「祈りの空 -The Unvanquished-」 (Inori no Sora -The Unvanquished- )
“Prayer of the Skies -The Unvanquished-“
Aldnoah.Zero is certainly true to itself, right to the end.
From the very beginning this has been one of the more perplexing series of the year, seemingly countering every spark of brilliance with a complete headdesk moment. This season has definitely been the better of the two in my opinion – certainly it’s been the more coherent and logical – but in the last stages we’re still getting some stuff that just makes me sigh and shake my head. But I guess it wouldn’t be right for Aldnoah.Zero to end any other way.
This started out this week in pretty straightforward fashion, with a focus on Inaho and his uncertain status after last week’s cliffhanger. Rather than a coup d’etat, it seems what we have here is a coalition government – with Inaho having ceded control of part of his brain to his prosthetic eye. I still can’t think this is going to end well – though the fact is that Inaho joking about death flags (ironically) makes it less likely he’s going to die next week. He’s certainly not going to sit out what looks to be the final battle – he knows full well this war would already be long over if he hadn’t been going into God-mode battle after battle.
As to all the stuff with Yuki and Inko the truth is I feel nothing – I don’ think Aldnoah has done an especially good job developing those characters or their relationship with Inaho. Aside from the story itself the appeal of this show for me is the triumvirate of main characters, and that’s one reason why it’s awfully nice to see the normally passive Asseylum finally seizing the narrative. She’s much more interesting as a driver of events than when she’s simply being impacted by them, even if her decisions aren’t always (let’s be honest – hardly ever, up to now) good ones. She does a much better job this week than last, that’s for sure – though it’s only thanks to Klancain’s help that she’s able to have a chance to make amends for bumbling right into Slaine’s clutches after learning the truth.
The real Aldnoah moment – in a bad way – this week was Edelruitto’s tearful defense of Slaine. Eddie has been responsible for several groaners but not so much this season, so this was a disappointingly silly and unbelievable development – after what she’s seen Slaine do (both to her mistress and her world) that breakdown played more as unintentional comedy than anything else. My fear, frankly, was that Asseylum was going to be swayed by it, which would have been pretty much a deal-breaker for me, but happily that didn’t happen (and it didn’t hurt that Klancain hit the disconnect button with Slaine before anything really bad could happen).
We have our answer with Klancain – he’s working with Mazuurek, and he walked into Slaine’s base knowing he’d likely have to leave with Asseylum in tow. Happily I think Asseylum did everything pretty much right this time around. She went and saw for herself just how far gone the Emperor was – both in terms of hatred for Earth and senility – and then took bold action on her own. Seizing the throne and declaring Klancain her betrothed was a courageous and clever stroke, one that I didn’t see coming (Slaine, either). And coming as it does just as Slaine is about to try and assuage his hurt feelings by laying waste to the entire Earth, it’ll be interesting to see the impact – will the other Orbital Knights defer to her authority, or will they continue to follow their despot of convenience and go ahead with the attack?
I’m sure Asseylum will take some heat for the marriage thing (I’ve seen plenty already, in fact), but I think it was a hard-headed, practical concession to reality. Imperial princesses don’t get to choose who they marry, and in order to have any chance for her power play to stick, Asseylum has to do everything possible to give herself legitimacy. I would have liked to have seen Inaho’s consistent focus on helping Asseylum and achieving her dream rewarded with a chance to be together, at least for a little while, but that always seemed like an extreme long-shot anyway.
Final note – be sure to stay tuned for the ED, which was drawn by Takako Shimura.
As the finale of ALDNOAH.ZERO approaches, it’s all about the here and now and what can be done with the remaining time our cast has left to them. All the tragic stories, the developments that never came to be, the irrevocable choices—all have all led to this final showdown. The cycle of hatred and revenge that started over a decade prior has reached its peak and all the cards are out now. Slaine’s readying his all-out final offensive, Inaho’s bracing himself for what could be his final fight, and Asseylum herself has taken the stage as the Empress of Vers in an attempt to make peace with Earth one last time.
Needless to say, there’s no way that Asseylum’s hopes will come to fruition without a battle being fought, but her announcement does come in as an interesting source of influence in regards to the Vers’ Orbital Knights. Those at the head of the UFE likely won’t care either way, but the fact that the Knights are seeing Asseylum stand up under her own power is bound to cause some hesitation in some. The question is how much this impact will be, and it’ll be interesting to see just how many Knights will choose to not engage in hostilities. After all, many of the Knights who have already died were the ones who only fought for revenge or purely for the planet’s resources. Just by pure probability, there should be a decent amount of Knights left who don’t feel as strongly as their past comrades did, and it could very well open up the chance for that one-on-one fight they’ve been hinting at between Inaho and Slaine for a while now. Slaine’s defeat would subsequently cripple the Orbital Knights’ momentum, and it could very well lead to a temporary peace that gives Asseylum her chance, whether or not Inaho escapes unscathed (which I doubt will happen).
Thus, a happy ending for Earth and Mars! Or will it be? I wonder. It’s times like this where the big twists and turns come, and I’m actually quite excited to see how ALDNOAH.ZERO finishes off. Considering how tentative I was coming into the second season, that just says a lot about how well this cour’s been done generally—even if it’s still far from a masterpiece—and it makes you wonder how things could’ve been if they carried this through consistently through both seasons. That said, it can be argued that the first season played an integral part in setting up the second season, so in the end it might be a bit of a moot point.
With that said, I’d like to clarify my statement from last week by saying that there’s a difference between believing Slaine’s a tragic victim of circumstances versus believing Slaine’s justified in doing what he’s doing now. Believing in the former does not automatically mean the latter, but rather what it means, which is that there were clear chances for things to have turned out differently (especially for Slaine), and it’s tragic that it didn’t end up that way. It doesn’t absolve Slaine’s responsibility in regards to some of the terrible choices he’s made since/after the fact, nor is it meant to be a statement to support him. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that he’s unsupportable as a character, as some may argue that his attempt to tear down the Vers hierarchy in and of itself is a noble goal. Seems like some people may have taken my comments (and others) in manners they were not intended to be, so hopefully this addresses that.
In the meanwhile… where’s my final episode equipment model kit version of this? Get on it, Kotobukiya.
ED4: 「Harmonious」 by 雨宮 天 (Amamiya Sora)