Licorice whip! But seriously, color me surprised when the anime takes the time to show us how the good guys came about boarding and piloting their new battleship, but not showing me how Slaine had gotten himself captured. Yeah, I remember Inaho shooting him down and ominously saying, “You’re my enemy,” but how did we get from there to Cruhteo tying the guy up and whipping him (a hot topic for future Aldnoah.Zero fanart and doujinshi, I’m sure)? Plus, why didn’t anyone ask Inaho where Slaine had gone? Needless to say, Inaho’s foil eventually spills the beans: the princess is still alive. Shocked to hear this revelation, Cruhteo immediately calls for a ceasefire. Not only that, he suddenly realizes what Slaine had done. The kid risked everything in order to protect the princess. This thoroughly impresses the count so much that he even thinks, “Forgive me, Slaine.” So I’m sitting there and thinking, “Sweet! Finally, someone on the enemy’s side who won’t be entirely one-dimensional!” So do you know what happens? Saazbaum shows up and kills the guy. Seriously?
Well, let’s hold up for one second. This is anime, after all, so if you don’t see a dead body, you can never rule anyone out. Still, there’s a very good chance Cruhteo really is dead, and this is really the case, I’m sorely disappointed by the results. Why? Because right now, the antagonists are terribly boring. I mean, yeah, everyone’s boring (even Inaho), but c’mon, the antagonists shouldn’t suck this much. Unfortunately, they do. Those like Saazbaum wholeheartedly hate Earthlings, and that’s all there is to it. Their motives are so simplistic, but what’s worse is that, at the moment, Aldnoah.Zero‘s morality is very black-and-white. Sure, I’m not asking for a mecha anime to be super deep, but we could do better. We could do so much better. Sadly, there’s no nuance to the bad guys unless you count Slaine, which I don’t think we should. That’s why I think it would suck if Cruhteo is really dead. If he does somehow manage to survive, he could be the guy who tries to do the right thing, but nevertheless fails because of the circumstances. Y’know, a tragic figure. Sadly, he’s probably dead.
Speaking of Slaine, I’m not a big fan. I just hate characters with his sort of mindset. I hate characters who obsesses over a single “kiss” from a girl, then proceeds to wholeheartedly devote his entire life to her. Seriously, I’m sick of seeing that scene over and over. I don’t find it chivalrous or gallant. I just think the dude is kind of pathetic. Would I prefer it if Asseylum got with someone else instead? Like, say, Inaho? If there really is going to be a love triangle in this series, I honestly have no horse in this race. I couldn’t care less if Mr. Blandaho ever gets with anyone (just don’t get with your own sister, please). I just really dislike Slaine. I don’t even feel sorry for the guy. If when the story progresses and he ends up fighting for something — anything — besides Asseylum, then maybe I’ll give the guy a break. Otherwise, no thanks. Get whipped, son. In fact, now that he’s in Saazbaum’s custody, who knows what he’ll end up enduring?
I really thought the writers dropped the ball on these torture scenes. It would have been nice to see the characters engage in a serious discussion about what they’re doing, making Slaine’s torture not just of his endurance and courage, but also a battle of competing philosophies between him and Cruhteo. Slaine isn’t wrong, after all. If the princess wanted peace between the two planets, and knights like Cruhteo are supposedly loyal to her and her cause (let’s just ignore the traitors for just a second), then how can they reconcile their war-like ambitions with the fact that they’re basically trampling on her memories? But instead, Cruhteo just gets pissed off and whips the guy. And it makes sense since we’ve seen the Martians do nothing but treat Terrans like dirt. But at the same time, you force yourself into the corner by choosing to portray the Martians in this fashion to begin with. Because you’ve made them so cruel, the only move that makes sense is for Cruhteo to lash out at his victim. You take the opportunity of the serious discussion completely off the table before this episode even aired.
Finally, we should check up on Inaho. He is, after all, the star of the show… somehow. I think he might have some mild from of autism. No, really, I’m not making an insensitive joke. First, he really gets hung up on semantics. Magbaredge isn’t happy to learn that Inaho had known about the princess’s identity all along: “You… were aware of this, yet neglected to inform me.” Still, Inaho counters, “I didn’t neglect to inform you. I deliberately didn’t.” C’mon, man, this is just semantics. You’re a smart guy; you know exactly what she means. Second, Asseylum thanks Inaho for saving her over and over, but how does he respond? Pfft, I wasn’t trying to save you. I was in danger, so I had to fight. I saved myself. Oh man, I don’t think there’s any childhood trauma here. I think he’s just autistic. Might even explain why he’s such an idiot savant about military strategy.
Stray observations & misc. notes:
— The ship’s name is Deucalion. A quick Google search tells me that Deucalion is also the name of Prometheus’s son, but I’m too lazy to read the Wikipedia entry on the guy. I doubt the connection to Greek mythology means all that much anyway.
— “Reserves are still working,” they say. How convenient, I say. Martian ships, however, have no fuel gauge. Apparently, they are powered by Aldnoah power and Aldnoah power alone. It’s a good thing we have a Martian princess onboa–… whoa, did Asseylum really need to throw the guy to the ground? All he did was grab her hand.
