Synonyms: The Stratocracy of Altair, Shokoku no Altair, Türkiyeli Alnaşr Altair, Altair ve Savaşlar Kitabı, Anastasia no Shinei Taichou, Anastasia's Captain of the Guard, Rising Eagle of the General Nation
For generations the Turkiye Devleti and the Balt-Rhein Empire have stood in stern opposition to each other. Then one night, when an imperial minister is found assassinated, the two nations are plunged into a potentially explosive situation. As the generals of Turkiye's council cry for war, Mahmut comes to discover the devious truth behind the assassination. Thus the young pasha's battle for his country, peace, and trust in his fellow man begins!
Volume 4: Anastasia no Shinei Taichou (Anastasia's Captain of the Guard)
The historical genre of manga has focused (almost exclusively) on China (particularly the three kingdoms period), Japan (around the Sengoku period) and Europe up to the late renaissance (though the Japanese authors tend to insert hot springs, panties and random modern or uniquely japanese appliances into some of the more light-hearted evolutions of this genre). Shokoku no Altair departs from this traditional theatre and brings us instead to the Ottoman Empire, once the greatest power in the Mediterranean and an empire that lasted well into the 20th century. Shokoku no Altair is, at the root of it, a shounen manga, but brings a
fresh face to semihistorical manga through a new setting and a promising plot.
The intentionally thinly-veiled nation of Turkeye (I will not bother typing up the accents, though I assume that it is read as Turkey anyway) represents the Ottoman Empire--but not the Ottoman Empire at its peak. A stratocracy ruled by military generals, Pashas, Turkeye is faced with the threat of the growing Baltein Empire (a reference to the Ottoman Empire`s Archrival, the Austrian Holy Roman Empire of the Hapsburgs), which is aggressively expanding and escalating tensions with Turkeye. The Stratocracy is divided between the War Hawks (led by the young Pasha Zaganos Zehir) and the Doves (led by the aged Pasha Khalil Sehir). Into this is placed Mahmut Tughril (Referred to more often as Mahmut Bey), the main character and one of the youngest Pasha to ascend to the General`s Council. Demoted from the council, Mahmut Bey travels through the nations of the Mediterranean (Phoenicia, the representation of Greece, and Venedik, the representation of the thousand-year Venetian Republic), learning more about the world outside of Turkeye and the expanding might of Baltein all the way. 19 Chapters in, we`ve seen at least one war, a few battles and a lot of political maneuvering. Shokoku no Altair so far has served to be an interesting look at politics, a look into the 17th century world of the Mediterranean and a fresh look at the Middle ages from a new perspective.
Perhaps it is the quality of the scans (which in no way I blame on the translators), but the main weakness of Shokoku no Altair is the art. At many points, the mangaka seems to take exceptional care with dra wing eyes, to the point that they seem way to delicate. While I cannot say that the art is bad, it simply isn`t to my taste. Yet, there is quite a bit of attention to detail, though there are few inconsistencies (as the translator notes, the Temple to the Water Goddess in Venedik is in fact filled with Christian Imagery when Shokoku no Altair does its utmost to keep religion outside of the story. Given, this is necessary as christianity has dominated European culture for most of the time period, and this is hardly a plot hole a casual observer would notice, so it detracts little from the story), but there is nothing bad per se about the art.
The characterization of the characters in Shokoku no Altair vary from excellent to shallow. While some characters are implied to have far more depth (there is a suggestion that the friendly Pasha Khalil is not quite the happy santa claus he makes himself out to be, and the development of Mahmut Bey continues, there are characters that seem to have been abandoned by the author, such as the Magistros of Venedik, Constantinos, whose considerable role in the second volume ends abruptly. Overall, though, the main characters are always kept in perspective, and I do look forwards to whatever else comes up.
