Aldnoah.Zero: Childhood's End (Though the Heavens Fall)
September 21, 2014 7:25 AM - Season 1, Episode 12 - Subscribe

The heavily damaged Deucalion rams into Saazbaum's landing castle in a desperate move to continue with the plan to deactivate the landing castle's Aldnoah drive. Inaho battles Saazbaum while Yuki and Inko attempt to get Asseylum into the landing castle's Aldnoah drive room. Meanwhile Slaine returns to Saazbaum's landing castle.

This episode marks the end of the first half of the 24-part series, with the second half returning in January 2015.
posted by needled (19 comments total)

I guess happyroach was right on the money when they called this "George RR Martin's Voltron."
posted by Iridic at 10:24 AM on September 21, 2014

So the first 12 episodes told the story of a plucky group of Terrans. If interviews with series staff can be believed, Slaine will play a larger role in the second half. I hope this means the focus now shifts to the Martians and we get a more expansive view of how the war has progressed across various regions of Earth, as well as some more backstory on the Vers Empire and how they came about to use Aldnoah. Oh, and how come Slaine managed to activate Tharsis.
posted by needled at 11:21 AM on September 21, 2014

Every major character in the series so far who has died has done so by Slaine's hand or as a direct consequence of his actions. We can conclude two things:
1. His name "Slaine" was intentional, not just one of those weird Japanese attempts at constructing an English-sounding name.
2. He is not a robot.
posted by ardgedee at 1:36 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think I can take a season of Slaine moping around now that Asseylum and Inaho are dead.
posted by Pyry at 2:12 PM on September 21, 2014

Yuki-nee's narration at the end says the whereabouts of Asseylum are unknown. So there is a teeny bit of doubt as to whether she is dead dead.

A really terrible 2nd half would involve Slaine being the villain committing all his villainous acts in the name of Princess Asseylum. There'd be scenes of him agonizing to Asseylum about all the terrible things he's done. And then it's revealed towards the end - dum dum dum - that Asseylum's been dead all along and he's been talking to her corpse. And then he kills himself once his aim of uniting Vers and Earth is achieved.
posted by needled at 2:22 PM on September 21, 2014

I have a feeling she's not dead. If my previous snarky comment was an actual rule, it would even make sense for her to still be alive.

But also it provides an way for the second season to construct a two-person narrative structure to parallel the first season's Inaho vs. Slaine: In this case, Princess vs. Slaine. Possibly literally thus, since she seemed to have concluded the Martians had forsaken her, while Slaine, after wandering aimlessly for most of three episodes, had decided to cast his lot with the Martians. And he has the Aldnoah power so he might be the only person other than the princess with a plausible claim to the emperor's throne. The writers have more story opportunities with her alive and Inaho dead, than the other way around.

And I dunno. I don't want Slaine to be the villain -- if for no other reason than because he seems incapable of decision-making most of the time, and incapable of making good decisions all the time. He would be an inadvertently comical villain.
posted by ardgedee at 2:49 PM on September 21, 2014

I guess happyroach was right on the money when they called this "George RR Martin's Voltron."

One thing that Martin does very well, and which contributes significantly to the popularity of the series, is that he's very good at creating a feeling of genuine uncertainty. Other than certain characters which have "plot armor", it almost feels as if Martin is actually rolling dice behind the scenes to determine (some) outcomes. In contrast, Aldnoah.Zero is far too orderly in its pattern of twists and reversals-- success yields to setback yields to success, ad infinitum.
posted by Pyry at 4:47 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Where does the show even go from here? The loss of Inaho and Asseylum is HUGE...not the characters themselves, but their roles: the Earth forces have just lost the one pilot capable of figuring out how to defeat the Martians AND their secret weapon who can shut down Aldnoah drives.

Personally, this twist feels like a show-killer to me. I have no idea how they can continue to make the fight against the Martians compelling without an Inaho or Asseylum there to drive the story unless they resort to cheap narrative tricks. Which means that's exactly what they're going to do.

Again, I'm not saying that the characters themselves are essential—Inaho always felt like a Light expy and the Princess barely had a personality at all—but that their roles in the story feel irreplaceable.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:56 PM on September 21, 2014

Martin isn't THAT unpredictable. Youjust have to remember he's one of THOSE DMs.

I think there was an implication that with Saazbaum dead, there was a truce, or at least a stall in the war. It's also quite likely that absent their idea guy, and being feudal warlords, the Martians will be more busy fighting each other than the Terrans.
posted by happyroach at 10:17 PM on September 21, 2014

I'm gonna blather until the coffee kicks in.

