Altair: A Record of Battles
Episode 9

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?

I haven't read the original manga of Altair: A Record of Battles yet (mostly because I can't stop reading the trainwreck that is Domestic Girlfriend), but I would be willing to bet that the anime is rushing through its volumes. Both last week's brief sojourn in Venedike and this week's trip to one of the Torqye Sultanates feel as if they were plotted at warp speed, rushing through character introductions and important points in order to get somewhere before the series ends. Presumably this means that there's a very specific ending place they want to reach, since with a second cour planned, there should be ample episodes to spend actually giving the plot and characters their due.

This week's travels bring Kiros, Mahmut, and Abiriga back to Torqye, albeit to one of its smaller sultanates that make up the larger stratocracy: Mizrak. With the Empire's depredations on other nations growing less subtle (not that they were understated in the first place), Torqye's various leaders have to decide whether to pursue aggressive action against them or to stand by and wait. Most of the sultans opt to stand by, which Mahmut (and more notably, Zaganos Pasha) find to be a poor choice. With Mizrak being the most openly contentious of the sultanates, that's where Mahmut heads, with the indirect backing of Zaganos Pasha, who is proving ever more wily in his political machinations.

This may be the most interesting part of the episode. We don't see much of Zaganos, who has presumably been carrying on by himself back home, but he's clearly been keeping tabs on his newest underling's business and thinking about how best to use it. Now with Mahmut in Mizrak more than ready to give Balaban a piece of his mind, Zaganos decides to simply let him: if he doesn't rein Mahmut in, after all, he can place all of the blame for anything Torqye does in Mizrak on one silly young rogue soldier. In Zaganos Pasha's mind, Mahmut Bey is totally expendable, and he won't hesitate to throw him under the carriage wheels if it will serve his goals. Suleiyman is aware of this, and I got the impression that he doesn't entirely approve, but he's also not in a position to go against Zaganos, who outranks (and possibly outsmarts) him. Still, I suspect that if Mahmut really was in an untenable position within Torqye's borders, Suleiyman would pull something off.

There may even be a parallel between, if not Suleiyman and Balaban's younger brother Beyazit, then definitely between Beyazit and Mahmut. Beyazit does not approve of what his brother is doing, but as the younger sibling, his powers are vastly more limited than Balaban's. (It's worth noting that their sister Fatma is a sultan in her own right of a different sultanate – this is a family familiar with power.) None of that has stopped Beyazit from working behind his more military-minded brother's back, and Fatma's daughter, his (teenage) niece Aishe, is with him. Beyazit is also Zaganos' contact in Mizrak, so he has more backing than Balaban knows about – the real question is going to be which brother Fatma decides she wants to back.

While Balaban's name is a lot of fun to say, I'm not entirely comfortable with him being coded aggressively homosexual. It plays on some tropes that aren't good – his assemblage of all the beautiful men for his personal army and his constant need to get in Mahmut's pretty face and touch him speak to the bad old days of gay stereotypes. On the plus side, the show does a great job of making him feel larger than life, as if he is his sultanate in human form. More in terms of the plot, the fact that he's working overtly with Eleanor from the Empire is almost definitely a sign that things are about to get messy in Mizrak – and very likely deadly as well.

This episode would have had more impact and intrigue if it had played out over two episodes, and I do feel that the show's rushed pacing has dragged it down in recent weeks. It's still fascinating, however, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Mahmut manages to get himself out of this fine mess he's blundered his way into.

Rating: B-

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


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