Aldnoah.Zero Ep. 5: War and peace

Aldnoah Zero - 0501

Darzana: “Kaizuka Inaho. Hard to believe he’s a student.”
Kaoru: “Yes. He’s surprisingly useful.”

Welp. That Inaho just can’t be stopped, huh? Once again, Inaho single-handedly saves the day. Once again, Inaho is brilliant, and everyone else is useless. The latter is what really gets me. It’s one thing to make Inaho super-capable, super-intelligent, and super-composed. But the rest of the cast are either idle bystanders or useless fodder to be killed off. For instance, will Koichiro ever do anything in this anime? No, seriously, is he going to ever lift a finger? After all, he’s no longer these kid’s instructors. On this boat, he’s a lieutenant. Time for the lieutenant to step up to the plate. But once again, the guy’s war trauma freezes him in his tracks. Normally, this would be fine. I even feel for the guy, because I know war really fucks with people. But the anime isn’t doing anything with this particular plot thread. Every week, it’s the same, ol’ routine. Koichiro will say something cynical and depressing about life (e.g., “Maybe I am drunk. Drunk on my sad fate”), then we’ll see a scene in which he is unable to perform his duties. That’s it. No steps are taken towards any solution. No steps are actually taken in any direction, to be honest. I mean, shit, why not just desert the military and drink your sorrows away in some shady bar, then?

At the start of the episode, we see how Asseylum and Slaine had first come to know each other. He was drowning somehow — the escape pod he was in was flooded with water — so she had to give him CPR. Needless to say, this is anime, so CPR magically turns into “OMG MAI FIRST KISSU” instead of just, y’know, being CPR. In any case, present-day Slaine continues to put himself at extreme risk. This week, he even manages to seek an audience with the Emperor to inform the old man that his granddaughter is still alive. As such, His Majesty must call off this war and help save Asseylum! Sadly, Slaine continues to be Inaho’s foil. Inaho’s plans always work out perfectly, but on the other hand, Slaine’s best laid plans always turn to shit. He thinks it was the right thing to kill Trillram, but all this does is put a giant target on his own back as Saazbaum investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding the baron’s death. Furthermore, Saazbaum had already gotten to the emperor beforehand. The count was thus able to warn the emperor of Slaine’s impending arrival. So not only does the emperor not believe Slaine’s words, he now thinks Slaine is a spy. He even calls for war again! Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Aldnoah Zero - 0502

“Maybe it means the enemy isn’t as monolithic as it seems.”

Some soldier says this in response to the emperor’s sudden call for an armistice. Sadly, the soldier is wrong. Remember what I had said in last week’s post? That none of the antagonists were remotely sympathetic? That they were all one-sided in their badness? Oh, we were oh-so-close in this week’s episode. Oh so very close! At first, the emperor finds the princess’s death rather suspicious himself. As much as his underlings will try to convince him that the United Forces of Earth are the true culprits behind the princess’s death, His Majesty just doesn’t understand the logic behind it. How would it benefit Earth in anyway to assassinate a royal member of the Vers Empire, a nation technologically superior to all the nations on Earth combined? So at first, the emperor calls for an armistice, which pisses the Orbital Knights off. He even launches an investigation into the princess’s death. So I’m thinking, “Man, not bad. At least not everyone from Mars are complete idiots.” But like I’ve said, by the end of episode, he will have called for war again. Our emperor changes his position in a single episode. A single episode!

Maybe I wouldn’t have minded this so much if the story had taken its time. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded this so much if we could see Saazbaum’s subterfuge slowly push the emperor towards war. But no, war is back before you can even say, “Our great emperor, Rayregalia Vers Rayvers.” So we’re back to square one. The Martians in this story are still sadly one-dimensional. It’s funny to hear Vlad say, “You’re all the same, I see. Terrans. Impudent curs.” But it’s the Martians who are all the same. All they do is just act superior. There’s nothing remotely nuanced about their position. Even Imperial Japan, as cruel as their generals were, at least operated under the guise of liberating East Asia from the yolk of Western imperialism. There’s no such propaganda here. To the Martians, Terrans are all worthless shit: “Even as we feel intense shame in our common ancestry with you…” Seriously? The sad part is, their logic doesn’t even make sense. Vlad goes on and on about restoring his honor, but then he attacks our heroes during an armistice that his own emperor had called for. Where’s the honor in that, Mr. Badass Orbital Knight?

