“She isn’t the enemy.” – Inaho Kaizuka
Synopsis: The Martians bombard the Earth with meteor attacks. Inhao and friends continue to travel with a Terran military squad when they are attacked by another Martian Kataphrakt.
In episode 4 of Aldnoah Zero we see Inaho and the main group begin to recuperate after a both physically and emotionally taxing battle with Trillram and his Kataphrakt. The choice to plunge our characters into battle so soon after the culmination of the last seemed at first to me pointless: for what purpose, plot or otherwise, did Inaho and the group need to face an altercation with an enemy that, to be quite frank, clearly wasn’t as imposing or as much of a logical issue for the group as Trillram and his Kataphrakt? Did they need an active battlefield to introduce Mizusaki and the fleet in an exciting and thrilling way? Do they simply want to use that battle soundtrack every episode to get us all hyped for that next episode? Or did it all have something to do with episode 4’s underlying theme…?
The underlying theme I speak of stems from the episode’s title itself – Point of No Return. The aforementioned ‘recuperation’ also served in some ways as a reflection, as evidenced by Calm’s moment of nostalgia during their escape from the city. Very early on in the episode, the Princess made note of the fact that she needs to contact her grandfather to bring “this war…to an end immediately.” The Princess truly believes that her being alive will end this war, but, as Calm pointed out alongside his declaration of “I’ll make them pay!“, the Martians have created too much pain and shed too much blood for the Terran humans to consider any sort of peace in the near future: this is the point of no return for the Martians. The majority view on Earth (I assume) is that the Martian’s need to be punished – remember, as Calm pointed out, this isn’t the first time the Martian’s have caused suffering on Earth (Heaven’s Fall) – and thus hostilities are now, and for the foreseeable future, at their height.
However it’s also important to remember that there are nuanced levels of distaste for the Martians, take Inaho, for example. Clearly Inaho studied History in school (that, and or he’s actually using his brain) for he seems to understand that, in war, not everyone on one side can be labelled ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Hell, we haven’t even seen Mars or it’s people yet! Inaho alludes to the fact that, in extreme situations where there’s no telling when an enemy will come, “human beings aren’t known for remaining calm and rational“, which is funny to me due in part to the fact that the one character named ‘Calm’ is perhaps the most miffed about the Martian’s cruel treatment out them (and rightly so, mind you). I’m just glad that we’ve got a lead character who understands the mechanics of war and the social implications of warfare, although, to be fair, in most mecha anime from the 21st century the main characters tend to either, A, fall in love with someone who would otherwise be ostracized, and or B, show a distinct intellect and understanding of people and there situations – it’s almost a staple of the genre at this point. But that’s not to say that Inaho won’t face some turbelence as a consequence of his views…
I’m only going to briefly talk about Rayet because she didn’t end up having a lot of screen time in this episode, presumably because of the episode’s action focused latter half. Rayet was probably the worst person the Princess could reveal herself in front of, Rayet’s history with the Martian’s and Rayet’s part in this whole affair (and also Rayet’s father’s death at the hands of the Martians) causing visible tensions when the topic of the Princesses identity is brought up. “I’ll make no garuntees” she says juxtapose Inaho’s clearly more rational judgement on the idea of revealing the Princess to the rest of the group. Adversely, it’s important to remember that Rayet isn’t a bad person; she’s simply been nurtured in such a way that ‘Martian’ and ‘Human’ are clearly two separate things: one is (now – remember, in episode 1 Rayet was on the verge of actual becoming a citizen of Vers) the enemy, the other, the ally. Inaho on the other hand has no such predispositions. Each character is true unto themselves and each character’s individual personality really had a chance to shine in episode 4.
Does anyone else feel really sorry for Slaine whilst almost being minutely angry at him for returning to Vers? Yes he had nowhere else to go and maybe he’s got a plan tucked away up his sleeve but he’s been stewing in a personality/allegiance crisis for the last for episodes without any real contribution other than to the plot by killing Trillram, and action to was easily explained away by the more feasible alternative of his annihilation during the meteor strikes on the city! Slaine is, as of this moment in time, my least favourite main character, but he’s also the character with the most potential! All that can be done is wait: only time will tell if Slaine can live up to his potential… On a side note, the ‘Point of No Return‘ can also be seen as the embodiment of Slaine’s final words in the episode – “Please allow me to avenge Princess Asseylym!”. It is known to the viewer that Slaine knows she’s alive and so the question becomes, what exactly is Slaine planning to do? Commandeer a Kataphrakt only to turn it on his Martian masters? Wouldn’t that be a sight to see…
Finally, let’s talk about the battle. “It’s not like you to be so reckless, Inaho,” were Inko’s words after the battle’s conclusion and for this I have to explanations. After the slaughter of Appaloosa 33, the fight to postpone the Argyre’s advance begins, Inaho jumping into battle to protect his friends and family as he did in episode 3. This is the first explanation: that Inaho wasn’t acting recklessly and that, in reality, he was simply providing the fleet with enough time to get away. This is a logical conclusions to come to, however I dont’ think that’s what Gen Urobuchi or Katsuhiko Takayama were going for. The biggest piece of evidence for this hypothesis came from Inaho’s last words in the episode – “I suppose it isn’t,” followed by a glance in the Princesses direction, and then, “Maybe you’re right.” An allusion to romance? Perhaps. But it’s also important to note that the one of the episode’s focal points was the Princesses identity. By fighting back, Inaho allowed for a situation where the Princess had neither to put herself in danger or reveal her identity; he protected her. Whether or not his reasoning for this stemmed from romantic intentions has yet to be seen…
To conclude, episode 4 of Aldnoah Zero was, despite the lack of constant action and a lack of any real plot development, an interesting episode over all. To really gauge the focal point of episode 4, careful attention needed to be paid to the small details and remarks, because, if anything, episode 4 was all about character development and notable shifts in character behaviours that’ll probably impact on the series in some way or another in the episodes to come. Tensions are rising, Inaho’s struggle to express himself goes on (perhaps a kiss from the lovely Princess will help animate those facial muscles?), and Slaine must finally make a decision!