Alderamin on the Sky – 13 (Fin)

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Ikta is able to complete his mission of covering for the main Imperial forces’ retreat while besting his Kiokan rival Jean Arquinex in a match of wits, drawing deep to create a multi-layered plan to outwit the young major. Because the safety of his men is more important to outright victory, everyone is behind Ikta.

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Major Jean notices the obvious fire trap in plain sight, but fails to see the larger trap hiding beneath it; Ikta’s men springing out of the straw, blinding and slaughtering their horses. Most importantly, Jean wrongly assumed his opponent would try to fight him for control of the battlefield, but Ikta’s strategy eliminated all control for everyone, creating chaos.

How Jean handles this chaos betrays his lack of experience, despite his military brilliance. He is so obsessed with control, losing it knocks him off balance. In the negotiations that ensue, he also wrongly assumes the Igsem soldier is in charge, and also wrongly assumes that he’s safe.

Ikta’s resulting bluff, placing a light target on Jean’s chest for a Torway sniper who isn’t really out there, and his explanation for why he’s not in violation of military law, works really well. Ikta is at his scrappiest, and while he does sweat, he never lets Jean see it (what with the glare from all the bright lights).

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Jean knows he was bested, this time, and wants to know more about the man who did it, and what he’s fighting for. He’s outraged when Ikta tells him he cares not for protecting his country, only its people, and gets even more steamed when Ikta warns Jean if he keeps up his blind loyalty to country, that country will suck him dry and toss him aside. Definitely seems like setup for a rematch in a future season, if we get one.

Whatever may be ahead for Alderamin, I’m glad the Northern Campaign is wrapped up here, and I especially like how glad Princess Chamille is to see her knights, and Ikta in particular, return safe and sound, even compromising propriety to give him a big ol’ hug.

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We also learn in this final week why it is Chamille wanted, nay needed Ikta to return so badly, which has been hinted throughout the series by her narration. Chamille has bigger plans for Ikta, and needs him to utlitze his considerable talents and the support of his comrades and friends to keep rising up in the Imperial ranks…so he can lose the war with Kioka.

Chamille is young, but not stupid, or ignorant: her empire is rotting from the inside out, and it must be purified. The mission she gives Ikta, which could consume many of the best years of his life, is to become the leader Imperial military, then lose the war “the right way”, allowing the outside influence of Kioka clean out the Empire without losing its unique culture.

“Fight until we lose!” is a novel slogan and a nice subversion of the usual notion of fighting for victory. Here, it’s almost as if we’re on the side of the bad guys, who know they’re bad and want to change for the better. If anyone enact that change, it’s Ikta, but it won’t be easy.

He worries not only about coming into conflict with Yatori, but dragging her into such a conflict in the first place; any conflict where the Empire loses. This season appropriately ends with Ikta and Yatori leaning on one another in the moonlight, and Ikta affirming their devotion to one another first and foremost.

I haven’t heard anything about a second season yet, but if it were to continue I would absolutely watch it. After all, the epic chronicle of the Invincible Lazy General, the Heir to the Twin Blades, and the Last Princess seems to be just getting started. It would be a shame if the tale ended here.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 12

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Another solid episode follows last week’s, as Ikta’s thankless task to clean up the horrific mess General Safida created continues. During a brief respite in the action, Nana engages with Suya, offering her both her arms if it will set things right.

It doesn’t, because Suya doesn’t want Nana’s legs chopped off. In an episode where several characters work to relieve burdens from their comrades and/or friends, Sazaluf clarifies that Suya didn’t kill anyone; he did, with his orders to them.

He, in turn, doesn’t share the entire burden of responsibility, since he too has superiors. But when the guy at the top—Safida—doesn’t know what he’s doing and does everything wrong (and for the wrong reasons), it undermines the entire system.

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Torway has grown these last twelve episodes, and he believes he can help relieve some of the burden Ikta carries once Sazaluf all but hands over command of the operation to him.