— Asseylum: “There is no cause for harm. I am your friend.” You just threw the guy to the ground!
— You’d think the Martians with their superior technology would have more effective “interrogative techniques” (read: torture). Y’know, something a little more sophisticated like fucking with the guy’s mind with computers or something. But according to Cruhteo, primitive tortures are more effective. Whatever you say, sadist.
— “Intent? As if this child is capable of thought.” W-what does that even mean? I know you assholes hate Earthlings, but how can Slaine not have intent? What do you think he did, then? Did the guy merely stumble his way to the emperor’s room? Hurr, where am I? Oh hey there, your majesty!
— Does the Deucalion even handle like a regular ship? Yes, yes it does: “The FCS has been adjusted so it feels the same when I steer.” Yeah, we have yet another problem easily hand-waved away. It’s not that this makes or breaks the anime. But if anyone ever wonders why Aldnoah.Zero just falls sort of greatness, these little blemishes add up. If they add up too much, they pull us out of the anime. Of course, the anime’s biggest problem is that the characters are paper-thin, but hey, the small stuff matters too.
— I chuckled at Rayet’s frumpy hoodie.
— Anyway, even though Asseylum has revealed herself to a few more eyes, the situation is still the same. They can barely contact anyone, and even if they tried, it’ll probably just be intercepted. Our heroes have no choice but to maintain, i.e. regroup in Russia. It’s funny how the status quo is so easily maintained.
— I’m getting kind of tired of Rayet and her emotional outbursts. Why? ‘Cause nothing’s really changed on this front. The show’s characters appear to be paralyzed, unable to move forward in their lives. Old Man Marito locks up every time he tries to be, well, useful, Slaine keeps trying to reunite with the princess but can’t, Rayet is still deeply traumatized by her father’s death but she can’t get any closure, so on and so forth. And yeah, it’s a war so you expect people to have their troubles. But after eight episodes of the same thing, I’m numb. I’m numb to Rayet’s hate for the Martians. I just want to see some progress already.
— So, have they fed Slaine anything? Or given him a drink of water? Saazbaum’s right, man. He can’t say shit if he’s an inch away from dying.
— Predictably enough, Old Man Marito wants to get hammered in the infirmary. You can’t say Old Man Marito doesn’t set the best examples for his kids! The worst part is that this is all the screen time he even gets in this week’s episode. His entire contribution is, “Yo doc, help get me hammered.”
— Bleh, more scenes of Slaine and Asseylum when they were younger. Nothing new to glean here. Asseylum wants the two planets to work together, Slaine encourages her to ganbatte it up, blah blah blah.
— Eddy’s schtick is also annoying, too. She’s the same character she was at the start of the series. I just want these characters to grow and change. Is that such a crime?
— Inaho tries to bring Slaine up, but Calm interrupts him. Still, I find that really odd. A Martian aircraft shows up out of nowhere to save their asses. Then after the battle, the Martian aircraft disappeared. Why did nobody bother to ask Inaho what had happened between them? Why is no one remotely suspicious of the fact that the Martian aircraft simply disappeared into thin air like a fart in the wind?
— Calm charges up to Inaho, demanding to know where the Martians are. Meanwhile, Asseylum is just standing there in her fancy dress. Calm’s not too observant in the heat of the moment, is he? This is probably why he’s an engineer and not a fighter.
— So he finally tells her about Slaine… kind of. Obviously, he doesn’t know anything about Slaine — his name, what the guy looks like, etc. — so he couldn’t identify the guy for Asseylum. Nevertheless, Inaho really believes Slaine was the enemy. Why would Slaine help them kill Femianne if he wanted to kill the princess? Oh well.
— I wouldn’t say this scene does a very good job of developing either character. It certainly doesn’t develop Inaho whatsoever, since he’s just… well, he’s just kind of there. As for the princess, she tells him all about how she became enamored with Earth after hearing Slaine’s stories about his home planet. I don’t know, does that really reveal anything about her character? Not really. She’s still the peace-loving goody two-shoes that I expect her to be. The music tries to sound all contemplative and shit, but there’s nothing here to really meditate on.
— We then see Slaine get whipped again. He re-iterates his desire to protect the princess at all costs, whether it’d be from Martians or Terrans. Yeah, so we know he and Inaho will butt heads again. The princess won’t be there so they’ll misunderstand each other again. But the next time, they fight, she will be there, then they’ll learn the errors of their ways!
— I’m somewhat surprised Cruhteo actually managed to come to the conclusion that Asseylum could still be alive. After all, why does he think it’s so damn impossible that anyone could defeat Femianne? Nobody seemed to raise a fuss when both Trillram and Vlad bit the dust.
— Is Cruhteo just stupid or what? Instead of running for his life, he goes, “Ready my Tharsis!” He immediately bites the dust… supposedly. I still hold out hope we get a decent antagonist out of this, but he’s probably dead. Lame.
— I wonder if Saazbaum will use superior torture techniques, and as a result, brainwash Slaine into becoming his loyal minion or something.