Playing BattleTech

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Review: Aldnoah.Zero season 1

This show, it uh... it makes no sense. Humans landed on Mars in the 1970s and by 2015 they're a completely different culture and empire and they all hate people on Earth and want to conquer? Duder, that don't make no sense. That's just really whack.

And I was actually digging the show at first, despite that. I read that the producer was inspired by Man of Steel (which is insane and ridiculous, btw) but I got a much stronger sense of BattleTech in the roots of the show, in particular the Clans. If you really looked at it, it feels a lot like the 3049 Clan invasion. The Earth Mechs are all weak and incredibly helpless in the face of the overpowered Martian Aldnoah Mechs, just like how Inner Sphere Mechs were completely outmatched by the Clan OmniMechs in BattleTech. And Slaine, being this captive ward of the Martians, was kinda like Phelan Ward in Clan Wolf. The Martians wanted to conquer Earth because Mars had scarce resources, just like the Clans did in the Kerensky Cluster. And the Martians' use of ancient Aldnoah tech was kinda like how Clan tech was built off of old Star League technology. So... there's quite a lot of similarities there. I thought that was neat.

***SPOILERS past this point***

But you know, the show just doesn't make sense the more you watch. Slaine is constantly beaten over and over again by his adopted Commander dude, which just feels brutal and over the top. So then when he finally finds out the truth and acts compassionately toward Slaine, I was like... dude, no. I still fucking hate you cause you've been beating the crap out of this little guy with your cane for the last 10 episodes. You don't get to be the compassionate father figure now, you fuck. I mean really, the show runners actually thought they could get away with that character turn?

The overall animation is fine. I mean, the CGI is there, and it looks bad, and CGI in anime always tends to look bad and not good, and it's here and it looks bad. But I guess that's kinda the state of anime in 2015. You just gotta accept it. The characters look.... well, really identical. Like, at the end of the first episode, the main character loses a friend who flies off of the back of the truck, and I couldn't tell who was who. They both looked pretty much identical. That's really a problem. And it happens with other characters. Inko and the main character's sister also look identical, except that the sister has slightly longer hair. But in some shots, that's not all that apparent. They just all look the same. It's a problem, man. And also, when the characters are in profile, they all look like they're talking out of the side of their mouths.

The Martians only apparently have 37 Mechs or something. 37 Mechs to conquer an entire planet? I'm sorry, but no matter how overpowered you are, and they certainly are incredibly overpowered... you need way more than 37 units. That's completely insufficient to pacify a whole planet. Not to mention that the Martian Mechs themselves feel more like they were designed to be video game bosses rather than actual coherent military units. In a real military, you'd probably build a whole lot of Mechs with those long range killer lasers (ya know, that Mech in the intro we never actually get to see in any of the episodes). Instead, you've got Mechs like one with an invulnerability field, which is really good, but which is also only armed with... big ol' bear claws. That's right, they invested in an invincible juggernaut Mech who's only offensive ability is to get real close and melee you. And which spends about half an hour chasing after a truck helplessly, because it has no guns at all. Again... they only brought 37 of these things to conquer a planet? When one needs to lumber after a fleeing truck for long stretches of time? Does this make any sense at all? This is video game boss logic.

The aesthetic designs of the Martian Mechs are really terribad too. They uh, they don't seem to make any sense. Like, they legitimately look like they'd bang their giant toe spike up against their knee or their arm against their torso as soon as they actually tried to move. It's ridiculous how loopy they look. The Earth Mechs are... better, but also real generic. They look like the generic Macross-style robots, but with giant over-sized fins attached to their ankles. That's not a real great look. The guns also seem to follow the generic look of other mecha anime, with short bullpup rifles. Muv Luv Alternate had the same looking bullpup rifles. I guess Japanese anime studios like the look of stubby bullpup rifles.

The main character is completely... a robot, I think. He's got nothing there. He's a brilliant genius dude, but he's very unemotional. I didn't care for that at all. The whole being-a-genius thing isn't that bad, after all Ender's Game is one of the best scifi stories ever written, so I can deal with a main protagonist being real smart, but Ender actually had some depth and there were things going on in his psyche and emotions and you felt for him. This main character... no, didn't feel for him at all. Just blank, like a video game avatar or something. And plus, he goes and shoots down Slaine after he helped him out, like a huge asshole. Why would we, as the audience, like this guy after he goes and does a dick thing like that?

Slaine is a whole lot better. I'll say that, I liked Slaine a lot. You felt for Slaine and what he was going through. Well, except for the last couple of episodes, when his character becomes oddly written and does inexplicable things. He finally finds out who the main culprit behind the conspiracy to assassinate the Princess is, but uh, this master villain guy doesn't kill him, but hands him an uber Mech. Why? What is the logic behind this? And then, in the final episode of the season, Slaine goes and saves the villain while they're engaged in a Mech duel. Why? Why would he save this guy who tried to kill the princess who he's in love with? I don't understand any of this. I think I was paying attention... but I don't get it.

So yeah, I don't know if I'll watch the 2nd season. It hooked me in with the BattleTech similarities at the start, but the show really went downhill in a hurry. And visually, the Mech designs stink. I heard somewhere that these show runners wanted this to be a Gundam-killer or something. Well, that ain't happening. The designs of the Martian Mechs look terrible. Giant top heavy torsos on really small legs? That's your idea of good design? I mean, I don't see how that's gonna appeal to otakus who have grown up adoring Gundams, with their giant oversized legs and small arms. That's not a recipe for success. And the Earth Mechs look way too generic to leave any sort of impression.

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