Ikta is up to it—indeed, it’s where he should have been all along—but even for Ikta, up against someone he hasn’t ruled out being the real genius of his generation, this is a desperate situation, and the margin of error on the Imperial side continues to narrow.

It’s nice to see even the Kiokans know and respect what it means to be of the Igsem family. But this week we see the beginning of the end of their hegemony on the battlefield.

The mission Torway undertakes is air rifle-on-air rifle, from a great distance. Many died repelling the would-be ambush, but not a single blade touched blood. It’s interesting, though that the leader of the “Ghosts” laments it has to be this way; that things can’t be settled in a duel with Yatori.

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It’s telling that Yatori and her unit didn’t have much to do today, another day when the primacy of The Sword dwindled a little bit more. It’s all but snuffed out along with Ikta’s entire strategy when Jean deploys explosive cannons for long-range bombardment, jeopardizing the entire enterprise with two days remaining.

Ikta doesn’t care all that much about the Igsem star falling as the Remion light rises. To him, the greatest burden out of any of their circle is borne by Yatori, even if she won’t admit it. And he makes it clear everything he’s done since joining the military (against his mom’s wishes) was to lessen her burdens, and make that broken promise more forgivable.

In other words, Yatori is not just Ikta’s other hand, but his muse as well, driving him to find an ideal future. But in the present, Jean is advancing, once again changing the rules. If they’re going to survive the next two days, they’ll have to adapt even more, while never losing sight of a future where, at least, they get the hell out of there in one piece.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 04

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This episode of Alderamin provided great bang for the buck, not only giving us a highly satisfying mock battle where Ikuta can flex his keen military mind and Yatori can flash her considerable skills in combat (albeit on the wrong side), but it also inserts a fresh plot against the princess by skilled knights loyal to the late Gen. Rikan.

That once more places our core of protagonists between training and war, and neither Yatori nor Ikuta flinch when the time comes to flip the switch to “playing for keeps.”

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But first, Ikuta easily outwits an overconfident and intellectually outclassed opponent, just as we thought he would. It wouldn’t be any fun if his chess moves proved incorrect and a clearly semi-villainous character were to prevail, even temporarily, eh? In fact, had Sarihaslag not had Yatori on his side, he would have “died” much sooner than he did.

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Ikuta steers the mock battle exactly how he likes, exerting as little effort as possible and making his off-balance opponent fret and sweat (I like how he let Torway do the honors of taking out his bro). Like farming and digging wells, his strategies are borne out of laziness; the human desire to make life easier.

You’d think Suya would still be opposed to this kind of philosophy, but she looks as dazzled as the rest of Ikuta’s men, who surprise him by chanting his name. But he doesn’t think he did anything special. Just Ikuta being Ikuta.

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Because the mock battle was so entertaining and yet still fairly lighthearted, the episode wisely decided to follow Ikuta’s victory up with a serious situation, as Chamille, hearing false reports that Ikuta was injured, ends up surrounded by rogue knights who want to exact their vengeance upon her for what happened to their beloved leader.

Yatori is Johnny-on-the-spot, but these are seasoned warriors led by someone who looks just as badass as her, if not moreso. Indeed, he quickly demonstrates how tough he is by driving his bare hand through Yatori’s sword and pinning her to the ground.

That’s when Torway fires a shot at the rogue captain’s head, and things get crazy.

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The moment Yatori’s movement is freed by the shot, she kills the captain, then explodes into a furious killing frenzy, ending the entire group of renegades with the vicious grace of some kind of wild cat. It’s Alderamin’s best combat sequence to date, beautifully staged and animated for maximum breathless effect.

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When it’s all over, all the traitors are lying dead in pools of their own blood, which also covers both Yatori and Chamille, who is fine, but stunned by what she just witnessed. Yatori too can neither move nor let go of her swords, as if unable to switch off her berserk mode.

