinely glad to see her sister; that it was easier to consider sororicide when her sister was nothing but an unconscious body floating in a tube.

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Instead of killing Asseylum, she and Lemrina organize a clever little switcheroo on Slaine. This time it’s Asseylum posing as Lemrina, who confronts Slaine and listens to him prattle on about the inevitability of war, proving to her the Slaine she knew and cared for has changed in two years, for the worse.

He’s power-drunk, and there is no longer any reasoning with him. In one of the more badass sequences of this season, “Lemrina” stands up out of her wheelchair, reveals her true identity, and orders Slaine to stand down.

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Down on the surface, the United Earth Forces are faced with three Orbital Knights working together, combining their powers of invisibility, electricity, and duplication to good use. It’s another showcase for Inaho’s inexhaustible resourcefulness, as all three counts’ kataphrakts are taken out one by one by finding and exploiting their weaknesses, just as if they were only dealing with one at a time.

It’s a big victory, in that it proves that even working together, the Orbital Knights are far from invincible. It also shows that Inaho is putting too much pressure on his physical body for the sake of carrying the day for the UEF. I doubt his pain will go away, especially as he takes on more and more complicated operations. He’s running out of time; if he’s to do something about Slaine, he’ll have to act soon, before his own body betrays him.

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And despite the Vers Sisters working together, Slaine isn’t going anywhere. He has the full command and confidence in his subbordinates, and is also pretty sure Asseylum isn’t going to shoot him with a gun. So he disarms her and has both princesses confined to quarters under guard.

In this, the “palace intrigue” side of A/Z would seem to have come to an end, especially when Slaine tells Harklight he doesn’t care anymore whether the sisters ever understand his actions anymore. There’s no more pretending there’s going to be a fairy tale ending for anyone. The sisters are his keys to Aldnoah, and so still have value, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a little further down the road, his plans include doing away with Aldnoah altogether, righting a great wrong Saazbaum was never able to.

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But like Inaho, Slaine is running out of time. None of the Orbital Knights know of all the drama going down with the princesses, and assume everything is being done under Asseylum’s authority. One such Knight, the son of the late Count Cruhteo, Cronkine, is arriving. Like Asseylum, he knows Slaine from way back. I doubt he’ll be pleased with what’s become of him.

I forsee Slaine becoming far less patient and thus far less careful in maintaining all his lies and deceptions. Combined with the fact the Deucalion is being deployed to space for an as-yet-unannounced but surely important (and risky) new mission, it opens up the possibility for an anti-Slaine resistance, involving Inaho, Mazuurek, and possibly Cronkine. But first, Slaine’s source of power taken away, which means the princesses must be freed.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 20

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In a flashback to when Slaine first sees Asseylum in that damnable tube, we see the belief being imprinted within his heart: “She’s going to wake up.” This was merely a dark night, which would soon be broken by the light of day.

Somewhere down the road, that hope faded, and we see the result: battles being fought and won by knights loyal to him and cooperating, gaining him territory for his new kingdom with Lemrina.

But now that Asseylum is awake, as if to reprimand him for losing hope, he’s now forced to reassess everything.

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Even hot-shot Inaho has few choices other than a speedy retreat when surrounded by powerful knights. Captain Magbaredge may be playing favorites by having the Deucalion execute risky low-altitude rescue maneuvers, but can you blame her for not wanting to lose Inaho, not to mention her remaining kataphrakts and pilots, considering how both are in short supply. Also, seeing the big battleship swoop in and take a licking but still get its people out was its own thrill.

The Deuc loses avionics, but Inaho is able to serve as a supplemental eye for Nina. Thankfully, it’s temporary: once she has her (literal) bearings, she thanks him and takes it form there. She’s the one who pulled off those rescue maneuvers, after all; she’s no slouch at the helm. Inaho could fly the ship if he needed to, but the fact he lacks experience would put him at a disadvantage, in spite of his magic eye.

