Altair: A Record of Battles
Episode 4

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?

So did anyone else see Captain Jack Sparrow in the preview for next week's episode? Because I'm really hoping I didn't see a man with a striking resemblance to Disney's favorite pirate. Whether I did or not, this episode has made it very clear that what Mahmut needs in order to reclaim his place as pasha and truly be of use in the fight against the Balt-Rheine Empire is to meet new people and learn from them, so a Captain Jack-like figure may in fact be a boon to him. He certainly benefits this week from his meeting with fellow Tughril Village survivor Suleyman, who was in not-Italy (the nation of Florence) at the time his home was destroyed. Like Mahmut, Suleyman still carries both emotional scars and deep resentment over the destruction of his tribe, but being older and more experienced, he's learned to channel those things into a means of ensuring that the Empire doesn't get a chance to repeat the massacre – he's one of the first spies recruited by Zaganos for his network.

Zaganos is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting characters in the series, which is fascinating because he was originally presented as Mahmut's rival, if not an outright villain within the Divan. That now seems to be because we were viewing him strictly through Mahmut's eyes – to Mahmut, Zaganos was simply jealous of his place as the youngest pasha being usurped by some tribal upstart; in reality, Zaganos seems to have realized much sooner than Halil or any of the others that Mahmut's rage at the death of his mother and destruction of his village made him dangerously short-sighted. You can't lead others if you can't control yourself, and as Mahmut's well-intentioned dash to save Ibrahim in episodes two and three proved, acting alone can have serious repercussions in the long run.

This in itself is interesting, because we more typically see characters like Mahmut, who don't listen to others and charge headlong into danger, as the plucky maverick hero. Altair: A Record of Battles points out that it's actually not a great trait in a situation that requires strategy, and it's worth noting that Louis' minions are much better at following his orders and learning from their mistakes than Mahmut. When the One-Eyed Blond turns the tables on Mahmut by using the exact same trick he used on her previously, he's shocked – not only is his opponent a thinking human being, but she's actually figured out how to use his weapon against him. More than anything, this combines with Zaganos and Suleyman's words to convince Mahmut that he needs to change; clearly he can't just keep pulling the same moves and expect to triumph. Mahmut is young not just in age; he's also not as educated and savvy as he needs to be, which appears to be what Zaganos was concerned about all along.

The episode does a good job of showing this realization rather than telling it – Mahmut never has a moment where he says, “Yes, I am young and immature and must journey forth to better my skills!” He mentions it briefly in the preview, but that's after we've already watched him make the connections based on the One-Eyed Blond's actions, Suleyman's advice and counterattacks, and his own contrariness. That's why it's a shame that this episode doesn't look quite as good as its predecessors, with a few too many underdrawn faces and awkward-looking positions. The action itself looks mostly fine, but when the characters aren't moving, they look more than a little off.

Mahmut is off to see the world now, hopefully to learn from more of Zaganos's network. His first stop is Phoenicia with its lighthouse (another beautiful historically accurate detail; no Portland Head Light lookalikes here). I'm looking forward both to how the city will be portrayed and what Mahmut will learn about both tactics and trust once he disembarks—even if Captain Jack's anime twin is somehow involved.

Rating: B+

Altair: A Record of Battles is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

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