That’s where her “left hand”, Ikuta comes in, saying just the words and touching her in just the way that calms her down and brings her back into the world, as no one else can. This is clearly not the first time this has happened; Ikuta has been supporting Yatori since they were very young. If anyone wondered why she puts up with this twerp, here it is.

When Chamille sees Ikuta with Yatori, she seems in awe of the bond they share, not to mention jealous. And when Ikuta starts teasing her for drenched in blood (probably not the best idea considering she’s twelve), she starts to bawl like the kid she is and lets him have it.

Ikuta may be annoyingly good at a lot of things, but he has enough flaws and nuances to balance him out and bring out his humanity. And his chemistry with Yatori, and the dialogue, combat and direction in general are all marvelous. If it weren’t obvious already, Alderamin is a sure keeper for me.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 03

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I’m really enjoying Alderamin’s milieu, which in the case of this week is comprised of simplified but still satisfying military procedural elements. It also gets right down to business, as Ikuta & Co. have made their chivalric beds (or rather Chamille made them for them) and now they have to sleep in them, so to speak, by undergoing the very high-level officer training Ikuta had sought to avoid.

That being said, Ikuta does not spend the whole episode skulking. Though he does yawn a lot, he also makes lemons with lemonade. When other students attempt to haze him with a centipede of all things, he shows them just how off-base they are in their line of attack by cutting off the venomous head and chowing down.

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Ikuta also shines in class, and if we’re honest, he could probably teach the class, as the answer he gives the instructor is not only far more detailed than expected, he even questions the lesson they’re supposed to be learning in favor of a different, more important lesson about snatching tactical victory from a strategic defeat.

Chamille and the rest of the class is impressed, while his old friend Yatori simply takes it as yet another familiar Ikuta moment, though there’s a quiet pride for her friend in her expression.

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That brings us to one of the episode’s less interesting elements: Torway’s asshole big brother, who has zero respect for Torway and makes it known. While he uses the excuse of “interrupting his nap” (from a hammock, where else?), Ikuta picks a fight with Sarihaslag that results in his getting stomped on; but he won’t admit defeat or show fear; indeed, he has the haughty bastard right where he wants him.

Enter Yatori, who arrives with Chamille, deems the incident a sparring session in progress, and continues the fight in Ikuta’s name, taking out three of Sarihaslag’s men with ease and forcing his retreat. It’s a showcase for Yatori’s skill in combat, her loyalty to her friends, and her general badassery. Taneda Risa is the perfect voice for her.

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She makes quite an impression on the bully too, for when a mock battle is announced, she’s on Torway’s brother’s team, while Ikuta, Torway, and Matthew are on the other. It either means they value her skills, or they wanted to handicap Ikuta while gaining her knowledge of his strategy and tactics.

Frankly, I doubt those dopes thought that much about it; but Yatori for one speaks with a respectful, almost affectionate glint in her eye when talking about Ikuta’s unpredictability in battle, still able to surprise her after all the time they’ve known each other.

As for Ikuta, the second-in-command of his battalion, Suya Metcalf, is the daughter of a married woman Ikuta slept with, which is actually a refreshingly mature, if unfortunate, situation to have pop up! True to their relationship, Yatori informs him he’s on his own in sorting this out.

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Cute as she is, Suya seems pre-manufactured to be someone Ikuta must prove his worth to, as she’s more concrned with his physical aptitude than her personal issue. Sure enough, once they mobilize and Ikuta doesn’t do things by the book, Suya pushes back, but always lets him have the final decision.

As such, Ikuta positions his camp and his men somewhere perfectly within the rules, and because his opposing commander wouldn’t know the first thing about blindfolded chess, he’s at the “recommended battle site” like some kind of jamoke.

Yatori’s scouts finally learn of Ikuta’s position, and their force has to hustle southwards to avoid being too tardy for the battle. Ikuta already has the upper hand, but he seems to be just getting started. Hopefully he puts that sniveling “sadistic hottie” Sarihaslag in his place.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 02

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Alderamin continues to move along with a wonderful briskness, but not so quickly that the events that transpire don’t hold weight. Last week’s predicament is handled fairly easily by Ikuta, but only because he makes it look easy.