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Meanwhile, awkwardness is at an all-time high for the engaged couple. Lemrina continues to pour her heart out to Slaine but gets nothing in return; Slaine doesn’t blush in the least at her words, and is quickly off again to “attend to matters,” promptly turning his back on her so as not to suffer objections.

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Lemrina is distressed by the fact her comatose (at least she thinks she still is) sister continues to command so firm a grip on her fiancee’s heart, and no matter how much power Lemrina amasses, she is powerless to wrest that heart away. Similarly, Inko is unable to get close to Inaho due to his continued insistence Asseylum is still alive.

Even if he’s proven right, Inko isn’t exactly happy to be second fiddle (or even third, if you count the Rayet angle). Hell, even Inaho and Nina had a brighter interaction. I wonder what Inko says to him in that corridor. Speaking of not happy, Darzana receives orders to re-take the territory they just lost by throwing everything they have at the Martians, even though it’s pretty clear that’s playing right into the Martians’ hands.

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Earths leaders are short-sighted, inept fools, but the Martian situation doesn’t seem to be in that much better shape, seeing as how Slaine is paying far more attention to Asseylum than the war, and Lemrina’s growing resentment. Slaine tells Eddelrittuo how he gave up hope on the princess and is now being punished by having his plans blow up in his face.

He can now only hope Asseylum’s amnesia is permanent—a terrible thing to hope for the one you loved—or else he’ll be at the center of a power struggle between princesses, and Slaine would choose Asseylum without hesitation. Her happiness is more important to him than power or the war. That means if she wants the war to end, he’ll do everything he can to end it.

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The political swagger gained by Lemrina’s proclamation certainly rallyed the Orbital Knights to her cause, but in her audience with Count Mazuurek (which Slaine patronizingly, callously agrees to in order to essentially throw her a bone and “keep her happy”) she falters fast and hard. Mazuurek has little trouble noticing something’s not quite right about “Asseylum”, and Lemrina, angered she was left out to dry alone, loses her cool altogeher and ends up a pathetic heap on the bulkhead.

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Lemrina acts like a spouse who senses intrinsically that their spouse is being unfaithful. And even though Lemrina told him she didn’t care if he never loved her, as long as they were togther, Slaine isn’t even giving her that right now, and she’s collapsing under the weight of that constant rejection. Just as there was a point in time when Slaine gave up on Asseylum enough to agree to marry Lemrina, Lemrina is starting to give up on Slaine, and it only looks to get worse for her.

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The suspicions Mazuurek develops in his talk with Lemrina are only compounded when he catches Eddelrittuo in several lies and omissions, particularly when he mentions Inaho right after she insisted she’d never been to Earth. Mazuurek is no fool, and that’s a good thing. I wonder what steps he’ll take from here. Lemrina and Slaine have never been more vulnerable, and as Slaine said, there’s nothing more fleeting and worthless than a knight’s loyalty.

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Having clearly cried for a long time, an increasingly unstable Lemrina enters her sister’s lab, only to find the tube empty. This isn’t going to be good for Slaine, who probably should have put a lock on it, or used another hologram. But like her, Slaine is so all over the place he’s making a lot more mistakes that could end up paying dearly for very soon.

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One of those mistakes was letting Mazuurek, a recently-released prisoner of the Earthlings, anywhere near Lemrina, as well as being blind to Lemrina’s steady descent into infatuation. Mazuurek was able to return Asseylum’s pendant to her, resulting in the sudden triggering of her memories, the same ones which we’ve seen in the first moments of the opening sequence all season.

This is great news for Inaho and Earth, terrible news for Lemrina, and a decidedly mixed bag for Slaine. In any case, it’s a welcome development, and I hope it leads to peace.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 19

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Asseylum’s sudden awakening had a This Changes Everything feel about it. But what struck me was how very little actually changes, at least this week, due in part to the sheer momentum of the developments that preceded it.

