Translation: Aoki on AZ, from Animedia, Nov 2014

So I really should have done this about six months ago, during the gap we had between the two cours. But I had too many other things going on…and frankly, the way the fandom was at the time was driving me nuts. And ordinarily, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to complete the translation now that the series is long over. However, there was a small but significant mistake that I made when I previously translated this (originally on AS, and then edited for this blog at the start of the year), so I just wanted to correct it, even if it won’t make much of a difference now. I hereby present the entirety of Aoki’s interview from the Aldnoah.Zero special in November’s Animedia.

Disclaimer: This translation is entirely my own work, so any mistakes and awkward turns of phrases are mine (although I would very much appreciate it if anyone who spots a problem leaves me a comment so that I can correct it).

You are welcome to link to this or quote parts of it, but please don’t copy and paste substantial amounts elsewhere.

And without further ado…

He who swears fealty to the Princess: the conflict in Slaine’s heart

—One of the key characteristics of this series revolves around the positions in which its two protagonists—Slaine and Inaho—stand. What kind of role do you have each of them playing?

The broad story that we’re telling revolves around an interplanetary war between Earth and Mars, so we wanted to have a protagonist in a position of influence on each side. Slaine was set up as the protagonist on the Mars side. In the original project proposal, he was actually a character hiding a strong, rebellious spirit. Despite the abuse and oppression he received at the hands of the Vers knights, within his heart burned a strong desire to return the favour, like “One day, I’ll pay you back for this…!” However, as we kept developing the story, he changed into ‘a boy who’s spirit has been broken through that oppression’. Even if he fights back, he has no allies around him, and it only brings him more suffering, so he has no choice but to obediently follow orders. His one place of solace in all of this is Asseylum, who treats him with warmth and kindness. It’s because of this backbone that Slaine became the character he is today: he has an extraordinary emotional attachment to Asseylum, to the extent that he would risk his life to protect her, like a faithful hound.

—And how has Slaine changed from how he was in episode 1?

Slaine’s actions are grounded in the single thought of wanting to save the princess, and this rests in his heart until the very end of the story. However, due to his meeting Saazbaum, a new value system has been born within him. Saazbaum is the ringleader of the faction that is trying to assassinate Asseylum, so he is an enemy that Slaine should oppose. However, he also believed in the great cause of wanting to make the lives of the Vers people better. The conflict between these two values—loyalty towards the princess and the great cause that Saazbaum advocates—greatly shakes Slaine’s value system. I would say that this leads to his decision to save Saazbaum in the final episode, when the latter was about to be defeated by Inaho. This, however, brings about the ironic result where the person he saves turns arounds and shoots the person he has been trying to save.

—Does saving Saazbaum mean then, that Slaine chose the lives of the Vers people over that of Asseylum?

No, I would say that Slaine took action just on the spur of the moment, without thinking over it too deeply. Saazbaum was in a critical situation, and what’s more, his opponent was that fated orange unit. To Slaine, he was someone even less familiar than Saazbaum. There’s no denying that saving the latter led to the worst possible outcome, but if I think about the situation, I can’t blame him… In any case, I think that how Slaine changes as a result of these developments will be a highlight from here on.

A fateful meeting with Asseylum brings about change in Inaho

—Let’s turn now to the Earth-side protagonist, Inaho. How would you describe him?

Inaho is the character created so that we could demonstrate how the attacks from Vers affect the people of Earth, from the point of view of a normal high school student. The robot battles were developed around the idea of having our Earth side protagonist using keen observational skills and calm judgment to defeat much stronger Martian Cataphracts, despite the constraints of the weaker Earth units. Hence, we gave Inaho a calm and collected personally right from the get-go, though it became more and more pronounced as we proceeded through the planning stages. But even though he remains composed and thus doesn’t let his emotions show much, it’s not like he’s emotionless. He’s highly concerned about his friends/comrades, which also comes through in the type of leader he is.*

(* I took a lot of liberties with this last phrase, which was literally “and he is also a leader.” -karice)

—Is there any particular reason that he is able to remain so calm?