In reality, he’s doing something really hard, especially for someone relatively young: he realizes what he can do and what he cannot; when to act and when to let his friends act. Igsem and Torway follow his lead and thanks to their assistance, the three guards are dealt with.

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Torway is shaken by his faltering during a crucial moment, but Igsem is there to support and praise him for his role in securing the princess. As for Chamille herself, the deaths of the three Kioka soldiers weighs heavily on her, to the point she bites her finger to release the “rotten” royal blood.

While Igsem comforted Torway, it’s Ikuta who comforts Chamille, assuring her her blood “tastes just fine” and to take care of the life he and his companions have worked so hard to preserve. His words make the princess blush, but she can also clearly see there is greatness in Ikuta.

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You can see both Chamille and Ikuta sharing a distaste for bloodshed; Chamille due to her imperial status; Ikuta do to his latent ability as well as the nature of the empire he lives in. As such, Ikuta treats the fallen Kioka soldiers’ remains with respect.

The next day, now possessed of a Kioka blimp, Ikuta formulates an ingenious strategem to get the princess safely across the border without firing a shot. Donning a Kioka uniform and armed with great acting ability and balls of steel, he marches right to the Kioka garrison and threatens the commander (his career, not his life) with the errant blimp.

There are a couple issues with this plan—the lieutenant in charge doesn’t ask for any identification, and lets Ikuta escort the others across. We also cut to a full month after they return to the empire, during which much has transpired that will shape their fates.

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But the events that unfold a month later justify the rapid jump in time. During that month, the famous General Rikan is sent to a battle Ikuta knows he’ll lose, since the empire no longer wants the undeveloped territory. But Rikan, the quintessentiall badass military man, is going to do his goddamn job, even if he knows the war is rigged. Honor, loyalty, “unscientific stupidity”; Ikuta can call it what he likes; he can’t stop Rikan.

Shortly after news of Rikan’s defeat, a demoralizing blow to the people of Katjvarna, the emperor gives Ikuta, Igsem, and the others an audience. Igsem had to knock Ikuta down when he was getting in Rikan’s face, but she warns him not to try pulling any of that shit in front of the emperor, and Ikuta seems to get it. I love their relationship!

Ikuta, of course, probably has an inkling of why they’ve been summoned, and his suspicions are confirmed when the emperor bestows upon them the title of imperial knights. That means they’re going to be trained as soldiers, whether that’s what he wanted or not.

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After the ceremony, in a coach with Igsem, Chamille (who is still just a kid, after all) can’t quite control her enthusiasm for making Ikuta into a hero, one of the three things he never wanted to be (the others being a noble and a soldier). She tells him too much about what she knows about his father (disgraced famous general) or his mother (former imperial concubine awarded to his dad).

Here we see just how much trouble Ikuta can get into when his emotions run rampant: he threatens to snap the princess’ neck; Igsem takes him down and warns him she’ll have to kill him if that happens. She doesn’t want do, but you can tell she sure as shit will. She’s a vital check on the wreckless abandon a troubled Ikuta can get into. He’s got the brilliance—and the ability—of Howl.

Later, when everyone’s cooled down a bit, Igsem leaves the festivities on what may be one of the best nights of her life, to sit with her good friend who declares he’s having one of his worst. Igsem doesn’t lecture him, she just listens and sits. Because like Chamille, she sees great things in Ikuta. No doubt he sees this in himself, and it probably scares the hell out of him. But he won’t be alone on this impending journey.

This episode demonstrated Alderamin’s ability to draw in very close to its surprisingly nuanced characters, and yet still draw back to reveal the huge world they inhabit, which is bound to explode into further combat as the show progresses, and in which heroes will rise.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 01 (First Impressions)

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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