Review-Roundup: Aldnoah.Zero 03, Tokyo ESP 01/02
Man, I never knew that stealing stuff follows the same rules like The Price Is Right…
I can’t imagine any manga-author wanting to see a terrible anime-adaptation of his work. After all, most of the time the source-material is still an ongoing series so in many ways the anime is more of an elaborate ad for the original series. Sure, some directors like Shinbo and Shaft for example try to give the series their own spin but most of the time the anime tries to stay true to the source-material. But imagine stuff like seeing the anime-adaptation of your manga and finding out that someone decided some scene needed more fanservice. Would you be happy that your series gained new readers supposedly based on THAT…? But I guess, you have to sell these animes somehow, if having an artistic vision is something only the hotshot-directors of the anime-business are allowed to have. This time I review:
Aldnoah.Zero 03: Earth’s fucked. Luckily there’s a cool teenager, named Inaho, to unfuck things.
Tokyo ESP: Bad shit’s happening in Tokyo. Where’s the White-Haired Girl, you may ask. No, wait, that’s what the episode asks. What you ask is probably: Who the fuck is the White-Haired Girl?! Well, good that you ask because it’s a rather long story as in that it’s exactly one season long but that’s too long so the story starts shortly before the final couple episodes and then goes back to the beginning where what happened shortly before the finale doesn’t matter at all. Ga-Rei-Zero did a similar thing, so why not do the same thing again, right? After all, it sounds like a GREAT plan…
Wow, no wonder these traitors failed so miserably to kill the princess… Why the hell would Trillram tell Slaine about his plans to kill the princess? Apparently Trillram is even too douchy to realize when he keep his mouth shut.
As expected this week’s episode deals with the unlikely victory of the good guys and I’m still not sure what the deal is with Inaho. This episode definitely made it seem like he’s simply very competent. Last week I speculated whether he was autistic or a sociopath for behaving that way but it would be refreshing to see a main-character who’s just really good at being a mecha-pilot and who’s also very smart. Most of the time anime-protagonists have superhuman abilities or talents (or dare I say, even both… I’m talking about Mahouko in this case, of course). Although it’s kinda strange to see a teenager act that calm and confident, it’s certainly better than angsty panic or any outright stupidity.
But portraying Inaho as smart wouldn’t really make him smart, of course. The story has to provide a stage for him to act smart and the script has to show off that smartness. Otherwise, you would just get a dissonance between what is actually happening and what the story claims is happening. The third episode is more engaging than the other two because it has action to engage with and it handles its action-scenes in a smart way. The strategy Inaho comes up with is a reasonable deduction with the information he has.
I hadn’t honestly expected these Martian mechas to have such a weakness. You know why? Because despite the sheer amount of mecha-animes each season, only a handful of those ever bother to try their hand at Hard Sci-Fi. The whole energy-cloak you can’t see through thingy is actually often-times used to show the drawbacks of total invisibility. Yep, it’s done with total invisibility because it’s assumed there’s some technology that could allow reflecting ALL the incoming light, so that you end up invisible. Naturally because of that no light reaches your eyes either and so you’re basically blind. Well, so if I have to be nitpicky about this solution, it’s that those mechas actually should be mostly invisible or be this black blob, depending on how the technology works. But hey, this series has already put in way more effort than most other mecha-series do regarding its technology and with sci-fi-technology it’s all fantasy to varying degrees anyway.
In some ways, though, I pity the Martian traitor-faction. Seriously, nearly everything that could have gone wrong with their plan – HAS gone wrong. The princess survived, there’s a witness to how they hired her assassins, one of the loyal Martians, Slaine, is already aware of this act of treason and all these troublesome people are in the same place ready to come together and do something about the Martian traitors. Right now it really looks like it’s only a matter of time until a truce can be reached at least. I mean, after the Martian princess was supposedly killed, the Martians ignored any attempts at diplomacy or investigation and just rushed to Earth to kill a lot of people. That’s hardly fertile ground for peace-talks.
This was a smartly written and action-packed episode but overall I still don’t feel like this series has a defining purpose for what’s happening. After three episodes, the story’s basically: Some bad guys did bad stuff and have the upper hand but then some good guys somehow miraculously save the day against the odds. The first episode did a lot of world-building and the second episode set up a tragedy with its catastrophic consequences but it still is unclear what the series is going for thematically with this. A lot of the events of the last three episodes feel very incidental without the thematic depth to give them meaning. There’s an empty feeling to the plot-developments because they don’t seem to go anywhere in particular. It’s all a very blunt cause-and-effect-circle that pushes this series forward right now.
Saving the Earth, trying to fight for peace and honor and protecting what’s important to you as an individual. The series uses these themes in a somewhat understated way (there are no lengthy speeches and so on) but they don’t really give the series any real thematic depth. Those themes are just SO common in mecha-animes that they are basically meaningless at this point. They are just part of the genre and the same way nobody celebrates any slice-of-life anime on Earth for having gravity, to have those tropes in mecha-animes is an equally natural element of the genre at this point. Aldnoah.Zero is well-written but it has no depth to make it truly engaging.
