Alderamin on the Sky – Review
Alderamin on the Sky:
Original Air Dates: July 8, 2016 to September 30th, 2016
Synopsis: The Katjvarna Empire is at war with its neighbor: The Kioka Republic. As tensions are mounting one womanizing, self-obsessed, arrogant young man, Ikta travels across the sea alongside Yatorishino, a level-headed heir to her noble family, Matthew, a wanna-be of royal blood whose family is hardly remembered and others. But when their ship is hit by a nasty storm, it forces their party to abandon ship.
As they attempt to disembark safely, Ikta is forced to save a young girl who, as it turns out, is the princess of their kingdom. When the group reaches a nearby shoreline, they discover they’ve drifted into enemy territory. Now can Ikta and the rest get the princess back across the border safely?
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Alderamin on the Sky is hardly a prize pig in terms of visual quality. The series greatly waivers in visual fidelity, with character models off at times, lacking detail, and a general muted color scheme outside of the wild hair colors of some of our primary cast. There’s only a handful of sequences where the budget sky rockets and we get some truly eye-catching animation. These moments almost exclusively belong to the bad ass of the series, Yatorishino, as she slices and dices through her poor enemies who have no hope of survival.
Linny: Initially, the bright hair colours of the cast made it seem like the series might have a lot of splashes of colours but it’s a misleading impression as most of the colour is lost once our cast enters the army and everyone is relegated to bland uniforms. Later on in the series, there are some colourful tribal people depicted with their colourful outfits but for the most part, the show remains visually uninspired which is only made worse when characters would look off model as Tom mentioned. It’s definitely not a complete detractor but at the same time, one shouldn’t pick up this series expecting amazing animation.
Tom: Ikta, our brilliant but lazy main character, remains mostly unlikable, with dialogue that can often frustrate viewers repulsed by his views on women and attitude towards men he views as ‘love’ rivals. His lazy attitude can also be grating, especially as the situation worsens for our heroes. But Ikta has a few redeeming qualities. He’s generally caring, sacrificing himself for the good of those around him, rising to the task of saving his fellow soldiers, and grief stricken when people he cares about die due to his own failings. While I wouldn’t ever say I grew to like him, Ikta manages to avoid a number of pitfalls that normally make such ‘overpowered’ and brilliant leads so uninteresting. The series allows him to fail, allows his plans to only half succeed, giving a strong sense of relatability and reality to Ikta’s abilities and the situation at hand.
Linny: Ikta will most likely rub you the wrong way especially if you are a female viewer and have to listen to him describe a young girl as unripe for the picking just yet, and thus of no importance to him. Anime as a medium has often been criticized for treating women as pieces of fan service so to have a lead who literally treats women as of no worth to him unless he can get in their pants definitely leaves a bad taste. Of course, he does have a close female friend and as the show progresses, we do see other girls grow fond of him, but he keeps talking about his sexual conquests ever so often to remind you that he’s still the Casanova he started as. Also, while the show describes itself as the story of Ikta’s journey to becoming a great and brilliant war leader, it’s less about him learning and growing and more about him displaying just how brilliant he is and how he always eventually figures out an easy and smart solution to everything. He DOES face some losses and defeats so he isn’t portrayed as all powerful. But in general, at the end of the day, this show feels like a showcase of what a special snowflake Ikta has always been rather than seeing him grow and learn from his mistakes.
Tom: Outside of Yatorishino the rest of the cast gets little development, often feeling like little more than glorified supporting characters who happen to have names and unique designs so they stand out from the rest of the crowd. Besides the Princess, who disappears for the last third of the series, Alderamin feels squarely focused on Ikta and Yatorishino. It does introduce a few extra female characters, the soldier girl directly under Ikta’s command and Nanaqu, a tribal girl leading her people in a fight for their very survival. The series sometimes even teases romantic interest between Ikta and these girls, only furthered by his pseudo-playboy dialogue about bedding other women. It gives Alderamin a harem vibe at times, especially considering the female supporting cast seems to get more play than the men, but don’t go expecting any true harem hijinks as Alderamin is squarely focused on Ikta’s rise as a brilliant strategist.
