When I hear Gen Urobichi has a new project in store, I get giddy, anxious, and then hesitant. As much as I love a lot of his works (Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero) he can also fall a little flat and forgettable (Blassreiter) too. Needless to say, Aldnoah Zero is his latest creation, and although he only had a hand in writing the first three episodes, it’s still an “Urobutcher” show through and through. With on 7 of the planned 24 episodes shown so far, Aldnoah Zero has a while to go until I can deem it worthy of high praise and thing Urobichi has done it again, but he’s certainly set the story off in a memorable and unforgettable direction.
Over 40 years ago, humanity discovered an ancient alien hypergate on the moon, and started settling upon Mars, creating the Vers Empire with their newly discovered advanced technology. As one would expect, war soon breaks out and Mars attacks Earth until the Moon is destroyed and a ceasefire is recognized. The ceasefire lasts until 2014 when the Vers Empire strikes Earth again and declares a new war upon Earthlings. Oh, and you better believe that since this is a mecha show that the pilots of Earth are high school kids, because it wouldn’t be anime without them! All kidding aside, the pilots chosen to lead Aldnoah Zero are actually likable and come with enough characteristics to keep your eyes on the action rather rolling into the back of your head.
Shino, Calm, and Inko are each competent enough to not only pilot Earth’s Kataphract (Aldnoah’s mechs), but are witty and sly enough to outwit the adults that are on the attack. Naturally they’re scared and hesitant at first, but they soon learn they may Earth’s only hope and take up the task of protecting their home planet. One particular stretch of the series focuses on them outrunning and escaping Trillram of the Vers Empire who has arrived to cause as much destruction as possible. After a bit of maneuvering and hiding out, they construct an elaborate but ingenious plan to confuse and ultimately defeat him. It’s actually an astoundingly fun thing to watch. But don’t think all of the Vers Empire is bad; we’re presented with both sides on the conflict (another Gen Urobichi staple) between Earth and Mars as we see the war through Slaine, a former Earthling under the watch of the Vers Empire. He’s constantly questioning his adopted planet’s reasons and looks to be close to blowing the conspiracy wide open.
The director Ei Aoki (Fate/Zero, Ga-Rei-Zero) handled the pacing of Aldnoah with the most brevity I’ve seen in a mecha series in a long time. Of course, it helps Urobichi was writing most of the more memorable moments. Aldonoah Zero isn’t perfect as there a few slower paced talking moments that tend to have the cast just speak in circles; a huge pet peeve of mine. Also, if it’s true that Gen Urobichi is only handling three episodes of writing the story, I’m a bit skeptical if the consistency and lasting appeal will be there for its full 24 episodes run, but so far Aldnoah Zero has hooked me in for at least the first cour of the show. Oh, and I’d be a complete fool to overlook the brilliance of Hiroyuki Sawano’s (Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan) terrific composition for the soundtrack. Every note matches the scene perfectly, especially during that final scene in episode 7. Literal chills shivered up my spine as the closing credits started.
As if you couldn’t already guess, if you’re itching to watch Aldnoah Zero, head over to our friends Cruncyroll for the catalog. There’s a ton more anime to keep an eye out for, so head back to Geekenstein for more coverage as the summer season continues!