Aldnoah.Zero: Darkness Visible (Memory Device)
August 31, 2014 6:53 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Slaine wakes up in Saazbaum's landing castle, where Saazbaum explains some of the background of the Vers-Earth war. While practicing with the Areion's combat simulator, Rayet has flashbacks to her first encounter with Nilokeras. Dr. Yagarai tries out a new treatment for Lt. Marito's PTSD, forcing him to to fully confront the memory of his first encounter with a Vers kataphrakt.
posted by needled (15 comments total)
1. I don't think this is a valid way to treat PTSD..

2. not dead not dead not dead not dead!
posted by royalsong at 7:05 AM on August 31, 2014

Did anybody else think "Princess in a coma"?
posted by needled at 8:25 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a sudden obsession with creating cliffhangers through "killing" major characters but leaving the outcomes ambiguous. This, along with dropping the monster-of-the-fortnight format, makes me wonder if there's been another rotation in the writing staff. I suppose I could find out for myself if I could read the Japanese credits.

Saazbaum finally admits to some of his motivations, although in an irritatingly muddled way. (Some of which I'd guessed at in previous episodes -- assuming that he's an anti-royalist isn't much of a leap, but no-prizes to me for having no good idea what his being anti-royalist gets him.) He's also previously been established as a lying liar who lies, so I think it's going to come down to whether he sees himself as a man of honor who's playing by his own rules, or whether he's the win-at-all-costs ratbastard that previous episodes have wanted us to believe.
posted by ardgedee at 9:02 AM on August 31, 2014

The scene in Saazbaum's quarters was my favorite in the series so far, and goes a really long way towards making the Martians' motives sensible, even a little sympathetic.

That scene makes so much about Vers fall into place: It's run by a dictator who maintains power in part by pitting his subordinates against each other, and he rules over a desperately poor citizenship who resent Earthlings and considers them savages even though the quality of life of the most privileged Martian is way below almost anyone's on Earth. And their one point of pride, their Aldnoah technology, is essentially a mystery to them, supplied by a distant sponsor who has no interest improving the average Martians' life.

I just really love the idea of a story about a decadent nobility that's also miserable, paranoid, and as much of a prisoner of their social system as the peasantry. Sure, they've got godlike mechs, but I bet that if most Martians were given the choice between that or a consistent supply of non-fungal food, they'd choose the latter.

And the best part for me is that we got this not from the seemingly decent Cruhteo, but from the oily Saazbaum. That sells it in a way that having an upstanding character deliver it wouldn't.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:57 AM on September 1, 2014

• I'm not used to legitimately laughing out loud at anime, but I did it twice the episode: when Rayet just turned away and ascended in the elevator once she realized that Yuki was talking about her alleged crush on Inaho; and when we got the cutaway gag of whatshername vamping in the Princess' gown after being "so kind" to give her some normal clothes.

• Oh, there was one thing that made me laugh out loud last episode, too: Eddelrittuo's chihuahua growl after Rayet insulted Martians.

• Wikipedia says that Rayet's "father was one of a few Martians who were stranded on Earth after the previous war". I guess I missed the stranded aspect. I just thought they were Earthlings who agreed to work for the Martians, either for idealogy or for money.

• Despite my low expectations, I felt that Marito's backstory was effective and a good explanation about why he's so messed up: not just because he shot his best friend, but because he didn't do it quick enough. I just wish the whole sequence had been done in that blocky Virtual Boy style we saw at the beginning...that would have been hilarious.

• Look, I wouldn't put it past this show to open next episode with the Princess rubbing her throat while Marito's doctor is like "She's had a bit of a shock, but she's going to be just fine," but that would feel like such a cheat to me. Keep in mind that I'm a total sucker when it comes to plot twists soon as the episode ended I shot an OMGOMGOMG note to needled before even considering that it might be a fake out.

• I don't have anything against the Princess, I mostly just want the murder to have happened because it's such a bonkers plot development that I'm really intrigued with where the show goes from here if she is dead. What's next if what seems to have happened really did happen?
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:26 AM on September 1, 2014

What makes the scene in Saazbaum's quarters great is that you're left in lingering doubt about how much of what he said was true, yet he still comes across as much more sympathetic than the other Vers nobles we have seen so far (including Cruhteo). In retrospect he was the only Vers nobleman we have been shown so far who wasn't constantly referring to Earth people as lowly scum.

And I thought Saazbaum laying waste to to Cruhteo's castle was a bonkers plot development - now we've got the murder of the princess. Apparently the writing staff promised even more plot mayhem for episode 10. I'm kind of worried that they're going for bonkers plot developments just for their sake. They've certainly done a good job keeping us hanging, though.

I am wondering if Femieanne is related to Orlane, Saazbaum's dead fiancée. Perhaps they were sisters? If we look at the map of where the Vers landing castles landed, they all went for major population centers. So it was a bit odd that Femieanne was in Tanegashima, a remote abandoned outpost by this point in the story. It would make sense if she had some personal reason(s) for being there.