Lemrina, posing as her sister, has galvanized the Orbital Knights with her proclamation. “The arrow is loosed,” as Slaine later says; there’s no putting it back in its quiver, making it that much tougher for those on the sidelines—Asseylum and Inaho—to make a measurable impact.

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The brass is pleased with the incremental progress they’ve made against the Orbital Knights (due mostly to Inaho, which, yes, is ridiculous, but I’ve moved on from that fact), to the point they seem to be pussyfooting, which pisses off Captain Magbaredge to no end. They also dismiss the princess’ address as inconsequential, which is pretty damn stupid, as it proves to be an immensely morale-boosting rallying call to the Knights. All of Earth’s small gains could go away in a flash because of that speech.

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One reason Asseylum’s eyes opening doesn’t have a marked impact on present events is that when Eddelrittuo reports it to Slaine, he doesn’t tell anyone else, including Lemrina. In fact, he lies to Lemrina that shes taken a turn for the worst. Lying is not a great way to start a marriage, and it’s clear this is a stopgap move to keep Lemrina—and the power she commands under her sisters’ guise—in his good graces.

While alone in her fancy Roman Space Bath, Lemrina tears up. Is she apprehensive about her sister dying for good…or des she know on some unconscious leve that Slaine is deceiving her?

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Of course, Slaine may have lied because while Asseylum’s eyes opened, at that point she hadn’t actually fully awakened. When she does, Slaine forgets about all the complications and lets himself be overcome by elation as he hears her say his name again.

Down on Earth, Orbital Knights loyal to (or at least tolerant of) him are confidently advancing against the Earth resistance forces; hundreds of people are being killed; his power is being consolidated thanks to Lemrina and Harklight; but in this moment Slaine couldn’t care less about any of that shit. All that matters is that Asseylum is awake and talking. And while not quite on par with Inaho waking up before Yuki, it’s still a fine, moving scene.

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Mazuurek is back from a far shorter hiatus than the princess, but he’s still amazed at how much has changed in his absence. His cordial conversation with Barouhcruz takes a turn for the disquieting when his rumors about Slaine having killed Saazbaum fall on deaf, and at least on the surface, outraged ears. With the loss of Marylcian, Barouchcruz has bent the knee to Slaine, and warns Mazuurek to choose wisely.

Slaine has so utterly taken control of the situation, and his rise so high and swift, those who once openly opposed him fall in line, grudgingly or not, to the point even if those all those rumors are true, it doesn’t matter anymore. Slaine is holding all the cards.

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Well…not all of them. Everything he has done has been for Asseylum…even if the truth is, she neither asks for nor wants any of it. And that seems to be all the more true when Slaine, about to present Asseylum with some very unironic blue roses, overhears Asseylum remembering watching the birds with Kaizuka, his nemesis in all things.

Yes, for all the power he has, he is still unable to capture that which he wants most: Asseylum’s heart. While en route to his next battle, Inaho himself almost seems to sense Asseylum talking about him—similar to how someone sneezes when they’re being talked about while they’re not around.

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It’s a very overt and uncomplicated irony Slaine is laden with, but I consider it a strong and compelling irony all the same. Slaine is only here because of Asseylum, but not only by his choice. The episode takes us back to his crashed capsule where he met the princess and became her ward and tutor.

Destiny has been on his side since that day, but now he must keep the existence of Asseylum saved him with her compassion secret from her sister, even while Asseylum harbors feelings for another. Not only would Lemrina discovering her sister is up and about crush her, the knowledge that Slaine had lied to her would crush her even more.

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Speaking of crushing, though, as all this drama goes on at the moon base, the Orbital Knights are finally starting to crush it on the battlefield, now that they have been (mostly) united under a single leader. They’re working together now, tabling their arrogance and closing one another’s weaknesses.

