Review: Aldnoah.Zero, Part 1: Episodes 1-12

Review:

Aldnoah Zero is, in a sense, not your typical mecha show. While most mecha anime (at least, in this writer’s opinion) focus on humanity developing powerful weaponry to even the odds with an overpowered foe, Aldnoah Zero presents a cast of characters who are woefully underpowered in the face of their enemies.

The year is 2014, and humanity is expecting a visit from Asseylum Vers Allusia, the princess of the Mars-based Vers Empire. You see, settlers on Mars had previously discovered alien technology on the surface of the planet, which formed the basis for the foundation of the Vers Empire. As you can imagine, this technology gave them quite the advantage over their less-technologically advanced counterparts on Earth. When war broke out between Earth and Vers in 1999, the alien hypergate on the moon (which enabled travel to Mars) was destroyed, taking part of the moon with it. Now, after fifteen years, the Vers princess makes a visit to Earth in order to establish peace between the two nations. Unfortunately, some of her own people desire otherwise, and decide to make her a martyr for their cause.

Aldnoah.Zero is, at its core, a typical “aliens attack Earth and Earth must overcome” story. The difference here is that the aliens are, technically, humans. Prideful humans who think they are better than Earthlings due to their ownership and command of advanced technology, but humans none the less. The difference in power is seen quite easily, as the Vers Empire landing castles wipe out entire cities simply by landing in them. In all of this, who would ever guess that a Japanese high school boy piloting a mech would end up being one of the primary protagonists in the series?  Yeah, in that sense, it is kind of typically mecha. What’s not entirely typical is said high school boy’s demeanor.

Inaho Kaizuka is not your whiny, Shinji Ikari knock-off, nor is he the cocky type that you might meet in other mecha anime. While some similarities could be drawn between Inaho and Heero Yuy of Gundam Wing fame, Inaho is not really dark and depressing. In truth, he is best described as apathetic. Highly intelligent and the ultimate brains behind Earth’s counterattack (at least among the Japanese refugees trying to get to safety), you could almost get the sense that Inaho is just going through the motions. We get some more insight into his character throughout the series, but he seems to go about things almost matter-of-factly, yet he clearly takes the situation seriously. For all of his lack of emotion, he is quite the likable character.

We have another primary male protagonist by the name of Slaine. Like Inaho, Slaine is an Earthling. Unlike Inaho, Slaine took a trip to Vers several years prior and has been among them ever since. Despite being looked down upon by the people of Vers, Slaine has stayed around, and one can only assume it’s due to his friendship with Princess Asseylum. While he doesn’t quite play as much of a role as one might expect, he certainly plays enough to be considered a secondary protagonist. If nothing else, he keeps the story moving, and also serves a purpose in a few primary plot points.

The plot of Aldnoah.Zero follows a sort of patterned approach at first: our protagonists fight an over-powered enemy suit while the people they are protecting try to get to safety. What’s nice, though, is that the fights don’t necessarily last for one episode–they are drawn out enough to not feel rushed, and they show that there is indeed a legitimate struggle for Earth to overcome their foes. The viewer is adequately engaged in wanting to see how Inaho will overcome each foe, and the writers do a good job of not making it a one-man show–Inaho may be exceptionally smart and perceptive, but he still needs to rely on his teammates to get the job done. In the midst of all this, we also get to see the relationships between characters grow and change, along with a few Versians who are among the Japanese survivors. There are enough intense firefights here to keep action enthusiasts entertained while simultaneously building character relationships to keep the show from having a one-dimensional feel. There are some twists in the plot that you will not see coming. The ending will also prove shocking, and inevitably leaving you wondering about what happens next.

Artistically, Aldnoah.Zero is a very nice looking show. While I am no expert at dissecting this area, I don’t remember ever having a moment where I thought the art looked sloppy or poorly done. I would assume that some of the art is done by CGI, and if I’m correct then it certainly blends well with the show.

Overall, Aldnoah.Zero may not be the greatest show to ever grace the mecha genre, but it provides an entertaining plot that will make you want to see what happens next. If you like mecha shows then go a head and give it a shot.

A Christian Perspective:

Okay, I usually do this episodically. Since this is a review of the first twelve episodes, there are probably tons of themes that I could draw out, but I’m just going to with this:

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)

As stated in the review, the Versians are a cocky lot. They look down on the Earthlings because of the overwhelming advantage they have in terms of technology. On the surface, it clearly looks like there is nothing that Earth can do. The Versians come in and quickly wipe out squad after squad of Earth forces. It’s only after sitting down and thinking that Inaho begins to theorize about weaknesses that the initial foe may have. From here on, he ends up having to think on his feet, but the overall point is the same–each enemy mecha they encounter has some fundamental weakness that Inaho is able to exploit. Essentially (and I believe this is even stated in one episode) the Versians became so cocky that they didn’t consider the potential weaknesses their mecha may have possessed, no matter how minute those weaknesses may be. It’s a perfect example of the above-mentioned proverb, as there can be no denying that the Versians are prideful people, too confident in their own technology and overwhelming power.

