From MAPPA, a studio with a short history in the industry, comes the Arabian Nights-esque political fantasy, Shoukoku no Altair. Based on the manga of the same name, Shoukoku no Altair (henceforth, SnA) takes some of the vibes you’d get from Magi and brings them down to earth. The word “Altair” supposedly means a “record of battles,” and after some quick research might be an allusion to real-world events which inspired the series.
Our protagonist is one Mahmut Pasha (“Mahmut” being a title for “general”), also known as the Golden Eagle. Don’t let the pedigree or nicknames deceive you. Pasha, with his austere temperament and profound understanding of political and militaristic stratagems, is the youngest man to be promoted to Mahmut in the history of the Turkiye nation. With recently transpired events threatening possible unrest between the peace of all nations, Mahmut Pasha must navigate the dangers of a world which is playing dirty and comrades who have yet to believe he’s worthy of his station.
In this first episode, we get only the seeds of a story and a narrative which leads up to, but denies us, a proper inciting incident, instead foreshadowing trouble over the horizon. Most of the episode is dedicated to character developments and introductions, rather than plot, which is okay in my books. I’d go so far as to say the most meaningful part of the narrative in this pilot lies in flashbacks of Mahmut Pasha’s history, where dark and bloody things abound.
While it seems to be lacking (so far) the magical aspects found in similar series such as Magi and its spin-offs, SnA does promise a story of war, devious agendas, betrayal, and political comeuppance in an aesthetic setting which echoes Magi and the Arabian Nights theme (maybe a little bit of Kingdom, too). If these ideas appeal to you, you might see this series blooming into something noteworthy in the episodes to come.
However, SnA does not shoot out of the gate like a flawless stallion. The animation, while not overtly bad, also brings nothing astonishing to the table. There are a handful of promising cinematics, such as the untethered camera which spirals around a bird in the opening scene, but otherwise the anime short-changes us several times with cheap animation. In particular, a character is shown navigating around a single painted background, with the cut edited just to show the character progressing in different directions. This happens more than once and reeks of padding to reach a required time quota. The horse animations are also kind of funky and unnatural.
While there’s a sizable and diverse character cast, we learn little about any of them, save for two or three which act as the focal points for the episode. This is not so much a flaw as an observation. We also have no introduction to the main villain, who appears in the opening cinematic. He looks appropriately villainous, but whether or not he lives up to his looks remains to be seen.
The music is decent, if unspectacular. The best song in the whole pilot plays during the “next week’s episode” preview.
There’s some exposition about how awesome Mahmut Pasha is for graduating so early and whatnot. Despite earlier accolades regarding his genius, however, his first interaction on the counsel is childish and ignorant–something he’s called out on. He’s socially awkward and reluctant to dance at a celebration in the city square. Hopefully, he is not a character who falls into the problem of being overly serious too often.
The utilization of surroundings for combat is consistently impressive so far, but one of the later scenes in the episode ends far too simply, with an unrealistic amount of resistance from the enemies present and them surrendering despite having a clean opportunity to fight back.
Spiritual Content: None.
Violence: A falcon breaks a thief’s arm with its talons, drawing enough blood to stain his sleeves. Flashbacks depict a nighttime scene with vague imagery of dead bodies and fire. People don swords against one another, but nobody is hurt. A couple horses are skewered to death by a rain of arrows.
Language/Crude Humor: One “d**n” and one “ba****d.”
Sexual Content: There’s a belly dancer who looks the part and is endowed as much as one could expect. She trespasses in the main character’s room, goes through his stuff, and plays coy when asked to leave because it’s night and she’d be in danger if she left. When the main character goes to great lengths to sleep in a different location from her (letting her stay in his bed while he takes the roof), she playfully chastises him for being innocent and “just a kid.”
Drug/Alcohol Use: Alcohol is present at a festival, but the protagonist refrains.
Other Negative Themes: None.
Positive Content: Aside from the fact there’s not much negative content, some laudable aspects of the content lies in the protagonist’s innocuous approach to the sexually tempting situation he finds himself in, and an elder Mahmut’s sagely empathy towards a frightened child shows that the series has emotionally uplifting overtones. There’s also a character who sees the safety of his nation in the balance and willingly goes forward in a form of self-sacrifice to keep the peace.
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