Aldnoah.Zero Ep. 4: Bitter

Aldnoah Zero - 0401

“In an extreme situation where there’s no telling when an enemy will come, human beings aren’t known for remaining calm and rational.”

Then why are you so calm and rational, Inaho? After four episodes, I have almost gotten used to Inaho’s calmness. It’s strange, however, how he almost seems cheerful, upbeat, and optimistic when compared to most of the people around him. In a vacuum, you would never even say, “Inaho is a very emotive person,” but his ability to stay even-keel manages to draw a sharp contrast between him and even his own friends. You can certainly understand why most of the other characters are slowly becoming resentful. As exciting as the show has been, war is still a tragedy, and it’s a pity that Inaho’s friends haven’t even had time to mourn Okisuke’s death. There’s a brief moment in this week’s episode where they finally get to reflect on their loss. But after all the danger they’ve been through, as well as considering the current situation they’re in, the kids can’t afford to cry. So instead, they mock their own sadness: “Man, he was a moron up to the very end…” Obviously, no one intends to desecrate the memories of a dear friend, but they can’t exactly break out in fits of tears in the middle of a room full of other weary war refugees. So the kids do the only thing they can do: become bitter and redirect their hate towards the enemy.

Bitterness and resentment are building up across the characters. As previously stated, Inaho’s friends are bitter over Okisuke’s death. Calm even swears that he’ll make the Martians pay for their crimes. From his perspective, however, Earthlings had assassinated Asseylum. This isn’t actually what happened, but he and his friends don’t know that. As far as most of the characters are concerned, Princess Asseylum is still dead. Despite the anime making a big show of her reveal in the previous episode, only four people (not including the princess herself) know that she’s still alive: Inaho, Slaine, Rayet, and of course, Asseylum’s maid Eddy. Point is, most people believe Asseylum had been assassinated, and as a result, most people should realize that her death was the spark that ignited this war. In their minds, therefore, Earthlings should be partly responsible for this whole mess as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attempting to absolve our antagonists of any guilt. Even assuming there hadn’t been a conspiracy, I could never justify invading and murdering millions of people over the death of a single princess. Still, you have to wonder… let’s say Earth manages to win this war one day. Would people like Calm pull back and look at the whole picture? Or would he aim to persecute the Martians to no end?

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Rayet is bitter too. Again, she’s one of the few people privy to the knowledge that Asseylum is still alive. Knowing that, you could even be optimistic if you so choose. After all, if Asseylum can ever get the word out to the right people that she hasn’t died, you could perhaps call an end to this war. Nevertheless, Rayet entertains no such notion. Having lost her father, she too sees the Martians as nothing more than the one true enemy. The kicker, however, is that she even thinks of Asseylum as the enemy even though the princess has fought back against one of her own people and along Rayet’s side too. This is what bitterness has done to the girl, but still, you can understand where’s she’s coming from. You can understand what’s happening here. The characters are putting up a unified front against the enemy because they’ve lost their friends, their families, their homes–… they’ve lost everything. As such, I’m not really criticizing anyone’s actions, per se. It’s Inaho that I don’t understand. Why isn’t he madder about the current situation? Why isn’t he bitter? Yes, his sister has always taught him to focus on what he can do in tough times, but still, why hasn’t the tragedy hit him with as much as force as it has hit his friends?

