RogerBW's Blog

Aldnoah.Zero 17 November 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

Mecha series. The Martians are invading Earth, and their technology is overpowering. But some Earthlings are able to fight back.

Oddly, while it's set more or less in the present day, this is an alternate history: in 1972, humanity found a hyperspace gate on the Moon, and used it to colonise Mars. With more technology found there, the settlers founded the brutal and feudal Vers Empire, and eventually declared war on Earth. In 1999, a battle on the Moon made the hyperspace gate explode, destroying the Moon and creating a débris belt (and doing a lot of damage on Earth). The Versians constructed space stations in that belt, and agreed to a ceasefire. Then in 2014, while their princess is on a peace mission to Earth, she's assassinated…

Which is all very well, but until that last part this all has remarkably little effect on the actual story. There are people with high tech, invading from space. They don't think of themselves as "former Terrans"; they just want to rule and live on Earth because that's where the viable ecosystem is.

The last part is important, though: the princess, who survives the assassination attempt, spends a lot of the series trying to get the word out to her people that the attempt was in fact made by some of those same people, the Orbital Knights who were arranging a pretext to conquer Earth at long last. These aliens have factions, and the leader who becomes most important most certainly has his own agenda.

Oddly, the aliens don't invade in huge numbers, preferring for the most part hugely powered and nigh-invulnerable mecha (though they do have plenty of foot-soldiers too, as we see in later episodes). And that's where our hero, Kaizuka Inaho, comes in: he's not just a good fighter, he's smart, and he works out how each enemy's superweapon (for example, a field that destroys all incoming projectiles and anything else it touches) can be used against it.

It's a pity Inaho doesn't have all that much personality. He's a great tactician, but basically stoic and emotionless otherwise; one would be hard put to it to say what he likes to do when he's not fighting. It's great to see a natural mecha pilot who isn't a whiny kid, but some idea of who this person is would have been welcome.

Then there's Slaine Troyard, who for reasons never made entirely clear was adopted by the Versians and fights in their army, though they show him nothing but contempt. And there's the princess. And the post-traumatic lieutenant who lived through the last war. And quite a large cast of characters, who if they're sketched in are at least well-sketched.

The action's decent, mostly on the sensible end of giant robot combat (yes, I do realise I just wrote that) – at least on the human side, though the Versians are a bit more over the top, particularly with the Megazord-like aerial assembly sequence of a giant mecha in the final episode. While things move quite fast, it's always possible to tell what's going on and where combatants are relative to each other and the environment.

That said, the mecha don't look terribly distinctive; you wouldn't mistake the human and alien designs for each other, but either of them could easily fit into a variety of other mecha-related shows without looking out of place.

The ending is a bit sudden, but it did feel to me like an actual ending rather than just a chapter break. Nonetheless, another series is coming in the 2015 winter season.

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