Aldnoah Zero - 0503

In the end, I’m also a bit wary of the way this whole conflict is ultimately playing out. Yes, the emperor errs in believing Saazbaum’s lies, but he is nevertheless being lied to. And of course, the princess started out as a goodwill ambassador who is now desperately fighting for peace between the two planets. Who are the true bad guys? Oh, it’s the war hawks. It’s the military. The royal family, on the other hand, are good people and they just want peace! So in the end, our story still reminds me of Imperial Japan. After World War II, the official stance from both the Imperial Palace and the American occupation forces was that Hirohito was nothing more than a figurehead. Even though he was the emperor of Japan, his generals had kept him in the dark, blah blah blah. There are even claims that he supposedly opposed the war, reciting his grandfather’s poetry to support his position: “Since all are brothers in this world, why is there such constant turmoil?” Aw, isn’t that nice. But not everyone agrees. Numerous historians have argued otherwise: “…the thesis that the Emperor, as an organ of responsibility, could not reverse cabinet decision, is a myth fabricated after the war.”

In the end, who are we to believe? I don’t know, but as far as Aldnoah.Zero is concerned, Princess Asseylum and her grandfather are just caught up in a bad situation. People like Rayet and Calm may think the Martians are all bad, but the princess is really a peace-loving do-gooder, and the emperor is being misled! For the most part, the Orbital Knights are acting on their own accord, and since the emperor is old and often bed-ridden, he is like a religious figurehead. Oh, I’m not saying he has no power. Clearly, his ability to call for an armistice shows that he still wields considerable power. Still, that power isn’t being put to good use. The Orbital Knights are still calling the shots. Hell, when Cruhteo heard about the armistice, his first reaction was, “Over our heads?” It’s almost as if he wants to say, “How dare he! This is our jurisdiction!” Ah, poor Emperor Hirohito Rayregalia Vers Rayvers. One can only hope that history will look back and clear your name of all the wrongdoings committed by your military!

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23 thoughts on “Aldnoah.Zero Ep. 5: War and peace

  1. Naota

    I got a chuckle out of Cruhteo stammering “W-why would the emperor go over our heads like this?”

    Uh. He’s the emperor. You declared war on Earth, on behalf of your entire nation, without asking the emperor – your supreme authority – what he thought about it. Why do you think he would call an armistice?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      It depends. We don’t know much about how the Vers Empire operates. If the emperor has been hands off this entire time — and we’ve heard about how the Orbital Knights have been fighting with each other for a while now in the broken remnants of the moon — then perhaps it would come as a complete surprise that he’d intervene now, especially since his own granddaughter had been killed.

      Reply
  2. Rae (@CSrae)

    No steps are actually taken in any direction, to be honest. I mean, shit, why not just desert the military and drink your sorrows away in some shady bar, then?

    I swear the creators are building up to some major plot twist where Koichiro regains his full memory from PTSD and finds out the secret weakness of the enemy before the 1st season ends. Or he could just be that guy who knows the truth of war and keeps reminds us that it’s all useless in the end. IDK if anyone on the show from Earth is pro-war or anything.

    So not only does the emperor not believe Slaine’s words, he now thinks Slaine is a spy.

    I can’t be the only person, who thought he emperor switched mindsets quickly from suspicion to trusting one of the Knights? OK, we know Slaine isn’t the most reliable guy but I’m having a hard time understanding why everyone seems to hate him apart from him from Earth. If they distrusted him so much why is he still there?

    Our emperor changes his position in a single episode. A single episode!

