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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