ALDNOAH.ZERO Season 1 – Anime Review
Synopsis: An assassination plot rekindles a war between Earth and the settlers of a mysterious, high-tech Martian empire in this action-packed anime series. (Official Netflix Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Aldnoah.Zero has become an infamous anime over the last few years since it aired back in 2014. While Season 1 opens with, what I consider, a rather weak first episode, it is otherwise remembered for its incredibly gripping, intricate narrative. Which in turn made the decline and poor quality of the second season such a hard burn for its burgeoning fan base. Keeping our focus on season 1 for the purposes of this review, there’s a lot to love. There’s an incredible, overarching narrative rich with backstory. Despite a stumbly first episode, we’re introduced to some wonderful characters, although the lead himself, Inaho Kaizuka, is perhaps a bit too subdued.
Linny: For those in the dark, Aldnoah Zero comes from the creator of Puella Magi Madoka, Gen Urobuchi, but the two shows are obviously very different in nature, despite sharing a similar dark vibe. And unlike Madoka which wins its viewers by focusing and selling its characters, Aldnoah Zero has a much more heavy focus on its backstory. This is done with such a heavy hand that the characters end up coming off a bit neglected and potentially a challenge for audiences to connect with. Thankfully, despite a slow start, the show picks up the pace soon enough and quickly transforms into a gripping action and intrigue packed tale.
Tom: Gen Urobochi’s touch is all over this, although it has the imprint of plenty of other artists, as Gen Urobochi didn’t see Aldnoah all the way through, passing the baton to writer Katsuhiko Takayama and ultimately overseen by director Ei Aoki (Known most recently for Re:Creators) Making it past that backstory rich first episode, audiences are treated to an engaging ensemble cast that help to sell the complex and conflicted world of Aldnoah.Zero. Each of the many characters plays a part in several smaller narratives interwoven through the main story. No one feels useless or unimportant, an impressive feet. But even with that the first season shows signs of its ultimate undoing, namely through its hero. Inaho Kaizuka is bland and cliched compared to so many of the other characters that he almost feels out of place in what is otherwise such a rich world. Inaho Kaizuka is the classic teenager that becomes wrapped up in a global conflict and displays intense mech piloting ability, much like Amuro Ray or Suzuka from Code Geass. But while those characters have discernible and interesting personalities, Inaho lacks anything of the kind. His one trait is his ability to analyze, and while interesting, is overshadowed by his complete lack of personality and character. Season 1 gets away with this as it doesn’t lean too heavily on him, allowing the more impressive parts of the series to shine.
Linny: The overarching mystery and political drama is the undeniable star of the show and holds that position flawlessly. It helps to take your mind off the lack of a well developed hero who also comes off somewhat less than likeable. You get to sit back and take in the story of a grand war between two planets, rather than fixate on a single person. And for those slightly put off or not fond of mech in general, the show balances its mech action and human drama perfectly so that neither feel overwhelming or monotonous. The show also does not hesitate to pack in some really devastating and shocking moments that give it a lot of impact.
Tom: Conspiracy and Intrigue are where Aldnoah is at its best. The mech battles aren’t half bad either. And what solidifies Season 1 as an incredible watch is also what tears it apart when taking into account its lame duck follow up. Season 1 concludes on an incredibly shocking ending, one that had many pumped for a 2nd season before that launched and disappointment set in. Because of its damaging follow up, I can’t truly recommend Season 1 as a watch. What’s here is awesome, but the follow up is not. If you can accept a poor continuation, or convince yourself to stop with the cliffhanger then Aldnoah.Zero’s 1st season is worth your time. Otherwise you better steer clear.
Linny: It is indeed a shame that what is such a powerful ending for season 1 becomes the very reason you’ll be disappointed for season 2. On its own, Aldnoah Zero’s first episode is a solid show, one that features an emotionally gripping and action packed story, tight animation and a great soundtrack that helps support and sell the story. It’s a good balance of mech and character drama and has the potential to be enjoyable even for those usually averse to mech based shows. Just keep in mind that if you end up liking season 1 and want to keep its memory cherished, stay away from season 2.