Alderamin on the Sky follows Ikta Solork, a fairly lazy and apathetic young man, who unfortunately finds himself forced into joining his country’s military along with his childhood friend.
I reviewed this series week to week so if you are after individual episode thoughts click here.
For those who followed my episode to episode reviews (or checked out my Summer rankings each week) it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I really enjoyed and quite strongly recommend Alderamin as a series. It isn’t perfect by any means and it isn’t exactly the most mind-blowing thing you’ll ever watch, but it is an interesting military fantasy with a cast that give reasonably consistent performances and tell a story in a decent fashion.
This may not seem like a glowing recommendation but when it comes to fantasy, anything that can settle itself down long enough to get the fundamentals of story telling right without tripping themselves up with how clever they are and how amazing some mystical thingy is, kind of stands out. Even taken out of the fantasy genre, Alderamin delivers a solid piece of story telling even if it never quite rises to being all that exciting.
I will put a language warning on this anime. Normally I wouldn’t bother (given most shows that use this kind of language are pretty obvious about it) but given the generally nice nature of the show and the characters some of the sexually explicit language that comes out at times (and a little bit of swearing) seems to come out of left field. It isn’t intrusive and not excessive, but it definitely makes its presence felt so if that isn’t your thing then perhaps you should pass.
Because of this I’m going to do a plus/minus format for the review.
Ikta and Yattori as main characters are brilliant (and not just because we keep getting told Ikta is meant to be brilliant). The chemistry between them as long term friends feels genuine and more importantly, it is needed for the plot to work. Ikta might be a brilliant strategist but without knowing his resources and what they can do, he would have failed far more often than he did. More importantly, because the two characters know each other so well, they can take action knowing someone will have their back and this allows them to take risks that progress the story. Honestly, if nothing else in this story worked, the relationship between these two would be more than enough to keep me watching. I kind of lived in fear that they’d try to make it romantic but we were fortunately spared that particular development.
The Princess Chamille and most of the military officers we meet throughout the course of the anime are pretty flat as characters. While Ikta’s core group get some development and a few minor soldiers and lower officers get some opportunities to show that they are people, the higher officers and the Princess get one note personalities. Fortunately they don’t appear all that often so it isn’t enough to ruin the viewing but it makes you wonder how the entire Kingdom hadn’t already fallen apart with some of the morons that were in charge.
While some might find the pacing a problem, I quite enjoyed the way this shows breaks down. There are 2 – 3 episodes given to each of the minor conflicts as we progress to the final retreat that Ikta is put in charge of. This gives them time to set up a situation, have some piece of wisdom revealed, a little bit of character development and interaction, before we charge into another inevitable battle (well, it is a military fantasy). I didn’t mind this method of pacing out the story and felt it worked quite well with the subject matter – then again, I also enjoyed the weird strategy narration from Lord Marksman and Vanadis so maybe my record with military fantasy anime is questionable. Basically, the show steps this up from an escape, to a military exercise, to a field conflict where they have the upper hand, to a field conflict where they don’t have the upper hand, to a full on retreat. At each stage forcing Ikta to work that little bit harder for his victory (even if by victory we mean successful retreat). From a reality point of view it is laughable but from the point of view of escalating a situation in order to push a character it works very well.
Lengthy explanations. This is a problem in any show where the main character is supposed to be smart. The writer’s feel the need to have them explain their reasoning (ad nauseum) to a range of other characters and they inevitably don’t come off looking as smart as they would if they just kind of did what they needed to do. I don’t know about you, but I do not stand around telling people my entire thought process before I make a decision. I will walk people through the final reasoning, but all the steps along the way get cut out because nobody wants to listen to it. For a show that mostly had clever character interactions, I’d really love to go back through it and hack out almost every one of Ikta’s strategy explanations.
It’s kind of pretty. Okay, it doesn’t rise to the wow factor of something like No Game, No Life in terms of striking world building, but I actually found myself enjoying the scenery and character designs while watching this. The visuals match the story. They do what they need to do and they don’t bother trying to clutter up the issue or disguise flaws by dangling pretty colours in our faces. I’ll echo that point for the music. It works but it isn’t trying to steal the show.
For a fantasy, the world building is probably the weakest component. We get a basic idea of the main ideologies and set-ups of the main powers in the world but there are a million unaddressed questions in this series (like what is actually with the character’s spirit companion things). While these don’t get in the way of you understanding the plot, they leave the world feeling a little incomplete. That said, incomplete is probably better than weighed down with excess detail at the expense of character or story development.
As I said at the start, I really enjoyed Alderamin on the Sky and I’d really like to see more of this story but it brought things to a fairly natural conclusion and the narration has told us where this story plans to go so even if we never see any more of this world or these characters we can call it a day with sufficient closure. My recommendation is to watch this anime. If you like any kind of fantasy or if you just want an anime that tells a pretty straight forward story, Alderamin is well worth the time.