Not a very thought-provoking episode this week, but it’s okay. Not every episode has to be thought-provoking, and there will be plenty of time deal with “what it all means.” That is, if Aldnoah.Zero even means anything. For now, let’s have our thrilling action fare. I gotta admit, though, that of all the shows currently airing this season, the action in Aldnoah.Zero is the most entertaining so far to behold. Plenty of lives are lost this week, but none of it ever feels gratuitous or cheap. Hacked limbs aren’t flying everywhere. The sky isn’t raining gallons upon gallons of blood. This is a war, and yet, the anime has restraint. Remarkable, isn’t it? If those allusions to Imperial Japan in last week’s episode — intentional or not — never actually amount to anything, the anime will still be a worthwhile watch if the action remains this stylish and well choreographed. What’s even better, however, is that our hero continues to take the backseat.
It’s not that I want Inaho to suck or anything like that. But actual character arcs are just so rare nowadays. Often times, when an anime hero appears, he starts to kick ass and take names right from the get-go. Inaho, however, continues to be a spectator in this week’s episode. And because he can’t be anything but a spectator, the burden of responsibility believably weighs upon his shoulders. In other words, I don’t think he’s paying lip service to the idea of heroism when he proclaims at the end of the episode, “Let’s fight. Yuki and the others tried, now it’s our turn.” It’s time for our relatively placid hero to do something about the current situation. What can he do? Who knows, but that’s the beauty of it. We have a character arc that actually starts at the very bottom. Inaho isn’t being handed a super-powered mecha on a silver platter. He’s just a student who will have to figure something out and figure it out quick.
Not only that, Inaho isn’t a straightforward anime protagonist either. Thankfully, he isn’t overly emotional. Nevertheless, most heroes don’t maintain such a straight face when one of their own friends bite the dust. Nothing seems to faze Inaho, though. Not in last week’s episode when he saw the assassination of a princess firsthand, and not in this week’s episode when Okisuke meets his unfortunate end. I’m interested to see why Inaho can stay so calm at least on the surface. This is fiction, after all, so people are not just different for the sake of being different. There’s likely an interesting backstory to why Inaho seems so… emotionally detached even his actions will ultimately speak otherwise as the story unfolds. His character development at least intrigues me for the moment. That’s more than we can say about Slaine right now, who seems to have been put on a backburner for at least this week’s episode. I imagine It’s only a matter of time before he switches sides again, especially when he realizes what had really happened to his precious princess.
Predictably enough, our princess is not dead. Rather, a body double — every other fictional princess seems to have one nowadays — had attended the parade in her place instead. Poor girl. Needless to say, Asseylum’s scrambling to reach the right people and let them know that she’s still alive. I’m sure the girl thinks she can now reverse the tragedy that has already occurred, but it’s too late for that now. Millions of lives across the world have already been lost. Not only that, certain members of the Vers military actually wanted her dead. At the moment, she represents the martyr that has ignited the flames of war: “If we plant our flag at the scene of Her Highness’ tragic death, it will solidify the righteousness of Vers’ cause.” This happens all the time too. War hawks will want to pick a fight, but they can’t get their people to go along with it. All of a sudden, a convenient tragedy occurs. A bombing, an assassination, imaginary weapons of mass destruction — anything — are all, by themselves, enough to enrage the population and “solidify the righteousness of [the nation’s] cause.”
I can’t help but imagine that it’s actually a bad idea at the moment for the princess to try and reach out to her empire. With communication lines being so poor at the moment, who can Asseylum really reach? Not her people on Mars without getting her message intercepted, I’m sure, and there’s no way she can trust anyone but Slaine when it comes to the Vers military. Who’s to say certain individuals won’t try to go after the princess if they know she’s still alive? In this week’s episode, Trillram wipes out a group of people who was apparently involved in the princess’s assassination: “We mustn’t have you squeaking at an inopportune time in the future, you see.” So imagine how he would react to the news that the princess’s demise had been greatly exaggerated? If it gets out that the assassination plot was engineered by none other than members of the Vers military, the uproar would be incredible. Heads would roll as the rest of the empire try to suss out who was involved in the conspiracy. Not only that, it’s hard to maintain your air of superiority over the earthlings when it turns out you had to resort to such underhanded tactics to instigate a war.
Right now, the Martian forces are, for all intents and purposes, invincible. Objects literally phase through the enemy Kataphrakts (a reference to the cataphract). What happens to them? They probably just disintegrate into energy or something like that. Still, unlike certain series where one side is grossly overpowered, Aldnoah.Zero avoids being dull and boring. The suspense lies not with whether or not the good guys can currently defeat the bad guys, but whether or not they can even survive. As such, it’s not a chore to watch our heroes attempt to get away from Trillam’s impervious mecha. If there’s anything to complain about, however, it’s that the Earth Alliance soldiers don’t appear to be all that bright. If your first hail of bullets aren’t even scratching the enemy, I doubt “[giving] it all you’ve got” will be the key. Ah well. At least the heroes aren’t 100% safe from death. It’s always easy to surround our heroes in plot armor, and certainly, some of the show’s more important characters probably won’t die (e.g. Yuki and Koichirou) at such an early stage in the game. In all likelihood, however, this is probably the last we’ve seen of Okisuke.
For sure, this episode has set us up for some interesting developments in the future. I’ve already mentioned how I’m looking to see how Inaho can defend his friends against such an overpowered enemy. There are other interesting questions to ponder about, though. For instance, how will our heroes treat Rayet when her involvement in the conspiracy eventually comes out? After all, her hands are stained with the deaths of millions across the world. Hell, how will the girl herself deal with the guilt? It’s easy to run off to Mars, live in the lap of luxury, and convince yourself that you did what needed to be done. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the horrors of war when you’re literally hundreds of millions of miles away on another planet. She now has to witness firsthand, however, the rotten fruits of her labor. And yet, our heroes have risked their lives to save her. Will she able to look them straight in the face?