It seems as if Shoukoku no Altair is fast slipping into the realm of the forgotten and ignored, at least as far as the Western fandom goes. A relatively modest start is no doubt partly to blame for that, along with a rather serious and dry tone which roughly lacks anything resembling modern-day anime tropes. Still, there was a fair amount of hype for this series among fans of the manga, and their silence now doesn’t bode well for the reception the anime is likely to continue to receive.
I haven’t read enough of the manga to draw any real comparisons (I’ve been told that it incorporates considerably more humor than the anime does) but you know, I consider this to be a pretty good show. Not great or anything, but quite dignified and consistently entertaining. And I think it’s rather refreshing in portraying its hero as being quite fallible, despite his prodigy status. Mahmut is believably naive for a boy his age, skilled in combat but limited by his physical immaturity when going up against stronger opponents, and too compassionate for his own good. If anything a lot of viewers seem frustrated that he isn’t more powered-up, but this way is more interesting as far as I’m concerned. A bildungsroman is structured around a journey of growth, after all.
In that sense, Phoinike is a kingdom a lot like Mahmut. It’s too naive and idealistic for its own good, certainly – in this case too wedded in past glories to adapt to present limitations. Both the Magistros and Mamhut are ill-inclined to believe that Phoinike’s longtime ally Venedik would desert it at its hour of need (as it seems it very much has). Mahmut, in fact, plans (with Kiros’ help) to sneak away and sail for Venedik to hurry things along, but those plans are waylaid when the firth Imperial attack begins. It follows on the heels of an attempted surrender by one of the Balt-Rhein ships, which concludes with Gralat’s ship managing to sneak past the harbor chains on its heels.
Even that ship, though, is part of a larger ploy – a distraction so more of Louis’ troops can attack overland and set fire to the city. We’re seeing a very distinct contrast between the Balt-Rhein and other regional powers – it’s a much more modern operation, and much more calculating when it comes to the assets at its disposal. Phoinike is mired in the deep past, and that leads to its seeming downfall (on Mahmut’s horrified watch) – it remains to be seen whether the same can and will be said about Turkiye. Perhaps the upshot of Mahmut’s journey is not just growing as a person and a leader, but educating his country about how to survive when going up against an opponent who thinks differently than any other they’ve faced.