Altair: A Record of Battles – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: In the desert nation of the Türkiye Stratocracy. Mahmut lost his mother twelve years ago in the war with the neighboring Balt-Rhein Empire. Driven to bring peace to his country, he became the youngest Pasha in Türkiye history. However, the threat of the Empire looms once again. (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Altair fumbles across the board. Starting with its animation, Altair had already shown signs in the first episode itself that uniform quality was out of the question. Still, what was presented in episode 1 was generally appealing, or at worst serviceable. But by episode 5 the show was forced to take multiple weeks off to buy the animators time to tighten up their work, and it was much needed. Episodes 2-5 fell hard from that first episode. Action scenes lacked impact and detail, and even more static shots left little to appeal to the audience’s gaze.
Linny: But what truly hinders Altair from being an enjoyable watch is its setting and how almost every episode needs several chunks of socio-political information dumps to set itself up. These information dumps are often about a new region or tribe, throwing all new information at the viewer that feels disconnected, hard to follow and to keep in mind. Given how the show dispenses all these in universe facts in a fast, tedious and voluminous manner, it may make viewers feel like they’re back in history class.
Tom: Altair is heavy on the world building. We’re provided with frequent information dumps that go by so fast, filled with so many foreign names and places that none of it catches and sticks with you. Rather than slowly wade us into its narrative, Altair is content to throw us in the deep end and hope we learn how to swim along the way. But as you’re struggling to keep all the details of this fantasy world’s socio-political mess in your head, it’s also asking you to become invested in Mahmut’s struggle to save his people and prevent war. That’s a tall order when you’re more often than not on the precipice of confusion.
Linny: There’s also the fact that the ‘villain’ of the series is drawn with cliche expressions and features that just scream BAD GUY at you. All he’s missing is the lip licking. During one episode, he ‘helps’ to provide secondary narration by sitting at his table knocking chess pieces down as one nation takes down another. If you’ve found villains depicted like that tacky, you’re probably going to be less than impressed by Altair’s big baddie.
Tom: Assuming you’re able to glean enough of the show’s world building and backstory to understand what’s going on, Mahmut himself makes it difficult to truly become invested. Mahmut’s arc is truncated, offering only the most bare bones of history to his character. We speed through his initial development that had led him to becoming one of his countries’ youngest government officials. So when his status collapses, and Mahmut is forced into a pseudo-redemption arc, it means almost nothing to us. In fact, Mahmut becomes frustrating as the series goes on, spending more time whining and wondering why he’s been such a failure than actually becoming proactive in his efforts to change the world.
Linny: Because we barely get enough time and exposition to really grow fond of or understand Mahmut, his redemption arc feels more like a bratty kid being taught some rightfully needed lessons in humility and wisdom rather than a hero honing his skills. Even though we are shown how Mahmut does take criticisms to heart, he is often so distant from others that he comes off arrogant and unlikable. And thanks to that notion of arrogance, whenever the show makes him suffer a failure, it ends up making him look like a whiny and misguided fool who has way more confidence than skill and ultimately, all the more unlikable.
Tom: Compounding Mahmut’s disappointing qualities as a lead character is that many of the smaller characters showcased throughout these first six episodes are far more interesting. But again, they’re smaller characters, people who appear for one, or perhaps two episodes, just long enough to send Mahmut on his way and provide him with an important lesson. It’s only in Episode 5 that we even meet one of the other main characters showcased alongside Mahmut in the opening credits. It’d be one thing if the show was simply offering us a slow and methodical approach to its storytelling, but we’ve rushed through so much already it feels like it’s taking forever to pull our main heroes together. The show also wastes quite a bit of time on smaller characters, but doesn’t know how to frame the drama around them properly. For example episode six features a rather ludicrous scene where all eyes turn to a man doing math with pen and paper to determine what’ll happen within the next five minutes, or even twenty seconds. It all feels a bit silly.
Linny: The main focus on Mahmut is indeed another potential issue for viewers. For the first few arcs of the season he’s the only constant character and if you don’t take to him there’s no one else who’s around long enough to draw you in. Everyone else usually disappears for good after a couple of episodes. Of course, the constant influx of new characters could mean you might find a character to take to but Altair has done such a bad job of introducing and maintaining its cast so far that I wouldn’t have high hopes.
Tom: Overall Altair had a lot of potential. It felt like a poor man’s Arslan that could perhaps hold fans of that series over until another season is finally announced. But instead, Altair is a mess. It’s pacing is all over the place, moving too fast for audiences to become wrapped up in the intrigue of the world, and not offering stable enough a foundation for understanding and identifying with its lead, Mahmut. In the end I think Altair is best avoided, unless you’re absolutely dying for a period piece, or something with intrigue and socio-political drama.
Linny: At the end of the day, Altair is definitely best left to those who want an extremely factual and heavily socio-political tale that puts most of its effort into world building rather than its characters. Maybe as the show continues, Mahmut might finally develop into a capable, humble and likable lead but you’re going to have to sit through a lot of mediocre episodes first and that will likely be too steep a price to pay for the general, casual anime viewer.
Altair: A Record of Battles is available for streaming via Amazon’s Anime Strike Channel.