But man, this episode. I really needed a dose of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun after this A/Z episode.
posted by needled at 1:15 PM on September 1, 2014

Something else crossed my mind: This episode reframes the Aldnoah thingy's role as the titular macguffin. Both Saazbaum's speech and the Princess's, uh, incapacitation demonstrate that this is a woo sort of thing through which the emperor wields power, both literal/physical and political. It might be capable of other things, but this is all it is at the moment. What Saazbaum is intending is less clear than it seems, since it now looks pretty solid that without the emperor or his heirs around, the Aldnoah technology goes away and a whole lot of Martians are suddenly space debris.

So one of the following:
1: The emperor's monopoly on the Aldnoah tech can be appropriated, and Saazbaum's going to use it to establish a usurper's reign. If I had only this episode to go by, I'd expect him to attempt an enlightened dictatorship, say, Tito-era Yugoslavia, but I don't really see him as having the personal integrity for that.
2: Slaine's dad reverse engineered the Aldnoah tech and the emperor and his line have to be removed before it can be properly democratized or capitalized. Saazbaum's motivation here, as a benevolent tyrant, would be the belief that sharing some of his power would elevate all the people around him and grant him an even more powerful reign over Earth and Mars.
3: Neither of the above. Saazbaum sees establishing dominion over a patch of earth as his exit from Mars, and killing off the Emperor's line -- terminating the Aldnoah tech and killing millions(?) of Martian folks -- is his way of burning his bridges behind him.

I swear if the Saazbaum story line turns into a Macbeth retelling (with Crouton-o as Macduff), I'm gonna throw things at the TV.
posted by ardgedee at 7:06 PM on September 1, 2014

Saazbaum's quarters were a visual shoutout to Dave Bowman's hotel room / holding pen in 2001, right?
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:14 PM on September 1, 2014

And oh yeah, I have a suspicion Rayet wasn't entirely acting of her own agency in the shower, there. Judging by the look on her face before and after attacking the princess, anyway.
posted by ardgedee at 8:59 PM on September 1, 2014

Here's what I think:
1. Cruhteo is still alive.
2. The princess is still alive, but will spend the rest of the season in a coma.

On Saazbaum's plan: the way he's going to get vengeance, and the reason he needs to assassinate the princess, is that he intends to lure the nobility to earth and let them rampage around a bit to really anger the earthlings. Then he'll assassinate emperor Raytheon Raver Vers III Vers, and with the aldnoah line all dead, the nobility's tech will fail on them, leaving them to be torn apart by the now very angry population of earth.

What I think will happen is that this will all go according to plan, but then in the season finale Asseylum will wake up, and with her the nobility will get their war machines back. This will set up a conflict in season 2 between and within Slaine and Inaho, where both are torn between their love of Earth and of Asseylum, with Slaine leaning more towards Asseylum and Inaho more for Earth (or maybe they swap roles: Saazbaum converts Slaine to his cause, and Inaho decides that he can't murder one person even to save thousands).
posted by Pyry at 11:08 PM on September 1, 2014

I like that scenario except that given what we know so far about the Aldnoah, if the royalty are all incapacitated, the Aldnoah thingy stops working, and then the people on Mars and the Moon don't have power, oxygen, water... This could explain why the emperor, who's in his sixties, looks like a zillion year old man when he's not on camera: He's busy being an energy source for a couple planets and their armies, among other things.

It's a scorched earth solution, pardon the expression, and unless Saazbaum has pre-Aldnoah space equipment cached and ready to use, and a plan for quick transition of control of the Aldnoah thingy, he'd be effectively terminating interplanetary life for humans.

We still don't know what he knows, despite his big speech to Slaine, and I think he's going to continue maintaining his spy network and evading direct questions, at least up through the end of this first dozen episodes.
posted by ardgedee at 5:55 AM on September 2, 2014

If Cruhteo comes back wearing a mask, yelling out "ORANGE-KUN!!!" I am totally going to lose it.
posted by needled at 8:27 AM on September 2, 2014

Now that I have the irrelevant Code Geass reference out of the way (but no, it's not completely irrelevant, Inaho is Lelouch and Slaine is Suzaku! And Cruhteo is Jeremiah Gottwald and and and ...). Anyway, I hope they don't drag out for too long who is alive and who is dead:
  • Hime-sama: alive, dead, in a coma
  • Cruhteo: alive, dead, on ice until Season 2
  • Emperor Rayregalia: almost dead
  • Asseylum's dad: died during 1st Earth-Vers war, but do we know for sure?
  • Rayet: viewers want her dead
  • Marito: how long will his alcohol stash last?

posted by needled at 11:49 AM on September 3, 2014

Marito: Soul is dead
Slaine's dad: Plausibly dead
posted by ardgedee at 2:32 PM on September 3, 2014

Ep. 10 preview.

(Also, any volunteers for posting Episode 10? Just have it up Sunday at the usual time, with the usual tags, as I like to keep the series tags consistent, although you'll notice there are some episode-specific tags. Otherwise post will be up some time Monday.)
posted by needled at 6:27 AM on September 4, 2014

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