「熱砂の進撃 -Soldiers’ Pay-」 (Nessa no Shingeki -Soldiers’ Pay-)
“Advance into the Storm -Soldiers’ Pay-“
Here’s the thing about Aldnoah.Zero – it is what it is. Whether that’s good enough is up to you.
This was not an especially great episode, and Aldnoah.Zero certainly isn’t a great series. But there’s something about this show that’s still working for me – working better, in fact, in the second season than it did in the first. I think the key to enjoying it is to accept that there are things about it that are frankly dumb, and that they’ll drive you crazy sometimes – but that if you do, there’s an awful lot that can really be enjoyed about it. Maybe it’s simply a matter of acceptance on my part rather than any improvement in the series itself, but this season does seem to have a more agreeable balance to me.
Let’s get that bad stuff out of the way. This episode was full of the kind of forced exposition that just makes me cringe – characters giving extraneous speeches that obviously have no purpose but to explain stuff to the audience. Then there’s everything to do with Lt. Marito’s storyline (I don’t hate him, but I find I didn’t miss him) being trite and cliched (though the symbolism of prescribing the chugging of cheap scotch as a sign of his recovery did make me LOL). There’s the mid-boss Orbital Knight getting pwned storyline of the week, and the Slaine and Inaho schooling everyone storyline of the week. In other news, the sun rose in the East this morning and will set in the West tonight.
OK, I give you all that. But I feel – perhaps irrationally – that all this is going somewhere. I actually think the series is doing a very nice job building up to the epic bishoudown we all know is coming, and I really want to see it. There’s a kind of pubescent Shakespearean quality to the converging and diverging arcs of Slaine and Inaho, with the red string of fate ever tying them together. And this week seemed to show Slaine yet again having the upper hand, asserting his dominance over his fellow knights with a daring solo attack on Trident Base. But in true Shakespearean (and in truth, classical Greek) fashion, I sense pride growing out of control in Slaine, and becoming arrogance. And on some level, as smart as Slaine is, I just think Inaho is even smarter. Time will tell.
As for Inaho, how is it that he’s not in command of Earth forces already? Everyone acknowledges his true role, explicitly or implicitly – he’s the only reason the Earth hasn’t been conquered already. If we’re going to have the charade of adolescents schooling adults in warfare, why not acknowledge Inaho’s strategic superiority and stop with all this "Ensign" bullshit? This time around Inaho’s usual cavalry charge has an interesting impact in tweaking the standard Kataphrakt plot – rather than being killed, the knight in question is captured. That knight is Mazuurek (Toyanaga Toshiyuki), and there’s every reason to think he’s going to play an important role going forward: he’s a moderate by VERS standards, after the Earth’s resources but seemingly not genocidal towards its people. He’s played by a name seiyuu. And while it’s probably just a question of Shimura Takako character design, it struck me that he looks like a cross between Slaine and Saazbaum.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff simmering here, I think – and of course the fact that it’s all happening against the backdrop of perhaps A-1’s best-ever animation and production design certainly doesn’t hurt. The Martian side is a cesspool of betrayal and hidden agendas (I certainly don’t take Harklight at face value) while the Earth seems barely to be keeping its nose above the waterline of dysfunction and incompetence. When will Inaho and Slaine dance at last, their fates finally be decided and along with them the fates of their planets? It’s hokey, sure, but there’s a kind of old-school 90’s sci-fi anime grandiosity to the matter that I find quite appealing. I just hope Aldnoah.Zero doesn’t spend so much time pissing me off along the way that I lose interest.
P.S. Zephycles is taking a break from episodic impressions this week, but look for his thoughts on Aldnoah.Zero very soon…