Altair: A Record of Battles Episodes 13-14
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?
How would you rate episode 14 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?
Much as I have really enjoyed writing these reviews, I can understand why coverage of Altair: A Record of Battles ends here, because episode fourteen is a shining example of one of the series' major problems – it's clearly rushing through the source material. (As a side note, I've decided to hold off reading the manga until the anime is finished so as not to potentially sabotage myself.) In this introduction to the new season, newly-minted foreign minister Mahmut travels to a Slavic(ish) merchant city to attempt to sabotage the Empire economically. He's able to succeed because he meets Niki, the recently orphaned daughter of a merchant, who's in the process of losing her livelihood. Within moments, Mahmut has convinced Niki to join him and what feels like mere seconds later she's a firm member of Team Mahmut as they successfully ally with Chinli (totally not China), since she just so happens to know a member of their government. Drawn out over a couple of episodes, this would have been believable and interesting; crammed into one, it just feels like an amazing sequence of cosmic coincidences.
That's too bad on a couple of fronts, one being that Niki seems like a genuinely interesting character. She's a little like pre-demotion Mahmut – hot-blooded and ready to do whatever she feels is necessary to get where she wants to be. Niki's desperate not to lose her deceased father's merchant business, which is a real danger not because she's a girl, but because she's young. Of course, her terrible temper and quick use of violence when thwarted don't help, but it seems that the primary objection to doing business with her is that she's roughly twelve or thirteen years old. Mahmut, having become cannier over the course of season one, is well aware that he can use this to his advantage, but perhaps he also sees something of himself in this girl. In any event, with his current plan to sabotage the Empire's economic backing for their projected invasion of Torqye, he definitely needs someone with a merchant background beyond Abiriga's knowledge.
Mahmut has certainly come a long way in terms of thinking things through, as both of these episodes demonstrate. His handling of the civil war's conclusion more than proves that, particularly his decision about the execution of Fatma, Balaban and Beyazit's older sister and Aishe's mother. Throughout the civil war arc, she maintained more silence than either of her co-conspirators, giving the impression that perhaps she wasn't as invested in the plan. As it turns out, she'd been a political puppet for most of her adult life – first for her husband, then for her brother. When Fatma was in political trouble following her husband's death, Balaban stepped in and essentially saved her so that he could use her position as sultan, which Fatma went along with in order to protect her children. Mahmut is aware of this, or at least figures it out, which allows him to make an exception in terms of her death. More cannily, he's realized that actually killing Fatma will only make an enemy of her young son, the future sultan, and that's what got Torqye into this mess in the first place. His ploy of reporting Fatma dead while basically putting her into witness protection allows him to ensure a future sultan grateful to him (and Torqye, but mostly him) while still maintaining the fiction that he's punished everyone responsible to the utmost. I think Zaganos might be proud of his political maneuvers.
All told, episode thirteen is the stronger of these two, better showcasing Mahmut's increased skill (and proving him worthy of the restoration of his rank), while also allowing for some impressive scenes like Aishe's badass distraction technique. Episode fourteen rushes its setup of the next frontier in Mahmut and Louis' clash of kingdoms, and while the return of Miss Mahmut (and the decidedly less impressive Miss Kiros) adds some visual fun, overall it just feels like the show's flying through its source material, especially since Mahmut's world tour looks like it's going to Snow Queen country next week, which feels like a major jump. (Plus we didn't even get the naval battle between the Empire and Venedike!) I'll still be watching, because despite its problems, this series has successfully pulled me in. Altair may never be an “A” series, but I'm invested enough that I want to see Mahmut put that salad-haired schemer in his place – even if there are some detours along the way.
Altair: A Record of Battles is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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