Shoukoku no Altair is manga series writes by Katou Kotono, a Tokyo University graduate who has take history major, particularly, Turkish history. She was able to wrote and drew an excellent and rich details storyline that able to captured how like Middle East (Rumeliana) environment in renaissance era or between year of 1400-1600. Particularly, when Mediterranean sea (Centro) became friction and intrigue place for two powerful fiction nations, Turkiye Stratocracy and Balt-Rhain empire.
Turkiye Stratocracy is a sultanate nation where a great council of pasha (general) oversee and manage government and responsible to a Buyuk Pasha (Sultan). The country is divides into several lesser sultanates who have semi autonomy government in each province or state. Turkiye Stratocracy is based historically on Ottoman empire who ruling much Middle East, Arabian peninsula and gate of silk road in west. The country’s prosperity laid on trade and oriental luxury exported into neighbor states and famous for it’s horseman tribe and military. In addition, Turkiye culture’s background is based on Moslem culture.
Balt-Rhain is an empire who dominated North Western area of the Centro where it has monarchy system under leadership of an emperor with selected ministers or nobles. The country’s economy based on farming and production so land expansion is in constant demand lead into friction with it’s neighbor countries. Balt-Rhain empire is historically modeled from Holy Roman Empire or Germanic empire on Fourth or Fifth crusades. The country culture is based on Christian culture.
In addition, there several small countries who have important influence position in Centro. They are include, Venedic (based on Venetian), Salos (based on Morocco or Hafsid Kingdom) and Phonenicia (either based on Greek or Granada). Those small countries have strong influence in commerce lines across Centro that can affect powerful nations. On other hand, Chinili is describes as fictional empire in Far East that based historically from Qin or China empire that it’s stability indirectly affect by events in Centro.
Shoukoku no Altair storyline is following based on fictional biography of a young Pasha, named Tughril Mahmut, who lead foreign affair bureau of Turkiye Stratocracy. His mission is to prevent Balt-Rhain empire’s domination in Centro through economic, culture and diplomatic. Tughril Mahmut Pasha or nickname ‘Mahmut’ is describes as pacifist, bishounen and idealist in beginning of the series. He later experiences and witness events that change his perception and interpretation about his world affair lead he becomes more cunning, strategic minded, resourceful and wise that lead him to be respected either by his followers, superior and enemies.
I decided to divide this review into four aspects which analyze important elements inside Shoukoku no Altair storyline.
Shoukoku no Altair most interesting arch is on the fourth arch where Mahmut try to establish business connection at Argyros, an important trading city, into Chinili in Far East. He tries and successful recruit a young merchant named Niki Al Bahram, a heiress caravan who just lose her father. Niki who angered after she abandon by her father associates and lose standing as trader in Argyros decided to jump ship into Mahmut’s plan.
Mahmut’s plans is to established a new caravan named Niki’s caravan whose boost in trade Rumeliana luxury goods beyond imagination any merchant in Argyros. They bring jewelries, gems stone, diamonds, gold, silver and luxury stuff in great numbers to appease and catch public attention. The caravan although supplied by Mahmut it still under leadership of Niki.
Niki uses this opportunity to boost the caravan influence and reputation by introduces Mahmut and his followers in cross-dressing disguise as woman as important individuals from favorite daughter of great caravan in west Rumeliana, amazing jeweler from Phoenicia to popular merchant from Salos so their luxury goods authentication cannot be doubt by anyone.
This flattering introduction and great number luxury goods exhibit by the caravan increases Niki caravan standing and reputation in a day and various merchants or local wholesalers flock together to trade and establish acquaintance with Niki as leader of the new caravan. However, there a secret behind the caravan scheme where Mahmut as head of foreign affair bureau of Turkiye Stratocracy has authority to control and releases amount of luxury goods well known as Turkish jewels or Tolkiye.
Turkiye Stratocracy has heavily restricted Tolkiye circulation outside the sultanate in order to increase and uphold the jewelry’s value as most luxury and seek items in the world. Tolkiye circulation is under regulate by Divan (Turkiye’s great council) and only limited to 1000 camels load each year for shipped into foreign countries. In addition, a normal Turkiye’s caravan limited to three Tolkiye load camels to travel aboard.
As result, when Niki caravan able to bring 30 Tolkiye load camels it quickly gather public attention and becomes famous in Arygros. Mahmut’s objective to establish a foothold merchant business is achieved while he gained Niki as his new comrade and save her caravan business.
The next step, Mahmut is try establish acquaintances with anyone who travel or from Chinili. He indirectly describes his intention to avert Centro or Rumeliana states’s attention into Far East that seems no harmless or affect to political situation in the region. Further east is better for his plan so he need someone who has direct relation to Chinili government.
Niki Al Bahram introduces Mahmut into Master Wan Yixing from Chinili who resides at Argyros as Chinili representative on behalf emperor Chinili. Master Wan told his brief history as Captain of the guard for Emperor Chinili that came end after he lost one of his leg in war. Mahmut saw how much greater loyalty of master Wan to his homeland country although he sent to outmost region.
