A moment of self reflection? Sure, let’s have the character literally stare at his own reflection. This supposedly pivotal moment in Slaine’s characterization unfortunately ends up being so on the nose in its execution that there’s no way I can take it seriously. And sadly, this is his big moment in the narrative. This is where it is supposed to all come together, i.e. the realization that he has just profoundly fucked up his life to the point that there is honestly no return. And if you’ve ever had that moment before, you know how palpably transcendent it feels. On the one hand, you know everything has just gone to shit, but on the other hand, because you’ve gone past the point of no return, there’s a sense of inner peace within you. There’s no other way to go from here. All you can do now is put your head down and charge forth and let the chips fall where they may. And that’s why Slaine is making his move at the end of the episode. But like a lot of things in Aldnoah.Zero, the execution is just not there. The show is more impressive on paper than it is in practice.
In fact, this should have been a pretty sick story. At first, Slaine just wanted to be Asseylum’s knight in shining armor. He just wanted to rescue and protect the woman that he loved. Somewhere along the way, he was adopted by a well-respected Orbital Knight, assassinated said knight, went on and was wildly successful with (presumably) numerous military campaigns, struck down another Orbital Knight for challenging him, bent the others to his will, and of course, gained the trust and love of a princess. It’s like a slave boy in the Roman Empire growing up to become emperor. But the cherry on top is that tragic flaw that undoes everything. Slaine has accomplished so, so very much, but it is all for naught if Asseylum cannot love him. And let’s face it, Asseylum will not and cannot love Slaine for what he’s done. Again, on paper, this should be a kickass story. Boy rises against all odds — discrimination and pure hatred, no less — to become one of the most powerful leaders in an Empire. But in the end, his unrequited love will be his downfall. So why isn’t this actually a cooler story?
Why do I feel so bored when I watch this series? It’s the execution. I just can’t feel for Slaine. He should’ve been more Gatsby and less… whatever this sad, pathetic anime character that we got. Of course, it doesn’t help either that our “Daisy” and “Tom” are personality-less. “Daisy” is so boring, we literally write her out of the past six episodes. And as we’ve already discussed to death, “Tom” is more of a Gary. Hell, forget Gatsby. Slaine could have been more ruthless. He could have been more Machiavellian. He could have been more anything aside from this sad, pining sack of shit that he was in the first season, and this story probably would have worked out just a tiny bit. But this is anime, so our antihero doesn’t really break bad. That would make him too ugly. I mean, he’s got blood on his hands, but the series can’t even make us feel uncomfortable about this very fact. Killing Saazbaum isn’t controversial. Killing that jerkass Orbital Knight from last week’s episode isn’t controversial. For an tragic figure, Slaine’s just too much of a pretty boy.
The whole thing doesn’t work. Slaine is just a microcosm of the series as a whole. The whole thing literally doesn’t work. It’s a war between two fucking planets, and you hardly feel the severity of the situation. The Vers Empire wants Earth and its resources badly because things aren’t so hot back on Mars, but we don’t see any of this. We only see ugly, shiny towers on the red planet. They say that the poor are suffering, but you don’t see any of them either. Hell, the main character got shot in the fucking head and he’s still a baby-faced soldier that his damn sister just wants to coddle the heck out of. Most of the conflicts in this series have boiled down to our ragtag group of sexy high school students overcoming a single arrogant Orbital Knight in slick mecha combat. Sure, some faceless grunts will lose their lives, but we quickly move on. Even in a terrible series like Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta, the characters will pause and mourn the lives that have been lost. Here, we get nothing! Onward to the next flashy battle, my sexy high schoolers!
Oh god, something crazy is happening offscreen!!! Well, not really. So what chance does Slaine have? Aldnoah.Zero as a whole is one massive wuss of a series. It’s got no bite to it. It just wants to be pretty. So naturally, our antihero is going to be the same goddamn way. On paper, his rise to the top sounds intriguing. In practice, our pretty boy looks like he’s sleepwalking as he limply eliminates his enemies. He’s pretty enough to garner some defenders, but that only works if you want to make this an Inaho vs. Slaine thing. But fuck all of that. They both suck. and that’s tragic is that Slaine’s story could’ve been more tragic — he could’ve really broken bad — but everything is just so mild and half-assed. It’s so boring. We can’t make him too ugly, because we can’t make anything in this goddamn anime too ugly. But that’s most anime in a nutshell. Just too pretty. I can’t even love to hate Slaine. I’m just bored. Asseylum has recovered! Colony drops everywhere! Slaine killing people! And… none of it makes my heart beat even one tiny iota faster.