Are you prepared to watch an episode that has a surprising dearth of Inaho? No, seriously! It only took us nine episodes too!
— Damn, Saazbaum just comes right out and admits that he’s the one who tried to assassinate the princess. And yet, he’s trying to befriend Slaine, claiming that he’s just repaying a debt to the kid’s father. Obviously, the man cannot be trusted, but is he telling the truth about Dr. Troyard? Is he also telling the truth about the incident fifteen years ago?
— After the opening credits, we see Yuki busy helping Inko as the latter puts herself through a combat simulation. It’s nice to see the two of them take steps to make themselves useful. You almost get this hope that they’ll come into their own as side characters and not just pawns for Inaho to play with. Still, I’m sure when shit inevitably hits the fan for the umpteenth time, Inko and Yuki will just default to following Inaho’s orders. All the training scenes in the world are for naught if nothing they teach gets put into practice.
— Calm still hopes to find himself in a combat position. I’m sure he feels this great need to avenge his fallen allies, but on the other hand, he should thank his lucky stars he doesn’t have to put himself into the direct line of danger.
— Even though Rayet is not yet a soldier, she wants to try the combat simulation too. Well, may as well get her to do something. Otherwise, she just seems to mope around the ship. Yeah, it makes sense that she still isn’t over her father’s death, but at the same time, her character isn’t actually doing anything interesting either. All that pathos is going to waste if you don’t develop her character.
— I think this picture says a lot. I still think Inaho is somewhere on the autism spectrum, so he’s going on about something in a very dry, monotone manner. Asseylum’s too nice and/or polite, so she goes along with it. Oh, I’m not saying she’s faking her interest. I’m saying she’s one of those people who are so nice, they actually make themselves interested. As for Eddy, she’s just an annoying, little brat, so I’m not surprised at all that she’d openly yawn like that.
— Suddenly, the topic turns to Inaho’s love life, which quickly grabs Inko’s attention. Yuki seems rather pleased with Inaho’s current trajectory, though: “…if he marries a princess, my little Nao would be marrying into serious money!” First, you don’t really think a princess could just easily marry a commer, could you? Second, not just any commoner, but an Earthling! There’s still that whole “most of the Martians hate our guts” dealio, but hey, “serious money!” Ka-ching!
— Inko seems mad about these developments, though; it bothers her enough that she cut her own simulation training short. Don’t tell me she likes the guy too. I mean, that guy? He has no personality! Bam, right there and then, the important part is out of the way. But let’s not kid ourselves. Not everyone’s interested in a person’s personality. Shit, Calm knows what I’m talking about. But even if we look at the shallow qualities that might make Inaho appealing, I don’t see it. He’s not rich, he’s not powerful, and he’s not accomplished. He might be smart. That’s about all I can say about our plain-as-fuck main character. Ah, but of course, he’s the main character, and quite a bit of a Gary Stu himself. Not as offensive as, say, SAO‘s Kirito and Mahouka‘s Tatsuya, but still, a Gary Stu in his own rights. So of course, every girl wants him. Luckily, Yuki doesn’t. It’s kind of sad that the only thing we can take solace in is that there’s no incest in this anime… yet.
— Uh… whatever you say, sis. I mean, I can understand. Here’s my own face when I’m on cloud nine.
— Apparently, Inaho’s “ultimate expression of affection” is simply listening to a girl for more than five minutes. Yeesh, I don’t think that will be a very emotionally fulfilling marriage. Knowing how some Asian marriages turn out, though, maybe that’s perfectly fine in Yuki’s mind.
— Yuki then starts teasing Rayet too. I mean, I guess it’s possible, but her too? She’s got too much baggage.
— When the scene changes, Darzana and Kaoru are discussing how they can avoid Martian detection as they fly the Deucalion to their destination (I think they’re headed for some location in Russia). Out of nowhere, Darzana goes, “Would you like to know why you can’t get a date?” Fine, why? Why can’t your executive officer find a man? According to Darzana, it’s because Kaoru always plays it safe! Man, we’re failing the Bechdel test hard, aren’t we? If you think she’s just playing it too safe and you don’t approve of her plan, then just say so. I don’t see what dating a man has anything to do with anything.
