Aldnoah.Zero – Episode 5: Phantom of The Emperor

Sins you’ve commited cling to your soul and haunt you forever.” – Koichirō Marito

Synopsis: The Emperor of Mars calls for a cease-fire. Inaho and friends take the moment to rest aboard an Earth Navy Ship. Slaine tries to find a way to reveal the conspiracy of the Martian Forces true intentions.

Impression:

 Again, as with episode 4, I found myself pondering the purpose of episode 5. We received small snippets, quasi-details, all of which amounted to yet another action scene, said action scene lacking the riveting heart of battles episode prior. It all felt a bit limp. That’s not to say the episode wasn’t interesting – every morsel of information amounts to even more compelling characters forming along the way – and yet, ultimately, episode 5 was missing the intriguing character exchanges and, as a result, the plot progression the series needs to propel itself into the post ‘introduction’ stages. To put it simply, at the beginning of the episode the group were in a ship on the sea and Earth was at war with Vers; by the episode’s conclusion the group were in a ship on the sea and Earth was at war with Vers – episode 5 was used as a means to deals with small snags in the story such as the Emperor: no one knew if he advocated the war and, if he did, why – essentially, they sanded, polished and preened the introduction.

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 The episode began with Slaine crashing the party, his life pod/space shuttle/coffin bursting through the walls of a Martian castle, Slaine the emerging from the inside…only then to effectively drown in the liquid that, I assume, was meant to be keeping him alive(?) (who designed that thing and did Slaine sue them?) This leads the five years more youthful Princess Asseylum to give a total stranger the kiss ‘o life (oi, oi – cheeky!), thus saving his life and leaving him forever horny in her debt. This is but the first example of factual tidbits that helped flesh out a known character – we now (partly, I assume) know the reason why Slaine is so very fond of the Princess and why he feels so inclined to protect her – but took away from the stories progression. Yes, it was nice finally getting to see Vers, however eerily devoid of any sign of population, and yes it was nice to finally broach the subject of Slaine’s affiliation to Vers, but such a scene could have come much later with no loss of impact or importance.

 Another important factor in episode 5 was that of the Emperor and his objections/uncertainty pertaining to the war with Earth. The Emperor himself wasn’t actually all that interesting – in all honesty, he was a bit cliché. When the leader of a country or faction is borderline non-existent in anime (or any storytelling medium, for that matter), you can almost guarantee that their either being manipulated or that they don’t really exist – those are your two cookie-cutter options. Aldnoah Zero has opted for the former, a decision that most likely means we won’t be seeing the Emperor ever again… Or, at least, until the war’s conclusion (that or the Emperor will be overthrown by the Martian army). The Armistice arose and died within what felt like the space of an afternoon – one minute Inko is walking through the halls of the ship pondering the newly announced armistice, the next she’s sitting in the mess hall eating her dinner and the armistice is called off (by proxy, I suppose). It all just felt like an ‘easy‘ way for the writers to excuse the Emperor’s absence and his abstinence from partaking in his countries affairs – he’s old, he’s ignorant, he’s being manipulated – color me unmoved. In fact, for me to fully enjoy this anime I suppose I’m simply going to have to overlook anything to do with Vers and their reason for war because, really, there isn’t one! Grr, we hate people from Earth, let’s kill them isn’t a reason for warfare (although, then again, history has, more often than not, taught us otherwise). What’s that? The Princess was assassinated and that’s their reason for war? They’re the one’s who orchestrated the whole assassination affair! What could they possibly have to gain by slaughtering the people of Earth? Nothing, other than a means of sating their bloodlust. It’s just not satisfying (note: I could write an entire dissertation on the role of the racial superiority complex and it’s effects on human history (I’m looking at you, Hitler), but I’ll refrain so as to save you from a massive tangent.)

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 Then came the battle. Vlad, the Martian knight, sought out his revenge after having been defeated in episode 4, landing on the ship carrying the main group and slicing up a couple of Areion mech’s with his Argyre before promptly and swiftly being defeated by Inaho in his training mech (called a Sleipnir, apparently). Once again question can be raised along the lines of, “How on Earth did Inaho know about ‘steam explosions’ and the effects of thermal energy in seawater” and “I smell a Gary-Stu”, but we as the viewer are just going to except that Inaho knows a lot for his age and rightly so in a time where children are being taught to fight in mech’s as a part of their school curriculum. Hell, perhaps Inaho thought throwing a  Kataphrakt in water worked once so why not try it again? I’m just going to throw this out there: if all the Kataphrakt’s weaknesses are water (there’s no water on Mars! wink, wink), I’m not going to be a very happy bunny. If the situation continues in that everyone else is incompetent and only Inaho can save the day, the series ‘formula for success’ is quickly going to become very tiresome. I thought for a moment that Lieutenant Marito might spice up the action by showing everyone how it’s done, but alas it would appear our dashing and disheveled teacher has a slight touch of PTSD… I wonder how that’s going to affect our group’s fighting capabilities, especially seeing how he was ‘fine’ fighting in episode 2, but now with the re-emergence of a certain John Humeray in Marito’s subconscious, will he ever be able to pilot a mech again? Probably.

 Overall episode 5 of Aldnoah Zero was good – despite its slight faults and foibles – and upon the episodes conclusion we’re left with two predominant questions, namely: who the hell is Dr. Troyard (wild guess: Slaine Troyard‘s father) and how will Slaine escape Saazbaum’s wrath now that Slaine is seen to be a threat to the Martian ’cause’ (whatever that may be…) Now, let us war!

Chris.

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