=Enjoyment / Overall (8)=
Overall, I really like Shokoku no Altair. As a fan of historical manga and not simply the traditional Three Kingdoms / Sengoku / castle and princess manga (that, as good as some of them are, get really repetitive really fast, something Dynasty Warriors and Koei have yet to realize), Altair brought a fresh note to the genre and provides a slightly more realistic view of historical politics. Moreover, Altair is not as uniculutural as the average historical manga, with a great deal of depth put into describing the nations already visited. Though the translation is slow, I would say that Shokoku no Altair is more than well worth the read.
This story is based on actual historical facts and even some characters are based in historical figures. The art is breathtaking and the character development is very consistent and through out the story most characters have quite a large impact on the main charcter or the other way around.
What I find a little bit hard to deal with in these series is the large amount of characters that come along the story. Althought most characters will catch your atention, I still find it a bit hard to remenber every single one of them.
Since it's an historical manga, people tend to think that it
will tedious in every single way. Shoukoku no Altair is more than history. It's packed action, comical and dramatic scenes. The characters really catch your eye and and it's easy to take a liking to them.
I promise you that you won't be disappointed if you give a try.
(this review may be subject to edits depending on how it goes)
From what I've heard, this series was written by an actual historian, which shows. The story is in many respects an alternate history of the Hapsburg Wars (a part of history I imagine few Japanese readers are that familiar with). However, the story features heavy Historical Villain/Hero Upgrades, and turns what could have been a complex conflict of politics and culture (as the Hapsburg Wars were), into a run of the mill "Prodigy defeats Evil Empire" story.
If you've read (even in passing) any "Evil Empire vs Good Alliance" plot, you've probably
got a good idea where this story is heading. The Empire invades the good, peaceful countries (though props in that Turkiye is portrayed as a stratocracy opposed to republic, which I'll admit we don't see much of), burning, pillaging and raping. The prodigy decides to save the world, by forming an alliance of the free people, and destroying the Empire. From there on, almost everything you can guess, happens. I won't go into much detail due to risk of spoilers, but if you have a prediction about what happens, chances are you're right.
This story has some of the most black and white morality I've ever seen in a series, and while that wouldn't necessarily be an issue, the story seems completely convinced that its running in the shades of gray. But it isn't, not by a long shot. The Turks are all good, and the Imperials are all evil; I'll go into further detail on this with the character section. In fact, Turkish society and culture is in many occasions depicted as inherently superior, and the heroes have no qualms about imposing such systems on others.
I gave the art this rating mostly because I'm not personally a fan of this style. But it is good artwork, and allows for a lot of detail and style. For what is worth though, this story includes some of the least Turkish looking "Turks" I've ever seen (Mahmut doesn't even looking remotely Turkish).
This is my biggest problem with the series, the characters. This series has heavy protagonist-centered morality; the Turks are always good no matter what they do, and the Imperials are always evil no matter they do. The protagonists unilaterally decide what's right and wrong for everyone, and who does and doesn't deserve to be saved. Mahmut is the typical young child prodigy, who just wants everyone to get along (except Imperials, who only seem to deserve death), and to create a more peaceful world. Nothing really makes him stand out amongst any other character.
The villains in this are extremely boring and cliched. Its just the same evil conqueror, who wants to expand just for their own personal greed and gain. There are a few "good" Imperial characters, but they serve no real purpose. They only exist to be told they are wrong, and then killed. In fact, the series goes out of its way to make the Empire as evil as possible; every opportunity it gets, it seizes to emphasize how utterly brutal every single Imperial is. By contrast, the series always glosses over any point where the Turks could be seen as doing some morally questionable, either playing it down, or saying its alright because the Imperials are all evil.
I've heard that this story is not especially well liked among Eastern European readers, and well liked by Turkish readers, for reasons I think one can imagine. I'll leave it at that, but speaking as an American myself, I will admit that despite what are actually some really good politics and battle scenes, the story's occasionally obnoxious portrayal of ethics gets to me. I can't really explain it, but stories that make war and politics out to so simple get under my skin. Maybe if it showed the actual complexities of war, instead of just implying them, I could get behind it more.
If you don't mind the problems I presented (admittedly some of these can be considered pet peeves), you might get more out of this series than I have. Not a personal favorite.