AniMonday: Get your fill of sci-fi drama in “Aldnoah.Zero”

Welcome to AniMonday, our bi-weekly anime review!

Cleanup

Once again a giant mecha anime graces our presence, but this one’s a little different from the rest. Aldnoah.Zero takes the normal clich├ęs of the giant robot genre and completely one-eighty’s them. This is not your normal mecha anime.

The War is Never, Truly Over

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In 1972, a hypergate was discovered on the Moon, linking it and Mars. Subsequently, Mars was colonized, but eventually envy for the resources of Earth drove them to war, attacking the Terrans with a power the Martians, known as the Vers Empire, discovered called Aldnoah. The power of Aldnoah accelerated the Vers technology to a greater height than the Terrans could handle and the war seemed in the favor of Mars, but with the sudden destruction of the hypergate, the war ended, leaving thousands of Martians stranded on Earth, under orders not to attack.

The story of Aldnoah.Zero begins 15 years after the destruction of the gate. The princess of the Vers Empire travels to Earth on a diplomatic mission to finally bring peace for the two planets. However, her mission goes awry when her motorcade is attacked by missiles in more of a modern likeness to the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that caused WWI, and re-fuels the fires of war in the Vers Empire. A group of Martian nobles orbiting the Earth, aptly named the Orbital Knights, attacks the Earth by sending their gigantic drop-ships, orbital castles, killing millions in the process.

 

Overpowered Mechs are Overpowered

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The standard setup a giant robot anime takes follows the main character getting his/her hands on the most overpowered mobile suit in existence and mowing down wave after wave of enemies. Aldnoah.Zero takes that standard and flips it completely upside-down. The main character, Inaho Kaizuka, pilots a simple training unit while the Vers Empire’s mobile suits, enhanced by the power of Aldnoah, put the odds in the favor of the enemy.

Having the better technology, the Orbital Knights hold all the cards, leaving the Earth forces at an extreme disadvantage. Fortunately, Inaho happens to be the most capable genius in the universe with a brain as good as Deep Blue, ably thinking outside the box, using everything in the surrounding area to gain the upper hand on the enemy. Unfortunately, having the series being constrained to a limited amount of episodes per season, the series sometimes feels rushed and, therefore, it almost seems like Inaho comes upon these strategies and weaknesses too quickly, so that the action can be over with so more character and story development can take place.

As mentioned before, Aldnoah.Zero breaks the mold for the standard giant robot series, a credit that goes to its creator, Gen Urobuchi, creator of the renowned series Fate/Zero. The central plot of this story doesn’t just focus on Inaho, but another relevant character as well, Slaine Troyard, an Earthling adopted by the Vers Empire and treated like a slave and underling. Both characters play pivotal roles in the show’s main plot by having some connection with the Princess.

 

Like Pairing Wine and Cheese

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The key behind a good series isn’t just one element, but all the elements coming together in perfect harmony. Aldnoah.Zero is an amazing symphony of dialogue, characters, brilliant animation, and to top it all off, a phenomenal soundtrack. Renowned for his work with Kill la Kill and Attack on Titan, composer Hiroyuki Sawano spearheads another masterpiece score for Aldnoah.Zero. Each track used in the show, appropriately timed, subconsciously puts the viewer in the right mood for the situation.

As for the animation, normally I’m apprehensive about shows that mix normal animation and CG graphics, but Aldnoah.Zero finds a good balance with both forms. Computer generated animation has come a long way over the years, as seen with video games. Aldnoah.Zero‘s animation makes good use of shading techniques and precision motion to make the CG graphics smooth and well fitting for what’s going on in the background.

 

Reflection

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Aldnoah.Zero definitely deserves a look from anyone who is a fan of the giant robot or sci-fi genre. While this anime really kicks off with a bang, the writing plateaus after the first few episodes due to a writer change, but the show still manages to be cunning in the face of danger. It does not disappoint when it comes to actions and intrigue.

Aldnoah.Zero is available to watch on Crunchyroll and Hulu in its entirety.

About the author

Adam Houck

When not fearing the inevitable rise of Skynet and the machines, Adam Houck is the Managing Editor for CommonGeek. He formerly wrote for the Live Wire Newspaper in his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, graduating college with a degree in Humanities and the Language Arts. Don't trust your toaster...