Nineteen months have passed since the assault on Count Saazbaum's Landing Castle and the survivors of that costly battle find themselves in new positions of power in their respective armies as the war between the people of Earth and Vers continues to rage on. The situation on Earth continues to grow bleaker as Vers' Orbital Knights continue to conquer more land. With their backs against the wall, Earth's military forces have to rely on their secret weapon now more than ever before. Does Aldnoah.Zero improve on the blueprint of its first season, or should it be scrapped?
(Warning, this review is for the second season of a show, it will be assuming you have seen the first season all the way through, and thus will include spoilers. If you would like to see if the first season of Aldnoah.Zero is for you, please read my review of it here.)
One of my issues with the first season was how Inaho was basically just a monotone robot. As a result I thought he made for a rather poor main character. Thankfully A.Z 2 actually allows Inaho to emote on some level and now I find him to be a decent main character. Now personally it doesn't matter to me whether he gained this new found personality from his impromptu bullet lobotomy or because of the R2-D2 that was shoved into head, what matters is the results. I actually like the Inaho in A.Z 2, but I loathed the Inaho from the first season.
The first season of Aldnoah.Zero had many of the typical stock mecha powers; the impenetrable force field, the energy sword, and rocket punches. Aldnoah.Zero 2 gives us mechs that can use the Meissener effect, or tidal forces, even cloning. Basically, the Martian Kataphrakts in A.Z 2 are just more fun than those in the first season.
Aldnoah.Zero certainly at least tried to be serious during its first season, but as A.Z 2 goes on, it becomes abundantly clear to me that they stopped caring at some point. The first inklings I had towards this was seeing Inaho swing around a debris field in space with what is essentially the 3D maneuvering gear from Attack on Titan. What really sealed the deal for me was the Martian Kat whose weapons were giant yo-yos of death. Sure the show tries to spin it as filament wire on bobbins, but the guy is just flinging them around like yo-yos. This is actually a good thing, because I couldn't take the show seriously when it was trying to be serious, but seeing it embrace the ridiculous spectacle that it became allowed me to enjoy the show long enough to finish it.
Let's just get it out of the way, every battle in A.Z 2 has the same result, the exact same result as the first season; Inaho wins. So knowing that Inaho is always going to come through, the battles shift from the question of, "Will Inaho win?" to "How will Inaho win?". And even though Artoo takes away a bit of the edge from the first season, by eliminating the majority of Inaho's trial and error guesswork, seeing Inaho knock the Knights down a peg or two is still enjoyable.
Thanks to the show pulling one last massive fake out by reversing all of the major deaths in the first season's finale, I couldn't trust this show anymore when it came to character deaths. I got so burned out by the show trying to make me think characters died only for them to not die that by the time they actually started killing off named characters in A.Z 2, I just couldn't care anymore. I was always just waiting for the, "Oh wait, they're not really dead after all!" reveal.
That poor bastard that was given that call sign. Mustang-22 became Aldnoah's red shirt. Whoever was given that call sign was sure to die. This goes out to all you brave, but unlucky souls. *salute*
One thing I am still struggling to figure out is what the hell Slaine's actual motives were. Oh to be sure Slaine kept saying something, but the problem is what he said kept changing with the situation. Whenever something would happen that would make his current ultimate goal unobtainable, he'd basically call a mulligan and change what he was trying to accomplish. It's as if the writers didn't know what the hell to actually do with Slaine, so they kept making him do whatever was convenient to keep the plot going. Hey....speaking of that......
I can't even begin to try and describe everything Artoo up there could do. Part of the reason for that is because the show kept introducing new things it could do. It basically did whatever the hell was needed at that point in time to keep the series going, or at least keep the "good guys" in the fight. And we're supposed to handwave it away under the guise that, hey Inaho tinkered around with it and since Inaho is a super genius, who knows what the limits of it are. Sorry, but that's just a god damn cop out.
There is a character who arrives within the last chunk of episodes of A.Z 2 whose sole purpose of existing is to fulfill a major part in the story. I hate this kind of shoehorning in a character, but normally I can begrudgingly let it slide. This time however, I can't just let it go, because their role could have easily been rolled into a character that was already introduced earlier in A.Z 2. On top of that, said character that could have been used instead is a better thematic fit for this role, and the character was generally well liked by the viewers, if at least not universally hated.
This is a carryover problem I had with the first season season, but is still a very valid one; Aldnoah.Zero lacks a unique identity to call its own. It is a hodgepodge of various ideas and themes, but nothing ever comes together that I can point to and claim is distinctly Aldnoah.Zero's. It's just a grab bag of things that were mostly done better in other series.
I infamously said that the first season of Aldnoah.Zero was not worth your time. At the time I said that, I was still trying to take the series seriously, because it was still trying to take itself seriously. But with Aldnoah.Zero 2 I decided to just enjoyed it for the pure Michael Bay-esque popcorn action series it is. Thankfully the show reciprocated that by becoming even sillier and more over the top than it was before. Aldnoah.Zero 2 is still badly written, but just from a pure entertainment aspect, it is good enough for at least one watch through. That being said, I really hope no one tries to call this show a "dark" series ever again. This isn't a dark series. It's just a standard high budget blockbuster-like mecha show. It's like what a Hollywood adaptation of Code Geass or Gundam would probably be like. As long as you don't take this show seriously, you should find something to enjoy in it.