Yes, more anime. (For those concerned: no, I’m not turning this into an anime blog. Real life has been stressful lately, which hasn’t left much mental energy for intellectual exploration. Rather than go completely dark, you’re getting commentary on where my spare time is being spent. But I am slowly making my way through a book that might result on a post or two on the mind.)
In Aldnoah.zero, in 1972 Apollo 17 discovers an ancient alien hypergate on the moon which leads to Mars. There, the remnants of an ancient civilization are discovered by colonists, as well as an alien technology called “Aldnoah”. The technology recognizes the first person who discovers it, Rayregalia Vers Rayvers, and gives his genetics control over it. He and his genetic line control when the technology can be activated and who can activate it, enabling him to declare himself emperor of a new feudal Vers empire.
Tensions mount between Earth and the Vers empire, resulting in a state of war in 1999. A battle on the moon causes the hypergate to explode, fracturing the moon and scattering debris around Earth orbit. A ceasefire is worked out, but the remnants of the Martian forces establish bases in the debris field around the Earth, calling themselves the Orbital Knights. For years, these knights wait for an opportunity to attack the Earth again.
In 2014, princess Asseylum Vers Allusia, the granddaughter of the emperor, visits Earth on a diplomatic mission to promote peace. However, assassins strike and billions watch as her entourage is murdered. The Orbital Knights react swiftly and begin attacking the Earth. Their Aldnoah technology is far superior to anything the Earth forces can muster. So initially the conflict is extremely one-sided.
Much of the action focuses on two individuals. Inaho Kaizuka is a nerdy high school student. As the war begins, he turns out to be a tactical genius, able to find the weakness in the armor of Martian knights, armor that initially seems impregnable. His abilities turn him into a major asset for Earth forces.
The other is Slaine Troyard, a native born Terran who has grown up among the Martians. He is despised and abused by the knights for his origins. However, he has a close friendship with princess Asseylum. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly evident that Slaine is a remarkable individual, who gradually is able to take control of his world.
I think this might be the most action oriented anime I’ve watched during this binge. As in most of the anime I’ve discussed, there is ample amounts of character development, but it happens between the numerous battles. At first, the Orbital Knights are pretty uniformly portrayed as a sadistic and arrogant bunch, but as the series progresses, we find this isn’t true for all of them, and it becomes evident that their leader has his own complex agenda driven by personal tragedy.
Similar to Gundam and a lot of other sci-fi anime, much of the action happens in mecha, with the Earth forces manning more or less standard battle mobile suit units, but each Martian knight having his or her own unique technology and referring to their personal mecha as “steeds”. So, although this is a character driven story, the mecha features heavily.
So, a lot of action and nerd candy, interlaced with the psychology of warfare and occasional bits of philosophical pondering, such as the idea that war is basically negotiation between different societies, just with the stakes raised. Worth checking out if it’s your cup of tea.