War is not without causalities. Or a purpose. Or strategies. I must admit, watching Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin (Aldermain on the Sky) reminds me of many war movies I’ve seen although it’s also quite different than what I had anticipated. Maybe it’s the military gimmicks or the character relationships. But for what’s worth, Alderamin may surprise you in more places than one.
Adapted from the light novel, I was slightly disappointed that the show is only 1-cour. After all, there is more than enough content for a 2-cour length series so when I heard the show would only feature 13 episodes, my hyped died down a bit. This may also feel more like a personal opinion but for most war themed series, there needs to be a coherent amount of storytelling that matches in par with its drama. Alderamin’s pacing is questionable at times but not something that gets in the way of itself from succeeding.
The premise of the show is somewhat complicated. First, we have to understand the setting as it takes place in a world where the Katjvarna empire has waged war against the Republic of Kioka. All sorts of reasons evoked this war ranging from politics, imperialism, royalty, etc. At the center of it, we have 17-year old Yatorishino Igesm (also known as Yatori), a prominent member of the Imperial House noble family. Along with her, there’s Ikta Solork, a womanzing man that also gets involved with military affairs. From the start, their character chemistry is undeniable and it’s known that they have a history based on their background story. Meanwhile, Yatori takes the High Grade Military Officer exam and things get complicated when she, Yatori, and others are stranded deep behind enemy lines. It gets even more complicated when Ikta recuses the young princess Chamile Kitora Katjvanmaninik, who also happens to be the third princess of Katjvarna. Talk about a miraculous coincidence.
In the meantime, we quickly learn that Ikta isn’t just a womanzing bum but also one with a strategic mind who is not afraid of taking risks. His heroic actions along with Yatori, Torway, Matthew, and Haroma earns them the title “Imperial Knights”. Their reactions isn’t exactly gratitude though so viewers will have to anticipate on the ‘why?’ I have to say, this series has a lot of mystery and most of it isn’t exactly so easy to decipher on paper. The political affairs and character dynamics itself are also part of that. First, we don’t know a whole lot about Yatori or Ikta. Both of them are very different in terms of personalities and background. However, it is shown that they have a good friendship from the past as they once fought for survival together. Meanwhile, Ikta proves himself as a skilled tactician as he is able to come up with brilliant strategies for his party and on the battlefield. On the other hand, Yatori is a top student at her military academy and proves it with her unmatched fighting skills in particular with a sword. She also proves herself as a very hard worker, another contrast to Ikta’s lazy personality. However, both of them do have interesting ideals and reasons to believe in what they should be fighting for. It’s also noticeable that Ikta never really makes a move on Yatori despite his playboy ways. Instead, they share a rather unique friendship. Having being raised under strict circumstances, Yatori discovers new wonders about the world thanks to Ikta during her childhood. All she did before was studying and training.
Of course, Ikta and Yatori aren’t just the main characters. There’s also others that proves themselves worthy of their positions in the military. Torway is a known for his long range sniping skills and handsome face (amusingly, Ikta doesn’t like handsome men in general). Haroma, the healer of the group, is known for being one of the friendliest and shyest character in the series. Finally, there’s also Matthew who starts off as a newbie but steadily works his way up as a worthy fighter. While the show concentrates mostly on Ikta and Yatori’s role, it also doesn’t neglect their comrades. The fact is, war is a dark reality that everyone has to accept. It breeds controversy that leads to hatred which leads to death and sorrow. Ikta is a guy that hates war but still fights for what he believes in. Similarly, others have their own reasons to risk their lives.
At its core, the show does a fairly decent job at storytelling despite some pacing issues. Most episodes connect each other while some others focus more on characterization. As smooth as it can be, the show does have some fairly predictable moments especially with death of certain characters. I also have to admit the series does a good job at portraying mixed gender roles. Female officers aren’t always a major focus in military fiction but in this anime, it definitively captures their role and importance. In the meantime, the world building of Alderamin is also a strong factor. Perhaps some of it even has a connection to Japanese history or other related parts of the real world. I can also safely say that the show does a fair job at balancing the lighthearted moments between the more serious, focused segments.
Adapted by Madhouse, I was initially underwhelmed by the character designs. They honestly look like something made from a shoujo manga with their same faces. However, it’s pretty easy to get accustomed to them especially after seeing the characters in action. Remember, this isn’t a love series but a war story. Weapons are also adapted well with fine degree of creativity ranging from the steampunk vehicles, guns, mortars, and elemental spirits. On the other hand, character expressions bounces between impressive to underwhelming. They are fairly well done when characters engage in battle (ex. Yatori demonstrating her sword skills) but during comedic moments, they feel more flat. I can’t say more than that though as this could be more of a personal perspective. However, the background sceneries are constructed pretty well with fine details, rich resources, and really gives the feeling of what a battlefield is like at war. As such, expect violence to occur with little censorship to portray a more realistic feeling of bloodshed.
Well it’s not the best thing in the world but don’t underestimate the music aspects of Alderamin. The cinematics matches in par with the coordinated OST while battle segments are supplemented by the instrumental notes. I am also impressed by Ikta’s voice actor for portraying a character that I initially thought would dislike but convinced me otherwise with his ability to play such a complex character. Risa Taneda’s voice as Yatori is also recognizable if you’ve Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Katori), Strike the Blood (Yukina), GATE (Rory).
Well, if you’re a fan of military fiction and war stories, this is definitely something to keep an eye on. Even if you’re not though, Alderamin takes a unique approach at storytelling with its main characters. Between the politics and character drama, there’s a deeper insight on why events occur. As a 1-cour adaptation though, I am disappointed that some episode feels rushed. In general, LN adaptations usually depend on how much story is being focused. And while Alderamin did its best at that, it still feels like the show didn’t explore its full potential. However, the show is more than just the generic LN adaptations we see with the main protagonist getting a harem. It’s more of a war story that shows no mercy.