「ヴォスタリスクの攻防 -Wind, Snow and Stars-」 (Novuosutarisuku no Kobo -Wind, Snow and Stars-)
“Battle of Novosibirsk -Wind, Snow and Stars-“
That was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. And I watch anime!
We’re at the point now where "suspend disbelief" has pretty much been ass-kicked and left for dead at the side of the road. I’m no sure which is sillier, the sheer logistical impossibilities or the preposterous character arcs (I know which is more exasperating for me), but it’s becoming clear that in order to derive the most enjoyment out of Aldnoah.Zero I’m just going to have to abandon all pretense of intellectual involvement, turn off 90% of cerebral function and appreciate the considerable stylistic flourish and sheer bombast.
In an episode where a 130 CM loli driving a Humvee like a professional soldier isn’t even the silliest moment, you know you’re in for a hell of a ride. What do I cede that title to? There are so many contenders, but I think the winner would have to be Rayet’s complete and unearned redemption a mere episode after her vicious and unprovoked attempt on Asseylum’s life. It was predictable but disheartening nonetheless, and you could almost hear credibility sputtering its last breath with Asseylum’s delighted reaction to seeing Rayet manning the Kataphrakt running alongside her. So long plausibility, it was nice knowing you.
So if the series is basically over on the character side, that leaves us with the action. And it’s good, damn good – especially when the soundtrack kicks in. But forgive me for saying so, but couldn’t one have made that same statement about Guilty Crown? I suppose one can watch Eddie driving a vehicle in which her feet could not possibly touch the pedals, and doing so with supreme precision, and not be bothered by it. I still feel like even in a far-fetched acton pic the writing owes the audience a certain amount of effort at actually making sense, but I guess that’s a personal choice.
Then we have Inaho in full Marty Stu mode, with the entire assembled Earth military obediently taking orders from him. That’s old news in Aldnoah by now, of course, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen it illustrated quite so starkly. If nothing else we’re seeing the unmasking of Inaho – the facade is not a mask, it’s his real face. Sadly, Slaine continues to be pretty irrelevant to the action at this point – he’s taken a transport and raced to Earth as soon as he hears Saazbaum’s men confirm Asseylum’s location, but just as he gets there the Deucalion has blasted the escape hatch open with its own missiles and lifted off. In addition to torture porn and possible NTR, it appears poor Slaine is fated to suffer a perpetual case of narrative blue balls.
For me, what’s still working is the music video side of things and the sociopolitical aspect of the story. As Marito points out, what Saazbaum is doing here is classic pre-industrial military strategy – invade in overwhelming numbers, claim as your own, and leave no one to complain about it. I really like this idea of a society with far-future technology and medieval cultural values, and Aldnoah is doing a good job of showing just what a nightmare that would be. Of course it’s also doing a good job of pulling off beautiful set pieces set to beautiful music. Using the Deucalion as a battering ram is old hat in dramatic terms, but it’s nicely brought off (though the lack of an explosion when it impacted the landing castle is a bit odd, and suggests plot armor kicking in for the many named characters still on-board).
The question, really, is where Aoki-sensei and the Takayama-sensei take things from here. There’s not a whole lot left for Earth, at least superficially – their HQ has been wiped out, their Aldnoah-powered battleship destroyed, and seemingly little infrastructure remains intact. If indeed there is a second cour – which until I see officially confirmed I take as a strongly-supported rumor – is it destined to be a story or a ragged Earth resistance fighting an occupying Martian government on Earth? At the least I hope the perpetual C.T. with Slaine comes to a close, and he’s allowed to advance to the next stage of his character arc – which would presumably be finally meeting Inaho and Asseylum face-to-face. But there’s me starting to worry about character again, and that’s almost certainly a mistake…
Zephyr’s Quick Impressions:
No matter what qualms you might have about the character development (which ends up a hit/miss again), you can’t deny ALDNOAH.ZERO knows how to entertain, and it’s a popcorn episode if I’ve ever seen one. We get Saazabaum wrecking both United Earth HQ and the Deucalion in the span of half an episode, epic Kataphrakt drops led by Inaho (who else), and so many missiles fired that the cost was probably equivalent to the GDP of some small countries. Put it together with the hallmark tracks of Sawano’s OST (aLIEz, Keep on Keeping On to name a few), and you’ve got the recipe for a series that’s consistently fun to watch, especially when you have Asseylum herself involving herself personally. Of course, a little “comedy” goes a long way—I’m looking at you, Mr. “only the cowards get shot.”—and all in all, this episode really makes me realize how much I’ve missed series filled with piew piew and explosions.
That said, things generally end up straightforward aside from the unexpected shoot down of the Deucalion and Slaine’s lack of involvement in everything this week, and it looks like we’ll be left off next week with what should be Saazabaum’s defeat. All things considered, I’d be surprised if Slaine doesn’t end up piloting the Tharsis—following a chance meeting with Asseylum to activate it—and honestly, there’s no real alternative considering that one of the Terran’s last bastions (if not the last) has been devastated, the Terrans’ symbol of hope in the Deucalion isn’t in good shape, and the other Orbital Knights undoubtedly itching for their own share of the fight.
The fact is, there’s only so much devastation the Terrans can take without another wild card being necessary to ensure their survival, and the stars are aligning in a way that all but confirms Slaine as that wild card. It took a long winding route to get here, but his time’s coming, and it could very well be that he ends up defeating Saazabaum. I wouldn’t be surprised if both Inaho and Asseylum end up being saved by him as a result and join forces afterwards, and I guess we’ll see. One thing’s for sure, and it’s that ALDNOAH.ZERO’s first cour’s going to end with a bang.