I should probably note up front that Aldnoah.Zero was a hatewatch for me from roughly episode five or so, or, perhaps put even more accurately, a “scoffwatch”. I kept tuning in week in and week out to sneer, scoff, and chortle as our Mr. Perfect lead deadpanned his way through mech fights as the trained professionals around him shrieked and boozed, and the other school kid pilots cowered and flailed. And that it was all capped off with so many gunshot wounds and a Terran on the verge of a nervous breakdown really was the best I could’ve asked it for.
Maybe the other key piece here to make note of is that I didn’t originally have any intent to watch, and I didn’t bother with the show until after the third episode had aired and someone had claimed to me that it was WWI-ish. I, being a WWI addict (I’m bitterly disappointed that I cannot get married in Ypres because I cannot commit to living in Belgium for a month, so I will be unable to get married one day and go check out trenches the next), was intrigued, Gen Urobuchi’s involvement be damned! And those first few episodes were pretty solid, even if the presumed lead was a bit dull. But then it all went mech-of-the-week get defeated by the boring schoolboy and none of the characters broke free of characterization stasis and I found myself dismayed.
Here are the primary problems with A.Z:
- a large cast with some potential that never happens since the characters ever develop, and anyone other than Inaho is never permitted to be particularly useful or even half smart
- endless upping of stakes after the bad odds are just about to be overcome undermining ability of show to create tension
- stakes upped frequently by entire cast having a sudden and plot-convenient attack of idiocy (the call-sign for the Princess at the very end really pissed me off in particular on this front)
- politics that one can sink one’s teeth into overruled at last second by plot convenience and bad characterization
I found myself laughing at so many points where characters were being shot or choked or threatened or having flashbacks or any number of other “serious” things in this “serious” show. The PTSD-ridden alcoholic lieutenant is flashing back to traumatic memories of a comrade’s death during a simulation? Laughter. A girl is threatening to shoot someone else as that someone else cries about said girl’s anger and pain that they indirectly caused for her? Laughter. Boy getting whipped while hanging from chains? Laughter.
Now, I still derived a lot of entertainment from it all. I loved watching it and making disgusted noises at it every week! I found much of it genuinely funny, regardless of whether that was the intent or not. I’m avidly awaiting the second half next winter! But I’m also irritated because this wasn’t what I was hoping for when I caved and watched the first three episodes; I would’ve happily welcomed a more solemn mech show even with the silly pseudo-Roman-derived catchphrase at the end of each OP. But sometimes you’ve just got to settle for the show you got, not the one you imagined might happen.