Aldnoah.Zero: Princess of Vers (Princess of Mars)
July 22, 2014 1:10 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The Princess of Vers, Asseylum Vers Allusia, heads to earth on a peace mission. It has been 15 years since Heaven's Fall, when the moon was partially destroyed during a battle between the Earth Federation and the Vers Empire.

In 1972, the Apollo 17 mission find ancient technology on the Moon, including the Hypergate allowing travel between the Earth and Mars. The first colonists arrive on Mars eight years later. The colonists find more "Aldnoah" technology on Mars, and declare independence from Earth, founding the Vers Empire in 1985. War breaks out in 1999 - during one of the battles, the Hypergate goes out of control and partially destroys the moon, an event that comes to be known as Heaven's Fall. Because of the loss of the Hypergate and the fragments of the moon, Vers Knights are trapped between Earth and Mars, while Earth experiences seismic shifts of the continents and climate change. Eventually the Vers manage to re-establish travel between Mars and what remains of the moon. An uneasy truce ensues for the next 15 years.

Princess Asseylum travels to Earth in Count Cruhteo's landing castle. During the journey she learns about Earth from Slaine Troyard, who came from Earth as a child with his father. Terrorists attack Asseylum's parade, which is witnessed by Inaho and his friends. In retaliation, the Vers Orbital Knights launch an all out assault on Earth on their landing castles. New Orleans is destroyed.
posted by needled (14 comments total)
I was pleasantly surprised that they really used New Orleans' actual skyline in the final scene, and used hallmarks beyond Bourbon Street: the traffic jam is on the Crescent City Connection, you can see Riverwalk below the bridge, the main buildings in the CBD are right, etc. When the camera pulls back, even the geography of the area is correct, with the river and lakes in more or less the right place.

After the explosion, there's a pretty terrific (though probably unintentional) joke: the dilapidated old Plaza Tower somehow remains standing, far enough away from the blast and shielded by the rest of downtown. Ha! The city has been trying to do something with that dump for decades, and here we see it outliving the city itself.

I know that all the animators did was spend five minutes on Google Image Search (in fact, I think this was their reference image) but that's five minutes more than any other production, anime or live action, has ever done so bravo.

Oh, and another nice touch: the landing castle doesn't just hit New Orleans, it hits the French Quarter. In fact, I think the cathedral is ground zero.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:44 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also really liked that they made it an alternate history rather than a story that begins with us making first contact in 2014 and then jumping forward forty years. It's just a small touch, and doesn't really change the story either way, but I thought it was a nice way of grounding the story.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:46 PM on July 22, 2014

The intro scene with Slaine and Asseylum had me hearing "Tell me of your homeworld, Usul" from Dune. And the episode title seems to be a nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars.
posted by needled at 3:11 PM on July 22, 2014

I didn't realize they got so much of New Orleans right!

Some of the alternate history is presented in the episode, but it's easy to miss as it's overlaid with character dialogue. The official website has a timeline of the alternate history, and I used the Korean translation by the good folks at RigVeda Wiki to fill in the details in the episode synopsis.
posted by needled at 3:23 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've only seen the first episode as of this comment. My impression so far is it's basically just Gundam with alien tech, which, whatever, but it seems to be dealing in pretty well-trod territory so far. It makes sense that it's apparently super buzzy in Japan, but maybe I'm missing something that I'll find when I watch more.
posted by Small Dollar at 11:07 PM on July 22, 2014

I haven't watched a lot of mecha stuff, so I can't say this for certain, but starting with episode two the tone becomes markedly different from what I think most mechas are like. I could be wrong about that, but episode two is when I said "Oh, this is what the show's going to feel like? That's...not what I expected and now I'm a bit more interested."

I'm not trying to do a Game Of Thrones book reader thing where I'm all "Oh, just you wait! You'll be peeing your pants in episode two!" because it's not like a huge plot twist happens or anything. But it does clarify what kind of story it is and (I think) it's a bit different from what the first episode would have you think.

Ugh, I hope I haven't oversold the next episode...
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:32 AM on July 23, 2014

Having watched the first 3 episodes, it's my impression that they function as a mini-arc. So I think that viewing the first 3 episodes may result in a different impression than just viewing the first one. I don't want to build it up too much, either, though.

I'm a fan of mecha stuff and part of my enjoyment is to see how a series plays with well-known tropes, resolves known problems in the genre ("What? The main character just found a giant mecha lying there and then he can instantly operate it like an expert?"), and if they introduce any new elements.

