OP: 「螺旋のユメ」 (Rasen no Yume) by シド (SID)
「犬鷲の将軍」 (Inuwashi no Shougun)
“The Golden Eagle General”
Turkey’s been popping up in the news headlines more and more recently, and if we work with the old assumption that no news is good news, that may not be a welcome thing. Regardless, it means that Turkey is likely to become an increasingly… ‘interesting’ country as we go, and it behooves us to be more interested in it in turn. The Republic of Turkey, as we know it, is actually a relatively modern invention, with the Ottoman Empire having stuck around until a bit after World War I. How it got the way it is today—how the Hagia Sophia went from a basilica, to a mosque, to a museum—is quite the story, and perhaps that’s enough reason already to watch Shoukoku no Altair, to just get a bit more Turkey in our anime diet, in recognition that there’s more that’s Ottoman than couches and more that’s Turkish than their delights.
Of course, as I noted in the preview, Turkiye is not actually Turkey, and Shoukoku no Altair is not actually history. I think there’s two approaches to history, though. One is the memorisation of details and dates, which may perhaps be useful for the serious scholar, and there Shoukoku no Altair cannot help you. The other, though, is to learn the lessons of history, to understand why things happen and why people through the ages do what they do, and there I think is Shoukoku no Altair‘s historical value for the lay-viewer. We already see examples of wars, of border tensions, of muddy politics, of clashes between cultures and civilisations. Shoukoku no Altair also presents a human angle that a non-fiction history book may not be able to, exploring the tension between the individual ideals and amoral geopolitics. And if nothing else, there’s just heaps of detail in the setting, and perhaps one may look at all the culture presented, think that’s cool, and go off to read Wikipedia for themselves.
With all that it’s offering, it’s needless to say that Shoukoku no Altair is quite packed. That, however, may not necessarily work to its advantage as an anime adaptation. Although it’s going to be 2-cour, it’s evident that Shoukoku no Altair still has to jam a lot of material into this pilot, often resorting to dumps of exposition by the narrator and introductory screen text. While I seldom approve of overt exposition in anime (knowing that the manga gets away with it much more easily), it’s also hard to avoid sometimes, and I can understand why Shoukoku no Altair does it. Such techniques may be intrusive, but perhaps it’s trying to get it all out of the way as quickly as possible, and once we have all the information we need the ball can get rolling unimpeded. So, something of a wonky pace for the first episode, a bit too eagre to do everything and quickly, but once that’s been ironed out we should be in for a ride. We’ve been a promised a war that engulfs the world, after all.
Bottom line: there’s promise here. Shoukoku no Altair is the quasi-historical epic of the season, and while those often take a while to warm up, when they do they can provide the kind of grand drama that few other anime can replicate. There’s just not a lot of them, and even less that involve a fantasy Turkey. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this one is good, because it certainly can be very.
Full length image: 17.
ED: 「たいようの哀悼歌」 (Taiyou no Elegy) by Flower