Review-Roundup: Aldnoah.Zero 17, CROSS ANGE 18

[HorribleSubs] Aldnoah Zero - 17 [480p].mkv - 00002In this scene Inaho’s sister says a lot about why she regrets having made Inaho into a soldier and yet she not once explains why exactly she had ever thought that to be a good idea in the first place. Regret implies there had been a time where she had thought this to be a good idea and yet this scene never explains what said “good idea” had been.

This time I review:

Aldnoah.Zero 17: The Earth-Forces have captured one of the Martian Knights and Inaho has special plans for him. Also, the fake-princess suddenly realizes that most of the Vers-Empire believes her to be the real princess and this leads to some pesky person challenging Slaine to a duel.  Yep, a lot of more stuff nobody really gives a shit about, I imagine.

Cross Ange 18: You would think everybody would be happy to have Ange back and to hear of how the Dragons are actually good guys who will help Libertus. But no, we still have a couple episodes to kill before this series’ finale can happen. Cue pointless drama based on sudden characterization-reversals! Turns out that Jill has become a bit of an asshole in Ange’s absence and she’s quick to show off her assholish nature which leads to Ange, Tusk and Vivian leaving… only to be found by Salia and the other traitors… AGAIN.

Aldnoah.Zero 17 Review:

[HorribleSubs] Aldnoah Zero - 17 [480p].mkv - 00001Let’s face it: Inaho is a Terminator at this point. Somehow just getting one new cyber-eye has turned him into a full-on cyborg.

Intrigue: That seems to be the watchword these days for this series. I’ve already mentioned many times how this series has turned into a character-driven soap-opera (despite its setting) and the focus on intrigue is just another sign of that. Of course, it’s all just stalling. Ultimately this second half’s story will always be just a vehicle for creating another showdown between Slaine and Inaho.

Using the theme of intrigue this series is creating an imperfect net of inter-connected characters whose complex relationships turn into plot-points for each episode. It isn’t so much that you see one character with a masterplan who constantly strives to reach his or her goal, rather you get all these characters whose connections with each other either lead to trouble or solutions. What the story are currently doing is nothing more than take advantage of this chessboard of characters in order to create a plot for these episodes that don’t deal with the confrontation between Inaho and Slaine.

It doesn’t exactly work because so far nothing of this intrigue has been very compelling. The intrigue in this series is immediate and very incidental. Stuff like how that count in this episode is challenging Slaine to a duel or how Saazbaum had adopted Slaine as his son are plot-points without any build-up. And we’re really entering Code-Geass-territory here in the way plot-points are just thrown at the audience with the hope that the audience would mistake those for genuine plottwists. But the series is doing nothing to create a rational environment for these plottwists and so you get this sensation of the series just flailing its arms while it tries to call attention to itself. And it’s all a cheap distraction anyway!

The way this series is treating Inaho and Slaine is just preposterous in how silly the whole thing is. They both have become the “Best” while being surrounded by the “Rest” (to borrow a little bit from the Rolling Girls terminology). And that’s cheesy, of course but the part that really makes this stuff frustrating is that they don’t behave like the “Best”. You want authority-figures to be the “Best” (which is in itself a bit of a problem as those authority-figures often are anything but that) but this series has neither put Slaine nor Inaho into positions of responsibility. Sure, Slaine is trying to get there and Inaho might as well be the only advantage Earth has in terms of militaristic force but both have yet to establish themselves as leaders. At the same time, though, both characters have this undeniable prowess that allows them to walk through battles as if they are gods while the rest of the battlefield turns into spectators or victims. You want to see such people struggle in order to remind yourself that they’re still human. If they’re above worrying about stuff like battles, then you naturally need to give them bigger problems to worry about. That’s why you turn such overpowered characters into leaders. What this series does instead is just constantly spamming the idea of how powerful Slaine and Inaho are without really giving them trouble they HAVE to deal with.

The ‘HAVE’ is an important element here as it brings us back to the intrigue. Any intrigue-driven plot relies on having MULTIPLE interesting characters that interact with each other and create various variations of conflicts and alliances for hopefully unexpected but understandable reasons. Yet we’re at a point here where this series just doesn’t have any interesting drama besides the “Inaho needs to save the princess”-plot.

Take the fake-princess for example: In this episode she’s reminded of her power as being the substitute for the real princess. The previous episodes had already established her to be a bitter person who can be pretty conniving, though. But upon being reminded of her power by Slaine’s Martian rival the fake-princess just decides to allow him an audience without Slaine’s approval. That was supposed to be her “act of rebellion”. It’s lame and the way they portrayed that character, I had expected more of her. I would’ve wished for her to be more subtle than just allowing those rivals of Slaine to visit. Inaho’s pseudo-girlfriend is in the same boat there. It’s clear that her finding out about Inaho’s secret activities will lead to a whole jealousy-tantrum. And that prospect doesn’t sound very entertaining. The audience already understands why Inaho gives a shit about this war, I imagine and turning that into cheesy drama is just a waste of time.