Slaine no longer knows who he can trust. Slaine knows Asseylum is still alive, but as a former Terran who has lost himself within the military ranks of the Vers Empire, he has no real clout. He can’t even request to avenge the princess’s death without Cruhteo mocking the young man’s resolve. If there’s one thing I don’t like about Aldnoah.Zero, it’s the antagonists’ lack of range. Other than Slaine, none of the Orbital Knights are remotely sympathetic. I had once considered whether or not Cruhteo would ever change sides because he is still loyal to the princess, but not anymore. He just has so much contempt for a Terran that I can never see him in a positive light. He may not have been involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Asseylum, but Slaine’s right: Cruhteo is still using her death as an excuse to commit murder. But back to my original point, I’m somewhat disappointed at Cruhteo’s portrayal. War isn’t always about good vs. evil. Sure, there’s nothing redeemable about Hitler, and fine, I can even understand the need to craft a simpler narrative of the good guys versus the bad guys. But still, we have yet to see a single sympathetic antagonist. Slaine doesn’t really count as an antagonist, so they’ve got nobody. There’s not a single person that makes you think, “Wow, he or she’s just caught up in a bad situation.” Instead, we can justifiably root against every single antagonist we’ve seen thus far.

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The action in this week’s episode is still pretty fun to watch, but I hope the show doesn’t devolve into a thing where the bad guys send out one enemy mecha at time, and there’s a different gimmick for each and every single one of them. This week, we have a samurai-like mecha of sorts, but once again, Inaho’s ingenuity buys enough time for the good guys to escape. I won’t deny that there’s something enjoyable about watching a ragtag group of Earthlings go up against the Martians’ overwhelming force. After all, there’s a reason why the story of David vs Goliath is a thing; we love rooting for the underdogs. I just worry, however, that Inaho may fall into the same trap as recent anime protagonists and become far too capable as a character. Going into the story, I had assumed that Koichiro would play the battle-hardened veteran who knows what to do and how to lead. So far, however, he’s a little to busy fighting his own demons to take charge. As a result, responsibility falls upon Inaho’s shoulders once again. Inko can’t help but remark, “It’s not like you to be so reckless, Inaho.” In response, even Inaho is a little taken aback at his own actions. Obviously, the anime is teasing the possibility of a romance between him and Asseylum, but that doesn’t really matter to me at the moment. Again, as much as I currently enjoy the action, I just hope Inaho doesn’t become yet another Gary Stu. It would get old if he’s the one who keeps leading everyone to victory over and over.

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20 thoughts on “Aldnoah.Zero Ep. 4: Bitter

  1. opa

    This episode was partially bullshit honestly, just that Inaho is the ONLY smart guy and the military personnel are fucking dumbasses. Fuck this show if this becomes the pattern (already is for 2 episodes now).

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I don’t know if they’re really dumbasses. They just didn’t know what they were up against. Inaho has the luxury of sitting back and observing his enemy. I do agree that he gets to be the hero a little too much.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    I agree with your post, thanks for writing them.

    Now I know that the romance isn’t important or anything but, I would like it if Inaho and Asseylum didn’t fall in love with each other, I personally would rather have her be with Slaine.

    Far too many times (read as every single time) we get the MC falling for a princess in Mecha anime, the only one I remeber that didn’t do this was Majestic Prince (loved that anime by the way), at least throw us a curve ball and let the other guy get her (it would make more sense give what we saw in the first episode) and have the MC end up with someone more surprising (and that actually makes sense).

    In fact, why are there even princess or these kinds of hierarchies in anime set in the future? I fail to see the logic in something like that.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      What can I say? Teenagers are horny bunnies.
      I get the feeling that formula of MC falling for the princess is so ingrained in creators’ minds that it just comes with the mecha genre. I questioned myself if stories REALLY need romance, and the answer to that is NO, but apparently with the exception of a few, it’s almost like story-padding.

      I’m guessing the only reason Old-World Hierarchy exist in anime is because how else is the writer going to fit a genuine Princess character into the story? Just bend the whole setting so that the story can accommodate such a character.

      Reply
    2. E Minor Post author

      Now I know that the romance isn’t important or anything but, I would like it if Inaho and Asseylum didn’t fall in love with each other, I personally would rather have her be with Slaine.

      I don’t normally care who the characters end up with as long as the chemistry between them makes sense. At this early point in the story, I can’t really say who’s better for Asseylum. They’ve barely had any interactions. All we’ve seen between Slain and the princess is that he worships the ground she walks on.

