Aldnoah Zero season two review [major spoilers]

As promised, I return with my thoughts on season two of Aldnoah Zero and of the series as a whole. Refer to my earlier post on the show for a summary of the story and a few thoughts on the first half.

All caught up? Cool. Instead of writing a proper review (yes, the title is a lie) I’ll just list random stuff I thought of, things I liked, things that bothered me. Starting with my wishlist at the end of the first season.

I’d like to see Inaho thaw a bit. But just a bit. It’s okay for him to be a stoic character.

They got this perfectly right. He softened up just a little bit, smiling a little more often and showing pain and disappointment at times. His sweeter attitude towards Yuki-nee was particularly touching. I think they’ll be happy together at the end.

I’d like to see the other characters take a more active role in battle. Too many red shirts die every battle to build up the enemy pilot so Inaho can crush him.

They did well with this too. Inaho is still the mech-crusher of choice, but other characters get some important kills as well. The Deucalion makes some great saves, especially. Fewer no-name pilots are killed off as well.

I’d like to see the enemies put up more of a fight. Things are too easy now.

A mostly forlorn wish, but there was one battle where even the mighty Inaho had to retreat so that was good to see. Of course he was only retreating so he could crush them better later on.

I’d like to see cooler mechs. Most of the machines so far are rather dumb-looking.

Inaho’s orange unit got a name (Sleipnir) and some cool upgrades in time for the final battle. Everyone else looked dumb until the end. Not that most mechs stick around long enough for you to admire their CG glory.

I’d like a resolution to Lt. Marito’s PTSD once and for all. It’s gotten old now, either get over yourself or stop wasting screen time.

He got over himself and became a helpful member of the crew. As for “how” he got over it, a Wizard Did It. No thanks to his useless doctor who actually gives whiskey to a recovering alcoholic though.

