Altair: A Record of Battles
Episodes 6-7

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?

How would you rate episode 7 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?

If you want to be strict about these things, I'd technically give episode six the A- and episode seven a B+, but since I was really on the edge of my seat for the entire hour I was watching, filled with a variety of strong emotions throughout, I decided to go with the higher rating overall. Long story short, these two episodes of Altair: A Record of Battles were truly intense as the battle for the city-state of Phoinike came to a close, and Mahmut once again set out on his journey.

The last time we saw Mahmut, he and Kiros were about to assemble a ragtag crew to sneak out of the harbor and find the missing reinforcements from Venedike, or Pseudo Venice. This week, they're all ready to set sail, already in the act of figuring out how to lower the harbor chains when the Empire's supposedly inexperienced navy launches their plan. It's perfectly insidious – Glalat (who may be my new least favorite character of the season) has deliberately turned some of his conscripts against him, and he's banking on the Phoinicians being sympathetic to their wish to desert. Once they predictably agree to allow the deserters into the harbor, Glalat is ready for them: he's emptied one of his galleons of all her ballast (typically lead bars that help keep the ship steady in the water) and rafted her to two ships who still have their ballast intact. This raises the middle ship in the water, causing her to have a much shallower draw and be more buoyant on the incoming tide. When the chains are down, he can simply cut the rafting lines, and the combination of the shallow draw, tailwind, and incoming tide all allow him to penetrate the formerly impregnable harbor.

Honestly, it's kind of a brilliant plan, even if it isn't totally sound from a nautical perspective. It's also totally infuriating – the Phoinicians are a maritime people. They absolutely should have noticed that the middle of the three incoming vessels was unsteady in a way that implied divested ballast, and the fact that the three ships were rafted in the first place should have struck them as weird. I can see them being so caught up in their position of strength that they got overconfident, and it's also possible that the whole Trojan Horse incident never happened in their version of the world. Still, to see Phoinike fall is devastating, both by land (that redheaded lady also tops my list of Anime Characters I Want to Punch) and by sea. Three thousand years, brought down by a man with hair like whipped cabbage.

Of course, what Balt-Rhein doesn't seem to know is that all empires eventually fall. If it's Phoinike today, who says it won't be Balt-Rhein tomorrow? As we saw amply demonstrated this week, that pride can be any city's chief weakness. That's also a lesson Mahmut hasn't quite learned himself. When he and Kiros, who looks like he may be around for the duration of the story, escape Phoinike, they're picked up by the Venedikan fleet, which did answer the call but ultimately decided not to help out. Presumably this was out of self-preservation, but Mahmut can't understand that – in his mind, this is the fall of his village all over again. He recognizes that history repeats itself, but he doesn't yet see the role people play in that endless cycle. It will be interesting to see if he eventually comes to terms with that, or if he'll spend his life struggling to change the way things are to some degree.

The introduction of Pseudo Venice adds a new dimension to the story's world, while reconfirming its creator's understanding of history. Venedike is the spitting image of Venice (which may be true of other locations, but I've been to this one), with even buildings that look familiar if you've ever been there. The great hall of the Doge's palace is strikingly Renaissance Italian, and the fact that the city also exports glass fits right in with the mix of real and alternate history in the series. That almost makes me able to forgive the mélange of time periods in the Venedikan costumes (ranging from the 17th-19th centuries) and the fact that the captain of the ship Nero Lupo looks decidedly Harlockian. (We won't even get into “nero lupo” vs “lupo nero.”)

Mahmut's journey, both interior and exterior, is well on its way. These two episodes do a good job of highlighting both his relative inexperience – seriously, who thought just tying the prisoners' arms was a good plan? – and his commitment to what he believes in, even as he's learning to question everything. The visceral emotions stirred by Glalat's attack on Phoinike are well-done, especially when you consider that if Mahamut had been attacking Glalat's stronghold, we'd be cheering him on. Everything about the attack is a matter of perspective. That's part of what Mahmut needs to learn if he's ever going to rise back to pasha, and it looks like Doge Lucio may be about to give him another piece of that lesson next week.

Rating: A-

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

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