First Look: Altair: A Record of Battles

Alternative title(s): Shoukoku no Altair, Project Altair
Manga Adaptation by MAPPA
Streaming on Amazon Anime Strike

Premise

War orphan and youngest ever Pasha of the Türkiye stratocracy, Mahmut is serving on a Divan split between aggressive militarists and staunch pacifists. With his country constantly under threat of another war thanks to the power-hungry Empire, Mahmut begins his quest to keep the peace while not giving in to the Empire’s political ambitions.

Artemis’ verdict: I Don’t Even Know

Even after watching the first episode of this, I still don’t know quite what to make of Altair. For every good point (and to be clear, there were plenty of those), there seemed to be a corresponding bad one to drag it back down. It’s great to see another historical fantasy series not set in Generic Europe, for example, yet there seemed little to no serious effort at world-building aside from decking out all the characters in outlandish costumes. There was no heavy-handed exposition to wade through and in terms of story, there was a lot going on in just over twenty minutes – yet inexplicably, the episode seemed to drag on for much longer. The plot in and of itself should have been interesting and sometimes was, but it was also surprisingly lacking in subtlety, and kept jumping around from scene to scene with no apparent care for the details of what happened in between. Overall, it’s a potentially intriguing mix of historical fantasy, political drama, and mystery-adventure, but at the same time felt either unable or unwilling to fully commit to any of these genres.

Add to this the visuals and sound, the first of which are fine but not up to MAPPA’s usually excellent standards, and the second of which is also fine but not overly suited to the show. The visuals are pretty self-explanatory; alongside the ongoing Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, MAPPA has two new shows going on this season plus at least one more currently in production, and I do have to wonder if their resources are a little stretched. On the music side of things, we have a mediocre OP by Japanese rock/visual kei band SID and an equally mediocre ED by pop/dance girl group Flower, neither of which seem especially well-matched to an anime set in historical Turkey Turkiye.

Basically, this show seemed like an incredibly mixed bag to me, and I can’t even decide if it left me wanting more or just tired me out. On the one hand, I’d say it’s at least deserving of another episode or two, if only to see exactly what kind of series it wants to become. On the other hand… can I really be bothered? The jury’s still out on that one.

Jel’s verdict: At Least It’s More Fun than Season 2 of Rage of Bahamut

This show feels like a late 90s/early 2000s obscure JRPG that would have been localized by Working Designs. That’s kind of good and bad. On the one hand I appreciate the fresh setting and the colorful cast of characters. Our protagonist is a wet blanket genius type but he does have some personality, and he fights with death falcons so how cool is that? On the other hand, you can see the plot points from miles away before they beat you over the head. On face value there’s promise of political intrigue and other more complex developments but I’m guessing things will stay fairly predictable.

And so much like those games from way back when, Altair is going to live or die on how much we care about the characters and I’m not sure yet if they can pull it off. The best friend who teases our hero for being so stiff, the sexy love interest, the old man mentor figure, the cocky rival… we’ve seen these all a million times before. Maybe once things settle in a bit the cast will become more compelling, but as it stands I think Altair will end up being an above average but ultimately forgettable adventure.

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