In 356 BC, Alexander the Great arrives in Greece with the ominous destiny that he will become the "destroyer of the world." Inheriting the crown, he becomes king of the Macedonians and starts down a road of conquest with terrific speed. Alexander ultimately confronts his fated nemesis, Darius the Third, in a war with Persia which changes Alexander into the devil he was fated to become, assuring the destruction of all in his path, and possibly himself.
Every once in a while, an anime tries to break the mold with their approach and art style. Sometimes, this works out swimmingly, and you get a great, fresh anime like Kaiba. Other times, an anime tries to break the mold but comes out worse for it. Reign is not only a complete dud but something that manages to fail on almost every single level of basic entertainment.
The first thing people can't help but notice is the show's art style. The art is not very Japanese at all, and somewhat reminiscent of Aeon Flux. I might've been able to tolerate it, had they used it
better. Sure, all of the characters are painfully ugly, but did they have to be mostly naked on top of that? In no scene during the anime do Alexander or Darius wear pants. Everyone in Reign is allergic to pants, and so I have to stare and some dude's butt or codpiece in every scene.
The plot itself is really hard to get into, because it's just a series of pointless battles interwoven with pseudo-philosophical dialogue. There's ultimately little reason to cheer for Alexander's selfish conquest, and the sub-plot revolving around Aristotle's search for a mystical object called the Platohedron seems equally uninteresting.
The characters are extremely flat and almost impossible to relate to. Alexander seems to have no identifiable personality. He only issues orders to keep fighting and frequently boasts about his love for "speed." You shall be my "speed." We can't win because we don't have "speed." Always with the speed. His mother is generically crazy. His best friend is generically paranoid. Darius, the supposed antagonist of the series, doesn't do anything to show he's more evil than Alexander is. He's just a king minding his own business, and Alexander invades *his* land. The viewer might ask himself, "Why am I supposed to be pulling for Alexander to beat Darius?" I watched the whole thing, and I don't know the answer either.
Perhaps the worst aspect of Reign, however, might actually be the soundtrack. The OP consists of little more than background noise. The in-show music that pops up during dramatic scenes and battles sounds like awful techno that some sixth grader whipped up on his PC while learning how to use the music program. Every tune associated with Reign is completely nauseating.
If you're a glutton for terrible, awful anime, then Reign is the perfect show for you. For people who want to find something entertaining, stay far away. Reign belong somewhere on every "Worst anime of all time" list.
Reign the Conqueror was one of the few shows on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block I never had a chance of seeing in its entirety over a decade ago. Being a loose take on portraying the life of famous Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, Reign adds in supernatural elements, steampunk and influential philosophers of the time period to explore the struggles of Alexander coming to grips with his destiny to conquer the known world. The anime features Alexander gathering allies, conquering various parts of Europe and Asia and trying to make sense of the supposed destiny he has had since birth where he would lead
the world to its destruction with his attempts to conquer all known lands.
The major elements that make this series stick out for quality are its excellent integration of metaphysical themes and ancient philosophical figures that were renowned around Alexander's time that influence his conquests throughout the course of the series. Alexander is blessed with a high degree of luck and charisma in his conquests that gets explained as being influenced by the fate bestowed upon him by an ancient artifact capable of algorithmic manipulation of reality that he seeks out in later episodes of the series to find meaning to his supposed destiny. This makes his existence threatening to several cults influenced by differing philosophical schools of thought who attempt to assassinate Alexander throughout the course of the series and influential Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Diogenes serve to either guide or hinder Alexander's quest to conquer countries and come to terms with the supposed destiny he has. The assumptions of Alexander's destiny made by many throughout the course of the series are not what one would assume on the surface, which is hinted to at points earlier in the series and the title's finale. On top of the show's creators shown to have done well in their research of Greek philosophy and supernatural lore for their spin on Alexander's life, they also make their own unique takes to major feats that Alexander accomplishes such as his taming of the wild horse Bucephalus, his encounter with Diogenes and his cutting of the Gordian Knot. These nice touches make the exploits of Alexander's character for this adaptation of the series all the more pleasing to see unfold.
When it comes to other characters in this series though, the series is a mixed bag in their focus on them. Some characters get enough focus to have defined personalities and developments that show what beliefs or loyalties they have that lead them to either be loyal or opposed to Alexander's pursuits. Others that have major roles in the series are either quite underdeveloped or shallow in their characters that make them difficult to connect with. The series also appears to have been left open-ended as Alexander is still alive and well following his journey in the title's finale, yet is still intent on pressing forward with his quest to conquer the known world. However, I think this might have been intentional by the show's creators since the series was more about Alexander trying to come to terms with himself instead of an actual focus of his entire life.