It wasn’t really touched on in the show itself, but Inaho lost his parents during the “Heaven’s Fall” incident, when the Hypergate went out of control. Since then, he and Yuki have basically supported each other. They had help from the people around them, but they basically had to take care of all the tasks of everyday life by themselves. As a result, they also went through some difficult times. I would say that that’s where Inaho developed the mentality that “Just worrying about things won’t solve anything. I have to choose the best action to take and just get on with it.”

—And how would you say Inaho has changed over the course of the first cour?

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s pretty difficult to tell, but he’s changed a lot. Inaho started off as someone who doesn’t really connect with others.* Right from the start, he’s been fighting in order to protect his friends and Seylum (Asseylum) from the Martians. The people around him—like Inko, Calm, Nina and Yuki—remain really important to him, but with regards to Asseylum, special feelings towards her have slowly been growing within him. When she was shot in the final episode, despite being gravely injured himself, Inaho mustered all of his strength to drag himself towards her, and even smiled as he remembered the time he’d spent with her. At that point, you could say that he’d finally realised how he felt about her, feelings that he’d been unaware of until that point.

(* The Japanese phrase here is 心の振り幅が比較的小さい, which is literally “the breadth of his heart is comparatively small.” I’ve translated it according to what I think Aoki is trying to say about Inaho, based on the rest of his answer to this question, but I’d love to hear some other ideas on this. -karice)

—Do you mean that he’d started falling in love with Asseylum?

I doubt Inaho himself knows whether those feelings are akin to ‘romantic love’ or not But I would say that this is certainly the first time he’s ever felt that way.

The character development that is Aoki’s core focus

—What was it that you wanted to depict the most in this first cour?

This isn’t restricted just to this show, but I like works that look at how character relationships and individual characters themselves change as a story progresses. Hence, I wanted to depict how the impressions of the characters and their relationships with others changed between episodes 1 and 12. Those changing character relationships can be depicted really easily through the framework of ‘a triangular relationship’. So we set up the two boys, Inaho and Slaine, as the protagonists, and made Asseylum the point that connects them. Personally, I like works that use this kind of set up.

—Which scenes do you think best show how much Inaho and Slaine have changed?

I would have to say episode 12, without a doubt. For the Slaine we met at the start of the story, his reaction in this scene could believably have been to run to Asseylum and fight alongside Inaho to protect her.* That he didn’t shows that his understanding of Saazbaum’s great cause has greatly shaken his value system, within which he’d held Princess Asseylum above everything else. Another thing about that scene is that Inaho’s actions after Asseylum is shot are completely different from what we as the production committee originally envisioned. That scene has really changed from what we planned at first. Originally, even though Slaine turned his gun on Saazbaum, he was meant to be unable to shoot because he had started to sympathise with the latter’s great cause. On the other hand, Inaho didn’t turn towards Asseylum, but instead tried to finish Saazbaum off by shooting him, even though he himself was heavily wounded. However, because he was reeling (from his injuries), he would miss several times, and Slaine would shoot him in the end.

(* I completely screwed this one up the first time I translated it, making it something like “compete with Inaho.” I think something that OnoKen said in his interview—that “the princess doesn’t need two knights!”—was stuck in my head. But knowing the fandom, I’m sure this mistake of mine lowered people’s impressions of Slaine even further than they would have gone otherwise, so I’m really sorry for that…mea culpa. -karice)

—So the end result of Slaine shooting Inaho remained the same, but the way it happened was completely different.

At the start, we thought that Inaho wouldn’t really change even though he was acting alongside Asseylum. But as the story progressed, Asseylum had much more of an impact on him then we expected. Until that point, Inaho had always focused on completing the objective, based on that cool, logical side of his. The fact that he has done something so unthinkable, given his personality, shows just how much he’s changed.