One thing I am enjoying about this series is the character design from Shimura Takako, who's better known for slice of life manga (her Tumblr account shows some of her series character sketches). Contrast with the character designs for Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen, the other mecha series from this summer, which are more typical for the genre. I am disappointed with Argevollen, by the way.
posted by needled at 9:17 AM on July 23, 2014

From the first couple of episodes, it appears to have a more of an Attack on Titan feel than Gundam. The protagonist hasn't gotten a super-robot, and success involves figuring out the reasonable weaknesses of the super tech. I like that the writers did do reasonable extrapolations of the technology along the lines of "If it does this, then the obvious consequence is this."

The timeline still bugs me. 40 years is way too short to establish an interplanetary colony, much less a completely new feudal society. Especially since the moon transporter didn't solve the big problem of interplanetary colonization.

Finally, the series seems to be heading in the direction that internal politics will do a lot more damage to the Martian invasion than the Earth forces.
posted by happyroach at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2014

The timeline still bugs me. 40 years is way too short to establish an interplanetary colony, much less a completely new feudal society. Especially since the moon transporter didn't solve the big problem of interplanetary colonization.

I don't think that the people on Mars were from Earth 40 years past, I think they were from Earth centuries past? Or something? It sounded more like we got to Mars and the Vers Empire came back to Mars from 'somewhere else', tracked backwards through the Moon to Earth and waged a brief war.

Loving this series though, what a breath of fresh air from the run of Generic Genericsson: A Generic Mecha Show's there have been.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:58 AM on July 23, 2014

Well, I'll be damned. Like Slackermagee I thought the humans on Mars had arrived there centuries if not millennia ago, but Wikipedia says:
In 1972, an ancient alien hypergate was discovered on the surface of the moon. Using this technology, humanity began migrating to Mars and settling there. After settlers discovered additional advanced technology, the Vers Empire was founded, which claimed Mars and its secrets for themselves. Later, the Vers Empire declared war on Earth, and in 1999, a battle on the Moon's surface caused the hypergate to explode, shattering the Moon and scattering remnants into a debris belt around the planet. Cut off from Mars, the remnants of the Vers Empire established several massive orbital space stations within the debris belt and a ceasefire was established.
That is...huh. I guess I'll handwave happyroach's concerns (which are now my concerns) with "Who knows how much the advanced tech they found changed them and/or warped them" and just enjoy the show. But yeah.

"Maybe if you guys had read my introduction you wouldn't be so confused," needled mutters under their breath.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:53 PM on July 23, 2014

The 40-year timeframe to end up with a feudal society and people who believe themselves completely different from Earth humans does seem way too short.

One possibility is as mentioned by Ian A.T., "Who knows how much the advanced tech they found changed them and/or warped them." I am even wondering if being in Mars with the alien technology resulted in time progressing differently for them. Maybe they ended up in some alternate dimension where much more than 40 Earth years elapsed.

Another possibility is that they became a weird isolated society like a cult (or North Korea). If we think of North Korea, forty years was more than enough time to end up with a really different society compared to the rest of the world. The Mars colonists were cut off from Earth after they declared independence. Then there's Edelrittuo's remark that the Vers became a race different from those on Earth when they accepted the power of Aldnoah.

One odd thing is that the only Vers person we've seen old enough to have been part of the original colonists from Earth is Emperor Rayregalia Vers Rayvers, Asseylum's grandfather. Where are the rest of the original colonists?
posted by needled at 1:45 PM on July 23, 2014

I'm going to assume that there were only say, 7 original colonists, and grandfather is the only one surviving. Everyone else is the product of ancient Martian cloning vats. That explains everything. Yep. Uh-huh.
posted by happyroach at 2:07 PM on July 23, 2014

Hey, this isn't Knights of Sidonia.
posted by needled at 4:17 PM on July 23, 2014

Seen the first episode just now and as expected it's been mainly setup; as others have said the timeline doesn't make sense, but then that's a bit of a tradition in mecha anime all the way back to the original Macross series.

What also didn't make sense is that we've seen so far of Earth look pretty undamaged considering it got hit with half the Moon or so fifteen years ago (in 1999, a nod to Macross?). That's an extinction level event.

Anime does seem to have a thing for blonde, vaguely 19th century European aristocracy, doesn't it?
posted by MartinWisse at 5:35 AM on July 26, 2014

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