I really don’t keep up with much in the way of anime these days, most of what’s being produced isn’t my bag. I’m currently getting Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans but that’s about it. So I was idly looking for recent mecha series and I stumbled across Aldnoah.Zero, a 12-episode series that came out in 2014 and from what I could see, people really liked it so I sat down and worked my way through it and I have to say…
They were right!
An ancient civilization left a portal to Mars on the moon, this led man to colonize Mars where they found a powerful energy source called Aldnoah. Only members of the royal family can use it, they have had their genes altered to allow them to command this power, and using it, Mars, or Vers as it is now called, becomes a technological powerhouse. But things don’t go well as Earth and Vers fall into a war which results in the portal and half of the moon being blown away. 15 years later, the princess of the Vers Empire come to Earth seeking peace, but that’s not what she finds…
I’ve seen a lot of people comparing this to Gundam and while the similarities are certainly there, I don’t think that’s really an apt comparison. Yes, there are giant robots, yes, there is a war going on but it’s not really a war for independence as it is in most Gundam series, it’s a war of vengeance. Once the portal exploded, 39 castes orbiting the Earth were trapped, unable to get home. They have harbored a grudge against the planet of their birth and are just looking for a reason to seek revenge and take over.
One thing that kind of bugs me, and it’s not just this show, are the singular super-mecha. They’re ridiculously powerful but there’s only one of each of them. For example, you have the big mecha with the impenetrable force field that absorbs anything it touches or the one with the impossibly powerful energy swords that can cut through anything. If you have that kind of technology, why the hell don’t you mass produce these things? They did this occasionally in Gundam, but most of the time, the bad guys just had a repainted, souped up robot that was part of an existing line.
But beyond that, I loved this show. It tosses all of the conventions out the window and takes a ton of chances. In fact, even though we know there is a second season coming, the main characters, one Terran, the other from Mars, get shot in the last minutes of the finale and apparently die. Either we have to find some way that they’re saved or they’re going to have to introduce new main characters in the next season and this being Japan, I really don’t know which one they’re going to do. In the U.S., there would be some convenient plot development that saves them. Maybe not in this case.
The animation is crisp, the mecha designs are relatively well done, although I prefer utilitarian designs and a lot of the Vers mecha are a bit too flashy for my tastes. They are form over function and I prefer function over form, but I can forgive them for that. The characters are fantastic and we know just enough about each of them to understand their place in the plot, but not too much to get bogged down in the backstory. They aren’t desperately trying to shoehorn characters into relationships, this is a war story where people are dying, they don’t have time to hop into bed with each other, which is very much appreciated.
I’m going to have to start grabbing the new season, but you can be sure once it finishes and I get through it, you’ll get another review.