「犬鷲の共闘」 (Inu washi no Kyoutou)
“The Eagle’s Joint Struggle”
It seems fitting to me that I take over Altair’s coverage from Passerby this week just as the show starts switching gears. The chaos of stately relations and political machinations? Replaced (if only slightly) by the story of a boy and his quest for enlightenment. This episode is arguably where Altair finally found its feet, weaving the disparate collection of pieces quickly thrown at us in past weeks into a tale which, if currently lacking in depth, has plenty of room for growth.
Having moved beyond the politics of pashas for the moment, Altair’s emphasis is now on the learning of Mahmut as he comes to terms not only with his ignorance, but his naivety. For all that Mahmut’s quixotic personality grated on me before, I must admit the kid is remarkably—and pleasantly—quick on the uptake. He listens earnestly, identifies his own mistakes, and most importantly, seeks to immediately implement changes for the better. Temerariously rushing headfirst into the enemy? Quickly corrected when Mahmut both sees the results and is criticized by his fellow tribesman Suleyman. It may only be baby steps right now, but Mahmut’s eagerness to learn anything and everything and apply that learning will make him incredibly dangerous before too long. Knowledge, as Zaganos mentions, is the greatest weapon after all, but only if used correctly at the right time. By having Mahmut operate the cipher and meet his spies, Zaganos ensures the kid will absorb this lesson as he himself previously did.
Ironically though, the greatest education for Mahmut may come from the very realm he was banished from. Altair’s focus may have shifted to a trip through the boondocks, but the theme is still very much one of national struggle. Balt-Rhein’s assassins as Suleyman points out are not acting as individuals (as Mahmut is wont to do), but as pieces of a far greater game. This is where Mahmut will face his greatest challenge, for in order to realize his lofty objective, he must learn when to put aside idealism in favour of cold pragmatism. This lesson started for Mahmut last week, but it’s still a work in progress as evidenced by his continued selfishness in combat. In order to effectively lead and affect lasting change, Mahmut must learn he cannot handle everything alone (getting there) and that loss is always inevitable. Eventually our pasha-in-training will come across a situation where people will die no matter his choice, with all Mahmut having control over being the number and the outcome. The responsibility of such decisions and accepting the result, this is the essence of leadership and the most critical lesson of them all for Mahmut. Preventing war is certainly a laudable goal, but Mahmut hasn’t considered that such desires may require him sacrificing a few for the many as his adopted (grand)father once had to do. The boy has a long way to go yet.
Getting to the endpoint, however, is half the fun and next time looks set for a romp through potential pirate lands as Mahmut heads to Phoenicia. Well, a fictional one at least. You can bet on some more history lessons, Mahmut development, and more than a few Balt-Rhein machinations as we get down and dirty into the peregrinations of our pasha-in-training, even if we have a break before experiencing it all. Yes you heard right, Altair is on hiatus for two weeks. Strange time to take one, but it certainly gives time to savour what’s coming. After all, now we get to see just what our little falconer can do.