Thoughts about Slaine Troyard
  • Slaine was the cause of his own problems. First he killed Saazbaum off too quickly. He became a count too quickly without any plan. This forced him to spend time crushing the opposition and consolidating his power base when he should have been following up on his attack on Trident base. He should have waited and earned more fear and respect from the other Martians before taking Saazbaum out.
  • Second, he gave the princesses too much freedom. He was to all intents and purposes an usurper of power and he should have acted like it. Set guards on Lemrina at all times, keep Eddelrittuo and Asseylum under lock and key. Have spies everywhere who tell you everything everyone says in every corner of the base. Haven’t you read Dune?
  • He wasn’t ruthless enough. He should have made absolutely sure Inaho was dead in season one. He should have killed Asseylum the minute she recovered her memories. Instead of sending Stygis ships after her when she escaped, he should have shot her down himself. In fact he should have set a bomb on Klancain’s ship as insurance against such an escape. Read Dune, dude, they’ll show you how it’s done.
  • Basically he acted on emotion all the time but lacked the guts and conviction to follow through when it really mattered. And he lacked foresight and the ability to make contingency plans. He would have been better off staying as Cruhteo’s lapdog or Saazbaum’s hired gun for the whole show.
Thoughts about Aldnoah Zero’s ending
  • Slaine spending the rest of his life in jail is exactly what he deserves. War criminals have been hanged for less. It’s just too bad that the rest of the Martian warmongers and conspirators got away with it. Still I hope they can release him into exile at age 70 or something.
  • Asseylum marrying a third party and not Inaho or Slaine was perfect. It always bothers me when I read manga about nobility or royalty where the prince/princess marries a no-name commoner and no one objects. As long as Vers remains a feudal society, the Empress will marry for political reasons first and love second. Something could have been worked out if there was a King of the Earth or President of the World Federation but Slaine and Inaho are common soldiers. The ending is fine.
  • At the same time I’m happy Inaho got to confess his feelings to Asseylum and vice-versa. Even though a robot eye did it on his behalf. It’s a fond memory for them and they can both move on now.
  • Inaho looks pretty cool with that eyepatch. I hope he’ll be happy with Yuki-nee. I can’t support either Inko (too annoying) or Rayet (too angry and hypocritical).
  • I thought for sure either Harklight or Baohcruz would betray Slaine but they were loyal to the end. Huh. Sorry guys, I’m so suspicious these days. Their deaths were pointless though.
Other random thoughts
  • Instead of Stygis mechs, the Vers empire should have mass-produced the self-replicating Kataphrakt that one Count owned. The only way to defeat one is to kill all the copies at once, which would be completely impossible in space or by anybody not named Inaho.
  • The characters of Counts Mazuurk and Klancain should have been merged into one. Mazuurk ended up playing only a minor role in the big conflict. And Klancain just swooped out of nowhere and carried off the girl and the glory. Fans would have howled much less if he had been introduced much earlier.
  • Poor Okisuke, almost nobody remembered him after episode 3. Thank you Calm for giving him a quick shoutout before the end.
  • How come Slaine was allowed to keep the Tharsis after Cruhteo passed? I assumed he left no heirs but it turns out he had several sons. No one asked any questions for 19 months?
  • Tharsis looked cool but it was useless after all. All it had was the prediction gear, the limitations of which were shown pretty early. The final battle was totally anti-climatic.
  • Not only anti-climatic but also unnecessary. It’s obvious the writers forced Slaine to go out there against his will so he could have an obligatory final showdown with Inaho. The outcome was never in doubt.
  • In the end nothing came of any of the other teased relationships like Yuki x Marito and Magbaredge x Marito. Eh, guess nobody cares.
  • Dr. Troyard’s research into Aldnoah and why he’s so highly respected among the Martians is never fully explained. I thought there would be some secret in Slaine’s locket but it was a red herring in the end.
  • The UFE should have asked Inaho to activate Saazbaum and Cruhteo’s Landing Castles. Even one of these would have been an invaluable source of intel and firepower. And it would be interesting to see the Martians hoist by their own petard.
What I liked about Aldnoah Zero
  • The battles. Yes Inaho stomps everyone, but it’s interesting to see how. He uses some very intelligent strategies sometimes.
  • Almost no fanservice even though they had plenty of chances to do so.
  • The body count is high but there’s little gore. It’s a fairly family-friendly show. Though the scene at the end of episode 12 is somewhat disturbing.
  • Asseylum finally realizes her helplessness and has the wisdom to ally with someone who can do something about it. Some might criticize her for it but she’s the one who saves the day in the end. Self-awareness is a good thing.
  • The second season fixes a lot of the problems of the first, as listed above.
  • The character designs are nice.
  • The wailings of disappointed Inaho x Asseylum and Slaine x Asseylum fans are sweet music to my ears.
What I didn’t like about Aldnoah Zero
  • The few unanswered questions like the true nature of Dr. Troyard’s research.
  • Slaine’s personality and motivations were all over the place. He was not convincing either as a good guy or a bad guy.
  • Inaho never admits his hypocrisy in his dealings with Slaine versus Rayet/Mazuurk. He could have spared the world a lot of trouble by dealing fairly with Slaine back in episode 7.
  • The monster-of-the-week format was good in season 1 but time-wasting in the second half.
  • The mechs and CG sequences were disappointing. Aldnoah Zero can never be a Gundam killer without cool mechs.
  • The Earth Forces never actually won the war. They got lucky with Asseylum being the peaceable type – which they almost scuppered by killing her themselves.
  • I didn’t like Inaho’s mechanical eye. I liked it better when Inaho was being cool and broken all by himself.
Final comments

I enjoyed the show a lot. I marathoned the first season in a day and watched the second very quickly, which is something I don’t often do these days. I might actually buy Aldnoah Zero on DVD or Blu-Ray soon. Just as soon as Aniplex has a sale, because their prices are too outrageous. I thought of it as Code Geass meets Gundam at the first, but it managed to carve out a niche for itself by the end.

The main characters are a bit of a problem – Inaho is too lifeless at first, Slaine is a mess from start to finish and Asseylum takes forever to get serious – but they all grow up in the end. Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in 24 episodes with no “Please buy the light novels” nonsense. If you like mecha/super robot shows and overpowered protagonists, definitely give Aldnoah Zero a try.

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