Anime Spotlight: Aldnoah.Zero

Aldnoah.Zero is an anime series created by Gen Urobuchi and produced by Nitroplus, A-1 Pictures, and TROYCA. The series is directed by Ei Aoki. Aldnoah.Zero aired on Japanese television between July 5 and September 20, 2014.

As of this writing, Aniplex of America holds the North American distribution license for Aldnoah.Zero.

Aldnoah.Zero is set in 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.

Princess Asseylum from the Vers Empire decides she wants to make a goodwill mission to Earth. Unfortunately, many people in the Vers Empire don’t agree with her decision. As she heads to Earth, she is accompanied by a young man named Slaine Troyard; he’s an Earthling living on Mars, and he and his father had been rescued by the princess five years earlier. Even he tries to dissuade her from the visit to Earth, but she insists on going.

When the princess arrives on Earth, her motorcade is attacked by missiles set off by a couple of terrorists. It appears that the princess has been killed, and the Vers Empire launches an attack on Earth to get revenge. The assassins who carried out the plan are given “gratitude” by Sir Trillram when he kills them; this leaves a girl named Rayet as an orphan.

It turns out that Asseylum is still alive, because she was ill due to being unaccustomed to the gravity of Earth, so a stand-in was in her place instead. Asseylum, her assistant, and Rayet end up traveling with Inaho and the others. Inaho and the other students are drafted into the military after the Vers Empire launches a war on Earth in revenge for Asseylum’s death.

Captain Magbaredge ends up leading the forces that fight against the Vers Empire, and it turns out she has a secret that’s tied in with Marito’s service during Heavens Fall.

After watching the first episode, I thought that Aldnoah.Zero showed a lot of promise. However, I did have some issues with how much “info dumping” took place. During the first couple of episodes, I found myself being able to predict some of the events that happened; however, this ability to predict what would happen in the story went out the window as the series progressed.

The info dumping came back in Episode Six. At this point, I found myself wondering if maybe the series needed more episodes, because the info dumping felt as if it was being done to help the story move faster so it could fit into the allotted number of episodes for the series. At the end of Episode Seven, I thought the storytelling had become even more of a mess than what I’d seen during Episode Six.

At the end of Episode Eight, I thought that the writing had gotten sloppy, there was a relative lack of character development, and that there were radical changes in characterization. It almost felt as if someone was making up the story as they went, and that was the only way I could explain how the storytelling had fallen apart as much as it did over the course of eight episodes.

Unfortunately, the quality of the writing never improved over the remaining four episodes of the series.

Aldnoah.Zero is a series that started out with a lot of promise, but it ultimately fell apart as the story progressed due to uneven story progression, sloppy writing, and underdeveloped characters. Now that I’ve reached the end, I find myself thinking that the past 12 weeks of watching this show ended up being a waste of my time.

At the end of Episode Twelve, it was revealed that a second season for Aldnoah.Zero would begin in January 2015. At this point, I have no intention of watching this second season. About the only way I’ll watch it is if I can’t find enough shows to fill my schedule for the Winter 2015 anime season.

If you’re looking for a mecha anime series to watch, I’d recommend Captain Earth over Aldnoah.Zero. Admittedly, Captain Earth has some issues, but those issues are nowhere as bad or as prevalent as what appeared in Aldnoah.Zero.

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