What we can learn from this is that, no matter how much of an advantage we may think we have, we should always maintain a humble attitude. Just because we think we have the advantage, or the greater knowledge, the greater power, or whatever else might give rise to pride doesn’t mean we’re better than anyone else or that we’re guaranteed victory. Remember: the entire Israelite army cowered before Goliath, but a young boy with a slingshot took him down. Just because you think you’re better doesn’t mean you’re actually better. So, instead of being like the Versians, let us put into practice the words of Romans 12:3 (NIV):

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Content Guide:

Episode 1

Language: 1 “b**t*rds”, 1 “c**p”, 1 “jacka**”

Alcohol/Drug Use: Lt. Marito is shown drinking in several scenes

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A character is hit in the face with a cane; an escort convoy is attacked by missiles; a space ship lands in a city and sends out a shockwave that destroys buildings and reduces onlookers to dust

Blood/Gore: A flashback shows a man with blood on his face

Other: There is talk about characters having the “powers of the gods”

 

Episode 2:

Language: 1 “d**khead”, 1 “f**king*, 1 “c**p”, 1 “b**t**d”, 2 ‘h*ll”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: The intro shows the princess lying in a somewhat sensual pose, and her dress reveals soem cleavage

Violence: Missiles are shown being launched at the alien castles, and the impact scene from the previous episode is partially shown again; the intro shows a mech being shot and exploding; missiles are shown destroying stuff; a bunch of planes are blown up; plenty of explosions and destruction; mech battles; planes being shot down; a character is knocked to the ground with his arm yanked behind his back

Blood/Gore: A plane is sliced in half by a beam, and it looks like the pilot’s blood is shown splattering the glass; a man is shown with blood on his face

Episode 3

Language: 2 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Grenade launchers, mech combat; a plane is shot and catches fire; a mech is destroyed

Blood/Gore: A character is seen with blood running down her head

Episode 4

Language: 1 “b**t*rd”, 1 “b**ches”, 2 “h*ll”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: An orbital bombardment destroys a city; a character is shown shooting another character; a character is hit in the stomach; a human mech fires at a martian mech; mechs are cut apart and then explode; a mech destroys a ship; typical battle violence between mechs; a character is hit in the face

Blood/Gore: A character is shown with blood on his uniform, along with blood pouring out underneath him; a character is shown with blood splattering from him as he is shot

Episode 5

Language: 2 “b**t*rd”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None
Violence: Typical mecha fighting–gunfire and explosions ensue

Blood/Gore: None

 

Episode 6

Language: 4 (maybe) “d**n”, 1 “b**t*rds”, 2 “h*ll”, 1 “c**p”

Alcohol/Drug Use: Marito appears to have a bottle of liquor sitting at his feet; a character presumably drinks from a flask

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: An enemy weapon attacks a ship, causing damage and explosions; an enemy weapon destroys human Kataphrakts; the humans attack the enemy’s weapons

Blood/Gore: A flashback shows a soldier’s dogtag with blood on it; a character is shown with blood on his face and arm; a character in a Kataphrakt is shown with blood on him; a flashback shows a character with blood on his head

 

Episode 7

Language: 1 “b***ard”, 2 “d**n”, 1 “h*ll”, 1 “d*rn”, 1 “cr*p”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A character is shown pinning another character down while holding a gun to his head; a character is shot in the ankle; a character is being shot at; plenty of mecha fighting; explosions

Blood/Gore: Blood is coming from a character’s gunshot wound; a flashback shows a character with blood on his face

Episode 8

Language: 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A character is slammed to the ground; a character is shown being tortured while restrained; a Kataphrakt attacks a landing castle and kills a Martian

Blood/Gore: None

 

Episode 9

Language: 1 “a**”, 1 “d**n”, 3 “h*ll”

Alcohol/Drug Use: A character is shown drinking from a flask

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Rayet is shown in the shower, but the camera avoids any “private” areas; Seylum is shown wearing only a towel–she is then shown in the shower, where the camera pans up her body–steam obscures anything below the waist, although a portion of her breasts is visible through her arms; another scene shows Rayet from the chest up, showing the majority of her breasts; a violent scene occurs with the two girls, during which you can see parts of their breasts; another scene shows Rayet falling over and again you can see–you guessed it–portions of her breasts

Violence: Tanks are shown being destroyed; explosions; tanks fire at a Kataphrakt; a character shoots another character; random flashbacks of violence; a character puts a knife to another’s throat; a character chokes another with a chain

Blood/Gore: A flashback shows a character with blood on his face; blood is scene running from a character’s hand and dripping onto a table as a result of him grabbing a knife

Episode 10

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: A character is shown drinking from a flask

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Seylum is shown lying on the floor of the shower, but she’s covered so you don’t see anyting inappropriate; Inaho gives Seylum mouth-to-mouth; Seylum is then shown wrapped ina towel, as is Rayet

Violence: A character fires a gun into teh floor; a character wrestles another to the ground

Blood/Gore: None

Episode 11

Language: 4 “cr*p”, 1 “b**ch”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Saazbaum’s forces attack the United Earth HQ—explosions, destroyed Kataphrakts, and the like; plenty of things are shot and blown up, with explosions to accompany

Blood/Gore: A man is shown crushed under a piece of a building with blood pooling below him

Episode 12

Language: 1 “a**es”, 2 “d**n”, 1 “b***ard”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: What you would expect: missiles, gunfire, exploding mechs; a man is shot; a character is shot multiple times; another character is shot multiple times; one character is seemingly shot in the head

Blood/Gore: Calm and Marito are shown with blood on their faces; blood appears to be on the headrest of a cockpit; a man is shown with blood pooling under him; Inaho is shown with blood on his facel; a character coughs up blood; the character who is shot multiple times bleeds, of course; blood splatters a character’s face; another character is shown lying in a pool of her own blood; another character is shot, bloodied, and ultimately leaves a bloody smear on a wall

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