The year is 2014, 15 years after the remnants of the Mars born Vers Empire established their orbital stations within the debris belt left by the remains of the exploded moon. After an attack on the Vers Princess, Asseylum Vers Allusia, during a peace mission on Earth, the Terran and Vers uneasy ceasefire is called off when the Vers orbital stations descended upon the Earth’s surface; determined to conquer the planet once and for all.
Written by anime darling Gen Urubochi (writer of Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, Psycho-Pass, among others), Aldnoah.Zero appears to be riding along the same lines as other giant robot anime…until the ending. It takes a sharp right turn, but it surprisingly isn’t jarring. From the beginning of the episode yo can feel the tension between the two warring cultures. It paints a world that is the same, but at the same time all too different from our own.
In this world, an interstellar hypergate was found on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 17 space mission in 1972. Humanity in turn used this discovery to begin colonization on Mars (sounds like a wealthy business venture, yeah?). After the colonists find advanced technology on Mars, the colonization plan hits a bit of a snag when the Vers Empire is created by the Mars dwellers and they lay claim to all of Mars and its secrets. True to form, the Vers Empire declares war on Earth in 1999 and the hypergate explodes during the battle, creating that pleasant little debris belt I mentioned in the episode summary (what a way to end the century, right?). This susbsequently leads to a bombing of Earth titled “Heaven’s Fall” by the populace.
Things are no better in 2014 as both sides are still tettering on the edge of war. The Earth, or at least Japan, has begn training all non-college bound students in the use of mechs to fight in the war they all know is coming.
From the onset you can feel the familiar vibe of other sci-fi tales of war and the like, especially in anime, but Aldnoah.Zero seems to have that air of intrigue and excitement to it that gives it the appearance of something fresh for the genre. Nothing in the show is essentially clear, mostly when it comes to characters. There is no set good or evil (which is usually a staple in Urobuchi’s works) but a sea of gray that we have to wade through and deeper motives hidden within some of the players in this game. Two charcaters that get the most screen time are Inaho Kaizuka, a school student who seems to have little to no interest in anything (even when missles are literraly falling out of the sky) and Slaine Troyard, a earthling boy who assisted the princess in her Earth studies. Out of the two, Slaine seems the more interesting one. He and his father were saved by the Vers five years before the start of the story, but no one likes him aside from the princess. Inaho, as stated before shows a lack of interest in anything going on around him, which makes it hard to understand what he is thinking. There are other ancillary charcaters that help round out the cast: there is Koichiro Marito: a Captain in the Earth Alliance and training instructor at Inaho’s high school (he also seems to suffer from PTSD from the war), Yuki Kaizuka; a warrant officer in the Earth alliance and Inaho’s older sister, and Cruhteo; a count in the Vers Empire and one of the Mars Knights.
Aldnoah.Zero is certainly one of the best looking shows this season. The muted colors fit the somewhat uneasy tone of the show without going too far and the shots of space are spectacularly stunning. More detail was put into setting than character design but that’s not a bad thing as both contrast pretty well. This also creates some pretty haunting scenes such as people leaving their cars on a bridge leaving New Orleans watch helepessly as the Orbital stations drop, decmiating them and the city. This is hauntingly shown alongside a scene of two children watching the stations fall to Earth, thinking them shooting stars and wishing for peace.
Aldnoah.Zero looks to be one of the best shows this season, and one of the few that isn’t based off of a light novel or manga, but only if it can keep itself under control and not get caught up too much in self-importance. Although with Urobuchi at the helm, it has the makings of another thought provoking series.