Bringing homage and the latest technology together to create a new mecha anime

—Moving on, another thing that stood out was how original the battles were within the mecha genre.

The concept of this anime is one where mecha with arms and performance that are feasible in modern engineering are used to defeat superpowered enemy mecha through well-planned teamwork. To put it simply, it’s about “real robots vs. super robots.” Barriers, beam sabres and rockets are super weapons that we often see in the super robot genre, but if you attack their weaknesses, then you can defeat them. This show also pays homage to a lot of other mecha anime. Ideas such as having large mecha that operate thanks to a mysterious power, or crashing a large battleship into the enemy base in the climatic fight—these are both staples that have been depicted in various famous series over the years.

—The Martian Cataphracts all have Aldnoah drive installed. What are these devices?

They are devices that allow mankind to harness the power of Aldnoah, the ancient technology found on Mars. Each of the different Cataphracts have their own unique capabilities, such as a barrier or beam sabres; that’s actually not something that’s added to each Cataphract, but a power particular to the Aldnoah drive that’s been installed. In other words, each Aldnoah drive has a different power hidden within.

—So the defining feature is the Aldnoah drive, that is, the rest of the Cataphract is little different from those found on the Earth side?

Because there is a difference in engineering technology, we can’t really say that they are similar. However, as you can see from how Inaho has defeated the various Cataphracts in the show, if that special ability is neutralised, then the difference in strength can be bridged to a certain extent. To the point where the weapons that the Earth side has can take them on. Alternatively, if the drive is removed from a Cataphract that has been neutralised, and installed into a unit made using Earth technology, then they can also make ships with special powers, like the Deucalion. But without someone to activate the Aldnoah drive, then all it is is a long, useless object.

In the second cour that we’re all eagerly awaiting, we see a huge change in Slaine!?

—The first cour has ended with some shocking developments, to be continued in the second cour that will be broadcast come January next year. What kind of story will we be seeing from here on out?

In episode 12, we saw the fall of Saazbaum’s landing castle. From there on, some time has passed—it’s not a particularly long time, but we’ll see that the state of the war between Earth and Mars has changed. Until now, the UFE has largely been running from the fight, without even putting hand arm or leg forward against the Martian Cataphracts. But because Inaho and the rest have pulled off a string of victories, I would say that the UFE soldiers in other areas have also started working out how to stand up to the Vers attacks.

—What has become of the characters that were at that final battle: Inaho, Slaine, Asseylum and Saazbaum?

As Yuki’s narration at the end of episode 12 told us, it’s unknown whether Asseylum still lives. Also, Slaine has since become a Vers knight. He’s also activated the Tharsis, which was formerly Cruhteo’s Cataphract—how he fights from here on will be something to watch for.

—That is to say, after that final battle, Slaine makes up his mind to stay on the Vers side.

Right. Even though Slaine acted solely based on the thought “I want to protect Princess Asseylum,” she ended up being felled by the assassin’s bullet in episode 12. That’s the trigger for a change in his mental state, and that’s the axis upon which this story will now turn.

—As for the Deucalion, what has happened to its crew? By the looks of it, they had all survived…

The bridge crew are all ok, even though they were injured when the Deucalion crashed headfirst into the landing castle. So we’ll see familiar faces like Inko and Yuki, and Darzana and Marito, in action in the second cour.

—And finally, will any new characters appear?

Yes, we’ve asked Shimura Takako—who’s responsible for character design—to work on a few new designs, for characters that are deeply involved in the story in the second cour. Furthermore, the battlefield will also change, so the battle scenes will see some variation too. There’s quite a lot that we’re working on, so please continue looking forward to it.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to Translation: Aoki on AZ, from Animedia, Nov 2014

  1. Pingback: For the record: Matare yo! | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

  2. Pingback: Masterpost: On Anime ‘Writing’ Project | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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