Back in 1972, an alien hypergate was found on the moon. Using this foreign technology, humans found that they were able to live on Mars, and began settling there. After those that moved to Mars discovered more of this technology, the Vers Empire was created – claiming the alien secrets of Mars for themselves. In 1999 the Vers Empire declared war on Earth, which caused the hypergate to explode and destroy the moon. Fifteen years later, in 2014, an attack on the Vers princess during a peace mission to Earth caused the Empire to launch a new attack as they seek to destroy the ‘terrans’ once and for all.
I guess Aldnoah Zero is a mecha anime based around space. It’s a sci-fi tale of interplanetary war, freedom and planetary racism filled with, as you can image, a large cast of characters. It’s got some big shoes to fill, being somewhat of the brainchild of Gen Urobochi but, whilst it has potential, there was just something that I couldn’t put my finger on here.
There is a big of a ‘space opera’ feel to things here, with the galactic warfare between Earth and Mars, it’s political conspiracies, mecha and extensively large cast. Everything is on such a huge scale that this anime has a lot of things to consider. There is a big reward for pulling this off but, as you can imagine, there’s great risk involved.
One of the main drawbacks to having such a big cast is always having to change perspectives. Even though we come to realise who the main characters will be early on, the more action-packed things get the more people that will get involved. And that means more time away from the main characters to give the supporting characters some time to interact, develop, and ultimately show the viewer why they deserve to have this screen time. It does make you wonder which are the most important bits (the bits you should be speculating about) rather than watching dialogue between a few characters which seems to be there just to establish that yes, they are still alive and will probably be doing something important later on.
However, the main characters seem to be Inaho Kaizuka, a young terran who has been thrown into the middle of everything and is quickly shaping up to be the main driving force behind Earth’s secret fighting potential. On the other hand, Slaine Troyard is a terran serving the Vers Empire in the Mars colonies who is slowly becoming downtrodden and resentful to his treatment by the Empire.
To Aldnoah Zero’s credit, a lot of things were set up in a short space of time. The pace was a little meandering to begin with in the first episode, but with the attack on the Vers princess everything suddenly kicked into gear. Due to the large cast and the clash between factions (planets) there are plenty of conspiracies, motives and hidden agendas already at work here. Exposition was impressive and the animation is very clean and impressive-looking. The characters (even in large crowds) are well-drawn and there is detailed animation in everything. Nothing looks too unnatural here and there’s a nice sense of realism to everything that made me think: is this what would happen if people really move to Mars? Would it just mean more war? It’s a great concept that had me projecting my own thoughts and asking a lot of ‘what if’s.
However, I do find all the intricate mecha descriptions and fight scenes a little… dare I say it? Boring. Granted, I’m not exactly a mecha fangirl. I’ve watched a few well-known ones such as Evangelion and Gundam, but there really has to be something special here for me to commit to watching it. I’ve already dropped Argevollen this season after two episodes because I couldn’t really immerse myself in it. I had considered dropping this one too but, unlike Argevollen, this one has a few concepts firing at once. Unfortunately, I really enjoy the political intrigue and the reason behind the bad blood between the terrans and Vers. The mecha is almost an inconvenience to me. I sometimes think “this battle scene needs to end soon or else I’m going to start forgetting the names of some of these characters”.
I don’t know what Aldnoah Zero has in store for me in future episodes, or where these conspiracies are going to lead. I want to stick around and find out. Hopefully the complexities and characters will deepen and the mecha battles won’t continue to dominate the screen time. Depending on how things pan out, I could be very pleased or very disappointed.