What a disaster.
Like so many animes before, this show has so much going for it. A wonderful premise, awesome animation, but just missing that essential something. Something like memorable characters or a narrative that embraced it’s premise with some creativity. I watched the first two episodes, and was along for the ride during the first with only minor complaints. By the second episode, I was talking to the TV a lot, which is a bad sign for me. Something in the show was amiss.
The first episode didn’t bother me as much, but it did the thing in the beginning that just drives me crazy. Some might remember when I talked about Seraph of the End – that anime doesn’t hold your hand. The information is laid out in a way that it would be accessible to other characters, so you catch it without anyone having to take time to explain it to you. It puts some faith in the watcher to do some work, let’s them make some assertions about what they’re watching. It’s a good thing.
But in A.Z, we have the same tired trope. Characters see something from the past and spill their guts to each other about what happened long ago, as though they don’t already have some awareness.
“It’s just like 15 years ago, when that crazy stuff happened. Don’t you remember?”
Yes, obviously I remember. I mean, not really, because I’m only in high school so I would have only been a tiny toddler at the time, but oh yea, I remember that crazy thing 15 years ago. It really effected me. Let’s look mildly concerned about it and then move onto something else the audience needs to learn.
Despite that, I still watched. The show has a good hook. Humans discover alien tech when they make it to the moon – a gateway they harness to colonize Mars. Enough time passes between Mars and Earth that the Martians declare independence from Earth and create their own society in space. They also discover more alien tech that’s super powerful, allowing them to expand faster than Earth while declaring themselves an empire.
Add in some giant mechs, and I’m on board. I’ve read some more reviews and looked ahead, and I can see that the show has some interesting ideas. Richard Eisenbeis gave some insight in his review, saying,
“Inaho and his companions are forced to battle it in their vastly inferior mecha but win because of their planning—thus outthinking their opponents. It is an anime that is set up much like a mystery novel. The resolution is a given—the detective will solve the case and Inaho’s squad will take out the enemy mecha, respectively. The fun comes from seeing how the heroes do this.”
I can’t really argue with that idea, it sounds like a good one. Take Gundam and flip it on its axis – give the antagonists all the technology and forcing the main characters to strategize with only lesser capable mechs at their disposal. Apparently the characters are also supposed to be interesting, with Inaho and Slaine being foils of one another, much like Seraph of the End (light hair and dark hair gay space boys). There’s a crazy cliffhanger that I spoiled for myself, but at that point I didn’t care. Good intentions just pave the way to Hell.
It’s possible that it’s just me, certainly other people must really enjoy this anime, but the characters just acted all wrong. They never acted the way I wanted them too.
First off, the Martians. I get it, they’re evil, you really don’t have to sell it to me that hard. Honestly, I think I could have liked them had the show given me the option to like them. Instead they’re all drawn with tiny pupils and squinted eyes that make them look shifty. They all wear really stupid livery to make them look pretentious, and they all talk with that Vampire confidence that sounds like they pulled it straight from Seraph of the End. Okay, they’re aristocratic and scary, I get it.
But it didn’t have to be that way. It would have been easy to draw them like normal characters, maybe give them some redeemable qualities that made them likable. Suddenly, the audience has a dilemma. The Martians could still be racist, viewing themselves as the higher form of humanity with their technology, but then they would also have things that they cared about instead of just, “We have to kill these filthy human scum, weh heh heh heh.” It’s boring, and it makes it really easy to call what’s going to happen in the first episode.
See, apparently the Martians want to send down a princess to the surface of Earth to talk peace between the two nations. Can’t see anything wrong happening there. So you can imagine my immense surprise when her convoy is attacked and she’s presumed dead. The Martians launch a full scale offensive on Earth, and it only takes one more episode to learn that, surprise, it was the Martians who had their own men kill her so they could justify hostilities.
But I can’t help but think, if they really wanted to fight that badly, why did they need some BS excuse to attack? The Martians already talk about the people on Earth as less than human, so why give a damn about politics or ethics or anything the Earthlings care about? Did they just want the moral high ground? They don’t seem to concerned when they’re brutally killing squadrons of Earth soldiers. Why bother sending their princess down in the first place to kill her if they just wanted to go to war? Did they just not like her because she wanted peace with them? They didn’t really have to listen to her. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
That’s not something he’s called in the anime, but it’s a name I gave him while watching. He’s the kind of character I can’t stand in shows like this – he’s too cool headed. So cool headed it felt like he wasn’t human.
On that note, no one really acted human on Earth either. Here are the Martians, this race of people that truly believe they’re superior and have come to the planet to cleanse it of “Old Humanity”. They are rotten straight to the core, all they dream about late at night is killing lesser forms of humanity and reclaiming Earth. So it stands to reason that those living on Earth, to contrast the Martians, would be exemplars of all that was human. Perhaps living on Earth was what made us human, and the point would be leaving it might make us less prone to empathy and other “human” emotions.
That would have made for some more interesting characters, but instead, we’re left with Inaho, the boy who never reacts to anything in his whole life. His face is clear of emotions, good and bad, and his life just passes before his eyes like so many fish in a bowl, floating but never making an impact. Other people around him react to things, but it all seems robotic. When the ships begin to crash on Earth, they have the force of a nuclear bomb with a shockwave that wipes out many major cities. An EMP also follows and they cut the Internet lines under the ocean. Thus, it’s reasonable to assume that people may not know that major cities are gone, but smaller mechs also land and begin attacking as well. People are evacuating, some even dying, but people just kind of looked mildly concerned in the way anime characters can be concerned, with the little frown and the sweat drop. A group of high school kids literally have people killed in front of them, and that’s the best face they can provide
Inaho is the worst of all. He holds the hands of a friend of his before he’s blown off of their vehicle and into a mech, which literally obliterates him in every essence of the word. What is Inaho’s Oscar winning response?
I grant there are some things I’m probably missing, I haven’t really experienced the main pull of the show, the main characters using their wits to outthink the Martians. But after watching those first two episodes, I’m just not interested. None of the characters make me want to come back to see what’s going to happen to them. They don’t seem to care what happens to them or other people they know. It’s all just a mildly stressful inconvenience, there’s no need to freak out after millions might have died during the invasion. They don’t care, so neither do I. Aldnoah barely grabs three sweat drops out of ten.