Title: Alderamin on the Sky
Ikta Solok may be a military genius, but he prefers to be a lazy womanizer. But an attempt to help an old friend pass an exam brings him to the attention of the princess, who promotes him into the military despite his wishes to the contrary. Now an officer-in-training, he’s beginning to build a reputation as one of the best generals the country has ever seen.
This show took a few episodes to really grab me, but Ikta makes for an unusual protagonist. He’s legitimately smart, and I like that his backstory shows he’s actually been embroiled in military tactics his whole life—he’s not just some random kid outsmarting people who have more experience. But due to his father being a disgraced general, Ikta bears the military no love and is trying to get a job as a librarian (where he’ll be well out of trouble and able to sleep as much as he wants). Unfortunately, he ends up in the military anyway, and that’s where his tactics start to shine. Also, although Ikta quickly builds a reputation for being a genius, his tactics aren’t a magic ticket out of all his problems. Especially when the stakes start to rise, he’s confronted with hard choices that have no good answer.
Yatori Ingsem, Ikta’s childhood friend, couldn’t be more different. She’s driven, dedicated, a fierce warrior from a family deeply rooted in tradition, and very loyal to the Empire. I loved the deep friendship between the two of them. They understand each other at a level no one else can, and are comfortable with each other, but it’s a trusting friendship, not a romance. Yatori is the only reason Ikta hasn’t fled the Empire. Ikta does what he can to support her, hoping he can break her free of the shackles of her loyalty to her family, for her own good.
The other main supporting characters get less time, but that mostly works out since this is a short series (although I can hope they’ll adapt more). Toroway Remeon is, like Yatori, from an old military family, but where hers has focused on swordsmanship, his uses guns. (Ikta just dislikes him for being a pretty boy bound to grab the attention of the girls.) Matthew is also from a military family, but one much less known (and I like that he’s heavyset. It’s rare to find a younger anime character who isn’t 90 lbs soaking wet). And Haroma is the healer, helping to ensure the group survives everything that didn’t go right.
The animation quality can take some shortcuts, particularly during battles, which tend to get explained before and after, but either skip out on the actual fighting or show very little of it. But since the fun is more in the tactics than the execution, that didn’t bother me too badly. I was more irritated that the show ends on a magnificent twist that begs for a second season, which is not likely to happen. I’ll have to see if the manga adaptation or the original light novels are available in English.
Overall this was a lot better than I was expecting. The fantasy world has some interesting wrinkles with the spirits that companion each person (air spirits drive guns, not gunpowder), but the focus stays squarely on the characters. It peers into the uglier realities of war, like fighting unjust battles, and asks a lot of provocative questions about the use and nature of force. On the other hand, Ikta’s religious devotion to science can be somewhat annoying, although it does grant him a willingness to think outside the box. I rate this series Recommended.