Shoukoku no Altair – 03

We left Tintin Mahmut in dire straits last week, but still with an ace in the hole: his trusty eagle Snowy Iskender. As Zaganos, outnumbered 10-1, considers using poison to pull out a victory, the female Imperial officer stopping Shahra from cutting any more tent ropes, and Mahmut straight getting his ass kicked by the male officer, it’s all up to the bird.

I must say, this show’s clever (if sometimes credulity-straining) use of Iskender and the eagles to lend Mahmut a hand in times of great need add a sheen of destiny to his story, as if nature itself would prefer he succeed in his endeavors.

Or rather birds, plural: scores of them descend on the hostage tent and pull it away; conveniently dropping it on top of the Imperial soldiers standing by for orders to burn it. Instead, they are the ones who burn, in a nice bit of irony.

Iskender him(her?)self comes to Mahmut’s aid against the big guy, who after all has only one eye and thus has a depth perception shortfall that results in a rather creative death: Mahmut and the eagle work together to wrap a chain around the guy’s face and throat, and Mahmut snaps his neck.

Thus Mahmut’s would-be tormentor is dunzo, and so is the Imperial plot to take Hisar. Ibrahim Vali opens the gates to Zaganos and his forces, and Mahmut makes the call to release all of the Araba, despite their rebellion. For that, and for all their roles in the brief Hisar rebellion, Mahmut, Ibrahim, and Zaganos are all brought before the Divan of the other 11 Pashas to testify and be judged.

To Ibrahim and Mahmut’s shock and delight, the former is not executed, but restored as Vali of Hisar. Zaganos is reinstated as Pasha. But Mahmut, as I figured considering the outcome of the other two verdicts, isn’t so lucky. He is stripped of his rank of Pasha, and demoted to Binbashi under Halil Pasha. He couldn’t have ended up under a nicer commander, but it’s still a huge step backwards for Mahmut, for whom duty is life.

Having tasted the sweet top only makes the demotion all the more bitter, but Mahmut does not contest or even disagree with the Divan’s judgment. There were always risks Mahmut exposed himself to by becoming the youngest Pasha, and that included letting emotional detachments make him forget that the role of Pasha is far more than going off alone to save one’s friend.

It’s just as bitter to think that by accomplishing so many great and noble deeds in Hisar, thwarting those who threatened peace while saving thousands of innocent people, in this case, was the wrong move, at least in his position. Being a Pasha must mean being more detached, more aloof from personal concerns, while far more attuned to the greater needs of the state as a whole.

It’s a big picture position, and Mahmut simply wasn’t ready yet. But he’s learned his lesson, and is eager to see more places, meet more people, and be reinstated as Pasha as quickly as possible…but not so quickly that he doesn’t do it properly.

Judging from the scheming of both Minister Louis and Lelederik, and the fact Louis is aware of Zaganos’ spy network (which Z gave Mahmut the means to contact) and is taking them out one by one, Mahmut can’t get back in the Pasha’s seat soon enough.

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Qualidea Code – 04

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Qualidea Code is a flawed show, but it’s showed signs of incremental improvement in the last two episodes. Lask week solved the “not enough peril” problem; while this week fixes Ichiya’s “boundless bluster” problem, delivering a much-needed dose of Canaria’s humility.

Indeed, while the turnabout in his personality was, uh, rapid, rapid change is possible in the midst of the person he cares more about than anyone else getting seriously hurt in a battle he instigated.

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As the exterior peril intensifies, internal strife fades away for the good of the whole group. Thus Ichiya’s improved personality raises all boats, showing that when the going (finally) gets tough, he can count on his fellow heads and their subheads.

Ichiya presents this new-and-improved, common sense-armed self to the adult bosses, who endorse his plan to ally with Kanagawa and Chiba to defeat the Leviathan properly.

He’s learned his lesson, and hopefully retired his tired catchphrase “I’m all we need.” Clearly both he and they need more than just him; they need each other, working together.

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His new plan for attack is neither nonsensical nor reckless; it is actually pretty by-the-book and straightforward, with each city playing to its strengths in an effort to distract, misdirect, and get through the armor of the Unknown.

Ichiya also leaves Aoi in charge of keeping an eye on Cana, who wakes up shortly after he departs for battle. She immediately sits up and gets dressed to catch up with him, but while Aoi tries to stop her, her fellow Tokyo broom-riders suggest a shortcut and for Aoi to accompany them.

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Kazumi uses explosives and something called “dead space” to suspend their assault train into a position from which the ground forces can attack, while Hime surfaces her submarine carrier right beside the enemy to deliver a blow that still isn’t quite enough.

Turns out, the five fighting the battle can’t defeat the Leviathan without their sixth, Canaria, who comes in singing and buffing everyone around her. Realizing he’s stronger with everyone than all alone, Ichiya scoops up Hime and flies her to the spot she needs to get to to take out the Leviathan.

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Remember what I said about QC being flawed? Well, while the peril is nicely pitched and the characters have gotten more interesting…the animation during the climax of the battle stinks, with the frame-rate dropping until it’s just a Powerpoint deck of still shots.

The show tries to pass this off as a “slowing of time” effect for enhanced drama, but actually has the opposite effect since at the end of the day, things weren’t really animated at a crucial part of the episode. The result was underwhelming and sloppy.

However, the episode makes up for that a bit with the aftermath, when Ichiya takes Cana back the hospital on his back and everyone celebrates a great victory….only for tragedy to suddenly, unexpectedly strike once more.

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A post-credits scene with Ichiya and Cana has all the makings of a quiet epilogue to close the episode out, but for Asanagi’s shocked, pained reactions to seeing something on Aoi’s neck, indicating she, Cana, and the others who broke Cana out of the hospital went through a “no-entry zone.” We also see flashing red lights in the ocean, and one of those foreboding seagulls gets killed in the sky.

Just as Ichiya is telling Canaria he’s asking for a demotion that would swap their ranks, making her head, and telling her how he doesn’t care about anyone in the world as much as her, a huge mass falls out of the sky and smites Canaria. One moment, she’s there smiling, the next, a perfectly circular hole in the ground, and a spot of blood in the water.

I’m not sure exactly what happened here, and it surely adds to the mystery of what the adults aren’t telling the kids. But whatever we learn or however Ichiya deals, killing off a likable main character in the fourth episode is a bold move.

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