Well, we’ve come to the end of the road for one of this season’s
hottest mecha series.
I am going to spoil it for you, because by this point, you all saw this coming. It’s been a staple of the “divided season” anime since Code Geass. Something shitastic happens in the final episode, people die, and then half of them come back to life as robots, or oranges, or whatever. At least Star Wars puts a little effort into it.
I suppose every show lately has been trying to be as great as Geass was, while managing to hold that edgy line Guilty Crown made for itself that seems to be infecting every science-fiction or mecha show ever since. Then there is the issue of Urobuchi, who just can’t keep the Madoka out of everything after Madoka, which is annoying, because Suisei no Gargantia didn’t get that shit, it stood on its own. Why is it we can’t have a goddamn space mecha series without it going full retard a la SEED Destiny?
I didn’t believe for a second that this would surpass Gundam. Gundam has always put much more emphasis on the mobile suits and their pilots, at least until we got to the “backpack” era a la SEED and even 00 and AGE to an extent. Wing was probably the last good Gundam show to really frame a good old fashioned mobile suit fight around some silly political bullshit. But that silly political bullshit at least felt real, it felt like it worked with the show, and we weren’t just blowing shit up. At the very least, it didn’t have Athrun Fucking Zala fucking everything up for everyone.
As for a believable plot, well, oddly enough, I wasn’t that at-odds with the plot in Aldnoah. Sure, it’s pretty much recycled from every Mars Separatist show ever, and pretty much just channels Gundam AGE for what it is worth, but I sort of thought that the SPACE KNIGHTS gave it an almost-medieval touch that had George R.R Martin wrote it, would have made it The War of the Roses IN SPAAAAAAAACE, and spanned about 4000 pages of text, and everyone dies. It suffers from the same problem SEED suffered from early on. It established the typical “stalemate war” in which one tiny event causes a shitstorm that every character gets caught up in, but doesn’t understand why. It continues to suffer from SEED-itis in that you still have bumbling school kids who sort of know how robots work, but not how war works. Oh, but Cool Hand Inaho knows how war works, right?
I liken the character development in Aldnoah to that of popular first-person franchises Borderlands and Bioshock. The former is written to be very generic. You’re a Vault Hunter, who is here to fight through bad guys on a planet and save the day from an evil man. You have a name, and a face, but that’s it. There are a few hints about your past, but no one gives a shit. In Bioshock, you are a man with a name, a past, and things about yourself that are revealed over time as you explore this vast underwater city. Who is good or bad is ambiguous throughout most of the game, until you are faced with revelations at the end. Both employ characters to move the story along, and do decent jobs with them, but in Borderlands, I found the deaths of some, or the lesser roles others played, had no impact on my gameplay. It was as if they were supposed to mean something, but didn’t pack the punch to convince me I should care. Bioshock on the other hand gave me reasons to be invested in its characters, to want to listen to the voice recordings, to the dialogue and story, it felt like I was supposed to pay attention and take notice of this world around me.
Which segways into another analogy used recently by a fellow blogger:
If I were to use The Matrix movies as a yardstick, then Aldnoah could have been the first movie, an entertaining explosion show with a bit of science fiction as a backdrop to spice up the stylish gunslinging. And true enough it avoided becoming a laughing stock of the genre with pompous and embarrassingly childish writing like The Matrix Revolutions (or Valvrave), but that’s just the minimum requirement. After all things said and done, Aldnoah ends up as The Matrix Reloaded, a soulless skimmer with nothing tangible behind a thin veil of flashiness and more unnecessary twists than M. Night Shyamalan’s entire filmography.
Perfect summary. The very existence of Neo in the Matrix movies was God-Mode Gary-Stu. He was every nerd’s dream of being able to walk among the net denizens, black trench coat, sunglasses at night, being a badass. Odds aren’t in his favor? Tank, change the plot. Looks like he’s gonna die? Make him Cyber Jesus. Almost nothing in those movies mattered when you realized it was all some program running on loop, with Microsoft Clippy intervening a couple times to ask you if you were planning to create an Internet God. Personally, when it comes to The Matrix, I prefer a more interesting version.
All of that being said, I did end up enjoying some of the show. When you remove yourself from the technical aspects, and just watch the action, it’s a damn awesome action show, never skimping on the flashy robot fights. But like Michael Bay’s Transformers, it lacks soul, preferring to twist and turn around explosions and cheap intrigue, ignoring the characters with the most potential, for the bottom-of-the-bucket nobodies who exist just to move the story along. There is never any genuine feel to the show, and this is the problem I have with short-order series. They run for a half-season, episode-wise, and announce their second season at the end. Are they just not confident in knowing there will be a second season until halfway through? Or do they just deliberately pull this shit so as to create SUSPENSE for 3-4 months while we wait to see what happened to our emotionless hero and his princess?
It’s like anime has fallen to the restaurant equivalent standard of Denny’s. You don’t get bad food, but you get cheap food that gets you by, and the company you keep at 2AM are the nerds who came with you to watch Matrix Revolutions and insist on spending the next three hours over coffee discussing what you liked and didn’t like about the movie.
You know, before social media and blogs.
Title: Aldnoah Zero
Sub Group I Watched: Vivid-Watashi
Rating (1-10): 7
Rail Wars also finished this week, but I will reserve it for a mass-post this week. It also failed to deliver, but wasn’t worth enough words for its own post.