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Alderamin On The Sky Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

A solidly executed and intriguing military fantasy series comes to life.

What They Say:
The lazy, womanizing Ikta Solork is about as far from a soldier as you can get. But his natural wit and a sudden encounter with a princess burdens him with a responsibility he never asked for—a commanding position in the war! Fortunately, his talented friends have his back. With their skills and his infallible strategy, Ikta can do what only he does best-save the day in the laziest possible way.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language mix is in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The stereo mix is solid with how it handles the action sequences where there’s some good impact to be had with the swords and the explosions to give it some weight, which is boosted up a bit in the 5.1 mix with the bass. The directionality in these sequences is pretty good as well as it comes to life in an engaging way that while not putting you directly in it feels surprisingly natural. The dialogue is largely kept to simple pieces with the way people engage with each other so there’s not a ton of directionality but it all comes across clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Madhouse, the series has a really good design that stands out and it plays with some creative choices with the colors that stand out as kind of unnatural in some ways but still distinctive and feels like it’s a part of the world design. The show works a lot of different locales and character types while handling the military side well. There’s a lot of drab colors to be had but it knows when to go vibrant and do it in a really strong way. The earthy color palette used holds up very well with clean and solid areas throughout that doesn’t show any noise or breakup in it. There’s a lot of detail to be had in both backgrounds and in elements of the character designs and it all works very well and is problem free.

The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard sized Blu-ray case with an o-card that uses different artwork. The o-card is pretty nice as it has a group shot of the main cast together in a familiar layout but done with a white background and the black strip along the top, combined with the thin and well-designed logo, it really comes together well to stand out in a sea of familiarity. The back cover plays up the military side a bit with the uniform elements while the left has a breakdown of the premise and extras while the right has shots from the show. The technical grid breaks everything down cleanly and accurately for both formats as well. The case artwork has the same design as the front but with just two of the characters while the back cover has a really nice shot of the two of them with the princess as well, all of them out of their military uniforms. And while there are no inserts with the release we do get artwork on the reverse side of the cover that’s a full-color spread of the core group together in action in their uniforms.

The menu design for this release goes for the simple approach but it works well to set the mood of the series. With a white background, the two discs bring in some good character artwork that stands out, such as the front case cover material that feels stronger and better colored here than on the case. The logo is kept to the left in a larger form but with it being thin and minimal it fills the space in nicely, giving it just the right amount of weight. The navigation along the bottom keeps to the uniform color design with quick and easy to navigate selections that load fast and without any problems either as the main menu or the pop-up menu.

The extras for this release are pretty simple with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences included as well as the web previews for the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novels by Bokuto Uno, Alderamin on the Sky is a thirteen episode series that aired in the summer 2016 season. The original novels kicked off back in 2012 and has eleven volumes so far with it still ongoing as of this writing, and that leaves me really wanting more of the anime side as it’s very well done. What we get here is essentially self-contained, but self-contained in that sense that it’s an opening chapter of a much larger story. You can get a lot out of this with its nuance and creativity in world design and you get closure to the events of it, but there’s this much larger world to it. And what helps a lot of that is that Madhouse produced the animation for it, which takes the solid story material and elevates it even higher. Madhouse typically does good with projects like this and there’s plenty of payoff here.

The premise gives us a familiar semi-fantasy world where there are touches of magic to it that are intriguing but don’t get the exploration I’d like in the little partner creatures that people are bonded with. It’s definitely intriguing and adds a little something neat to it as well as a couple of moments of intensity in how they can be used amid a war. The main thrust is that we have a military fantasy series here with the Kingdom that the show follows the cast of. As its primary, we have Ikta Solork, a young man who has a difficult past that’s explored later in the show that’s tied with Yatorishino Igsem. The two of them were bonded through this past and went to the academy together and he’s intent on making sure that because of what they survived, and how she protected him, that they’ll find a better place in the future for themselves.

Ikta is one of those characters that can be done really poorly very easily in that he’s the “lazy general” in that he’s a gifted strategist that doesn’t have an interest in war. His way of viewing things allows creative but realistic plans to be put into motion that are designed around ensuring that he and those under him survive, which doesn’t always align with the larger plans of those above him. This type of character can be too aloof or comical but Solork finds a good balance in how he’s presented as he makes his intentions clear early on to the group that he’s assigned to and as he rises in rank. He wants to win situations that he’s put into and knows and understands that there will be losses, but his goal is to bring back as many alive as possible while still achieving the larger goals. The edge of seriousness to the laziness helps to balance things out and he doesn’t become a caricature.

Of course, there’s always a quirk in events that allows things to go in unexpected directions early, such as when on a flight at the start with those that will become his team they end up crashing onto an island with the third princess of the Imperial family, Chamille. Solork does everything he can to protect her and comes up with some really great face-saving moments when working against the enemy commander they encounter along the border of the war that’s brewing, and that makes her quite the patron to him. So much so that she enlists as well so that she can properly serve the Kingdom down the line but also to be involved, albeit more lightly than some may expect. That initial group is built out well with the addition of a sniper style with Torway and his skill at guns, Haroma who is intent on being a nurse and wanting to expand on that part of the military, and Matthew, a boisterous noble who really has to grapple with the reality of war.

Over the course of the series was get some natural expansions on the state of the war that eventually leads to the final four or so episode dealing with a surprise invasion that involves someone as skilled and creative as Solork. That leads to some really interesting material as it progresses as it’s like a chess game but with lives lost along the way, which is what helps to make it engaging as the characters really struggle with this to varying degrees. It’s a familiar pattern for this kind of show in how it finishes out the season but it’s effective because of all the buildup that we get prior to that in seeing the paths of the characters, the challenges they undertake, and the respect that they gain from others and that they have for those they deal with as well. It’s not a one-sided journey at all. The smaller adventures and the discovery of how this world works combined with the standard but well-executed military aspect of it helps to bring all of this together in an engaging way – especially with Madhouse animating it.

In Summary:
Alderamin On The Sky was a kind of under the radar show when it landed and that’s unfortunate because not only is it good as a standalone show it’s the kind that really makes me wish we got a new season of it every year to explore more of the larger storyline that’s brewing here. It’s very well put together and doesn’t rush through things or play with the familiar pattern of character introductions. It definitely has more of that from a novel approach that helps while avoiding in a lot of ways the things that plague many light novels these days. It deals with hard choices, hard results, and complex characters that are just starting to be explored and it’s all very well animated and produced. Funimation’s release is solid if a bit basic but it delivers something that fans of it will want to own and revisit.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Web Previews.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 24th, 2017
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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