    OT: Someone else made a comment how this is realistic just from reading the latest news in certain parts of the world :v

    Reply
    1. SP

      >>OT: Someone else made a comment how this is realistic just from reading the latest news in certain parts of the world :v<<

      Unlike what's going on in that part of the world, the emperor was not only surprised at how these knights were acting beyond his order, he also wanted to act after he discovers truth behind the supposed assassination. And even if he had change in mindset, it wasn't because he found any solid evidence about the supposed assassination (In scenarios like this, evidence is needed to be shown to the audience even if it's fake so that we can buy into manipulation idea).One of the guy who breached his order blows his ear & he immediately believed that. It's like that embarrassing scene from code geass where the rebels turns into Lelouch without looking for any evidence.

      Reply
    2. E Minor Post author

      If they distrusted him so much why is he still there?

      Haven’t gotten around to it, I guess. Still useful as fodder too.

      Someone else made a comment how this is realistic just from reading the latest news in certain parts of the world :v

      If they consider anything Saazbaum says to be news, then what does that say about them?

      Reply
    3. Caustic

      “I can’t be the only person, who thought the emperor switched mindsets quickly from suspicion to trusting one of the Knights? OK, we know Slaine isn’t the most reliable guy but I’m having a hard time understanding why everyone seems to hate him apart from him from Earth. If they distrusted him so much why is he still there?”

      It was shown earlier in the episode that Saazbaum investigated Slaine’s story and found it to be false. Having gotten to the emperor first, he probably pointed out how Slaine lied about Trillram’s death, implicated him as murdering him (correctly), and then using that fact to paint Slaine as a liar and spy. Since Saazbaum is pretty high in the VERS military, the emperor would have trusted this explanation, since it does have its basis in fact, and believed the Knights over Slaine.

      Furthermore, Slaine has no evidence beyond his word that Asseylum survived. The emperor would have probably trusted him if he had not known that Slaine lied to the Orbital Knights, but that lie makes him untrustworthy in his eyes.

      It’s actually decent writing. Now if only the Orbital Knights actually had mixed feelings about the war.

      Reply
      1. Rae (@CSrae)

        Furthermore, Slaine has no evidence beyond his word that Asseylum survived. The emperor would have probably trusted him if he had not known that Slaine lied to the Orbital Knights, but that lie makes him untrustworthy in his eyes.

        I got a sense that the emperor had intended to do a private investigation for his granddaughter’s death due to the questionable circumstances at the time. Yet there’s not much of a follow up with this case? Did the emperor find out nothing and decided to trust the Knights again?

        Starting a war again for what seems based on additional shaky info is not unheard of but it does look strange.

        Reply
  3. Naota

    Watching this episode, what really irked me wasn’t even the Martians’ completely universal disdain for their enemy, but how they all treat Slaine identically. Look, I get that he’s a human and they think he’s beneath them, maybe even a lesser being with inherent flaws, but that doesn’t mean they have to hate and belittle him – especially not in exactly the same way every time. Just because they think themselves superior doesn’t mean they can’t empathize with the guy or hold a conversation with him that expresses some ideals or motivation beyond “know your place!”.

    For instance, I see no reason that the knight from this episode wouldn’t have agreed with Slaine’s (stated) desire to avenge the princess. All he did was ask for permission to put his own life at risk defending their cause. It doesn’t matter that he’s not worthy of being a knight, or that his place isn’t on the battlefield. They share that indignation in common; they both want revenge against the humans for striking out against the princess.

    Why wouldn’t this guy, being a proud and upstanding warrior himself, sympathize with him? Instead he makes the ridiculous leap in logic, “you’re only looking for glory!”, purely so he can look like an asshole. The writer literally went looking for a reason for this dude to hate Slaine for agreeing with him, and this is the best he could come up with. That was a free chance to give the Martians some depth right there, deliberately avoided at the cost of being awkward and stupid… just to make an even bigger caricature of them.

