zaterdag 11 oktober 2014

Aldnoah Zero - anime review

Let Justice be Done, Though the Heavens Fall

Based on the manga Olympus Knights,, Aldnoah Zero is a 12 part anime series of the Mecha genre.  Taking place 15 years after the first war between Earth and the Vers empire of Mars, which brutally ended when the moon shattered due to the Hyper Gate there in an event called Heaven`s Fall as debris falls to Earth, the princess of the royal family, Asseylum, wants to make a diplomatic trip to Earth to improve relations.

Synopsis:

Nao is a high school boy, who as all children now is drilled in the art of war to protect the planet should hostilities ever re-awaken, and trains in Sleipnir class mechas.  Vers (Mars) on the other hand uses ancient technology and is considered `wielding the power of Gods`.

When princess Asseylum is seemingly assassinated during the diplomatic mission, the Orbital Knights, royalty of Vers living in orbital castles around Earth, take this as a sign that war is to be waged to avenge her.  Consisiting of 37 clans, the majority of them makes planet fall and start wreaking havoc in the urbanized areas of Earth in their far more advanced mobile suits, as scores of the weaker Earth production line models fall to their might and Earths communications are put out in the first moment of the attack.  This puts Earth defence in a guerilla style of defence warfare, not unlike War of the Worlds.  "Swear Allegiance or be Destroyed" is the credo of the Knights.

It is revealed the princess was not in the parade, but a decoy had been killed instead though.  Actually, she is know amongst the refugees running from the might of the Vers attack force.  The first suit we encounter has a sort of dimensional barrier rendering attacks useless as they pass straight through it, as Count Saazbaum seems to be the instigator of the hostilities and kills his marsian agents that carried out the assassination to leave no trails.

The students of nao`s class figure out though how the field works exactly, and by leaving a smokescreen leave him blinded to their position, as he can`t see when his barrier is up, relying on external sensors which they take out.  By putting the mech into water, they can also determine the gaps in his barrier, and so manage to take it down in the end just as an orbital bombardment strikes.

When informed of the events that the princess might still be alive by Slaine, a human boy living amongst the Vers, the emperor initially orders a cease hostilities to uncover the truth behind it all, but Saazbaum manipulates him, and instead he declares an all out war of extinction on Earth.

Nao in the meantime manages to take out a second `God` with an elaborate plan by overloading it`s plasma swords against itself... the gods can be killed!

Aldnoah itself is an ancient technology created by a disappeared supercivilization on Mars, predating mankind.  It can only be empowered by the genes of the Royal Family, who can also force it to shut down, or by the Orbital Knights themselves who can power the machines that use the tech.

At Tanegashima base, where the Heaven`s Fall first began 15 years ago, Lt Marito, a survivor of that war, faces his demons.  They are attacked by a kataphrakt (the series name for a mobile suit) and only with the intervention of Slaine in a skycarrier can it be held off.  Inside they discover the suit that traumatised the lieutenant 15 years ago... and a battleship called Deucalion, retro engineered with an Aldnoah Drive.  The princess now reveals her true identity to power the vessel and it literally trashes the Orbital Knight`s, Fiereanne, kataphrakt.

Slaine is recaptured by Vers and tortured by Count Crutheo, the mentor and protector of the princess and believing her dead.  However, he manages to let him see the truth, but when he wants to contact the emperor, his castle is attacked by Saazbaum and he is killed by him.  Saazbaum takes Slaine along as a repayment for the debt he owns Slaine`s father... and duly admits he is not only the instigator of the whole war, but also his motives behind it.  And how he does not only want to take over Earth, but make the Royal Family pay for whipping the Vers population into the war 15 yars ago, with Heaven`s Fall resulting in the death of his beloved one.

Rayet in the meantime, a talented girl in piloting a kataphrakt, reveals she is actually a martian and daughter of the assassins of the princess.  She is driven by rage, feeling that she belongs not to Earth, but neither to Mars as she saw her father killed for his actions as a dog.  She tries to kill the princess and nearly succeeds, but Nao can bring her back from cardiac arrest.  The Deucalion then arrives at the last refuge of mankind, United Earth HQ in Russia, and Asseylum sends out a message explaining everything.

Saazbaum blocks this though and lands his castle on top of the HQ in a final battle that will decide the outcome of the war.  Slaine manages to activate Crutheo`s suit for some reason (pity it is not disclosed how, but I guess it is either a program with the fallen counts will, or the princess`s doing), and intervenes in the battle between Nao and Saazbaum right at the moment Nao would have crushed the traitor.  Asseylum then manages to power down all the suits...

... and then one would think we would get an happy ending, but nothing is further from the truth.  An injured Saazbaum shoots the princess in the heart and the head, before Slaine kills the man.  Enraged because he knows it is his doing, as he has saved Saazbaum moments before from certain dead.  Nao, heavily injured, crawls towards her corpse, and a final confrontation between him and Slaine ensures.  As Nao pulls his gun... Slaine shoots him through the head as well...

In the aftermath, the war ended with the failed invasive attack of Saazbaum, but of the princess nothing is known after she powered down the Orbital fortress.  We can only assume Slaine took the body of his beloved away...

Conclusions:

Okay, this is one HARD ending for an anime series. If you though Evangelion was about the hardest and weirdest ending you had ever seen in the mecha genre, think again.

The story is told fluently and the 22 min episodes seem to be flying by, and are well drawn.  They breath out the atmosphere and they lack `filler` episodes as most series make themselves guilty off.  From the word go, it is one hard rollercoaster ride for humanity to survive.

And it helps for once that the main kid piloting a mecha isn`t an overhysterical ideologist, but a matter of fact ice cold analytical mind...  The series has also some very intens and dramatic dialogue, like the Rayet / Asseylum exchange after the failed attack, or the way Nao tells the princess of the cold realism of `when wars end`...

But there was one hilarious moment.  When the Deucalion flies in to the UE HQ, one of the tower operators states that it looks like `something out of a Japanese comic book`...


Get this series to have a look, it is so worth it even though it is far more raw then most series in the genre.  heck, I doubt I even ever saw an ending like this in and out of the genre...

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