Alderamin on the Sky
Ikta Solork, of the Katjvarna Empire, had no desire to be a soldier (he wanted to be a librarian), but after his bold cleverness keeps the 12-year-old Princess Chamille from falling into the hands of the empire's enemy the Kioka Republic, he basically gets drafted. At least he's fighting alongside his longtime (and long-suffering) friend Yatorishino Igsem (just "Yatori" to him), a redhead who wields twin swords with exquisite skill. Between his tactical brilliance and knowledge of "science" (apparently largely unheard of in THIS world), and her berserker talents, they do their best to wrest victories out of impossible situations- and prove quite able at it, too.
The show gives you a less-than-sterling impression of Ikta Solork at first- we first see him lazing in a hammock, and we see what Yatori means when she describes him as a "serial philanderer" when he tries a crude come-on to Haroma Becker (who will, in time, serve as a medic in Ikta's unit), but thankfully the show drops most of this aspect of Ikta's personality later, though we DO meet a trooper who's the daughter of a woman Ikta once seduced ("I didn't know she was married!"). The overall level of technology we see in this series is maybe early-to-mid 19th Century European, but the armed forces (of ALL sides, save maybe the Aldera) are fully gender integrated, and both sexes wear the same uniform. And even Ikta mostly stops sexually harassing women once he puts the uniform on. Maybe they could teach US something. In any case, once Ikta becomes a soldier we see a different (and MUCH better) side of him, though sometimes he requires a little interpretation- for example, when he later tells his troops that "Laziness is the mother of human progress", what he MEANS is that human beings have succeeded through preparation- by exerting some effort up front, they've saved a LOT of labor in the long run. We see this brilliantly illustrated by Ikta himself during war games, when, through a combination of preparation and deception, Ikta's force is able to rout that of the opposing side, with very few casualties on his side. This pattern will continue into his REAL combat missions, and much of the show's interest- the part that absorbed ME, anyway- is watching how he plays this "chess game".
Ikta is also very effective at utilizing the particular skills of his troops. One whose talents he frequently relies on is Torway Remeon, a sharpshooter who nevertheless is gnawed by self-doubt, largely fueled by his bullying older brother. Ikta often so dominates this show that there's little room for its supporting cast, and I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Torway's story. And poor Matthew Tetdrich, a rather heavyset guy, isn't given much to do at all onscreen but complain.
Speaking of sharpshooting, I probably need to bring up this world's peculiar technology, at least as far as I can understand it myself. They have "air rifles", and I got the impression that maybe gunpowder hadn't been invented here, all guns basically being powered by a combination of magic and compressed air. (You can actually see this more plainly on their artillery pieces, which even have a bellows.) As far as magic goes, the major visible manifestations we see in the series are the Sprites, pocket-sized, elflike creatures that everyone carries around, and everyone is quite loyal to their own sprite, too, to the extent that they'll go to war over them. The Sprites are apparently elementals, with Air (Wind), Fire, and Water being accounted for, but they might have substituted Light for Earth (though it's a bit redundant with Fire, I think.)
But getting back to Ikta- and the show rarely departs him for long: How is he so good at waging war? Well, he trained under his dad, Bada Sankrei, a legendary warrior; it seems that Yatori first met Ikta when she, too, was sent to his dad for training. Ikta's dad also had a "scientist" in his employ, named Anarai Khan; though Khan later defected to the Kioka Republic, Ikta worked closely with him for a time. (Ikta's knowledge of nature saves his troops from annihilation at one point, though at the cost of a garrison's force.) Since "science" as a profession seems largely unknown in this world, I wondered if this might be one of those worlds where technological civilization had fallen, and forgotten its brilliant past (as in Scrapped Princess, for example.) But that will have to wait for another day, I guess.
It's interesting to compare the government and/versus military of, say, GATE to this show's. In GATE, the military is generally presented as beneficent and well-managed, but the government is spineless and corrupt. I think things in Alderamin are more complex, and interesting. The Katjvarna Empire is pretty much on its last legs, as Ikta himself points out from time to time; while the government here is corrupt, the military is too, at least from the level of regional command up. The field commanders and the troops are still devoted to the concept of honor; certain military families, such as Yatori's Igsem, are steeped in it, and Yatori muses, toward the end, about whether she's actually obsolete. Much of Alderamin is Ikta trying to keep things under control while the cruelty of a local commanding officer is actually INCITING rebellion among the locals rather than SUPPRESSING it as he intended. It's painful to see those of good conscience struggle to obey the orders of those without consciences at all. And maybe it's just my age, or maybe my study of history (well, history from even before I was born), but I find it less easy to identify with the gung-ho attitude of GATE; I find it easier to empathize with the situation of just trying to hold what you have together against the forces of destruction and chaos. (And you'll be amazed at a sacrifice Ikta makes to try to hold it together; this show is FILLED with surprises.)
If Ikta's philandering were a bit less visible, and the chief supporting cast made a bit MORE visible, I could have gone five stars on this. Still, no matter how high-quality the show is, I don't think I'll watch the sequel. If you see the ending of this, you'll know why. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: War violence, including dismemberment. Recommended for older teens and adults, also because they'll find it easier to understand the plot and issues involved.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Alderamin on the Sky © 2016 Madhouse
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