Altair: A Record of Battles Episode 8
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?
Hello and goodbye, Venedike! This episode of Altair: A Record of Battles turns a promising journey to learn why Phoinike's allies betrayed them into a case of “grab the new party member and run,” which is something of a disappointment. Doge Lucio, a friend of the late ruler of Phoinike, stood to be an important part of Mahmut's education in the difference between a perfect world and the reality he lives in, and to some extent he does fulfill that much-needed role. The episode opens with Mahmut meeting Lucio, an irate Kiros at his side, and at first it does seem that the education begun by Halil Pasha and Zaganos Pasha (and to a degree Ismail) will be furthered. Lucio fully admits that it was not in the best economic interests of Venedike to fulfill their promise to Phoinike. He maintains that they still did their duty to their erstwhile ally by sending the fleet – it's just that there's nothing in the agreement that says that they have to actually engage.
While this is true (regardless of the important nuances of intent), it's a slap in the face to Mahmut, who feels that Venedike is ignoring a potentially dangerous enemy in Balt-Rheine. He's not incorrect – Mahmut has seen firsthand what the Empire is capable of, and we can guess that Louis will almost certainly not be satisfied with his new rule over Phoinike. He's an empire-builder, and empires must be frequently fed new lands and tributes in order to be maintained. Louis has enough hubris that he's not likely to be thinking of Balt-Rheine getting too big to rule properly – he probably just thinks that the problem with all of those past empires is that they weren't run by him. Mahmut, and by extension Kiros, recognizes this. Doge Lucio, in the safety of his lagoon city, does not.
At least that's what he wants Mahmut to think. He almost breaks the façade when he hears that his inaction led to the murder of his friend in Phoinike, but he's ultimately able to maintain his act so that he and Captain Brega can put their surveillance plan of the Empire into action; they need to ensure that when Mahmut leaves, he takes Abiriga with him. Thus begins what feels like an unnecessarily complicated and convoluted plan involving slavery, evil money lenders (a trope I'm particularly uncomfortable with), and Mahmut somehow winning twenty simultaneous chess games. Seriously, quit this whole soldier game and go found a world chess tournament or something – it'll probably turn out better for you, Mahmut!
The biggest issue isn't the Restoration Farce quality of Lucio's plot, but rather how quickly it moves the story in and out of Venedike. Mahmut is supposed to be out learning about the world before he returns to Torqye to eventually reclaim his pasha title, so why is he being forcibly marched through a valuable learning experience and quickly returned to his home country next week? It feels contrary to what Zaganos Pasha instructed him to do, to say nothing of the fact that he really hasn't had a chance to learn beyond his own ideals. “Economy trumps alliances” isn't quite the lesson he needed to learn, and the fact that he was able to be fooled so easily doesn't bode well for his future either. I feel as if the story is skipping over some potentially important details this week in order to reach a certain point by the end of the cour.
That's not always a bad thing, but it isn't quite working this time. If Mahmut is going to regain his power, he needs to become a smarter person than he was when the show began. We haven't really seen that happen thus far, and I almost feel as if his work in Hisar was more of an important moment for him than the whole Venedike storyline. Yes, Abiriga is a good person to have on his side, but surely there was a better way to put him there. We'll see how this all pans out next week, when Torqye appears ready to tear itself apart in some sort of civil war. Here's hoping Mahmut learned more than I thought from Doge Lucio and Captain Brega.
Altair: A Record of Battles is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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