Some old faces are back. That’s neat, I guess.
— Both Marito and and Yuki finally show up again in the story. Where have they been? Well, Yemen of all places. Marito personally requested to be stationed elsewhere. I’m sure being around Darzana wasn’t helping much, and he pretty much admits as much. Rumor has it, however, that Yuki was reassigned because she kept trying to bug her superiors to remove Inaho from the front lines. Yeah, I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work considering how 1) Inaho doesn’t personally want this and 2) he’s also been saving their asses repeatedly. On a more serious level, it’s just selfish. The fate of the entire planet is at stake, and Yuki wants to keep Earth’s greatest soldier from fighting? C’mon. You can’t exactly blame the superiors here.
— Elsewhere, Slaine schemes some more to solidify his position as a newly minted knight. Some of the Orbital Knights still oppose him, but we don’t really see much of it. It’s a token resistance at best.
— At the same time, Lemrina awkwardly drops some exposition on us about her father. Yeah, I don’t really care. She also reminds Slaine that he has to protect her first and foremost. Her insecurities will get the better of her. I’m still expecting a betrayal on her end to be the reason why Slaine eventually fails.
— Back on Earth, some Orbital Knights I know nothing about finally convinces another Orbital Knight that I also know nothing about to finally join the fray. The story keeps killing them off as soon as they are introduced, so what do you honestly expect from me?
— The anime cuts to Marito and Yuki meeting with the base’s captain, but it’s really just more exposition. And you’ll notice that Yuki constantly makes that face throughout the episode.
— Nope, nope, Inaho’s not a Gary Stu at all. La la la. I don’t care if the characters themselves admit this!
— Eventually, we reach the point where the episode has dumped enough exposition, and as a result, the villain of the week must rear his ugly head.
— What’s with the balls floating around him? Well, the writer is really, really in love with gravity winds, so this guy’s gimmick is that he can literally manipulate tidal forces. This pretty much protects him from everything, because things just break apart when they get close. Tidal forces, man. Tidal fucking forces. And yet, the Vers Empire hasn’t already won this stupid war. Why? Because it’s simple. They always attack alone, and they always attack slowly. Eventually, the gimmick gets figured out, and Inaho will do this stupid bullshit thing and defeat the bad guy. I know that Vers military has soldiers. You could have the enemy commander leading a battalion of mechas to attack a base. But no, it’s always just one guy showing up by himself, then getting his ass handed to him.
And how much longer can you simply fall back on the weakass “Oh, they’re arrogant, so it’s biting them in the ass” excuse? Sure, the first few times this has happened, you can chalk it up to arrogance. But when the war is stalling, you’d think one fucking person in that entire military would pipe up and say, “Yo, maybe we should stop sending in our precious mechas to die one-by-one? Just a thought….”
— Anyway, it’s Marito who spots the villain-of-the-week’s weakness, and this allows Inaho to finally show up fashionably late in order to save the day. A couple things, of course. The show’s apologist will point to this as a prime example of Inaho not doing it all. But that has never really been the point. It’s hyperbole to mock the show. The point is that Inaho still does too much within the narrative, and nitpicking that he doesn’t do everything doesn’t change that whatsoever. Case in point, why did it even have to be Inaho who took those shots this week? Once Marito figured out how to defeat the bad guy, they could’ve had anyone get the job done. Rayet or Inko, for instance. But no, it’s always Inaho. The glory still belongs to him. It doesn’t really matter if Marito lured the bad guy into the right place, because 1) if Inaho was there, he’d likely figure it out even quicker and 2) the characters continue to sing the kid’s praises anyway.
— In the end, Marito still even looks like a fool. I get it. The trauma still haunts him to some degree, and even if he’s confronting his past, he’s not going to rid himself completely of the nightmare that has been plaguing him for years. But the execution is terrible. Why is he lunging at the camera so dramatically like that?
— This time, however, it doesn’t seem as though our heroes will outright kill the villain-of-the-week. And since the first thing we learned about the guy was how he didn’t really want to fight and thus deplete Earth’s natural resources, you can’t help but wonder if perhaps he may change sides later in the story. But that’s for later…
— Elsewhere, Slaine singlehandedly attacks and destroys Trident Base. Yep, all by his lonesome. Maybe that’s why the Vers Empire keeps sending a single knight on any given mission, because they honestly expect these results every single time. But Slaine only succeeds because he’s Inaho’s foil. This is supposedly a war between two planets, but the two giants on each side are really Inaho and Slaine. They’re the only ones who can actually do anything, and the rest of the solar system is just along for the ride. And in more capable hands, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this premise.
The problem is that Aldnoah.Zero is lazy. Slaine and Inaho aren’t great men who have risen above the ranks by doing all that they could. They simply have plot shield on, so they singlehandedly win every battle by themselves. Unless you’re a little kid, it’s not awe-inspiring whatsoever. I’m not asking them to become Frank Underwood or anything. I’m not asking a mecha anime to suddenly become a political thriller. But there are surely better ways to convey Slaine and Inaho’s superiority without having them zip around the battlefield, sniping enemy mechas down as though they’re ants at the mercy of some cruel kid and a magnifying glass.
For instance, Slaine is trying to win his detractors over. This is a common plot thread in similar Machiavellian tales. You see it all the time. But it’s how Slaine goes about it. He simply destroys a base and voila. He hasn’t won everyone over, but for now, mission fucking accomplished. How cheap and lame is that? Then of course, everyone’s all like “Slaine’s turned into a wolf!” The words are hollow, though. It doesn’t feel like he’s earned their respect. He simply turned destroyed a base offscreen, and again, unless you’re a little kid, it’s hard to be impressed by some overpowered dude in a mecha doing things that seem even cartoonish for what’s already a silly cartoon.
— Yuki happily reunites with her former friends, but Inaho is noticeably absent from the scene. He’s busy telling himself that he has no choice but to take Slaine down. Uh, was he going to come to a compromise with the guy before? Out of respect for Asseylum or something?
— Now that Marito and Yuki are back — as well as Marito’s highly irresponsible doctor (did he just pour a former alcoholic a shot?) — it’s really just Asseylum who’s missing. How much longer can the story keep her in a coma?