It's supposed to be a mecha series, so I guess they can't simply have a second series without a war going on. The dynamics of that war should have shifted drastically though. The martian war leader's and Terran bases are now next door neighbors, the martian war leader is (very most likely probably) dead, and there threatens to be a disruption to either the martian royal lineage or at the very least to the control of the Aldnoah technology.

Slaine's and the Princess' political affiliations and senses of identity were shifting roughly in parallel in the final act of the first series. Slaine went from being a whipped slaveboy outsider to somebody accepted by the Martians and seemingly more comfortable among them. At least to the extent he was capable of making decisions and committing himself to them. The Princess confronted her being forsaken by her countrymen (whether or not that's true) and worked through it by going on a suicide mission. Rayet is the remaining main character who had to come to grips with her conflicting earthling and martian identities. By the end of this show she, unlike most of the other major characters, finished the series physically unscathed and with some story potential remaining in her. (Saazbaum is arguably another one who spent the series working out his personal martian/earthling issues, but I kinda think that's resolved now.)

Inaho's final speech before battle (about the causes and resolutions of war) is pretty clearly meant to be an epigraph for the show; if the patient screentime given to him for reciting it amidst the chaos isn't doesn't convince you, at least remember that the dude giving the usual meatheaded battle speech got cut short midsentence.

So for season 2: For the writers to stick the main narrative line to the mecha war on Earth is going to be unnecessarily constraining. There's more potential for the show by moving the main storyline to the Moon and Mars. I think it can be assumed that without Saazbaum and Cruhteo, the remaining lunar knights will want to continue invading and claiming land on Earth without attaching much emotional baggage to it. Saazbaum's own beef with the decadent (to the martians) earthlings harbors a greater truth about the martians' perception of Earth as a vast unclaimed territory to stake ownership in and profit from. (Never mind that the earthlings probably have a different position on ownership.)

Rayet is poised to be a leading character and opposite Slaine, because her conflicting martian/earthling background has similar half-truths and mysteries underlying it. The Inaho/Princess/Slaine triangle could become a Rayet/Princess/Slaine triangle although that sounds cheesy.

Cruhteo disappeared offscreen and is presumed but not proven dead. If he's alive, it would mean both that Slaine doesn't have any particular Aldnoah power, and that there's an adult to fill the leadership void left by Saazbaum. The writers could even drag this out to an end-of-first-act reveal if they're bored.

The emperor's shown as a fading, withered man when he's not on-camera. His granddaughter is his only heir. So for the series to plausibly continue (and not be set up for an abrupt apocalyptic end within the series' milieu), there has to be somebody in the coming generation to pick up the glowing white orb and run with it. Otherwise the Vers empire disappears and a whole lot of martians suddenly can't breathe and the remaining are easy pickings for the surviving Earth forces. Currently the only possible candidates are the Princess (dead...ish?), Slaine (outsider whose powers are unknown/in doubt) or, uh, I guess the Emperor could try spawning again, but that would be a long wait. Alternately the Aldnoah power can be democratized somehow, this possibly having been Slaine's dad's as-yet-stated mission (whose papers are in PDF format on the USB key in the Princess' locket) and Slaine as his living proof, and the imperial line's necessity is rendered moot. Lots of Martian intrigue if that's true. Of course if the Aldnoah power can be shared, all of humanity can set aside their differences because unlimited energy is available to everybody -- or else the Lunar knights can keep it to themselves and exploit it as the means to act fully independently and oh boy what a free-for-all that can be. Lots more mecha fighting possible if that's true.

Okay, I can feel the coffee now. Have at it.
posted by ardgedee at 3:45 AM on September 22, 2014

Now that I've had some time to process the WTF feelings from watching the episode, here are some thoughts and notes on the episode:
  • No recap and going straight to the opening song - I guess they needed all the time to tell the story. Nope, turns out they needed the time to splice in something from the Yuusha series.
  • Inaho's speech on the causes and resolutions of war - the bit that caught my attention was that wars also end when "human cost outweighs the gains." I wonder when Vers will reach that point. Supposedly the last Vers-Earth war ended when Emperor Gilzeria died.
  • When Asseylum says "Good hunting" to Inaho, instead of telling him to wait or think things over, etc., it really felt like Asseylum and Inaho were a matched pair. That Asseylum understood and accepted Inaho as he was.
  • Vers foot soldiers don't seem to share the ethnocentrism of the Vers nobility, at least judging from that one Vers soldier who protected Slaine (and then died).
  • Please listen to this when reading anything involving Inaho and Asseylum in this episode; this for the battle scenes.
  • Speaking of soundtrack music, compare Ver$ and aズ-17歩 (AZ-Inaho) to Troyard. Slaine is forever alone even with his musical theme. ㅠ

