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.
“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?
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!