I actually like this episode quite a bit better than the previous ones. No, one episode alone isn’t going to change my opinion of the series as a whole. And it’s not like the episode itself is perfect or anything. But at the very least, it deviates from the stale battle-of-the-week format that the series has often employed. Instead, the characters spend a lot of times talking to each other, but not in a bad way. Not in a let-me-forcefeed-exposition-down-your-gullet way. And of course, Inaho has always been slightly more palatable when he uses his intelligence and keen insight directly as they are. The problem with His Almighty Gary Stuness is that he can do it all. Not only is he the smartest person in the room, he is also the best goddamn pilot. Take Lelouch, for instance. Smartest person in the room. Also capable in a mecha. Just capable, though. There were plenty of people who were far superior to Lelouch in both direct and mecha combat. I don’t like Code Geass at all, but even so, I can recognize what it does better than Aldnoah.Zero.
I simply wish the characters here would have proper strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, Inaho’s only real weakness all series long — and this includes the first cour — was that he was cold and robotic, but even that isn’t really a thing anymore. And this is fine in a vacuum. As the story develops, so should the main character. He should be able to grow and perhaps overcome his weaknesses. But the main problem is that he’s good at everything, and as such, he just isn’t a compelling character. In some sense, we like to root for the underdog, but this goes a bit further than that. We like to see character overcome their odds even if they’re not exactly underdogs. Inaho doesn’t really have tall odds of his own to overcome. Since he’s good at everything, the only thing holding him back is… well… Earth. If the playing field had been even from the very start, our hero probably would’ve won the war by now. In essence, you have this character who doesn’t really have a personal weakness to overcome, and as an audience member, it is thus difficult to relate to and cheer for the guy.
In any case, this episode doesn’t exactly give Inaho a weakness to overcome, but at least it doesn’t play up the fact that he’s a master-of-all-trades. At the same time, Rayet also receives slightly more character development. Not a lot, but for a series like Aldnoah.Zero, just a little goes a long way. In general, however, the show also has a problem in that the side characters aren’t fully realized. They get so little of the spotlight that it’s not that they don’t have weaknesses. As we can well see in this week’s episode, she clearly does. But again, the story often places so little emphasis on the side characters that their strengths and weaknesses are hard to make out. Only Marito has had significant character development, and that’s only because the story bludgeoned his problems down our throats for weeks and weeks on end. And to end this section on a lighter note, the episode is also highly palatable because Slaine is hardly in it. That’s always a plus. It’s just too bad we’ll have to wait until the very end of the story to hopefully see him get deleted from the narrative altogether.
Stray notes and observations:
— Darzana noticeably jerks her head when she hears that Marito will back on board. That’s cool; they have a shared history after all. I just hope the story doesn’t engineer a love story out of those two. That would just be hamfisted in my book.
— The good doctor (not really) warns Inaho not to push the limits of his artificial eye too much. Apparently, this might result in significant brain damage. It might be interesting to see what extents Inaho might go to in order to save Asseylum. I’m just not optimistic that the anime can pull it off. But seriously, it would be something to see Inaho win the war, but end up condemning himself to eternal vegetable status for the rest of his life.
— Yuki tries to confront her brother, but I find her reasoning wholly uncompelling. She honestly wonders why Inaho is still fighting. C’mon, man. You know why. We all know why. Besides, even supposing that Inaho didn’t want to fight, where would he go? Haven’t most major metropolitan areas either been destroyed or occupied by Martian forces? It simply makes sense that someone with his talents may as well lend a helping hand when the situation is this dire. There’s simply nowhere else to go. He’d just be a refugee huddling in some uncomfortable corner of the world, waiting and hoping for the war to end and end favorably. That’s certainly not going to happen if every older brother or sister out there gets their way, and keeps their talented family members from actually fighting for a just cause.
— Afterwards, Inaho goes to interrogate the imprisoned count. Apparently, he has found a potential ally.
— Elsewhere, the girls are shocked at Rayet’s ability to keep such an awesome figure. It’s anime, though, so they all have awesome figures. Obviously, this is supposed to be a light-hearted moment, but it nevertheless calls to mind anime’s refusal to draw more than one body type for its female characters. You can’t tell me Rayet is especially hot when they each look like they weigh 100 pounds at most.
— Slaine finally rears his ugly head, and he’s giving a lecture on birds to both the comatose Asseylum and the idiotic Eddy. I recently read a story about a guy who was in a coma for years, but at the same time, he was also aware of what was happening around him. He apparently heard his own mother wish that he would die. But again, he was stuck in a coma, so he understood how she felt. He also wish that he could die.
Honestly, who would want to be kept alive for years in a comatose state? You can only lie there unable to move, unable to speak, unable to interact in any meaningful way with the world around you. Anyway, who knows if Asseylum is aware of anything, but imagine if she was. Imagine if she had to float there and listen as Slaine continued to wage a bloody war in her name. Imagine her floating there and listening to Lemrina’s declaration that she will take everything away from Asseylum. And of course, there’s Eddy being a terrible character who hasn’t developed whatsoever since the first cour… it’s always nice to see one friend turn against all your other friends.
— The cognitive dissonance is deafening.
— On the other hand, you have Lemrina disguised as Asselyum, and listening to a count compare the latter to a caged bird. You can just imagine how Lemrina feels, because nobody even wants her as a caged bird. She only gets to pretend that she’s a caged bird.
— I don’t want to get into Inaho’s interrogation of the imprisoned count too much. I mean, yeah, it’s better to see Inaho use his talents in less Gary Stu ways, but it’s also a pretty straightforward encounter between the two characters. I don’t find it interesting enough to highlight.
— In the end, he and Rayet break the guy out of jail, and sends him back to his Landing Castle. Why? So that the count can be a secret agent of sorts, and figure out A) what’s going on with Asseylum and B) what Slaine is ultimately up to.
— It turns out Inko was watching the entire time, but what could this honestly lead to? Inko hasn’t really had much development, so it’s hard to see what she would actually do with this knowledge that will significantly impact the events of the story. She clearly likes Inaho, but it’s not like she’s gripped with mad jealousy over the fact that he’s clearly in love with Asseylum.
— Back in space, Slaine is finding that Lemrina is not exactly someone that he can just keep under his thumb. She will play a large role in his downfall. It’s just a question of when this will happen.
— These mechas do not look good. Just more plastic-looking, monochrome monstrosities.
— The episode ends with a count challenging Slaine to a duel. Unfortunately, Slaine is the bad guy’s Inaho, so there’s no real drama here. I can’t imagine a scenario in which he could honestly lose or even come close to losing to this guy.