posted by needled at 4:01 PM on September 22, 2014

Nice bit of foreshadowing: back in episode 8, Slaine pointed out to Cruhteo that a Kataphract dudded up in dimensional armor would be invulnerable in a meteor bombardment. What do you want to bet is the first upgrade that Saazbaum made to the Dioscuria after he barely survived Heaven's Fall?
posted by Iridic at 7:50 PM on September 22, 2014

Good point, Iridic- I also can't help but think there was an element of "any ability any other Kataphract has Dioscuria has to have as well".

There's the possibility that Slaine may be the major antagonist or Great Martian Hope for the next half. After all, he seems to be able to activate Aldnoah. Which is ironic, given how he was treated.
posted by happyroach at 9:47 PM on September 22, 2014

I just wanted to pop back in and say a huge Thank You to needled for setting this up and posting the new episodes every week. It's been SO FUN having a new anime series to discuss with you guys, and I really appreciate needled doing this.

So...what are we going to watch between now and January? I'm not letting my $6 Crunchyroll fee go to waste!
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:23 AM on September 23, 2014

Fall 2014 anime

I'm definitely going to be watching Psycho-Pass 2, once I get caught up with the first Psycho-Pass series. Also Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle, as the first season was surprisingly enjoyable. I'm on the fence about Fate/Stay Night. Probably passing on Log Horizon 2nd Series, even though I watched the 1st series. It was enjoyable, but it was turning into a harem series in later episodes and I wish it had retained more of the initial spirit of exploring as a group the MMRPG universe the characters found themselves caught in. Orenchi no Furo Jijou looks amusing but it may not be to everybody's tastes.

From comments I've read from early viewers of the first episode Cross Ange sounds really gross. Just staying away from that one.

There may still be a Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun type sleeper hit in the bunch. Just in terms of sales Nozaki is probably going to vie with Free! Eternal Summer for the top spot for anime this season, but it seemed to be one of those anime that didn't translate well for Western audiences.

(Thank you for the nice words about the A/Z posts, Ian A. T.! Let's also give a hand to Small Dollar who filled in while I was on vacation!)
posted by needled at 7:50 AM on September 23, 2014

By the way, what if Lt. Marito runs into Slaine in the second half? Who'd win? Indestructible Marito (he survived Heaven's Fall on Tanegashima when everybody else died and even Saazbaum was seriously injured, and he was the first person on the bridge to respond after the Deucalion crashed into Saazbaum's landing castle) or Angel of Death Slaine?
posted by needled at 7:54 AM on September 23, 2014

(Moving Fall 2014 anime discussion to FanFare Talk)
posted by needled at 8:33 AM on September 23, 2014

So Japanese viewers seem to be of the opinion that Inaho is dead, but Asseylum is alive. The interpretation is that Inaho smiled because Asseylum wasn't dead, and pulled out his gun to shoot at Slaine to defend Asseylum.

> The loss of Inaho and Asseylum is HUGE

I feel like Inaho's done his part and retiring him as a character opens up story possibilities more. By shifting the focus onto Slaine we now can get a view of what's been going on in Mars, especially the political intrigue. I would like some explanation for the Emperor's seeming lack of concern for his only granddaughter's safety on her trip to Earth, and his rather unconcerned reaction to news of her demise. I'm wondering if the Aldnoah power, at least for the Emperor's bloodline, grants some degree f immortality.

From this perspective it makes more sense to have Asseylum in a coma and not playing much of a role until later in the series. Having her dead cuts off story possiblities with her being in opposition to Slaine. Then there's the ending of the first season opener, with her holding the gun. If she's alive, she's aiming that gun at Slaine. This makes the "A/Z" ending song a bit more ominous, as the visuals show her wandering around on what appear to be Vers ruins. Could this imply that she destroys the Vers Empire?
posted by needled at 1:46 PM on September 24, 2014

Slaine got a promotion!

Slaine's wearing the same type of outfit as Trillram, a baron, or Orlane, a viscountess. Does this imply a largish time skip?
posted by needled at 7:40 AM on October 9, 2014

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