Review-Roundup: Aldnoah.Zero 18, Death Parade 06
This series loves to make its battles rely on the notion that the enemy is a total idiot. In this scenario… *sigh* One, apparently the distance between the Deucalion and the enemy-mecha is big enough for straight shots to miss. Two, missing the Deucalion means the Martian knight didn’t understand that the Earth is round. Yeah, it’s a trick that only works because Martians don’t understand that the Earth is round.
This time I review:
Aldnoah.Zero 18: Inaho deals with another pesky Martian knight. So does Inaho. The princess awakens… at the VERY END. Guess something interesting is finally happening.
Death Parade 06: A girl meets her idol. Said idol is a bit of sleazeball. The girl doesn’t mind. Hilarity ensues… supposedly.
Aldnoah.Zero 18 Review:
I get it: Martians are idiots. Maybe that would even work if the series would ever actually show us what life on mars is like! But the series STILL has shown us nothing of what life is like on Mars. Especially considering how Slaine wants to change that society it’s strange how we as the audience have no sense of what their deal is.
This series is two series in one right now. I can’t stress this enough: This series’ story splits its attention between two equally important plots that barely have anything to do with each other at this stage. The series lacks focus to add depth to its rather tiresome battle-scenarios. And anything around it lacks an actual dramatic context as the worldbuilding of the series is truly lackluster at this point. Seriously, right now this series feels like watching two headless chickens run towards a finish-line that you know they will reach but boy, what wacky, random stuff they’re doing along the way to get there!
The first thing that really takes away from the enjoyment of this series is its pacing. By trying to create a plot for both Slaine and Inaho each week, the pacing of each episode ends up feeling rushed and superficial. The goal is clear but anything this series has been doing to get to this goal feels like watertreading. The series goes through its plot like all that matters is resolving dramatic situations. There’s no real point to what the series is doing as the series never invests in build-up and never truly focuses on the subtleties of the conflict. All the series is doing is just to get to the finish-line for each sub-arc.
Due to this almost procedural approach to drama each week, Inaho’s and Slaine’s conflicts don’t feel very interesting or compelling. It’s just busywork for those two. Take Slaine’s duel or Inko knowing what Inaho had done: Both plothooks for dramatic conflicts, both set up in the latter half of the last episode – and both got resolved in this episode in a very anticlimactic fashion. Battle-scenes especially are colored by the audience’s expectation and meta-fictional understanding that of course Slaine and Inaho will win any battle they are involved in. It’s only when they meet that the series actually considers creating tension in its battle-scenes.
Both battles in this episode just felt like the series was going through the motions. Sure, the series is still very efficient in creating gimmicky battle-situations whose solutions are somewhat creative as well. Sure, the physics are wonky and each battle is resolved by characters making use of said wonky physics but the series does indeed have a good setup for how each battle ends. The problems start when you start to question those scenes and how much sense they make. I still believe that a computer-targeting-system should’ve been a thing people in this series’ universe should’ve invented a long time ago. It’s insane how people still seem to aim with their guns and miss because they didn’t think of micro-level details like the gravitational pull of the earth while firing a shot. The real problem is everything around that, though, as that shit has gotten dull as hell! The characters just don’t bring enough to the table here!
And that brings us to the characters – that are all kinda boring to watch. There are some interesting ideas at play in some instances like Inaho becoming more inhuman, Slaine wanting to start a revolution by making himself the new Vers-Emperor, the fake-princess being jealous of her sister and planning to usurp her position in every regard… It’s all there but the series isn’t doing a lot with it except to remind us again and again of those story-beats in the most basic sense. Take the fake-princess’ little speech in the post-credits-sequence for example. That little speech added nothing to the story and the series very obviously shied away from doing something really risky/interesting. Or take that scene between Inaho and Inko: Inaho apologizes for not telling Inko about what he had been doing and… that’s it. Good drama is born out of conflicts but since the series sticks to its fast pacing, there’s barely any time for good drama.
Especially in the case of the fake-princess it feels like the series has wasted a lot of potential. I’ve already mentioned in previous reviews how I’ve always interpreted her as a pretty conniving character whose love towards Slaine had all just been a ploy to fully embrace her role of BEING her sister. And Slaine’s rebellious attitude towards the status-quo in the Vers-Empire aligned perfectly with her own ambitions. It already didn’t make sense that she had needed to hear from some other Martian knight how she’s basically been imprisoned by Slaine. She has a moment of rebellion and in this episode she has already started regretting it. More than that, she sincerely seems to be in love with Slaine and adds that she’s fine with just being her sister’s replacement. At the beginning, she had seemed power-hungry and hateful when she had vowed to take everything away from her sister but at no point did her character show that she has any sort of agency within the story. All her decisions lead back to her desire to win Slaine’s love, it seems. And she tries to win that love in a very passive manner as well by just doing Slaine’s bidding.