    It really feels like there’s no sentiment Slaine can express that won’t result in the person he’s talking to getting offended. He can’t agree with them or disagree with them. He gets disciplined either way, and disciplined for staying silent. They all hate him unconditionally on a personal level because they’re all the same one-note person. Yet, still, they’ve kept him around for years.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Yet, still, they’ve kept him around for years.

      I’m sure the princess kept him around for years. As for now, they could get rid of him… they’re just a bit preoccupied.

      Reply
    2. Keet

      Inaho and Slaine are foils.

      Whilst Inaho has no personality and is surrounded by a cast that fawns at his every step and a loving sister and friends; Slaine is hated, distrusted, beaten and belittled. Whilst Inaho is given the freedom he wants, Slaine is held back; whilst Inaho faces dumb as heck enemies who anyone who was not a drooling idiot (as his adoring fans are) would beat, Slaine gets the smart ones.

      Reply
      1. Naota

        Fair enough, but that still doesn’t really let them off the hook for totally neglecting to characterize the people who belittle Slaine.

        They could, at the very least, have different reasons to hate him, diverse personalities and motivation, and – perhaps most importantly – an exceptions in either case that prove the rule. A society whose every member hates someone is maudlin, comical, and ridiculous. A society with diverse opinions that in general frowns upon said person is believable.

        I think Slaine’s arc would benefit greatly for having a knight who treats him with any kind of sympathy, even while reminding him that it’s not his place to fight for Vers and its fallen princess, just as Inaho’s arc would benefit from a character who was more critical of his impromptu last-minute heroics. We are dealing with people here, not game pieces which only exist to fill their singular designated roles in the story.

        Reply
        1. Rae

          I think Slaine’s arc would benefit greatly for having a knight who treats him with any kind of sympathy, even while reminding him that it’s not his place to fight for Vers and its fallen princess, just as Inaho’s arc would benefit from a character who was more critical of his impromptu last-minute heroics.

          I think Slaine’s father (?) when he appears will probably be the sympathetic person in his life. Unless, his father secretly hates him for no reason too…oh well.

          I like Slaine more than Inaho if that counts :3c

  4. Gene

    Wonder if the fact that it’s 12 episodes is what makes the pacing kind of off. In regards to how almost comically quickly the emperor changes his tune. Also can anyone just run inside that area to skype with the emperor? He didn’t need a passcode or anything, and he’s a terran.
    Inaho continues to make me roll my eyes. Why does anime keep using these kind of characters. I don’t know if I can even call him a character because he has no personality or anything. If the knight side was more nuanced I’d wish the whole show was from Slaine/martian perspective.

    Reply
    1. Rae

      Inaho continues to make me roll my eyes. Why does anime keep using these kind of characters. I don’t know if I can even call him a character because he has no personality or anything.

      Eh, it’s kinda saying why is the MC protag always more skilled than his allies in a video game? The audience doesn’t really need to *like* Inaho (it helps) or even relate to him but he needs to be moving the story forward. It’s risky though because if MC is too strong/infallible from the start it becomes very silly (see:SAO).

      Reply
      1. Gene

        …He’s a crappy character because the plot demands it? This isn’t a video game. I don’t find Inaho is moving the story forward, he’s just beating the “monster of the week”. He’s not interested in anything or doing much else. I found him silly from the start and each episode he gets more unbelievable and gary stu-like. He’s the only truly useful character, everyone can only gawk and cheer him on this ep. I can’t see this changing as the show already established him as being vastly superior to everyone else.

        Reply
        1. Rae

          No. For example not all stories are based on the individual character’s motivations/personalities (slice of life) but some series are based on the overall events taking place (detective/mystery). The audience doesn’t have to relate to his actions/thoughts but be interested in enough to follow the plot as it develops.

          Yeah Inaho is boring, he doesn’t do much apart from win fights against stacked odds. Hell, even the drunk guy has a better sense of humor and he’s always in the background. If the series was just from the Terran’s POV it’d get dull because we know Inaho can’t lose yet. However, as the audience we can watch over how the Martian’s are planning out their next ideas.

