Humanities first trip to the moon involved the discovery of the remnants of a lost ancient civilization, including a gateway to Mars. A longer expedition led to discovering greater ruins of that civilization on Mars, including some sort of ancient technology that bestowed its first finder with the ability to use Aldnoah, a source of endless energy, as well as bestow the ability to bestow the ability to channel Aldnoah upon others. This man uses this power to declare himself emperor of the new empire of Vers, named after the lost civilization, and bestows several ‘Knights’ with Aldnoah to act in his stead. These knights quickly create a powerful civilization on Mars, however, the existence of endless energy does little to combat the fact that very little resources exist on Mars, and though the colony had greatly grown in population, discontent had as well. The emperors sole son fearing a rebellion channels this discontent to hating Earth, which the population buys hook line and sinker, and ultimately he leads an invasion of Earth. While Aldnoah may not help with resources, it is invaluable in terms of military prowess, and at first it seems that Earth’s forces are completely and utterly outmatched, being defeated by powerful mecha’s called Cataphracts piloted by the Knights, that while few in number, are capable of defeating entire armies. However, the overuse of the Moon-Mars gate results in its implosion, taking most of the moon with it, killing the prince and causing major devastation on Earth. The Emperor declares an immediate cease fire, however, Vers’ forces don’t make the long journey back to Mars through space, but rather stay in ‘Castles’ orbiting Earth, waiting.
Fast forwarding to 15 years later, the prince’s daughter, Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia has come to befriend a ‘Terran’, Slaine Troyard, who has told her many wonderful stories about Earth, and she has decided to visit Earth as a good will ambassador. However, during said visit, a terrorist group attacks her motorcade, killing everyone involved, and sending Earth and Vers back into conflict. Compared to last time, Earth is far more prepared, making major steps in military technology and creating their own mass produced cataphracts and requiring the entire population to go through military training to use them in school. However, despite their efforts, the power gap is still incredibly evident. However, one highschooler, Inaho Kaizuka, ends up getting thrown into the conflict, and using his incredible perception and well calculated strategy manages to be a force to be reckoned with all on his own, and in many instance the only one that can truly take Vers head on, especially considering how there’s far more to the war than it seems.
Aldnoah Zero is a show that is incredible moment to moment. From the beginning, watching Earth fall was incredibly unsettling. There was an incredible sense of desperation to it that set the tone for the entire series. That led into the set up for Inaho, who is shown as just a kid at first, but it quickly becomes obvious that he is the most overpowered character in the show by far simply on the basis of his intellect (though he eventually gets ever more overpowered later on due to various circumstances). The action is intense and great, and when Inaho finally manages to pull off some ridiculous trick that breaks all expectation and allows him to defeat someone that he should have absolutely no ability to damage at all, it is incredibly exhilarating and satisfying. This is enhanced by the great animation, especially for mechs, and the down right exceptional soundtrack.
However, while the moment to moment story is great, the overall plot is somewhat of a mess. The background and set up are actually great, with the conflict between Earth and Vers, as well as the political themes woven throughout it. However, the plot in terms of dealing with the various characters is completely haphazard. There are a lot of reasons for this, though the most obvious would be that Slaine made less and less sense to me as the story went on, and as he became more and more important the story seemed to get more and more awkward, ultimately coming to an ending that while not horrible, resulted in a web of relations between characters that were incredibly frustrating. Now that’s not to say that I hate the guy, he definitely had a lot of great moments, but in regards to his entire character arc, I just don’t understand him. In regards to many other characters on Vers’ side, I was similarly confused about their motivations. Though I could certainly sympathize with Asseylum and Lemerina, that made how the writers chose to end their stories seem even more weak. There were what I felt were pretty strong romances there that just ground to a complete end as if they didn’t matter at all towards the ending, which was very frustrating. And while I greatly enjoyed Inaho’s character arc as well as many of the side characters, it wasn’t enough to hold up the entire plot. Especially considering the ending, while while not bad, and certainly wrapping up most everything, still left a lot to be desired. So while there is a lot of good in the plot, there are a lot of major problems that you need to put some effort into looking past.
In terms of design, it’s fantastic. There is a strong contrast between Earth and Vers that appears in everything from the character designs to the mech designs, allowing them to do very well in terms of design across a very wide range. The animation being great also helps. The soundtrack as I stated before is also incredible and fitting. The first OP I thought was fantastic, and exactly the right tone to get the viewer hyped for each episode, and the EDs were a perfect send off depending on tone. The OP/ED of the second season were decent, but definitely a step back, though the throwback to the first OP at the end was much appreciated. The tag line is cheesy but cool at the same time.
An anime that looked at in pieces is incredible in almost every aspect, with how it’s all wrapped together, especially including it’s ending, preventing it from being great.