The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Aldnoah.Zero

Title: Aldnoah.Zero
Genre: Action/Drama
Companies: A-1 Pictures/TROYCA
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 5 July 2014 – 28 Mar 2015

Synopsis: The year is 2014.  It has been fifteen years since humanity last fought a war against a radical group of martian colonists attempting to conquer Earth. An unstable peace has settled since then, but both sides have been secretly equipping themselves for an inevitable clash.  When a martian princess is assassinated during a peace mission, the stalemate is finally broken. Now, with all inhibitions gone, the martians aim to dominate Earth with their superior technology: the Aldnoah drive.

The Highlights
CGI and animation: Looks quite nice but falls just shy of impressive.
Characters: Could have been a lot more compelling with back stories with a bit more oomph.
Story: Has the trappings of an epic adventure, but just doesn’t feel like one overall.

Aldnoah.Zero is an epic space soap opera in the same vein as Gundam, filled with politics, melodrama, senseless murder and lots and lots of robots.  The show adds a twist to the formula by reversing the usual power dynamic. Instead of the title mech simply mowing down waves of nameless foes, Aldnoah Zero places the protagonist, Inaho, amongst a grunt army.  This effectively flips the tables forcing humanity to use their army strategically to take down superior physics-defying machines.  During the first encounters, this approach works to prop up the developing narrative and emotionally distant cast of characters.  Sadly, the show sheds its strategic luster rather quickly and the story and characters never truly come around to pick up the slack.

The truth is that I want to like Aldnoah.Zero; I really do.  Yet the show never has anything that I can really sink my teeth into.  Gundam is compelling not because it has giant robots, but because it is the story of a fascist state making a mess of the world in its bid for global conquest. Alnoah.Zero plays against a backdrop of interplanetary war between martian colonists and Earthlings, but aside from some scheming among the various political leaders, it is not particularly compelling. The show leaves me wondering what it is trying to say and what emotions it expects me to feel.

This is largely due to the series’ decision to focus the story on a weird love triangle between our protagonist Inaho, a princess and her knight, none of whom are interesting enough to care about. Inaho is a savant of strategy who uses his amazing ability to solve physics puzzles to take down seemingly invincible enemies. Though the show sets him up to be cool, there is really nothing more to him, making him a rather boring lead. The princess fairs a bit better and manages to breath some life into an otherwise lackluster narrative. Lively and assertive, she shares some nice moments with Inaho as their relationship develops. Her knight Slaine challenges Inaho both in battle and for the princess’ affection. However, during a key moment where they should join forces, Slaine is awkwardly pushed in another direction for the sake of melodrama. This triangle could have worked if Inaho had a stronger personality, his foil had a compelling motivation for his actions and the princess wasn’t pushed towards irrelevance part way through. Overall these characters lack the chemistry needed to drive the story.

On a purely technical level, the show is very good. While not movie quality, the amount of action and the rather high quality of the fight scenes must have strained a television budget to its upper limits.  The animation is a bit lacking in motion, but the character designs are appealing and nothing feels cut-rate.  It’s clear most of the effort went into the CGI robots  and effects, given all the lasers, explosions and flashes of gunfire covering the screen. The music is another solid pillar of the show with Sawano Hiroyuki taking the helm of the original soundtrack. Among the many compositions, be sure to check out “aLIEz” which is the highlight to the list of tracks due to its sheer catchiness.

I am rather lukewarm on Aldnoah.Zero.  The original concept of normal grunt units taking down technological behemoths is cool, and the fight scenes are about as much as I could ask for from a television series, but there is no meaningful journey to be had from this anime.  The characters are too emotionally distant and the story does not work without the emotional investment.  Watch this this show if you’re just in it for the giant robots because everything else fails to click the right way.

The Rating: 5
5/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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