          The main questions that keep me interested:
          Who is exactly Slaine?
          Why is Inaho so emotionless?
          How did the Vers empire develop/adapt to all the new alien tech?
          Will Koichiro overcome his alcoholism?
          Why a feudalistic govt over a republican one?

          FWIW: Seylum doesn’t have much a personality either apart from being overly naive and pacifist.

        2. Naota

          If I had to guess, a feudal power structure is very straightforward and easy to control, and policy is always set from the top down with no time wasted coming to different types of consensus. Everyone takes directives from their liege above them, and turns them into orders for the vassals beneath them. Every bit of land is definitively owned and administrated up close by somebody that reigns there. The focus on nobility from distinguished bloodlines as rulers also falls in line with the Martians’ belief in their own genetic superiority. After all, who could be more noble than their own founder and emperor?

          The problem, of course, is that at the bottom rung is the majority of the population, and they have no influence at all over national policy or who rules them, but so are dictatorships and nations ruled by their religious elite. It’s probably a lot easier to keep your peasants in line if they’re largely uneducated and unorganized, or spread out over a large distance with sparse communication (like, say, the fragments of the moon?). So all in all I don’t find a feudal government too out there given what we know of Vers and the setting’s other peculiarities.

      2. Gene

        For some reason I can’t reply to your post below. I’m not talking about the story as a whole, just that Inaho is a crappy character so far to me. Character feelings and motivations are present here and are the main reason so many viewers sympathize with Slaine. Even if they are meant to contrast it’s no excuse to skimp so much on the character we see the most of. Comparing Seylum to Inaho is strange, she may be a typical princess but still has an actual personality. I’m interested is most everything else you mentioned but the robo-MC.

        Reply
  5. LordreynoldsUglyDadsBunkmatefromwhenhighschoolwasstillsomethingtolookforwardtooandyesthisnameisnonsensebecausefuckyouihadtowatchArschgeschwollenWhichisashittymechaanime

    Eh. I am counting the episodes until the emperor turns pink, pulls a lacus clyne and gives the freedom gunda.. err the new super secret OP-Mech to slaine, because he knows slaine since he took him in as a child. He knows slaine has totally fallen for the princess. He knows that anybody who would insinuate that slaine would even so much as think of harming the princess, is lying to his face. There is NO way i believe that this emperor has swallowed Saaßbaums little story.

    In fact, re-declaring war and sending slaine down in a super mech is the perfect move to save his granddaughter.

    If slaine secures the girl, the emperor can start lynching his knights, which will please the population of earth A LOT, he can also lay all blame to the guys he is about to roast over an open fire.

    The whole thing can be spun into something positive as he offers reparations in the form of all the TECH that the Lobby run, corrupt earth nations didn’t just want spilling on the market, “ruining” the economy.

    Yes, i say that when the Camperor approached Earth’s nations and offered all the fabulous tech that would have changed society as a whole (post scarcity) the people who would lose their status (bascially , big capital) steered against this development, the whole thing culminating in war because they might as well try to grab the goodies and profit from them…

    Ah sorry, this was some other anime like this…. just can’t remember… but the similarities….

    Reply
  6. mangotoanime

    That’s very interesting. I had been reading up on the Showa Emperor’s role in WOII as of late. and hadn’t seen any historian of any merit argue that Hirohito had much control over his country’s conduct during WOII, apparently it was not done for an emperor to ventilate a dissenting option. That is not to say that I’ve read no one who argued otherwise, it’s just that when they did they also tended to argue that Japan should pay reparations for loss of colonial properties, that Japanese labor camps were comparable to German concentration caps, and used the word yellow in relation to (the) Japanese people.

    Reply
  7. moecharacter

    I had been interpreting Inaho as a deconstruction of Gary Stu protagonists (his emotionless nature was made to seem unnerving but necessary for him to come up with plans under pressure), but right now, it just seems like he is a Garu Stu protagonist. Even if he was meant to be a deconstruction, Poe’s Law is in effect here. There’s nothing to make him beating the orbital knight of the week entertaining.

    Reply

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