Aldnoah.Zero – The Politics of Conquering
July 13, 2014 Leave a comment
The idea of rigging an event, perhaps creating a situation that would allow a country to go to war is hardly new. Both in anime and in real life, situations have been engineered in order to create the desired effect for one particular party, regardless of the consequences or collateral damage to others. The same is true in Aldnoah.Zero, although to anyone familiar with this sort of story, and indeed, the writing style of Urobuchi Gen such an occurrence will come as no great surprise. We are presented with two opposing factions (ala Gundam), the Vers Empire, a clearly evil, nationalistic, militaristic, fascist society that has strong views of its own superiority to those who live on earth, a somewhat weaker, and far more naïve faction that seems doomed to destruction.
The idea of an empire cut off from its home world, largely due to its own sense of superiority and attempts to conquer the earth with technology found on Mars is rather fascinating. This especially true as they seem to be a highly ordered, proud society that would rather live in orbiting fortresses than share the world with those who they are descended from. Having said that, the Vers Empire are comically evil, existing more as a parody of an evil empire than anything that could actually exist, such is their ludicrously evil attitudes towards anyone considered inferior (anyone who wasn’t born on Mars). The Vers Empire’s aristocracy (at least I assume the Mars Knights are part of the aristocracy) clearly lusts for battle, for conquest, and for slaughter, going as far as to plan the deliberate assassination of their princess in order to justify an invasion of earth and destruction of its population.
On one level I find the manipulation of global, or galactic politics in order to get their desired situation and justify their invasion fascinating. The willingness to even sacrifice a princess, someone they seem to care about demonstrates their ruthless resolve, whilst also revealing how unwelcome any thoughts or ideas of peace are within the hierarchy of the Vers Empire. Furthermore, the existence of Slaine, someone who was born on earth, but for reasons as yet unknown working with the Vers Empire and guarding the princess also raises questions about idea of purity and pollution within the empire’s social system. There is a shared sense of racial purity and superiority within this empire, whereas everyone else is less than human – somewhat ironic given their shared history, and the Vers Empire existing for no more than 42 years – thus having the memories and history of Earth still ingrained within their collective social consciousness. It appears then that through their superior technology, the Vers Empire has crafted a discourse whereby that technology demonstrates their supremacy over everyone else, and that despite their clear links with Earth, are the one destined to rule over everyone. Such a discourse may be familiar to anyone who has looked at history, with the ideas of racial pre-eminence being added in order to strengthen their supremacy, and technological superiority as a further justification for the Empire’s existence.
This comes in contrast with the technological inferiority of earth, a world stuck with conventional weapons that are incapable of scratching those of the Vers Empire, let alone destroying them. It looks very silly to see earth forces attempting to combat those of the Vers Empire, despite knowing from past experience that their weapons are no match, and will ultimately be destroyed regardless of their actions. That they have apparently covered up the disaster in 1999 further points to a leadership that wish to sweep things under the carpet, pretending that the disaster, along with the floating fortresses surrounding the planet do not exist and pose no real threat. In many respects the situation we are introduced to in episode one resembles a Panopticon – a prison conceived by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century, whereby a single watchman can observe the inmates of without the inmates being able to tell if they are being watched or now – such a situation would then lead to those inmates controlling their own behaviour without the need for force or numerous guards. The way the Vers Empire surrounds the earth, watching and planning, everyone on the planet goes about their own business, believing that they can fight the empire on even terms suggests an element of self regulation on the part of the authorities of earth.
While this is all fascinating, there are issues with Aldnoah.Zero, chief among them the ludicrously evil Vers Empire, and their ability to make evil look comical and stupid. The writing feels stinted, inhuman, with character uttering simple statements rather than dialogue a human being would use. Furthermore, the deaths of various characters, and destruction of certain cities is telegraphed so furiously that you can see them a mile away. Killing off characters is something Urobuchi Gen is famous for, his willingness to destroy everyone in his stories could be admired, if it weren’t so obvious, and by now, rather boring and predictable. This is especially true when two small children in episode one see what they believe to be shooting stars (but are actually the space fortresses falling to earth) and wish for world peace, while the audience knows that death and destruction are all that those shooting stars will bring. By this point I find the idea of killing off characters to be somewhat flawed, especially when they aren’t especially well written characters that I, or perhaps anyone else has little emotional attachment to. For example, the death of Okisuke in this second episode, along with the deaths of the Vers assassins is all supposed to show how evil the Vers Empire are, whilst also provide a justification for the main characters actions, perhaps as a means for vengeance. But that simple death feels so empty, and even needless, it has no real impact, and ultimately adds very little to the episode.
Having said all this, Aldnoah.Zero has a certain gravitas and grandeur, the enemies are comically, even ludicrously evil, but the way they act, and their bold actions are fascinating to watch. I particularly like the existence of Slaine as someone who clearly does not believe in the glorious Vers Empire, and still feels an attachment to the earth. Also, while I may be very critical of Urobuchi Gens writing, finding his dialogue and characterisation to be largely poor and wooden, his scenarios, and the worlds he creates are almost all fascinating, and the world of Aldnoah.Zero is another such world that I find interesting. The grandeur of the series, coupled with a fascianiting world, and an interesting political slant to the entire premise has caught my attention, and despite my misgivings about Urobuchi’s role in the series, there is more than enough there to keep me watching.