And the third episode did a bad job of setting up a conflict for the series to deal with. I mean, what is the plan now? Will the princess try to stop the Martians from continuing their war? What will Slaine do with the information that there’s a Martian faction out there hellbent on killing the princess? This third episode doesn’t do any real build-up for a future conflict the story needs to deal with. Actually the end of this episode really made it look like things could only get better from now on. Well, I guess, the next episode will be a quiet one that sets up the next problem the good guys need to deal with. This series sure needs some reflection to find its footing instead of just going through the motions.
Tokyo ESP 01/02
Okay, this moment made NO sense. There was a time-bomb that a villain protected. So, the red-haired girl suddenly appears and kicks her ass. And she has JUST finished with that. That’s when the glasses-girl cheerfully says she has disarmed the bomb… but… WHEN?! There was NO time for her to do so…!
It’s Christmas. Kagura and Yomi meet in some populated place in Tokyo. It’s the Kagura and Yomi from Ga-Rei-Zero. This series isn’t Ga-Rei-Zero and Kagura and Yomi aren’t its protagonists. But it doesn’t matter. After all, the whole first episode doesn’t have anything to do with the series, it feels like.
And with that Tokyo ESP opens with the most confusing in-media-res-start imaginable. But in some ways I was used to it. After all, I have seen this type of messy beginning for an anime-series before. Guess which series that was? Yep, it was Ga-Rei-Zero. For some inexplicable reason Hajime Sagawa’s works always get messy beginnings when they’re in anime-form. I’ve checked the first chapter of Tokyo ESP – and its beginning isn’t ANYTHING like what is shown in the first episode… well, actually it turns out that it’s also very different from the second episode as well, but more about that later.
Normally all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, very generally speaking. Well, that’s not the case when we’re talking about an anime-adaptation of Hajime Sagawa’s work. The way Ga-Rei-Zero and this series introduced its story, plot and characters is so confusing and chaotic that it’s hard to see how anyone could have thought this would make sense. There’s a very unhinged feeling to how Tokyo ESP’s and Ga-Rei-Zero’s openings are paced. Structurally there’s no evident benefit to all the time-jumping that’s happening and it’s also the kind of abrupt time-jumping that distracts you instead of making the story more compelling.
So, the first episode, just like with Ga-Rei-Zero, throws you simply into a battle-laden episode that seems to expect knowledge that just isn’t there. And where usually the lack of knowledge could lead to a mysterious or magical atmosphere, here it’s just confusing. It’s not confusing in a way that makes it impossible to understand what’s happening. The confusion stems from the audience’s inability to get into the rhythm of the story. Instead of delivering information so that the events make somewhat sense, even if the bigger picture is unknown, this first episode seems to be completely ignorant of the fact that it’s a first episode. This episode ignorantly behaves like it’s the 8th episode or something like that. There are references to previous events, there are character-moments build upon the notion that the audience would know what they are hinting at and there’s drama that lacks any impact because it isn’t the culmination it needs to be since the character-related stakes are unknown. It’s hard to imagine why the audience would stay around to watch the next episode after such a start.
But the second episode continues where the first left off and follows Rinka around as she has finally arrived in Tokyo to battle the evil espers. And it’s just bonkers that in the opening-moments Rinka has a flashback to a moment that will happen later in the same episode. All of a sudden the second episode turns back time to the moment when Rinka became aware of her superpowers. It’s a jarring moment. For one, the tone between the Tokyo-battle-scenes and Rinka’s origin-story is completely different (just in terms of brightness, it’s quite obvious how crass the transition is). Two, the thing that evoked the flashback was a cheesy offhand-comment from Rinka’s inner monologue. Nothing has been actually accomplished in that Tokyo-battle-scene and the first episode had built towards Rinka’s appearance which would have been a sound transition-point. Instead the sequence keeps going for a few more scenes and just suddenly makes the transition in a randomly chosen moment, it seems like.
There are a lot of things wrong with the second episode as well. It’s all little things but it results in an episode that still feels as unhinged as the confusing first episode. Or maybe, rather the second episode feels like it’s shellshocked. The episode never finds a good pacing or manages to portray characters in a way that doesn’t make them look creepy and weird.
I’ve seen Ga-Rei-Zero and now I’ve seen this series’ opening, so I was curious… Does Hajime Segawa always write the beginnings of his series like this? Well, imagine my surprise when just a quick glance at the first chapter revealed that this isn’t the case. I mean, these sudden, confusing beginnings of Ga-Rei-Zero and Tokyo ESP kinda are masterpieces of narrative idiocy, so it was hard to believe that someone would consciously copy something like that from a manga. But the really interesting thing was to find out that the events happening in the second episode are slightly different in the manga. Like for example, in the anime Rinka becomes aware of her ability to phase through things. She does that accidentally in her living room and falls through the floor into the flat below. She also loses all her clothes in the process but she isn’t aware of that at first so she looks confused at the old man before her and asks what has just happened. Only a few moments after that does she realize that she has no clothes on and then runs out of this old man’s apartment back into her one. Well, in the manga-version she actually keeps her bra and panties on but she also immediately realizes what situation she’s in and runs embarrassed out of the old man’s flat. Look, the manga-scene was already gratuitous but imagine this: One of the script-writers for this anime looked at that scene and thought “This scenes needs to be even MORE gratuitous!”. Just in general that first chapter of the manga was solid, nothing great or amazing but it was okay. Meanwhile, the anime-adaptation of it is just a fucking mess.
Episodes-Rating: 1st Episode: 3.0/10 2nd Episode: 4.5/10