Altair: A Record of Battles Episode 10
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?
If there's anyone Louis ought to be watching out for, it's Prences Aishe. She has a firmer grasp of politics than most of the other characters and the cold calculation to carry that knowledge to its most beneficial conclusion. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if next week's episode reveals that she's actually come up with a way to take over the entire sultanate she's marrying into – and she'd certainly be a more effective ruler than her fiancé. Aishe is very similar to Zaganos Pasha in her understanding of the current situation; the major difference is that she's willing to act herself rather than working through potential scapegoats. Of course, Zaganos' method leaves more chance of his eventual survival, but in a non-political sense, that makes Aishe more impressive – she's willing to put herself on the line for what she believes in.
This also makes her a more canny character than Mahmut, who is definitely still learning. Whether or not he fully understands that Zaganos' request makes it so that he will take the fall for the pasha's plans, he's devoted enough to Torqye's continued prosperity and freedom that he's willing to agree to it, which is a very Mahmut thing to do. He's still naïve enough to question Aishe's plan to marry a man she doesn't love, but he's also learning that trusting surface appearances and gut feelings won't keep him alive. He still isn't ruthless enough to kill Eleanor of Rom Ord when he has the chance, which is a decision that strikes me as poor. While I'd hardly advocate for indiscriminate murder, Eleanor has proven herself to be both a thorn in Mahmut's side and an active danger to the Divan and Torqye, so taking her out would have been a good idea. He does cut off one of her hands, which may slow her down, but he's also turned her into a personal enemy in the process. There's no way Eleanor is just going to sit back and let Mahmut foil Louis' plans now.
If nothing else, Altair is doing a very nice job of showing how one man with power and ambition can shape the events of the world around him. Louis may be the bad guy of the series, but he's also somewhat admirable in how craftily he's plotted his world takeover. He has a plan for each separate land he wants to conquer; he'll appeal to the wallet of one country and the political ambitions of another, while using force to prove his might in a third. He has no one solid method of sowing dissent to reap a harvest of power, and that's what makes him so frightening. Mahmut has now personally seen all three of these methods, so he finally knows what he's up against.
Of course, Mahmut is still learning. He's still more willing to be led by his heart than is perhaps good for Torqye or even himself, as it leaves him open to be manipulated by Zaganos. Without Aishe, that part of his mission was a lot less likely to succeed, and without Suleyman, he never would have been able to take on two sultanates at once. Of course, it's really the 77 muzzle-loading rifles that win the day in that other one – his new ally is strikingly well prepared to take out Balaban. That it's Balaban's brother who is engineering his downfall may be a lesson for Mahmut about suppressing emotions and just getting the job done; the preview for next week would seem to indicate that as well. It's a lesson that Aishe has begun teaching him, but it's also a lesson he may be reluctant to finish learning when the time comes.
The action continues to feel a little too compressed in terms of pacing, although that feeling is easing up. Perhaps it would have been better to devote this whole episode to Aishe's plans and save the second sultanate for next week, as there's some disconnect between the two sections. On the other hand, the art for the throne room is amazing; I could have just paused and forgotten about the action to take in the mosaic details. Apart from a little awkward running animation and my total inability to figure out what the pink spots in Aishe's hair are (jewels? petals? highlights?), this is a particularly beautiful week for Altair, right down to Mahmut's lovely bride scene.
Things are really heating up for Torqye. With the Empire steadily building a new road (which of course can be used for invasion rather than the promised trade) and sultans in full revolt, Mahmut's going to have to really step it up if he wants to be successful. Things will probably get worse for him before then – it's a good thing he's got strong allies who can spot a trap, sound out a secret passage, and manipulate policy to keep his back safe.
Altair: A Record of Battles is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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