Has anyone working on this show ever even studied war?
Aldnoah.Zero’s episode this past week managed to be both not bad and terrible simultaneously, and while I will explain why it was both, I’m primarily interested in what made it terrible. Essentially, though, it wasn’t bad because it was an eventful episode that furnished some more information while moving the plot forward; sure, many of the component parts were silly or plain poorly thought-out, but even if I was rolling my eyes at the rapid sequence of events leaving Slaine as a nobleman, it is movement of the narrative forward. Now, whether the movement that is occurring makes sense is another matter, and I’ll touch on that.
I’ve seen some folks complaining about Eddy’s behavior here, but her displayed attitude is neither lacking in sense nor do I think it’s particularly odious, actually. (Related, I saw at least a couple people say that she’s a lost cause anyway because racists don’t change, but that rather ignores that she’s a ten year old, doesn’t it? Writing off a young child for such a sin seems to be wrongheaded – since when have ten year olds been great at critical thinking, anyway?) Eddy presumably was picked up by the Martians after she helped Asseylum make her escape at the end of the first season. Eddy is also of the servant class, and a child to boot. Would it have made any sense for her to at that point to have started disavowing the Martians and their ideology? Hardly. And I’m even tempted to cite how uncomfortable she seems around Lemrina this episode when queried about her feelings about the Terrans aboard the Deucalion (I say “tempted” since, given how weakly characterized most of the cast is, I don’t feel at ease fully committing to the notion that this was meant as a demonstration of what it may be at all); if Slaine as a young man who has consistently fought on behalf of the Martians the entire show is worthy of skepticism, what then of a girl who has been known to have spent time in close quarters with the Terrans for several months? Eddy’s a kid but she also isn’t an idiot – there’s nothing to be gained in putting her neck on the line to pipe up in defense of the Terrans even if she doesn’t feel as steadfast in her dislike for them as she professes.
But, hey, I’ve always been partial to Eddy – she’s the only person in the show who has consistently said Inaho sucks, after all, so how could I hate her?
Moving along, though: what persistently nagged at me throughout this episode was – why are they having a battle here? In the prior episode, we were told that a battle would occur as the Primary Space Rock for each side would be passing near to the other side’s, so proximity was going to lead to inevitable violence. Eh, not the best reason I’ve ever heard of, but it’s acceptable. This episode bothered with no such pretense, as the assumption is that the audience is already primed to accept a battle per episode since that is what happens in mech shows/that has been A.Z’s approach for its entire run. But that doesn’t paper effectively over the fact that there is no reason whatsoever for a battle to occur at this juncture.
So, why is there a battle happening (other than that the showrunners have decreed it shall)? From the Martians point of view, what is the purpose of a battle here and now? We know the larger framing is that they want to destroy the remainder of Earth-sponsored opposition, but why engage the enemy right here, right now? The show doesn’t answer this, but it is part of a larger problem with the Vers Empire side of the equation anyway.
Swapping over to the Terrans, why is it necessary for them to engage in battle at this point in time and this point in space? And, again, this isn’t answered here. Neither side is making a push to capture the other’s main base, no one’s trying to capture a specific target, they haven’t agreed to duke it out to try to settle the matter once and for all… both sides have simply simultaneously decided – without communicating it with one another! – to roll out in their mechs in order to have a battle.
But! This is just all subservient to the true problem. The way things have developed, to lead to the show being set in the asteroid belt, doesn’t make a lick of sense. Why – why, why, why, why, why did the Terrans move their forces to the Orbital Knights’ stomping ground? Why did they take their effective fighters, boot them from the little territory that Terrans still control on Earth, and chuck them up into enemy territory in space? Why would they remove their military forces from the environment in which they are best accustomed to fighting, i.e. on Earth, and put them into space, where their enemy has had fifteen years to get used to fighting?
Granted, A.Z never bothered to consider that the Orbital Knights themselves may’ve had some difficulty adjusting to a different operating environment. Even crap shows like Gundam ZZ make some noises about gravity and sand, but, no, the Orbital Knights hit the ground running after going from a no gravity battle environment to one with gravity. (And never mind anything to do with weather.)
But I digress. There’s also a logistics head-scratcher involved; Inaho perhaps doesn’t need food so much, but everyone else does. The mechs need fuel. The mechs needs maintenance materials, from spare screws to spare tools with which to affix those screws. Everyone and everything needs water. How does the security of any potential supply chain look with the Martians not having to worry about effective military force on the ground held by the Terrans on Earth?
(I could be accused of nitpicking – I don’t, after all, tend to make these same observations when watching other giant robot shows set all or partially in space. But A.Z also set itself up as this very serious war show, so I expect it to follow through by at least meeting a bare minimum when it comes to strategic/operational matters. And even if other mech shows set in wartime aren’t necessarily terribly intelligent, the general movements of politics and militaries are typically understandable, even when that is because the thing is sketched in the broadest, vaguest terms. A.Z wants us to know how smart it is but then turns around and falls on its face immediately. And, hell, if Inaho is so smart, why did he never tell everyone that this was a stupid idea in the first place? There’s nothing in his characterization whatsoever to suggest that this would go against his character, nor is there anything in the show to date that suggests that he wouldn’t immediately be listened to and heeded.)
At this point, the Orbital Knights have no reason to directly engage the Terrans. All they have to do is prevent them from getting re-supply. They could also overrun the earthbound forces, although, hey, who knows, maybe Inaho projects a stupefying field that is at fault for the Deucalion troops being able to handle being without him for nineteen months and then completely flubbing it the second he showed up SO maybe the ground forces are capable of holding off the Martians. But pick off any logistics ships and eventually the Orbital Knights will win simply by starving their enemy. Just ask General Lysander.
Given all that, leaving Earth in the first place was a poor decision, and it only happened because the writers decided it would, i.e. inorganically. The story could’ve been maneuvered into space by other, better means – for example, the Terrans could’ve been overrun on Earth, and the bulk of their forces made a break for space so they can bide some time and avoid annihilation. (They could’ve even worked in managing to redeem LT Marito – he forces himself to pilot and overcomes his flashbacks and pulls off a heroic sacrifice move in order to allow the Deucalion to escape. It isn’t original, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what we’ve got here.) But, no, someone raised their hand, said, “Hey, space is cool, let’s have them go there!”, so off they went, even as it meant going with a course of action that utilizes none of the Terrans’ potential advantages and opens up all their disadvantages to the universe at large.
Don’t give me a mech show, tell me it’s a serious war story, and proceed to immediately demonstrate that you’ve never even looked cross-eyed at a military studies book. TL;DR, this show is stupid and is run by a bunch of soft-bellied types who wouldn’t know the firing end of a rifle if anime had never taught them.