Five students en route to elite military officer exams end up having to abandon ship in a storm, and end up with their princess behind enemy lines.
First of all, Alderamin avoids a common pratfall of warring-country fantasy shows—the introductory infodump—by simply plopping us right into the thick of things, letting pertinent facts crop up in natural conversation, and trusting its viewers. This felt like a supremely confident show, with taut dialogue and attractive characters.
The protagonist and reluctant hero is Ikuta, who should, by all rights, be immensely annoying, and yet remains almost painfully likable throughout the episode. He’s seemingly quietly good at everything, including war, and yet he hates war and exerting energy of any kind.
He’s also an enthusiast of women (a poonhound if you will), but he’s kept nicely in check by his longtime friend Igsem. Ikuta and Igsem’s frienship is an early hook for me. Igsem is strong, proud, and supremely confident in who she is, what her relationship with Ikuta is, how to deal with him, and most importantly, isn’t trying to change the rascal.
It’s nice to see a boy-girl pair good friends without being either a couple or overly confrontational to each other, and I enjoyed their banter, chemistry and comedy. Not to mention Igsem is voiced perfectly by Taneda Risa (Rory from Gate).
I even enjoyed the rather lengthy scene of the five soldiers meeting below decks. Each character has a distinct look and personality, and it’s fun to watch Ikuta bounce off them one by one. Heck, he even gets an inappropriate comment about the princess in after she momentarily appears at their door.
But generally, things in this scene stay nice and breezy, capturing the close quarters, boredom and need to pass time a maritime journey consists of. It also lulls us into a sense of security that’s suddenly, rudely thrashed when the ship hits a storm and starts to go down.
Ikuta also shows that while he can be a cad, he also won’t hesitate to rescue a drowning girl in a storm, at the risk of his own life.
Mentioning before the ship sinks that chess between soldiers is most properly played blindfolded (due to the need for a general on the ground to fill in blanks of a battle with their imagination), Ikuta clearly has a good sense of things.
It’s auspicious, then, that his act of heroism was directed at none other but the princess of the empire he serves, the 12-year-old Chamille Kitora Katjvanmaninik (Gesundheit!), voiced ably by the always adorable Minase Inori.
Ikuta, along with gunner Torway Remion, also discover that they’re in the territory of their sworn enemy, the Kioka Republic. When he reports this to the princess and the others, and lists their choices (surrender, which is easy, or attempt to break through the border, which is a gamble), Princess Chamille rejects surrender with extreme prejudice.
Watching a member of the royal family really gets to Ikuta (surprising even himself) but while he overreacts (requiring Igsem to take him down) the princess realizes she overreacted as well, and the group decides to take a couple of days to figure out what to do.
Like the meet-and-greet aboard the ship, things get light again, with the group having a sumptuous feast, and Ikuta even has time to weave himself a hammock out of leaves (like I said, guy can do everything). The moment Chamille “got it” and entered into the Church of Hammocks (of which I’m also a practicing member) was lovely moment perfectly curdled by a Kioka scout blimp sighting.
Just as life was perfectly normal aboard the ship until it suddenly snapped, the group’s haven is breached just as suddenly. Chamille is also every bit a little kid, too, as she runs far too far away to go to the bathroom and ends up being pursued by Kioka soldiers.
She’d have been in deep doo-doo were it not again for—you guessed it—Ituka distracting her pursuers; neither his first, nor likely his last, demonstration of heroism, leadership, and immense competence. Funny how the first episode of this “chronicle of fantastical warfare” didn’t have any actual warfare in it, and was still more than adequately entertaining. I shall be back for more!