Aldnoah.Zero – 24 Review
More like… NOTHING was gained by this entire fight!
I’m still waiting for the announcement of a second season. Not because I like this series, but because the second half had the sort of pacing where a second season would be recommendable. And without it you get a shitty ending like the one this episode portrays. This series never has been very inspired in its creative choices but this series’ finale feels almost like a capitulation. Somehow they needed to find a happy end for everyone and so they tried to find one – even if dramatically speaking it’s a weak one.
This series totally missed its chance here to go for the popular Bible-quote “An eye for an eye.”. Also, the scene felt rushed in how it wrapped up their rivalry.
To describe this finale as unsatisfying is an understatement. It’s the kind of terrible finale that ruins the whole series. This series’ semifinale has been one of its best moments. Its actual finale has turned out to be one of its worst.
If you look at this series as a whole it’s a prime-example of a completely mediocre show: It didn’t achieve very much but it also didn’t try very hard. This series seems so uninspired as a whole that you’re hardpressed to think of anything that you should take away from this. It isn’t cheesy enough to be preachy with its message but it also isn’t smart enough to make you think with its message. What this series has to offer in terms of theme is something you can only answer with a shrug and a monotone “Uhm, duh…”. This is one of these series where at the end you can just wonder “What did I just watch that for?”.
In the last couple reviews I mentioned how this series was gunning for a second season and that it hasn’t announced a second season and believes it has reached a conclusion is simply baffling. This series has the kind of series where things may get wrapped up but there’s nothing organic about it. Things just end all of a sudden. That’s why I’ve always expected to see a second season from this because whatever this show had been doing in its last couple episodes clearly has never been enough to set up a satisfying finale. It’s not that this show didn’t do enough. It didn’t do a lot in general. And with a second season you’ve at least got the excuse of “Well, it continues at least, the series has something more to say apparently.” but with this ending you just got a somewhat abrupt ending.
But let’s look back on what the series as a whole had been trying to do. From the very beginning this had been a show about personal conflicts with an epic, dramatic stage. There was a princess who supposedly got assassinated and her death triggered another interplanetary war. And the war was actually completely pointless. Meanwhile, a bunch of people together with the disguised princess who had miraculously survived tried to survive the invasion while Slaine, some guy working for the Vers Empire was getting close to the truth about the conspiracy responsible for the princess’ “death”.
The first half had every excuse to eschew dealing with the epic circumstances of the situation. It was all about the personal melodrama and the series still managed to have a few good plottwists like when Rayet nearly killed the princess. Slaine’s function was mostly to uncover the conspiracy and this slowly turned into a desperate struggle to find someone who could help him deal with the real killers of the princess and later on this turned into a rescue-operation for the princess. Inaho on the other hand was turning into a knight for the princess who helped the group around him to survive against the odds.
And then you got the semi-finale, the only standout-moment of the show. The setup had a lot of tension and the stakes were high. Everyone believed the princess to be dead but Inaho & Co would help the princess to put a stop to this war. And in the end all the important players we had been following over the course of this first half met in one messy confrontation – and it seemed only Slaine had survived. Inaho won the mechabattle but then Saazbaum shot the princess. In reaction to that Slaine shot Saazbaum and after that thinking the princess beyond saving he shot Inaho. It was all very melodramatic and soapy but it was the drastic consequences that sold this ending.
Racism wins the day as Asseylum decides to marry the rich noble from Mars instead of the lowly Earth-scum that is Slaine! Good thing the series left that statement uncommented!
But here’s where the second half begins and… Hell, way to go, fucking everything up by simply repeating the rhythms of the first half while ignoring the need to move on. That’s really the biggest problem with this second half: It acts as if it can still get away with this melodramatic bullshit it had going for itself in the first half. The best way to describe the writing of the second half is simply to call it oblivious. There’s no vision directing all its elements to a satisfying conclusion. The series is just repeating the same old patterns of the first half with a setup that isn’t made for said pattern.