Linny: The very first episode of the series and its synopsis had me believing the show would be about Ikta and co. sneaking through the enemy’s territory trying to find their way back home. However, this problem was solved within the very next episode. That’s my biggest issue, that every development or situation that crops up seems to be a crucial part of the story and you think it’s going to take up several episodes of detailed exploration, but instead is quickly solved and/or shelved. And like Tom has already mentioned, literally everyone else in the cast takes a backseat to Ikta to such a degree that they start to feel disposable and forgettable, rather than like engaging and captivating individuals. Even Yatorishino, the resident female badass, has so many moments where she needs Ikta’s support and comfort that it starts to feel like she exists mainly to remind us how skilled Ikta is at literally everything, even helping people overcome their personal phobias and traumas.
Tom: Alderamin’s story bounces around a lot. Sometimes it’s wholly unengaging and uninteresting, with developments too slow, too political to keep one’s interest. Other times the show picks up, with more interesting twists that hold your attention even when the characters themselves don’t. One big problem Alderamin suffers from is how complex its world is, coupled with a bizarre naming scheme, it can be difficult for viewers to become familiar with the world of Alderamin in general. In fact, by the end of the series I’m still not sure I entirely understood the global intricacies and it feels like that knowledge would’ve greatly added to my appreciation of Alderamin’s narrative. But without that confident understanding Alderamin is undoubtedly confusing.
Linny: I have noticed some casual praise for Alderamin by people in the army who claim they identify with its military themes and storyline but as someone who has had no real military experience personally, don’t take my word for it. However, I mention it in case anyone’s on the lookout for a military themed show, as it does highlight the intricate maneuvers and planning that can go into an encounter, including the ugly and the bittersweet parts of being in the military and having to do your duty. While a lot of the war mechanics, weapons and political system presiding in the show is completely and utterly under explained, there are times when it does a good job of pulling at your heart strings with its depiction of the loss and destruction of property and lives that comes with war. That said, I think this show is best approached as a prequel character story rather than an indepth look at war.
Tom: Alderamin really is very good at building up military battles with complex tactics that subvert the general flow of the battle and surprise the audience. There’s clever maneuvers, mechanics, and everything feels as authentic as can be for a series with little sprites acting as ammo. The sprites themselves, the little cute creatures that allow for something akin to magic, never become more than an aesthetic choice, acting as little more than a plot device to carry events forward and, if switched out, would have little barring on Alderamin’s narrative as a result. The narrative never reaches the point where they become more than this and it seems unfortunate then that Alderamin wasn’t adapted further into the story, assuming the sprites ever gain a larger role.
Linny: If there’s anything that solidifies just how hard the show is rooting for a sequel, it’s the ending which wraps up with a line on how Ikta has only just begun his journey to be the greatest General who brings about a deep impact and change upon the kingdom he has sworn to serve. If you’d been feeling like you were watching an ‘origins of,’ the ending just confirms it, which might leave viewers feeling unsatisfied, as if they sat through an entire show only to be told that what they watched was ultimately just the appetizer and that they will not be receiving the actual main meal.
Tom: Alderamin on the Sky’s first season is an oddity among Light Novel adaptations, in that, according to my understanding, it adapts just the first novel and with the way the anime wraps up there’s almost this feeling that this entire season was merely set up for Ikta’s grander story yet to come. But there’s no word on whether Alderamin will be lucky enough to get a follow up. Ultimately I’m left a bit mixed on Alderamin. I like the strategizing, the military combat, the plotting and scheming, and even how the series isn’t afraid to allow Ikta to fail now and again. And I suppose all of that outweighs my misgivings over Ikta’s character, the mediocre animation, and the lack of a stronger supporting cast.
Linny: If you have been searching for a military and war-based story that focuses on strategy rather than weaponry and cool explosions, Alderamin on the Sky might be for you. It even has some pretty interesting reveals and emotional moments that give the story additional impact. However, the lack of world building and explaining, combined with the habit of relegating most objects and intriguing topics to mere plot devices might leave you feeling detached and confused.
Alderamin on the Sky is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com