Continues to enter generic territory, but finds better footing when it comes to making it fun.
After re-watching the first 4 episodes in one go, i’ve come to the conclusion that the overly familiar premise isn’t the biggest issue with this show. The real issue here is something I failed to elaborate on the previous post entirely: the episode structure. While all of them start with a captivating intro, they have a major lull in the first half before leading into the action only to have Inaho save the day, ending with a cliffhanger that’s most likely solved in the first few minutes of the next episode. It’s strikingly similar to an episode of “The Walking Dead”, and the only times they don’t follow this structure is when the episode is devoted to Slaine(replace battles with torture or espionage).
Besides that elephant in the room, the show still suffers from an annoying side cast and hit-or-miss tone. Aside from Lt. Marito’s case of PTSD and Rayet’s family connection to Asseylum’s assassination attempt, there is nothing to invest my attention into these characters. If anything, their cutesy hijinks and cartoonish personalities (ESPECIALLY THE ORBITAL KNIGHTS) blows away any sense of tension at the moment. It’s bad enough the tone rarely gives off the feeling of danger it wants to show, but it struggles to maintain a tense atmosphere when half of the show’s content is straight-up goofy. The betrayals between the martians feel like stage-plays, and Inaho’s comrades can’t resist pulling the highschool hijinks we’ve seen in hundreds of romantic comedies recently. Even Asseylum is reduced to nothing but a cute plot device; sweet and useful, but very boring.
Yet there’s another reason why I didn’t blame the generic story as the main problem; it actually makes the show more fun to watch. Despite my complaints on the art and animation, the visual direction here is consistent and strong, utilizing the lacking CG to craft some genuinely exciting action scenes. Even when the soundtrack doesn’t compare to any of Sawano’s previous works, it’s still good music that matches the pace and tone of the show while also highlighting its defining moments. But more importantly, it’s come to my attention that every trapping of Urobuchi’s writing is better off as a side tweak here rather than the main focus. Some may disagree with me, but I found this story lacked the weight and complexity to warrant Urobuchi’s usual dark tone and pondering pace. It’s much more fitting to see him let the explosions and silliness flow before surprising the audience with his tricks near the end.
No one seems to fit that criteria better than Inaho and Slaine. Out of the entire cast, Slaine is the only character who actually has a compelling character arc. While Rayet suffers from lacking screentime and Marito suffers from lack of details, Slaine has his motivations clearly defined since ep 3 (save the princess and stop the war) and takes action despite the endless abuse he takes along the way. Sure he’s far from a complex character, the punishments he endures get over-the-top, and his bad luck reaches comical levels, but you can’t help but evoke some sympathy for him considering nothing goes his way. On the other hand, Inaho dehumanizes his robotic personality to that of a cold, calculative computer. I always thought his lack of emotions or a personality was a flaw, but when we see how his definition of friends and enemies is defined less by compassion and more like analysis, it ends up producing a creepy and unpredictable main lead. When Slaine asks if he plans to manipulate the princess and become his enemy, Inaho responds by saying his side manipulated her first and shoots him down regardless of his help during battle. Despite his role as the savior of earth, Inaho is arguably the most ruthless character in this story.
Aldnoah Zero hasn’t done much to impress me thus far, but it’s slowly forming an identity as explosive entertainment with minor tweaks on the side. It’s barely inches away from being called a gundam rip-off, but it’s doing a better job compared to previous iterations of the genre (cough*Valvrave*cough). I guess the best recommendation I can give for now is to expect simplicity.