Anime Review: Aldnoah Zero Season 2 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 11.02.2017

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Aldnoah Zero Season 2 (UK Rating: 15)

Whilst Cubed3 has not covered half as many mecha series, there are almost as many out there every season as there are harem series. With so many it's easy to get lost in the crowd, not to mention to break out of the shadow of the legendary franchise, Gundam. Aldnoah Zero took a lot of fans by surprise when it hit. The first season was filled with gut punches and genuinely shocking moments that constantly kept the audience on the edge of its seat. After a startling conclusion, the finale to this space opera is now available courtesy of Anime Limited.

Even though it was a mere 12 episodes, the first season had a huge amount going on throughout; deep breath, it's time for a big recap. When Apollo 17 reached Mars in 1973, the astronauts on-board found some highly advanced technology - the titular Aldnoah - which allowed the Earthlings who relocated to the red planet to build up an empire that was technologically far superior to what they left behind on Earth. The people of Mars - or as they came to call it, Vers - developed into a feudal structure of Counts under the Royal Family. Vers grew powerful but lacked the resources that Earth had an excess of, thus started a civil war. The main story picks up in present day where a ceasefire is in place between the warring worlds, and the current Princess of Mars - Asseylum Vers Allusia - is determined to broker a peace. Unfortunately, there are plenty in the Vers Empire that are drastically opposed to such a peace and they decide to remove the Princess, assassinating her and placing the blame upon the Terrans to reignite the war. The Princess escapes and is found by the hero, Inaho Kaizuka, and after learning the truth of the planet and the corruption within her own people, she finds common cause with what she was taught were her enemies.

The story is based around three main characters, the first of which is Slaine Troyard. Slaine is the son of one of the main Aldnoah researchers. When he was a young boy, he crashed his rocket on Mars and almost died, but was saved by a beautiful young girl - a girl who turned out to be the Martian Princess, Asseylum. The two become close friends after this, with Slaine serving as an instructor on Earth. Throughout the first season, Slaine struggled to live amongst the Vers elite who treated him with such disrespect, and on many occasions it seemed like he would defect to his Terran brethren along with Asseylum and, if things had gone differently, he may have. Instead, viewers get to see the beginning of him learning to play the Martian Game of Thrones. His counterpart, and rival, is Inaho Kaizuka. After saving Asseylum on Earth, Inaho goes from the daily school grind to serving as a soldier in the Earth forces, along with his friends. After saving Asseylum, this group end up manning an Aldnoah warship, known as the Deucalion, and become the trump cards of Earth's forces. Finally, Asseylum herself is, of course, the third main character - a Princess who is forced to fight against her own people to try and reveal the corruption within their society and reach her grandfather to end the war.

By season's end, the three main players had undergone significant story arcs, and the finale smashed them all together in a deadly situation. A situation that left Asseylum mortally wounded by Count Saazbaum, Slaine finally chose a side, the Martian one, deciding to save Saazbaum and leaving a parting gift with Inaho, a 9mm bullet in his head, cementing his bad guy status. Still with keeping up? Good!

This second season picks up 19 months after the close of the first, and the world has become a very different place. Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia has seemingly turned against her friends on Earth and is leading her people, including the "hero" Slaine Troyard, against the Terran forces. The new order is established straight from the opening episode. First off, Inaho and Asseylum are, of course, alive. Slaine shot Inaho in the left eye and although the bullet caused significant damage to his temporal lobe, he survived; in fact he got better, stronger, faster… but more on that later. Asseylum survived, too, and was taken back with Slaine and Count Saazbaum. That was the fee Slaine demanded to save the Count, but it isn't her leading the Vers forces as she's in a medical coma, while her sister uses Vers technology to act her part at the behest of Saazbaum and Slaine. Slaine is a very different person to who he used to be in the first season; he clearly has a long game plan here, and it's impressive to watch it develop over the course of the show.

The first season gave the audience a glimpse at the showdowns between Inaho and Slaine, between the Bat and the Orange Kataphrakt, but now both have become much greater than they were before. Inaho's eye has been replaced by with a cybernetic transplant, a complex system known as an Analytical Engine that helps him factor in numerous variables and find solutions to even the most difficult of situations. Slaine, meanwhile, is climbing the ranks of the Martian society thanks to his new mech; he received Count Cuhteo's Tharsis along with its foresight abilities. Inaho was quite unlikeable in the first season, with his often cold and emotionless behaviour, and although it's not much better here, his deadpan humour is a little funnier at least, and the risk of the implant pervading into his brain gives him a weakness that helps ingratiate him with viewers, even just a little. Honestly, Inaho shows more emotion in the opening - random aside, a fantastic opening theme here from Hiroyuki Sawano, which is one of those songs that will guarantee you watch the opening every time.

Now both sides have a hero at the front of the forces, then, and they are destined to clash once again. It's not just Inaho vs. Slaine for the combat here, though, as there are plenty of new Vers mechs to take on. The action and battles of the first season were okay but ultimately felt like they could be so much more. The premise of using the advanced physics-warping abilities of the Aldnoah technology against the more basic military tech of the Earth forces could have been a smart setup for plenty of interesting battles. Thankfully, the second season finally delivers on that potential, serving up some impressive super powered mechs that Inaho and his "Analytical Engine" have to devise innovative solutions to overcome. Invisibility, force fields, cloned copies - these battle are also filled with smart writing that science nerds will love, whether it be utilising the curvature of the Earth for avoiding straight line laser attack or understanding the Meissner effect.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
A great mecha series that feels double its size in length for the mass amount going on over the course of the show, Aldnoah Zero has some great action, smart writing, is interesting, and feels individual in a sea of mech anime. The characters let it down somewhat, though, with Slaine's turn feeling a little strange, Inaho not very likeable as a protagonist, and the supporting cast is mostly ignored after being a real highpoint of the first season. It ends on a plus, however, with an ending that's fantastically done and continues the series' habit of surprising its audience.

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