The presentation for this series certainly sticks out from standard anime fare. The character and setting designs for Reign the Conqueror were done by Korean-American animator Peter Chung, whom some folks may recognize as the animated talent behind the American animated cult hit Aeon Flux. On the plus side, many character designs are drawn to be quite lifelike with realistic details for muscle tone and facial features, settings that are faithful to their intended historical settings with occasional elements of steampunk tossed in for technologies employed, subdued color tones that make for a nice touch to the dark mood this series gives off and decent use of CG animation for some of the complex animations seen in the series such as a glimpse of the universe seen when Alexander enters the barrel hut of Diogenes, armies marching and the elaborate "world of destruction" seen in the finale of the series.
On the bad end, many of the major characters in this series (mostly the men) sport very revealing attire like tight thongs, shirts that expose midriff and formal attire that look like women's bathing suits that give the series somewhat of a homo-erotic feel and are obviously not faithful to Alexander's time period. Plus outside of the CG animation, the hand-drawn animation to this is mostly subpar with animation shortcuts and tricks employed to give off a sense of fluid animation that doesn't look convincing in many instances.
The soundtrack to the series sports tense and dark insert tracks that do their part to compliment the serious mood of this series, though don't particularly stick out. The original opening song for Reign ("Anata no Kiss wo Oshiemasho ~You Were Mine~") sports an upbeat, optimistic mood and lyrics that go against the intended mood this series wishes to give off. Yet in a occasional case where changes done by an American distributor are done for the better with a series, Tokyopop created a new opening song for their English dub of the series ("Worthy of your Soul") that sports a melancholic mood and lyrics that both better accompany the feel of Reign.
Overall, I'm actually fairly surprised with this series. I was expecting a dud thanks to much of the negative reception that this series received from anime fans. But I think this reception was exaggerated thanks to Reign's attempts to be different from the norm. Granted, the homo-erotic attire of the characters will turn away some fans and there are a number of characters I felt could have been better developed. But the series does do well at integrating supernatural lore and unique spins on major elements of Alexander's conquests of the known world. It's not perfect, but I think the reputation of this series as a supposed dud is greatly exaggerated.
Alexander Senki is a deceptively complex narrative that draws its ideas from sources of the ancient world. Serving as an obliquely futuristic take on the legend of Alexander the Great, the main idea is that the conflict between passion and reason leads humanity to question the nature of what we call 'civilization'.
The series contains stylistic depictions of numerous famous names from the time of classical Greece. It also depicts the archetypal feud between Plato and Socrates, a battle of essence versus existence. Alexander is fated to bring the death of the world, but Socrates says 'Is there not death without rebirth?'
Historical purists may be
turned away from the cyberpunk aesthetics, but it serves a purpose of making an unfamiliar setting more palpable to a late night anime audience. Personally, I was rather giddy at the portrayal of Diogenes the mad hermit as a Yoda-like figure (English Dub). Which is to say honestly one of the few high points of the English dub.
If you're like me and stumbled across some weird Alexander the Great anime from the late 90's with a bizarre art style and no reviews above a 7, you'd feel an instantaneous need to watch it for yourself, if only so that you could mystify your friends with your ability to find weird shows with ridiculous premises. As someone who has gone through this and come out the other side with a smile on my face, I feel a need to rectify this and give this show the recognition it deserves.
If you're looking for something historically accurate, you've come to the wrong place. Alexander Senki
roughly follows Alexander the Great's ascension to the throne and his conquests throughout the ancient world whilst being hunted by various wizard cult members. The strange dichotomy between obvious fiction and romanticised reality gives the whole experience a sense of surreality, emphasised by the unconventional art style. The art gives the world a unique sense of identity, in that it combines strange, technology-drenched architecture in hypercolour with angular, almost jagged faces. Whilst I can understand that it may throw some people off, I feel it is key to the quality of the show and is thus almost unparalleled (if only because no-one is game enough to have such a potentially controversial artstyle).
The music choice is reflective of the art design, in that it combines upbeat, heroic tunes with offbeat synthesised ones. Watching the sub, the choice of voice actors seemed suitable. I did however dive into the dub for one episode, where the voice acting ranged from uninspired to downright infuriating (looking at you, Zoroastrians). So if you're tossing up the two, I would recommend the sub. Speaking of criticisms, there are some bits of repeated animation, but these are usually some of the better animated sections and it isn't too egregious.
I really enjoyed this show. Whilst it isn't for everyone, it certainly doesn't deserve the 5.78 average it had at the time of writing. Take a chance and give it a go - it might surprise you.