This series just continues to try VERY hard. It fucking tries, you have to give it that. But whatever it does, doesn’t really lead anywhere. All this series really has room for is the eventual confrontation between Inaho and Slaine. The rest is just stalling and the series has yet to deliver a single compelling reason why you shouldn’t regard that stuff as such.

Episode-Rating: 5.5/10

Cross Ange 18 Review:

[HorribleSubs] Cross Ange - 18 [480p].mkv - 00002It’s a pity that this series has devolved to become so generically idealistic that this is a clear sign of the usual “a good character has lost his/her way”-trope.

It’s easy to think of stories as journeys. After all, you start in one place and end up in another, characters change, the whole world changes even. It’s all about continuity and it gets harder to uphold it the more attention you give it and the longer the actual series is. This episode is a great example of how you don’t want to address continuity. The episode starts with Ange, Tusk and Vivian being picked up by that Libertus-submarine after they barely had escaped a dangerous fight with old friends and the episode ends with Ange, Tusk and Vivian getting into a dangerous fight with said old friends… again. You see the problem? Continuity-wise the series didn’t move forward at all! This has just been this little standalone-episode telling us what the deal is with Libertus these days.

Especially at this point the series shouldn’t stop for anything. After all, we know the villain (Embryo), we know the mission (rescuing Aura) and we know the place (the Dawnpillar). The series already has revealed all the pieces on the board to us. But the series doesn’t move forward. Instead it seems hellbent on presenting this pointless character-drama that only exists to be a buffer between now and the finale. The series is just stalling at this point with these character-sequences.

And the character-sequences are half-assed as well. After all, what did we really get from Ange spending a couple episodes on the Dragon-Earth? Sure, we learned that the Dragon have a justifiable motive for their actions, we learned that they are the good guys and their princess has become a good friend of Ange. Nothing of that feels continuity-driven, though. When this series moves forward with its narrative, it usually just confronts Ange and the audience with a new status-quo which then gets explained in a tedious way. The series is telling us what’s going on, not showing us. Of course, the reason why it has to tell the audience what is going on is that this series has no acute sense of continuity. Seemingly at random this series will decide what plotpoints it wants to talk about and which one it will just forget as the series moves forward to a new status-quo. Like the time when Ange made friends with that Dragon-princess. The series may have given the whole notion of “enemies become friends” a fair shake but it never felt personal or dramatic. All the series did was going through the motions of establishing that the Dragons are good people. We never got a real sense of drama out of the whole thing. The Dragons are good and so of course Ange (as the heroine) would eventually befriend them. This series simply sucks at connecting the dots of its story.

We get the same thing here with Jill who has become sort-of evil as the big dramatic topic of the week. And we get all the usual beats as well: Extremely offensive comments, a bit of fanservice, thinly veiled sexual innuendo and some spouting of idealistic hogwash. It’s just that different characters do all these things this time around. Actually this series has been this formulaic for a long time now and with its better elements getting buried by dull repetition you’re left with a bog-standard story that hasn’t much to offer in terms of entertainment.

And about the way this series loves to have characters say “outrageous things” that are pretty insensitive and insulting… Those portions are tonedeaf. The way this series treats insensitive behavior is akin to someone farting in an empty room. We all know it’s not appropriate but since there’s no one around, the response to the fart is nothing more than a lame “That happened.” from the farter himself. In Cross Ange people react to these insensitive comments of course but never in a dynamic way. Either the response is just as insulting or the response is moderate. How often do these insults ever turn into confrontations? Ange (or Jill in this episode) says something outrageous, everyone’s like “How can you say this?!” and then the series just moves on! There’s no weight behind those insults! That’s why Jill’s behavior in this episode is just ridiculous. The way she presented her grand plan to Ange and then in the middle of it was like “Just kidding! I still don’t give a shit about your new friends!” was hilariously stupid. I mean, that first interaction between Ange and Jill wasn’t much less ridiculous in how insulting Jill’s behavior had been.

And after Jill had left the room, another character even said to Ange that secretly Jill is happy that Ange has returned. Uhm, no, she isn’t! From the way Jill had acted in that scene she considers Ange to be nothing more than a screwdriver which didn’t do its job. Add to that moments like when Jill is blackmailing Ange by having kidnapped Momoka where the rest of the people on Jill’s side of the table are just stating how they didn’t know that Jill had planned this. Other than that, though, they’re literally irrelevant in that scene. They whine a bit about Jill’s actions also but overall, they really are a waste of space in that scene.

What Jill is doing right now is obviously the enactment of the bitter mindset Ange used to have (although exceptions prove the rule when it comes to that, I guess). She actually just wants to destroy the world and doesn’t care about rebuilding it. Meanwhile, Ange has started to warm up to the idea of living a normal life with Tusk and that’s what she’s fighting for now. Of course, Jill’s nihilist philosophy sounds cooler and Ange had also been cooler when she got back from her little trip to her old hometown when she had vowed that this world she lives in is damaged beyond repair and simply needs to be destroyed. Well, the way they try to sell the wrongness of this mindset is by making Jill act VERY unreasonable and impulsive. It’s cheap writing and forced drama. No wonder that this little arc ended up where it started.

Episode-Rating: 4.0/10

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on February 8, 2015, in Aldnoah.Zero, Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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