All of this simply gives Slaine, for all his romantic problems, all of the momentum in the world. So much so that even someone like Inaho—whose shipmates once again found time to reiterate how indispensable and awesome he is—seems caught off guard by the sheer pace of it all. If Earth is to have any chance at all, far stronger measures are going to have to be devised.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 14

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I don’t usually pay much attention to episode titles, but “The Beautiful and Damned” is pretty damned apropos. Beautiful, damned people are fighting for their respective beautiful, damned worlds.

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Let’s start with Inaho. His new eye (flawed though it still is), has greatly increased his ability to measure and assess situations and formulate tweaks to existing resources and strategy in realtime. It also allows him to determine not only that Inko has put on weight, but whose words are accompanied by a vocal “tell” indicating she’s not being entirely honest with him (due to her feelings for him).

Using Inko as a test subject for his new eye is a dick move, sure, but it’s Pure Inaho. Rayet rightly calls him a dick (well, an idiot, at least), but this is how Inaho flirts. He detects a similar tell in the “Princess Asseylum’s” speech. If he survives the war, he’d make a badass detective.

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To my relief, it turns out Asseylum is in a persistent coma, not intentionally imprisoned in that tube, which makes sense considering her injuries last season (I can see either she or Inaho surviving relatively unscathed, but both? Nah-ah). Eddelrittuo isn’t strictly allowed to see her, but Slaine’s a nice guy so he won’t tell anyone, and promises her the princess will wake up someday.

Listening from the other side of the heavy metal door (she must have really good ears) is Princess Lemrina, who doesn’t seem to like Slaine’s regular visits to Asseylum one bit. To the point she deactivates Tharsis’ Aldnoah drive just when Slaine is about to embark on a mission.

Slaine and Lemrina stand out among all the beautiful, damned people in the world of A/Z. Up to this point, many people were asking ‘Hey, where the heck did this chick come from?”…turns out, that was the point. All her life, Lemrina has been the ignored and forgotten princess; Asseylum’s sister by another mother; the Kato Megumi of the Vers Royal Family.

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No one ever had any cause to admire or love or even take notice of her, until Asseylum was out of the picture. Only then is she unique and indispensable to Count Saazbaum and Slaine. In this context, it’s perfectly understandable that we’ve never seen hide nor tail of her.

When she calls Slaine out on this bullshit, he’s ready, showing her he’s dealt with hardship and isolation as well (and still has the back scars to prove it), getting on one knee, and earning a kiss that gives him the power to activate Tharsis once by himself.

There’s so much good stuff going on in this exchange: Slaine is either being extremely manipulative or extremely sincere (or both), and Lemrina either totally believes him or is willing to let the display appease her. Regardless of whether either or both harbor deceit, the fact is they need one another: Lemrina wants to take over everything her sister once had, and Slaine needs his kat to move.

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Speaking of beautiful and damned, how ’bout that view of Earth from the Satellite Belt? I haven’t mentioned the fact that this week we get a space battle, and a damned good one, at that. The setup is simple: like two ships passing in the night, UE and Vers bases are about to cross paths along their orbits.

The largest UE space force since the very beginning of the war (which didn’t go well for Earth) has been amassed at Trident, while a similarly large force is making the trip to Marineros. When those forces meet, there are lovely fireworks, but the build-up is handled nicely, particularly the logistics of transporting Slaine, Saazbaum, and the Stygis Platoon where it needs to be.

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The tension also builds on the EU side, allowing Darzana to get another little dig in on her uncharacteristically nervous XO. Not surprisingly, Inaho isn’t the slightest bit flustered at the prospect of his first space battle. He simply floats over to his by now highly-modded but still orange trainer, steps into his office and gets to work.

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There are few backdrops to a space battle more attractive than the big ol’ Blue Marble itself, partially obscured by clusters of satellites, which we learn create a gravity gradient that must be compensated for in order for weapon shots to hit their targets (gravity gradient=”wind”).

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Inevitably, Orange and Bat encounter one another, but between Inaho’s mad skillz and Tharsis’ superior stats, neither Inaho nor Slaine are even able to land a love tap on the other. Their brief skirmish this week was a stalemate, but now Slaine knows Inaho is alive, and Inaho knows what’s become of Slaine.

