The higher it aims, the harder it falls. And while there’s room for a 2nd launch, Aldnoah Zero fell very, very far. WARNING! RANT COMING!
Before I get into the details, let me just say that these last 4 episodes aren’t offering anything you haven’t seen before. You’re still getting the great action scenes, epic music, and surprising twists that grabbed your attention before. You’re also still getting the formulaic pacing, cliche plot points, and uninteresting characters. Cartoonish personalities and ridiculous plot points spoil the mood, yet the logic and message remains intact. So if these last 4 episodes aren’t drastically different from before, how could it be disappointing? Well that’s because the downfall of this show isn’t because of a specific part gone wrong; it was a forced progression of what the show was headed towards.
Listen, I can give credit to a story that’s willing to make the worst outcomes possible. So many shows nowadays would rather have the lead bulldoze through their problems rather than actually face a struggle, all so that their wish-fulfillment fantasy won’t be at risk. So seeing a fight for humanity take constant turns toward the worse is quite refreshing. Attack on Titan and Shinsekai Yori are popular examples of how to utilize this premise right, killing off characters you care about and leaving much about the enemy a mystery aside from them being powerful. However, this ain’t either of those shows considering none of the characters go beyond a face, name, and backstory. Why should I care that Asseylum is killed when her naivety has annoyed me for nearly half the show?
More importantly, the reasoning behind most of these tragedies are needlessly reliant on stupid decisions and nonsensical ideas. Even if Rayet was angry that Asseylum was accepted by the humans, why would she choke her knowing that the Aldnoah Drive would shut down? If Inaho’s sister knew that Rayet is a martian, why would she wait until Asseylum is nearly strangled to question her? If Inaho truly differentiates betweens friends and enemies by threat level, why the heck would he stop Rayet’s suicide after shooting Slaine in ep 7? What’s the point of uniting a dying Vers empire by training your people to hate earth when your government system is still stuck with problems from the middle ages? If Saazbaum truly hates the Vers Empire for causing the death of his love, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to conquer them first before orchestrating a war against earth while chasing one girl across the planet? How could the humans risk the location of one of the only remaining supply shelters on earth to relay a message that Asseylum is alive, especially when the orbital knights clearly want war and assassins are waiting in those ranks? If Saazbaum really wished to crush INaho, why would he fight with a combination of the exact same mechs that he destroyed before? WHY DOES SLAINE NOT KILL SAAZBAUM AFTER SEEING HIM SHOOT ASSEYLUM, BUT SOMEHOW SAVES A BULLET FOR A BLEEDING INAHO? The only answer to these questions is because neither side picked a sensible alternative, and it really exposes the fact that the only reason these were even brought up was to head toward the worst case scenario.
But aside from the overall plotting, what do I think of the ending? Honestly, I think that it serves as a great climax to an otherwise frustrating build-up. Sure the side characters feel more like cannon fodder and ultimately the outcome doesn’t resolve anything, but everything the show excels at gets highlighted in this episode. For once there’s a feeling that an actual battle is happening rather than a one-sided massacre. The final battle between Saazbaum and Inaho utilizes every strategy from previous confrontations. The ending definitely relies on the stupid decisions I mentioned earlier, but everything about the last 5 minutes screams tragedy. (Edit: And while I can’t fathom why he would not kill Saazbaum before Inaho, I understand why Slaine did it. Inaho taught Slaine in ep 7 that he was his enemy, and Inaho smiled when Slaine realized that fact before dying.) It’s a riveting cliffhanger that leaves earth victorious for one battle, but supposedly at the cost of all hope for the future.
Overall, the first half of Aldnoah Zero fails to reach the immense hype prior to its release. However, I still stand by my first comment of this being salvageable. The action was a joy to watch, the soundtrack was pumping, and while I find most of the characters to be a lost cause, the story surrounding them had enough twists and turns to keep me invested. It’s a shame that the emotional aspect is so underwhelming, but i’m willing to give it a 2nd chance now that victory has come at a high cost. Look forward to the winter season as this story reaches its true conclusion.