— And frankly, it’s pretty ridiculous and unprofessional for a captain to mention someone’s personal life like this. But hey, they’re women and single women to boot! I’m sure in the writers’ minds, there’s nothing single women would love to talk about more than how to find a man!
— So Rayet’s doing well in the combat simulation, ’cause she’s gamer. Or so she claims. Obviously, she’s hiding her past. She then has Yuki turn up the difficulty. As a result, she now finds herself face to face with a simulation of Trillram’s mecha. Uh-oh, traumatic flashback time! Naturally, the girl panics and fails the simulation horribly. Man, first Koichiro and now Rayet. Who else wants to lock up as they’re attempting to pilot a mecha?
— Honestly, the second Yuki heard Rayet screaming like that, she should’ve shut the simulation down.
— Oh lord, now the Doc wants to get his hands on the simulation program too. Yuki asks if he’s “joining the fight,” but we all know whom it’s for. But hey, at least Koichiro’s story will finally be moving forward, right…? Right?
— Soma’s intended therapy for Koichiro isn’t unheard of, but it’s also pretty dangerous. Considering how the latter hasn’t made any progress whatsoever, I question the decision to dump Koichiro into such a realistic simulation. Like usually, don’t you want to build the guy up slowly so that he can finally go back and confront his nightmares? I don’t think Koichiro is equipped to relive his traumatic experiences. He locks up the minute he climbs into a mecha. Shouldn’t he manage that before attempting anything else? Making him see the horrors of the past is like telling a beginner to climb Mt. Everest. Plus, Soma is very likely just a medical doctor, not a psychiatrist.
— Even now, we see Koichiro sitting by himself, taking swigs from a flask as he thinks about his late friend. Dude’s not ready, man.
— Speaking of people who are frozen in time, we cut back to Rayet. She keeps seeing her father’s death over and over. Man, this is a downer episode, and it isn’t letting up. Something tragic’s about to happen, isn’t it?
— Asseylum wants to join Rayet for lunch, clueless about the latter’s hate. Meanwhile, Eddy continues to be a giant sourpuss in every single scene that she’s in. Didn’t anyone teach her about manners in maid school?
— Rayet then starts bring up all sorts of things at once. First, she wonders why Asseylum revealed her identity. Then, she mentions how the princess’s own people had betrayed her. Unfortunately, Asseylum is too lame to say anything in return. So instead, we just have Eddy as a indignant mouthpiece as Rayet rudely walks away. Rayet’s questions aren’t necessarily bad questions, but I was hoping for an actual discussion. But like every goddamn anime ever, no one ever sits down and just talk. I really wish these two characters would’ve just talked. I’m not asking for them to come to a resolution and become friends right this moment, but that was a golden opportunity for both characters to reveal more about themselves through dialogue. But because the scene is cut short, there’s no character development whatsoever. We just have the status quo where Rayet storms off, the princess looks sad, and Eddy is being Eddy. It’s so lame.
— And now we’re back with Koichiro and Soma, those two crazy adults. It really looks like Soma’s going to go through with his plans. Yeah, this is going to be ugly. You’re making a huge mistake, Doc.
— Yo Vietnam vets, wanna go back to the jungle? We hired some Vietnamese people to climb the trees and make fake gun noises. Ratatatatatatat! It’s okay! This is going to treat your PTSD! Hey man, you gotta confront your trauma head on! Don’t be a wuss!
— So apparently, Koichiro was the Platoon Commander, and he ordered all the tanks to attack the Martian mecha. Basically, he feels responsible for all the deaths and shit. Humeray begged for Koichiro to save him, but the latter failed. There was nothing Koichiro could’ve done, though. The guy’s legged was pinned and the whole tank was going up in flames. Sadly, the human mind doesn’t work like that. Even if we logically understand that we’re not at fault, our feelings betray us anyway. To make things worse, Koichiro had to shoot his friend to put him out of his misery (though in all honesty, flames that hot would’ve made the guy’s mind shut down quickly anyway). So I’m not questioning Koichiro’s trauma. I’m just questioning this entire treatment. Seeing as how this is anime, however, I bet you it’ll magically work.