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I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’d truly like to see these two not only at each others’ throats on the battlefield, but trading dry insults in person. We’ll see how and when the show decides to bring them back together in either setting, and when Chekhov’s Comatose Princess wakes up and puts the kibosh on both Saazbaum and Lemrina’s ambitions.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 13

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A/Z’s second cour picks up nineteen months after the incident at Saazbaum’s castle. Slaine is now a Vers Knight piloting Tharsis and taking it to Terran Kataphrakts raiding the satellite belt.

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Meanwhile, Princess Asseylum (who IS still alive) delivers a propaganda speech voicing her newfound support for the war against Earth and praising the Orbital Knights. I buy that she may have recovered from her wounds, but my first thoughts were that she’s either an impostor or being forced to toe the hard line. In any case, something’s not quite right.

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Down on Earth, Inko, Nina (who was watching the speech on her phone) and Rayet are enjoying R&R, and Inaho seems to be on Inko’s mind.

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Up in orbit, Count Saazbaum (also not dead!) welcomes Sir Slaine back aboard and praises him for his prowess in battle. We’re also introduced to the frail Princess Lemrina, who is clearly the one posing as Princess Asseylum in those videos.

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When Martian Count Yacoym launches an assault against UEF headquarters, the girls are recalled. Inko is weary, but Rayet assures her, they “don’t have time do die.” In fact, as they form up to defend their base, Rayet seems to have replaced Inaho as the calm, cool squad leader. But neither she nor Inko can get close to Yacoym’s Kat, “Frozen Elysium”, because it freezes solid all enemy kats that come near him, along with the pilots inside.

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Things are about to go bad when Inaho surprises both girls by coming up from behind them in Orange and taking control of the situation. At this point, come-from-behind wins are his specialty, and he’s got it down to a science, using his new bionic eye to analyze all of the variables needed to determine the proper way of taking Yacoym out.

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Inaho still has that insufferable Martian arrogance and overconfidence aiding him, as he times his shots to his advance until he’s in point-blank-range, and it’s bang, Game Over. Slaine may have been badly wounded by that kat crash, but in a year and a half he seems to be back on top of his game.

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It seems to have been many months since Inko and Rayet have seen Inaho, so their reunion is appropriately warm and touching, even though Inaho is as stiff as a board. Inko’s joy and relief are palpable, while even Rayet cracks a joke about how Inaho’s people skills have improved since they last met.

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As for what happened after episode 12 went dark, Slaine chooses Vers and escapes with Saazbaum and Asseylum, while Inaho’s sister finds him and brings him to the bridge of the powerless Deucalion. He needs surgery, but there’s no way to get him there. But then, when Inko’s tears mix with Asseylum’s spattered blood on his face and runs into his mouth, his body suddenly glows with the light of Aldnoah, and the core starts back up, saving everyone. Jeez, even while passed out Inaho even manages to come through big when it counts.

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Back in the present, Inaho, Inko and Rayet catch another one of Asseylum’s sketchy broadcasts, and in a nice callback to the time Inaho corrected Asseylum on why the sky was blue, the Princess on air makes the same mistake a second time. If I were Inaho, that could be enough to suspect the girl they’re watching is not the real Asseylum.

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That fact is confirms when the broadcast is over and Saazbaum and Slaine thank Princess Lemrina for her help. Slaine then pays a visit to the real Asseylum, who is floating in a stasis tube surprisingly, not naked. I wonder if she’s in there because they can’t fully save her, or if she’s there for security’s sake?

In any case, I’m not dwelling on the somewhat irritating fact A/Z couldn’t wrap up in one cour, and chose not to kill anyone important off. There’s still a lot of Martians holding territory on Terran soil, and Saazbaum was just one victory, and a costly one. Earth will need a lot more of them to turn the war around, and I’m looking forward to watching Inaho, Inko, and Rayet achieve them.

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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 – 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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