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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