— Then we cut right back to Rayet, who is now naked and in the showers! On the bright side, there’s a surprising lack of Inaho. Sure, the characters have talked about him, but other than that, he’s practically nonexistent in this week’s anime. But then again, we’re now staring at a naked Rayet.
— Essentially, Rayet is all fucked up because of what she’s been through. She can barely keep it together. On the other hand, Asseylum has been just the most perfect princess anyone could ever ask for even though her own people tried and are still trying to assassinate her. This stark contrast not only confuses Rayet, but it really pisses her off. Why does the princess get to be so composed, but I can’t? She’s obviously angry and hurt at the Martians, but she’s just one girl. She can’t do anything to the entire Vers Empire. The princess is symbolic, though; the princess is the perfect target to redirect your anger and hatred. The fact that Asseylum is so calm and composed is just yet another thing for Rayet to get worked up about.
— Oh goodie, we’re back to the two odd couples, Saazbaum and Slaine.
— Saazbaum has never had chicken before. Apparently on Mars, you only eat chlorella, a type of algae, and krill, a teeny, tiny crustacean. So, uh, you guys eat like a bunch of sea animals…
— Saazbaum: “I feel nothing but indignation towards the Terrans who so offhandedly sent them as relief supplies.” He’s talking about the chicken meat again. Damn, man, are you really that worked up about something so petty?
— He also claims that he only started this war so that he can expand his territory. It’s his duty to his vassals, you see… It’s hard to read the guy if only because the man’s motives can’t be that simple, can it? But then again, Aldnoah.Zero hasn’t exactly proven itself to be a very intelligent anime. Not since the first episode, anyway.
— The topic then turns to culture, and we now see the two extremes coming to the forefront. Mars has all this amazing technology at their fingertips, but Earth has culture! Well, be careful what you wish for, ’cause you never know what culture you’ll end up with.
— There’s an interesting line in this scene, though: “[Asseylum] is royalty. Her very lineage is her crime.” Saazbaum is not happy about that incident from fifteen years ago. Heaven’s Fall resulted from that short-lived war, and this caused Saazbaum’s betrothed to lose her life. Basically, the count is out for revenge. But that’s not the part that interests me. I mean, such a personal vendetta like that… meh. As always, it’s the class revolution stuff that has potential: “We are a people oppressed under a feudal system centered around Aldnoah.” Apparently, the Vers Empire is not as prosperous as we have been initially led to believe. Rather, it is quite impoverished, and the royal family can only maintain order by whipping people up into a frenzy against Earth. When you fan the flames of war, you shouldn’t be surprise when war actually breaks out.
See, this is the kind of shit I want more from Aldnoah.Zero. The mecha action is fun, but the characters have proven to be a bore. Give me some political machinations to chew on. This stuff is in more in my wheelhouse. I mean, think about it. The princess is on a peace mission to Earth when her own people is suffering. Is it possible that she’s clueless about their plight? Even if Saazbaum is misguided — and obviously, he is misguided if he thinks starting a war with an entire planet is the solution — the Vers Empire will still have to unfuck itself by the end of the story or we won’t really have a happy ending. And maybe the only solution here is to stop being a bloody empire.
— Slaine is lame, man. He holds a knife to the count’s neck, but then merely says, “Please don’t kill her.” Please? Please? Puh-leeze, dude.
— Speaking of the princess, it’s now her turn to be naked. The scene’s a bit gratuitous in the way it pans slowly over Asseylum’s naked body. But nevermind that for now, because Rayet is stupidly trying to choke the princess out with a necklace. I-Isn’t the princess the only reason this damn ship can fly?
— Sure enough, the princess falls unconscious, and the entire ship starts going down. Welp, you’ve done it now, Rayet. I like how she managed to keep her breasts covered with one arm as the ship makes a crashes to the ground. More importantly, however, we all know the princess isn’t dead. So when she recovers, what will she do? Will she say that Rayet was the person who attacked her? Or will the girl keep it a secret for some foolish reason? With her lame, peace-loving attitude, I’m not sure what she’ll do.