It’s hard being a Casanova in battle.
If asked at the season start whether Alderamin would be a good time waster I’d call you crazy. This was an adaptation initially offering your typical war story with boring, cookie cutter characters at best. Surprisingly, however, Alderamin slowly and quietly flipped that preconception on its head, turning a mediocre beginning into one solid show.
Part of the surprise lies with the fact that Alderamin (on the surface) it is fairly derivative. We already have similarly themed series, ranging from the excellent Valkyria Chronicles to the flawed Argevollen. What Alderamin does differently to its benefit, however, is execute its material well. Falling more towards Valkyria than Argevollen, Alderamin sticks to the realm of realism without succumbing to confusing and incorrect tactics (as Argevollen liked to do). The initial wargame between Ikta and the arrogant Sarihasrag for example was an excellent example of basic manoeuvre warfare and deception, while the final fight between Ikta and
albino Lelouche Major Alkiniks fantastically displayed elastic defense, ingenious use of terrain, and leader psychology. For the military geek there is plenty to chew on here as few series ever tackle these concepts directly with such enthusiasm. Although I felt Alderamin started rushing in the latter half (specifically the quick transition between the Sinack and La Saia Alderamin fights), this does not take away from the strength of its material.
What really struck me about Alderamin, however, was not the tactics as much as the thinking on tactics. Most war stories treat tactics as static, strategies never changing no matter the weapon introduced or the effect it has. Alderamin, however, might be the first anime to consider the impact of minor technology on military strategy. The changing battlefield becomes the primary theme during the series, initially hinted at through Kioka’s air balloons and bluntly stated later with the implementation of rifling. Especially fascinating is the cultural responses to these changes. Kioka is eager to adopt any advantageous device for war, while La Saia Alderamin treat most technologies as affronts to God. Even among the Empire there are differences, with Yatori’s clan adhering to swords while Torway’s embraces the firearm. This chaotic (yet realistic) struggle to come to grips with such technological change on a personal, religious, and state level transforms Alderamin from a basic war story into a true (and entertaining) battle of minds.
Speaking of minds, no discussion on Alderamin would be complete without mentioning Ikta. Without a doubt our resident genius was the star of the show. Although beginning as little more than a womanizing Ryner Lute (of Densetsu fame), Ikta quickly grew into his own by season’s end. What made Ikta for me was his compassionate side. The frank chats with Yatori and the significance of that blood payment to Nana showed Ikta possessing a surprising (but not unwelcome) degree of honour and empathy uncommon for this type of character. Especially interesting was how Ikta assisted other characters’ development, particularly Matthew and Torway whom would likely have remained flat without the attention. All of this together produced an amazingly well-rounded character who gave the series a new layer of complexity emphasizing the human consequences of war. Without Ikta (or a less well-written Ikta), Alderamin certainly would not have been as good as it was.
Overall Alderamin was definitely one of the better shows this season. This was an adaptation which improved an amazing amount over time and brought up some fantastic themes to delve into every week. A true slow burner, Alderamin was certainly deserving of weekly discussion instead of a quick summarization here. If we are fortunate enough to see a return to Ikta and crew (which given the infamous Madhouse curse is no guarantee), then this is one series which won’t be forgotten about next time. Even without a sequel, however, Alderamin has already made itself a worthy addition to the military genre. If you have the curiosity or interest in all things war I’d encourage you to give this one a shot. You will not be disappointed.