The first sign of how this series fucked up big-time while planning this second half is the Earthling’s story. Let’s take Inaho out of this equation and you’ve got yourself a bunch of characters that had received at least some attention during the first half and were now left with practically nothing. The whole “Oh, the Earth-generals are incompetent!”-storyline never went anywhere and little moments like Inko’s love for Inaho or Rayet’s hate for the Vers-Empire turned into incidental trash the series could just throw at the audience whenever it felt like it. NONE of those Earthlings (Inaho included) had a dramatic arc! One half of the cast that we spend A LOT OF TIME with during the last 12 episodes had NO dramatic arc! All they did was trash Martian mechas with the help of Inaho (of course) and that’s it! You know you’ve fucked up when the influence of dramatic events has as much impact on the shown characters as when you take out the trash. Sure, you gotta do it, then you do it and that’s it. There’s nothing exciting about it! And that’s exactly what they did with the Earthlings in this second half! The story told them to take out the trash and then said “Good job, now do something else.”. And “something else” has been the epilogue, the fucking epilogue!
Slaine’s storyline certainly has always been the more dramatic one. But what has the series done with his storyline? In the first half he has been trying to find a conspiracy among his closest acquaintances while risking his life and then he tried to shut down the conspiracy while saving the princess. After the semi-finale, though, his storyline had needlessly focused on one of the most obvious and cheesiest elements of his storyline: His love for Asseylum. That’s what this character has been reduced to time and again in this series: A dude who loves Asseylum but just can’t catch a break in his attempts to earn her love. His character just seems so pathetic in how hard he tries to make Asseylum like him while constantly doing another thing to make her dislike him. That’s another thing where the writing is so oblivious by characterizing Slaine as a guy who wants to be liked by a girl but to achieve that the guy is doing everything said girl doesn’t want to happen. Sure, love makes you do stupid things but doing stuff that make the person you love hate you is beyond what’s reasonable, I would say. And of course, you could do that but you would need to have a very good explanation ready for why a character would do something that nonsensical. This series didn’t do that. Slaine simply became a villain whose ambitions never became important to his characterization which always got reduced to his love for Asseylum and his simplistic hatred for Earth.
That’s what this series has been doing until now and this episode was supposed to wrap it all up – which it didn’t. This is the kind of ending that isn’t only weak but it also isn’t very conclusive. Things just stutter to a halt and you get a bunch of sequences showing you that everything’s fine now. What you don’t get with this approach is any sort of payoff. I’ve already talked about the weak drama of the second half and the inconspicuous story but nothing exemplifies those flaws more than this dull finale. Slaine and Inaho have their final confrontation and it’s… boring. The princess becomes the new ruler of the empire and enforces peace – and everything’s fine. Actually… let’s play a little mindgame. Let’s take Inaho, Slaine and Saazbaum’s assassination out of the narrative and let’s assume Asseylum always had had the plan for sharing Aldnoah-technology with Earth: The series would’ve ended in the first episode and if you look at it that way the whole series has just been this giant detour for the princess to establish peace between the Vers-Empire and Earth. Instead of dramatically moving forward, this is a series whose ending returns to where it began without any epic consequences. And it feels like that, too. This finale just isn’t exciting in ANY way. The whole second half of this series hasn’t been exciting in ANY way. It’s a mediocre series with mediocre ambitions – so at least the series’ quality matched the quality of its ambitions.
- I feel bad for Hiroyuki Sawano who has delivered another great soundtrack here. All his soundtracks have been pretty entertaining, even though that most of the series he has done scores for have been anything but great. What’s really funny in this instance is this artist’s particular interest in linking the music to the story of the series. Apparently it isn’t enough for him to just write music for “epic action scene A” and “tragic love scene B”. This guy wants to directly reference the series he’s writing music for. And so you get a song like “No differences” which summarizes all the series has to say with a 5-minute-song (and to be honest I feel like the song is doing a better job of explaining the point of the story than the series itself):
- An idea for a second season: The series becomes the King-Arthur-Saga. Klancaid is King Arthur, Inaho is Lancelot and Asseylum is Guinevere. And the new protagonist is a Merlin-like character.
- The scene between Inaho and Slaine made me think of the scenes between Professor X and Magneto in the X-Men-movies when Charles is visiting Erik in prison and they’re indulging in these supposedly intelligent and meaningful conversations. Turning Inaho’s rivalry with Slaine into a sort-of friendship would’ve been a move this series certainly hasn’t earned but what this series did instead with Slaine breaking down crying hasn’t been great either. I mean, he cries because he’s happy that apparently Asseylum has forgiven him (for whatever reason) but this is hardly anything one can care about.