I read this and it just reminds me why I don’t read that much blogging these days. It is missing the essence that makes the comparison compelling–context.
Nonetheless, the article raises some good points. I think it can do a better job using another show for the point of comparison though. Like, Nadesico. Both Turn-A and Nadesico are product of their times. If we go back 15-18 years the world of the teenage, male protagonist in a giant robot show is different that how it is today. The post 9-11 world brought us things like the Celestial Beings and Eden of the East. But the whole giant/super mecha genre, as far as that protagonist dude goes, has already ran its course by the time we got Evangelion, and that predates both.
These two shows that dates after are probably better framed in that we’re getting different spins on them. Nadesico, for example, has a harem cook who doesn’t really like fighting but was thrusted into the position. The tragedy (and thematic concern here) is that ultimately he goes back to devoting his life to fighting in order to “end it” for good, even if he does end up with somewhat of a happy ending.
In Aldnoah, we have a stoic dude who uses some commodity components to go up against specialized, overpowered special mecha that are piloted by people who probably could do a better job using their nice giant robots. It’s in essence the antithesis of Gundam, where some angsty teen pilot some super-power tech and blows up the sea of commodity components. Sounds like a thematic statement to me!
It’s all the more funny to see the comparison to Turn A in that context, because in that show there were no commodity components. Everyone’s giant robot is some fossil from the earth or from the moon. It’s one of the more fascinating aspects about Turn A, actually. Imagine wars where once you lose your equipment, it is irreplaceable.
The comparison with Nadesico doesn’t fare better, but it is. In that show, the Jovians used their exo techs to create a lot of autonomous fighting machines, which is the commodity components Earth forces had to go up against. In that sense, both sides developed different ways of fighting that suited them, using some similar, newfound and game-changing technologies such as the phase transmission technology. The funny thing about that is how the story takes a turn via the super-robot inspired Jovian special units, making good on real robots versus super robots. In terms of Aldnoah, which is probably a step down to non-robots versus real robots, I wonder if you can actually make a point about all of it. In that sense, Akito’s luck or drive or circumstances, whatever, allowed him to be an effective element on the battlefield. What attributes that Inaho possesses which enabled his success in these skirmishes, so far, are not an unique element, merely uncommon. Perhaps he is in the right place at the right time, so there’s also that.
With the latest episode bringing (or maybe merely upgrading) the White Base trope, I guess it isn’t unfair to compare Aldnoah.Zero with every Gundam and Gundam-like anime out there. But I think whichever show you use, the approach has to be the thematic and not merely on superficial aspects. And to get that far you have to get an idea what the context of these shows we’re evoking.
Now, someone please do one with Gundam Build Fighters, because it would be fun to see someone possibly talk about that one UC dude who lost because LOL, wrong genre wrong show. I mean a big reason why I walk the meta path as a fan is because otaku mecha genre is an ongoing dialog between fans and creators, creations to creations, and ultimately it’s a disco hall where themes commingle, not so much like a database but more like an orgy where things sometimes don’t make sense, and it’s okay. And that’s really what makes Aldnoah.Zero stand out, it’s like that one straight line in a sea of noise, narratively.