      In fact, why are there even princess or these kinds of hierarchies in anime set in the future? I fail to see the logic in something like that.

      Well, the Vers Empire do consider themselves superior to Earthlings. When you have that mindset, I’m not surprised princesses still exist.

      Reply
  3. Gene

    Man I like this show but it’s annoying how incredible Inaho is at everything. Everyone one else is basically useless unless they are doing what he says. I am enjoying Slaine’s character more and I was also hoping there’d be more depth to the Martian side. There’s still a lot of time to fix these things I guess.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I’m wondering if a majority of Japanese anime writers just naturally inclined to write Gary Stu/Mary Sue type characters.
      Fine, it’s marketed to young-ish viewers and they most likely won’t care or see failures of these characters, but they’re not the only ones watching anime. You’ve got people who understand what makes good characters and plot watching the shows too, and that just makes a majority of shows today just plain disappointing or insulting at worst.

      Reply
    2. E Minor Post author

      I wouldn’t say they are useless. The faceless nobodies are useless. His friends are still capable, though. And his sister did help fix something this week with her bionic arms. It’s just that Inaho still overshadows them.

      Reply
  4. Anon

    Great post on the situation at hand. I still think at episode 4 Aldnoah Zero remains mighty entertaining, though apparently this is the last episode Gen Urobuchi will be writing/composing. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen.

    Inaho hasn’t been too off-putting as say Kirito from SAO just yet. The one thing that is keeping Aldnoah Zero’s characters is that many of them are actually capable of other skills and working independently and not just Inaho doing every damn thing or giving every order. I’m hoping to see this trend continue and like some others who have commented, would like to see some of the side characters further this trend by taking the initiative. Curious, would you classify Inaho as a Gary-Stu just yet (like Tatsuya from Mahouka or something)? Or is it still early days?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Curious, would you classify Inaho as a Gary-Stu just yet (like Tatsuya from Mahouka or something)? Or is it still early days?

      Early. Just a potentially problematic trend.

      Reply
  5. Valerie

    A small thing that doesn’t matter but I feel like sharing, it made me happy seeing his sister not getting jealous that another female was showing interest in her brother. Like most anime has that cliche where the sister doesn’t want any other girl close to her brother. I hate that cliche so much.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Yeah, but isn’t that also kind of sad? We’re actually pleasantly surprised when a sister in an anime isn’t creepily possessive.

      Reply
  6. Rae (@CSrae)

    Then why are you so calm and rational, Inaho? After four episodes, I have almost gotten used to Inaho’s calmness. It’s strange, however, how he almost seems cheerful, upbeat, and optimistic when compared to most of the people around him.

    Honestly I hope there is a reasonable explanation for his aloof/cold personality. OK, I can accept that in times of war and instability the MC needs to be calm but eh, his lack of responsiveness reminds me of someone who is disassociating due to some past trauma.

    As previously stated, Inaho’s friends are bitter over Okisuke’s death. Calm even swears that he’ll make the Martians pay for their crimes.

    For some reason, it reminds me of a death flag for Calm, Although, I might be overthinking this after seeing too many anime series in the past.

    Would people like Calm pull back and look at the whole picture? Or would he aim to persecute the Martians to no end?

    As much as I’d like to think that Earth would be more tolerate, due to their history with the Martians, I think the quote, “Only the dead have seen the end of war” would apply here.

    It’s Inaho that I don’t understand. Why isn’t he madder about the current situation?

    I do think Inaho is *angry* and his anger helps him become proactive in situations. I mean, he pretty much took down the enemy mecha at the end by the bridge for his late friend.

    War isn’t always about good vs. evil. Sure, there’s nothing redeemable about Hitler, and fine, I can even understand the need to craft a simpler narrative of the good guys versus the bad guys. But still, we have yet to see a single sympathetic antagonist.

