I read the description and watched a preview of Aldnoah.Zero… and I thought I knew what to expect. When you see a trailer about a colony on Mars discovering incredible technology and splintering itself off from the rest of humanity and then declaring war on Earth… it sets a pretty clear expectation. Ya know, I’d seen Macross, Gundam, etc… I figured we were in for another futuristic mech war show that’d just follow the pattern I was used to. So when we sat down and watched the first episode, we weren’t expecting it to really pick up for a few episodes – character and setting establishment are needed after all….
But man, were we wrong. Yes, Aldnoah.Zero is a futuristic mech war anime… it just skips the preliminaries and hits hard right out of the gate, with even the first episode being unwilling to pull any punches. Constantly. At every turn, the show surprised not just with its willingness to advance the story, but also its willingness to let story buildup go unused. There are a few cases where someone, or something, is built up in one direction, only to have a sudden event cause all of that to be meaningless. It’s pacing sounds like it would be a disaster, with little downtime and constantly rising action, but Aldnoah manages to pull it off. It never feels overwhelming while avoiding any lulls or filler. It’s fascinating, and it was amazing to be so consistently surprised by the events – nothing ever turned out quite as you expected.
Especially the season’s ending… which I’m torn about. On the one hand, it is an amazing cliff-hanger that really leaves everything up in the air and establishes interest in a second season fairly well. Since the second season is only a few months away, this isn’t a bad thing, but at the same time it also has a lot of senseless events. I won’t spoil it, but I was left feeling a little bewildered at why the ending went the way it did, which puts a bit of a damper on that interest for a second season…
The show’s characters aren’t standout – for the most part, there isn’t a lot of personality in this show’s cast. There are one or two characters that show glimmers of it, but for the most part the cast is not a highlight of this show. Two of the three main characters are so one-dimensional it’s hard to really relate to them, while the third is one of the few actually relatively good characters. Watching her grow throughout the season is actually very interesting. But aside from her, and one of the side characters, there isn’t a lot to like about the characters here.
Fortunately, this is a mech anime, so characters schmaracters. What we really want are mechs right? Well, this show takes a bit more reserved stance to that. The mech combat is very analytical, very pensive, and incredibly interesting. There are no deus ex machina here…. sure the mechs from Mars – also known as Vers – are nearly unstoppable, but they all have logical weaknesses. And the characters have to figure out that weakness, test it, and then exploit it in order to defeat them. They actually never really adopt any of this crazy high-tech, they just use good old human ingenuity to overcome matters. And the weaknesses they find are all completely reasonable. I think this was my favourite part of the show. Sure the pacing was nice, but watching as they gradually sort out the solution through trial and error and experimentation… it’s just awesome.