And the one thing that really robs most of the drama in this series of any real impact is the iss-poor worldbuilding done by this series. Remember how that one Martian knight who got captured had an actual fortress on Earth? Well, sure, now he’s wandering through the desert but… what is that fortress doing? And why can the Deucalion just laze around on Earth? Why are the Martians still sending only one knight at a time? And thinking about that… Does the Vers-Empire have no standing army? All we ever see is those Martian knights with their special mechas fighting. That plan to assassinate the princess at the start of this series had been way more elaborate than anything the Martians have done after that. The setting of this series is vague to the point of being non-existent. Seriously, this episode has done NO noteworthy worldbuilding whatsoever. I mean, just ask yourself this: Who’s winning the war currently? I have no clue, I have absolutely NO CLUE. So why exactly should I care about what’s going on right now in this series?
Death Parade 06 Review:
Much of this episode’s enjoyment depends on how you react to this character.
It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that this series has a second season. This series continues to not follow a procedure and even its tone is different. But thanks to its loose episodic structure the series saves itself from feeling inconsistent. This time around Decim and black-haired woman appear only for a short moment at the end and the episode is about Ginti playing the role Decim does usually.
From the very first moment you know that this is a lighthearted episode. The way the girl behaves and how the soundtrack is far more cheery than usual already makes this obvious. It really depends on how much you can stand the shrill characterization of the girl. For most of the episode her character seems naïve and over-the-top in how she presents herself. The episode presents this dynamic between a male idol and one of his biggest fans, that girl, interacting in a way that mostly relies on how extreme the reactions of the girl are. And Ginti acts as the straight man who adds commentary in an annoyed voice. The dude acts friendly but it’s obvious that that this is just a mask – but it takes a while to show a glimpse of what’s really going on with his character.
That’s another thing that keeps this episode from actually delivering more poignant jokes: Those three characters are playing obvious roles for most of the episode. And there’s more going on beneath the surface there but most of the episode doesn’t delve into that. This episode mistakes lightheartedness for being superficial in its first two thirds. The jokes are too reliant on the familiar premise and the characters playing these obvious roles. It takes the episode quite a while to get going.
It has to be said, though: The premise is actually a nice subversion of what usually happens. After all, usually the idol is some moe girl and the fan is an otaku-dude. That the gender-roles are flipped here is something that should happen more often in animes. This is one of those subversions that shouldn’t be a subversion. It’s a stupid stereotype how fandom usually gets expressed as otakuness which in turn is tied to male behavior. Girls meanwhile need to be wacky in order to be otakus (in the rare instances where a series actually wants to have a girl-otaku in a cast that isn’t all-girl). Actually it makes you wonder about animes: We get all these otaku-moments of male teenagers fawning over some female idols but when girls interact with the idea of idols it’s to become such female idols mostly.
The moment where the episode becomes really interesting is when it gets revealed what the deal is with the dude. He has slept around a lot and furthermore one girl that he had dumped had killed herself. This leads to a somewhat touching moment where the girl, the fan, decides to kill herself (rather than show her idol how she peed herself) but then he decides to save her and fail doing that.
And here we come to the part where this series’ moral ambiguity works against itself. I’ve mentioned in my review of episode 03 how that episode’s morale was a tad TOO ambiguous. After all, being able to read a story in various ways usually shouldn’t mean that one of those interpretations should end with the story becoming morally reprehensible. You want an ambiguity to instill a sense of uncertainty in the viewer. What you don’t want is the viewer to draw back from a story because of what he can read into the story.
This episode is even worse than the 3rd episode in this regard. First of all, there’s the tone of the episode. The tone is lighthearted throughout the whole episode – even when it’s revealed how the girl and the dude have died. In the case of the girl, the series even tries to turn the whole thing into a joke. The second thing is how the girl responds to the dude’s earnest efforts to save her: She insists on sacrificing herself and adds that she doesn’t care about the scandal the dude is involved in. She explains that his music has inspired her so much in her daily life that she doesn’t care about his problems. It sounds like forgiveness on the surface which is a touching notion but what’s actually going on is her saying that she cares more about his idol-persona than his real personality. Even his biggest fan doesn’t care about him as a person. And apparently he had been enough of a douchebag to break up a relationship with the only person who had cared about him as a person. And the way karma found its way to punish him was way too extreme to be funny.
The episode is humorous and lighthearted. It tried to be that and it managed to be that. But like usual the devil’s in the details. There are nice ideas present in this episode but the writing just isn’t poignant enough to build a bridge between its funny atmosphere and its heavy story. Instead the episode mostly just meanders around for a bit and continues doing that even after the heavy stuff has been dropped on the audience. Ultimately this is an episode that’s more concerned with being nice than funny. Considering what heavy stuff the episode was going for, the comedy in this episode was too superficial to really add to the episode. Situations like this are where the comedy needs to be daring and turn even the darkest stuff into a funny story with a pragmatic philosophy to back it up. As mild and safe as this episode’s comedy is, you finish this episode wondering what the punchline is supposed to be except a cheesy affirmation of idolization.