Aldnoah.Zero: Episode 6 – “Steel Sleep Suite”

Aldnoah.Zero is an anime series set an alternate version of Earth, where an ancient alien hypergate was discovered on the surface of the moon. Humanity used this technology and began migrating to Mars to settle the planet. When the settlers discovered more advanced technology, they founded the Vers Empire; this new empire claimed the planet and the technology for themselves. The Vers Empire declared war on Earth. During a battle that took place on the moon’s surface in 1999, the hypergate exploded and shattered the moon; the moon’s debris created a belt around the Earth.

The series begins in 2014, which is 15 years after Heavens Fall. On Earth (specifically in Shin-awara, Japan), we meet a high school student named Nao Inaho and his sister, Yuki Kaizuka. Yuki is a Warrant Officer in the Military Personnel of the Earth Alliance. Yuki helps instruct at the high school, because military training is part of their high school experience. She works alongside Koichiro Marito, a lieutenant who also teaches at the school. Marito appears to be a bit of a heavy drinker, and believes that the kids are being lied to about things; he was in the military 15 years earlier, and saw things that have been hushed up by the top brass.

At the beginning of Episode Six, the Emperor of the Vers Empire officially declares war on Earth to have revenge for Asseylum’s assassination. Asseylum is around in her “Seylum” disguise, and she almost blurts out that she’s Princess Asseylum and that she isn’t dead; fortunately, she catches herself and changes her phrasing to say that the princess wouldn’t have wanted war to break out because of her.

It’s announced that the military is recruiting people who are on the ship. At first, I thought they were going to be recruiting all the civilians, just like in the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime series. It was later clarified that the military is only recruiting those on board the ship who received military training in high school. Phew! Now I can’t complain that this plot point was copying Mobile Suit Gundam!

Meanwhile, Cruhteo is pissed at Slaine for using the audience chamber without permission, and he orders Slaine to be hunted down and executed. Saazbaum calls and says not to kill Slaine because he’d like to question him about his father’s Aldnoah research. At this point in the story, the audience doesn’t have any real knowledge of what Aldnoah is, even though it’s been mentioned a few times by this point in the series. The answer to this question is finally revealed later in the episode. Slaine manages to sneak his way onto a ship and escape. We don’t see Slaine again until right at the end of the episode, where the audience sees a quick shot of Slaine piloting the ship that he commandeered.

At this point, I have to say that Slaine’s part of the story has had some rather sloppy storytelling. His storyline just feels rather choppy, and there hasn’t really been much in the way of character development for him up to this point. I really hope the second half of the series will see more focus being put on Slaine so I can better understand his character.

After the recruitment is over, we see Calm complaining to Inaho and Inko about being assigned as a mechanic, because he won’t be able to kick butt. Lieutenant Marito overhears them and begins going into a lengthy scene where he imparts a lot of information about what happened during Heaven’s Fall 15 years earlier. This scene was such an “info dump,” and it went on for a while. We also get another info dump scene later in the episode, when Inaho is talking with Asseylum and she explains about Aldnoah.

In addition to these two scenes of info dumping, it’s also revealed that Captain Magbaredge is the younger sister of John Humeray, Marito’s best friend that he apparently killed during a battle during the war that took place years earlier. After having so much info dumping, the audience gets yet another piece of important information in this episode.

Info dumping has definitely been a bit of a problem in Aldnoah.Zero. The first episode relied very heavily on this storytelling device, and while episodes two through five were a lot better about that, Episode Six went back to relying on info dumping more. I wish there had been some way to convey some of this information in some of the previous episodes, instead of just relying on info dumping scenes like these. It almost makes me wonder if maybe this series needed some more episodes or something, because it feels like this info dumping is being done to help the story move along faster in order for it to fit in the allotted number of episodes for the series.

As the ship Inaho and the others are on arrive at Tanegashima, they are attacked by an overpowered Vers Empire mecha that they hadn’t expected to be there. But the most surprising part of the battle that takes place is the fact that it wasn’t Inaho that ended up being the hero to save the day… that honor actually went to someone else for once!

At this point in the series, I have to say that to me, the most interesting character is actually Lieutenant Marito. Inaho is supposed to be the main character, but in my opinion, he doesn’t really feel like he’s as developed of a character as he should be. He just comes across as a little “too perfect” at times, and I have a hard time caring about him. While Slaine is a little better developed of a character than Inaho, the choppiness of his storyline dilutes what development he’s been given up to this point. Marito seems to have the most developed backstory of any of the characters, and he comes across as more interesting in general.

Now that I’m halfway through the series, I find that Aldnoah.Zero isn’t as strong of a series as I’d hoped it would be when I first started watching it. There are some interesting ideas and stories being presented, but it’s the execution of the storytelling that’s hurting the series at this point. I really hope that the second half of the series relies less on info dumping and starts developing the characters a lot more.

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