Contrary to popular opinion, I like where they’re going with this sequel.
Let’s start off with the time skip. I admit it makes no sense anyone on earth would survive 19 months with a military this incompetent and no Inaho, but one thing I’ll give credit to this shift is that it truly feels like a war is happening now. No longer is it a weekly skirmishes against the next kataphract or a cross country journey for getting a princess home. You get the sense that this is a larger conflict considering both sides have incurred losses at this point and have to adapt to different approaches of fighting, especially now that Martian grunts are being used in battle and both have begun fighting in space. Having a fake princess unify the Vers soldiers and earthlings gather their armies into an organized resistance force leads to a more interesting dynamic than puny terrans running from 36 evil martians. And while most military personnel continue to pilot like retarded chimps, there’s definitely more instances now where they’re helpful in the battlefield.
Speaking of which, I think that for once this show has gained some focus on what to do with its characters and plotlines. The problem with the first season is that it shoves some meaningless subplots(Marito, Rayet, etc) to make up for lacking character development and the ones that mattered felt like excuses to reach darker conclusions. This meant that more than 2/3rd of the characters were a waste of space, simply their to fill up the time. To fix this mess, they don’t try to shove subplots for the sake of subplots and focus on the overall picture of both sides. They give the earthlings a bit more urgency in their attitude and try to avoid the horrible humor that they constantly returned to before. Meanwhile they make the martians less shallow by introducing some characters that fit Saazbaum’s issue with how the Vers empire operates, such as Lemrina(Asseylum’s impersonator/unwanted sibling) and Harklight(grunt servant/low-class martian).
I would’ve continued by saying this wouldn’t be Aldnoah Zero without stupid plot twists, but the only one that bugged me was how Lemrina was supposed to stay hidden as Asseylum’s impersonator for so long. Not only does the Vers emperor show no suspicion of holographic disguise when Asseylum miraculously returns, but she’s openly exploring the base she’s located at with absolutely no worry of counts/spies turning her in. But aside from a dozen broken physics laws, most of the twists they brought here seem to have a purpose aside from shock value. The transmission of Aldnoah through kissing was hinted at before and this isn’t the first time an anime character has survived a bullet to the head. Keeping the real Asseylum alive is probably the only reason certain characters are willing to switch sides. And just when you think keeping Saazbaum alive makes no sense, his death is used to simultaneously betray the martian powers and unify the martian forces. Not to mention a captured martian Count gives plenty of opportunities for the earth forces now.
And I know some fans would completely disagree with this, but I think they’ve drastically improved Inaho and Slaine compared to the first season. Having Inaho turn into a cyborg gives a decent reason for him to be overpowered and void of personality. Yet at the same time, his dehumanization ironically makes him more expressive, giving glimpses to a sarcastic sense of humor and a will to keep those close to him safe. Slaine’s transition to a villain was jarring at the start, but it starts to make sense by the time we reach episode 2(and especially 3). His appeal at the start was that of a tortured soul, but what fans seem to disregard is how selfish of a character he was from the start and how his bad luck became a detriment to his character. Aside from his loyalty to the princess and the amount of pain he’s willing to endure, there was absolutely nothing to root for in this character considering all he accomplishes by the end of season 1 is hijacking a plane and shooting enemies with no power. So not only does it make sense that he would hoard Asseylum to himself, but it’s also fitting that the only way he could make progress is by using the same deceptive methods of the martians that hate him.
In fact both of their individual development and explosive encounters is where the show truly shines now. Without straying too far from what their characters were, Inaho and Slaine share a mirrored connection as they progress down paths that drastically change them. Inaho is still the solution to every problem, but he’s definitely depending on his comrades during battle more and even shows moments of genuine concern. That moment in episode 4 when he reached for his sister while missing an eye was the most human moment he’s had thus far. Slaine killing Saazbaum after he calls him his son seems twisted, but I like how he still calls him his father before killing him and even uses his dream as the catalyst for uniting martian forces towards one goal. Even if this show remains shallow, moments like these provide enough depth to get invested in their journey as both strive towards greatness in their respective side. And now that Inaho has someone that can rival his mech capabilities, we finally have a fight to look forward to aside from the usual Counts.
With that all said, there’s no denying that Aldnoah Zero is still prone to taking stupid shit seriously. The broken science, unfunny humor, disorganized military and hilarious twists are enough to convince you why this shouldn’t be taken so seriously. However, there’s no denying something remains in Aldnoah Zero that makes it thoroughly watchable and has taken big steps forward in the past month. I’m willing to give this story a 2nd chance, so let’s see how well it spends it.