    Hmm–I agree that a major problem with war-themed series is that we have a all-or-nothing approach to morality. (This is also an issue with games but I digress).

    FMA did a credible portrayal of a warzone and how it affected the societies involved. For example, we know that the Amestris military govt is not a “good” force but we are able to empathize with the members. However, at the same time the audience sees how Ishbalans suffered during the civil war in history. (Another animated series did it well would be Avatar: The Last Airbender for the Fire nation.)

    I just worry, however, that Inaho may fall into the same trap as recent anime protagonists and become far too capable as a character.

    True, it would be disappointing to see this turn into a 1 man vs invading army plotline a la The Patriot. At least Inaho doesn’t have a uber-secret-mecha in the works.

    Going into the story, I had assumed that Koichiro would play the battle-hardened veteran who knows what to do and how to lead. So far, however, he’s a little to busy fighting his own demons to take charge.

    I would watch the hell out of a series featuring a army veteran trying to overcome his PTSD and find meaning in his life.

    Or I can always just follow the umpteenth teen protag save the world again.

    Obviously, the anime is teasing the possibility of a romance between him and Asseylum, but that doesn’t really matter to me at the moment.

    Eh, for some reason I thought Seylum is older than the main cast. I know her char design looked young (late teens?) but Slaine looks closer to Inaho’s age. Maybe it’s just how she interacts with everyone compared to people her age would usually react, then again, she is a Princess. I think it’s more likely for Slaine x Seylem because he have this odd sense of how devoted he is to her to be willing to kill a Knight.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I do think Inaho is *angry* and his anger helps him become proactive in situations. I mean, he pretty much took down the enemy mecha at the end by the bridge for his late friend.

      I didn’t say he wasn’t angry. I asked why he wasn’t madder.

      Reply
  7. Borneo

    “Point is, most people believe Asseylum had been assassinated, and as a result, most people should realize that her death was the spark that ignited this war. In their minds, therefore, Earthlings should be partly responsible for this whole mess as well. […] Would people like Calm pull back and look at the whole picture? Or would he aim to persecute the Martians to no end?”

    Well, if I was in Calm’s shoes, I probably would hate the Martians till the sun runs cold and reject the notion that Earth carries any responsibility for the war at all. I – as Calm – know that the assassination ignited the war, yes. But that’s it. I don’t even know who exactly did it or for what purpose. A culprit was never apprehended, and the Vers Knights didn’t see any need to investigate the matter or let the Earth Government explain itself before dropping on a bunch of major cities and killing thousands of civilians or even more in the process. Seeing how incredibly eager the Vers military was to invade earth pretty much instantly, I – as Calm – might even correctly suspect that the assassination was a false flag operation in order to create a pretext for war. It wouldn’t be the first time in history for an aggressor state to do that kind of thing, that’s how WWII got started in Europe. Hell, I would probably suspect a conspiracy if there actually were reasonable grounds for believing in Earthling involvement, simply because that assassination was just too damn convenient for the Knights. As things stand, however, there’s no reason for me – as Calm – to hold anyone responsible for the war and its victims other than the Vers military who started it off with a great number of war crimes. Even looking at the whole picture, Calm would probably feel very justified in persecuting the Martians to no end. You reap what you sow, and all that jazz.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      No one’s saying the Martians are any less culpable. No one’s telling Calm he can’t hate the Vers Empire for what they’ve done. The point is, once he has dealt with the anger, it’s important to look at every single facet of the issue.

      Reply
  8. sensualaoi

    It seems to me like they should’ve finished off the samurai guy. After so much effort they had him pinned and had damaged him, and could’ve kept pummeling hum with the crane, so why not finish the job and maybe loot his mech? The former battle was similar….in the end inaho doesn’t even soil his hands with blood, and slave….er slate, shoots the mad dog for him.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Maybe it’s just like Terror in Resonance where they’re afraid to turn the kids into killers.

      Reply

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