Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Anime Review: Aldnoah.Zero (Season 1) (TV)

Aldnoah.Zero (Season 1) (Review)
Japan/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"I really did enjoy this rich world..."

A devious plot to assassinate a foreign princess revitalizes a war between Earth and the Vers Empire, an empire powered by powerful Martian technology called Aldnoah...

Aldnoah.Zero is a bit complicated, which can be good and bad. On one hand, there's a rich background and a large set of characters. On the other hand, there's not enough time in a 12-episode season to efficiently tell the story. So, let me try to give you a condensed version of the plot while avoiding spoilers from the latter half of the season. Aldnoah.Zero follows the Terrans, the inhabitants of Earth, and the Martians of the Vers Empire, particularly Princess Asseylum. Princess Asseylum visits Earth on peace mission. Upon arrival, her vehicle and her convoy are destroyed by Martians posing as Terrans. With their convenient excuse, the conspirators, a few of the Orbital Knights of the Vers Empire, consequently attack Earth with all of their might. As war erupts, Inaho Kaizuka, an oddly tranquil and calculated teenager, joins the fight with other surviving Terrans and helps unravel the conspiracy. I think that’s about everything I can explain without spoiling certain plot points. There are many more characters, though. It all leads to a very powerful ending, leaving you wanting more.

 It may not have sparked the same magic I felt with The Seven Deadly Sins, but I did thoroughly enjoy Aldnoah.Zero. There is a very rich, albeit a bit complex, world to immerse yourself into. Some of the characters are a little too mundane at times, but they develop well over time. Some of the characters are a tad underdeveloped, but the seeds are planted for more growth over the next few seasons. As for the action, this is a mecha anime. The mecha units are referred to as "Kataphrakts." The Terran Kataphrakts are rather simple, while the Orbital Knights use specialized Kataphrakts powered by Aldnoah. It's not fast-paced, the Kataphrakts move slowly, but the action is calculated. Thanks to the strong direction, every battle puts you at the edge of your seat. Sooner or later, though, you'll realize a certain character, I won't say any names, will always find away to outsmart his omnipotent foes. It takes a bit from the suspense, really. Otherwise, I enjoyed the occasionally-convoluted story and the action.

As usual, I opted for the Japanese dub. Although there isn't much enthusiasm due to the tone of the series and the nature of some characters, it is well articulated and conveys the proper emotion. I didn't have any problems with the voice cast. As I usually state, I don't know much about animation techniques. If I had to wager, I'd say this is a blend of traditional animation and computer-generated images, much like Knights of Sidonia. (Although I think the latter was a bit more 3D in this aspect.) I liked the animation, though, and the art style was pleasant. The music really stood out, though. Composer Hiroyuki Sawano, composer of the Attack on Titan and The Seven Deadly Sins music, which I adore, delivers another epic soundtrack. I've said it before, but I'd listen to this music without the anime. Aldnoah.Zero is directed by Ei Aoki and written by Gen Urobuchi and Katsuhiko Takayama. The writing could have used some fine-tuning, but the direction is splendid. I think Aoki did a wonderful job in crafting this world with what he had.

Overall, Aldnoah.Zero is a great anime — at least a great start. There are some issues with the convoluted story, particularly due to the very complex world and some writing pitfalls, but the narrative is otherwise conveyed well enough. Furthermore, I really did enjoy this rich world – I don't want it to seem like I didn't understand it or didn't care for it. If you love mecha action, you'll find yourself with some action-packed sequences here – accompanied by wonderful music, too. It didn't make me feel giddy like a child, but I was certainly entertained and I'm ready for the next season. While I wait for the next season, please feel free to leave some recommendations for other anime series in the comment section below. Thanks!

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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