In order to catch attention of master Wan, Mahmut used Venedic glass scheme where glass products can be use as diplomatic tools to achieve greater objective. He strike master Wan with words if he accept the plan it will bring peace into Chinili that master Wan’s mission to protect it for half his life in Rumeliana region. Basically, master Wan’s mission and responsibility is to oversee and vanguard for any threat that can be harm his homeland country.
Mahmut brilliantly able persuade master Wan to accept the Venedic glass plan use pretext of upcoming Crown prince’s celebration need gifts for dignitaries and people who attend it next year. So, master Wan ordered a huge supply of Venedic glass and it’s box to be delivered to Chinili. Later, Master Wan told his wife how important to held in check Balt-Rhain expansion into Far East by any mean. Although Chinili and Balt-Rhain are separated by long distance if the expansion cannot be held sooner or later those powerful countries will in territorial dispute in the future.
Master Wan doesn’t want Chinili experienced again like when ancient Phoenicia empire reached it’s border expansion across North West Chinili territory. Its historically based on Alexander the Great’s Hellenistic empire which stretch from Mediterranean into east border of India. Its much cheaper for master Wan to authorize purchase of Venedic glass than cost life of Chinili people and soldier in order to defend against Balt-Rhain expansion into Far East.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
The third objective of Mahmut’s plan in this arch is start by arrival of huge fleet of Venedic merchant ships into Argyros harbor in order to fulfill Master Wan’s purchase order of Venedic glass to be shipped to Chinili in Far East. It was recorded as the largest order and shipping at Argyros ever saw in it’s history.
It was enough made Niki busy to coordinate of distribution each loading Venedic glass from merchant ship and arranged it into proper caravans destined to Chinili. Problem begin to surface when the 7th shipment of Venedic glass delayed due lack of wheat or grass material as shock absorber or padding for glass protection from break inside it’s box. Mahmut’s third objective begin to cultivated at same time.
The lack of wheat stock for Venedic glass’s padding box lead Venedic country to buy all available wheat crops from all granary countries, such as, Salos, whose coincidence have order of wheat shipment at same time to Balt-Rhain for invasion plan in next autumn. In order to appease Salos’s king, Venedic country send their highest admiral, Silvestro Brega, to buy Salos’s wheat stock as much as five times higher than normal wheat price. This offer accepted by Salos’s king who corrupt and neglect his duty to feed his people. I get a feeling Salos is one of Mahmut’s mission objective in future arch.
As result of Venedic’s purchase of Salos’s wheat which should destined to Balt-Rhain lead the empire’s invasion plan orchestrated by Balt-Rhain head minister, Virgilio Louis, failed to materialize. The minister authorized Balt-Rhain navy to intercept next shipment of wheat by Venedic merchant ships at all cost in order to recover the failure plan. It leads into next step of Mahmut’s mission objective.
Balt-Rhain’s navy effort to intercept the next Venedic’s wheat shipment is backfired due arrogant and high pride of Balt-Rhain officer and lack of sea warfare of their navy against seasoned and battle harden of Venedic navy under leadership of Admiral Brega. Balt-Rhain is land country where their army is best for fighting in land but they never or rare experienced naval warfare. Meanwhile, Venedic navy has been experiencing constant naval warfare as their country life line depend on sea commerce and trade.
Its similar to British navy supremacy in sea against French navy in Hundred Years War. Britain although islands country manages to survive due it’s large merchant fleet which protected by powerful Royal navy against European opponent countries and pirates.
The Venedic navy accept of Balt-Rhain challenge for sea battle. Venedic escort fleet although smaller than Balt-Rhain navy stationed at occupied Phonenicia able to outsmart later force. First, the Venedic escort ships pretend to challange straight into Balt-Rhain warships. Then, Venedic manage to evade one-by-one battle use their wind sail to turn and attack Balt-Rhain at it’s flank. Each Balt-Rhain warship sunk after rammed and surrounded by Venedic warships. Balt-Rhain navy officers and soldiers become Venedic prisoner of war.
Interestingly, sea battle uses ramming method instead cannon battle at that time and gunpowder hasn’t been found or well known yet in the Shoukoku no Altair timeline.
Finally, the battle and conflict between Venedic Republic against Balt-Rhain Empire reach Argyros result uproar along nations across Centro and Rumeliana as end result of Tolkiye jewel and Venedic glass schemes by Mahmut in beginning of fourth arch storyline.
It revealed in end of fourth arch storyline that Mahmut’s greatest objective is to lures and exhausts Balt-Rhain Empire’s resources and manpower to involved into unnecessary conflict against Venedic Republic by incites conflict interest between those countries by bait from harmless and not expected sector, economy.
Shoukoku no Altair is a manga with delicate theme due it portraits how Christian and Moslem religions relationship in Mediterranean sea or Middle East at the time. Nevertheless, the author brilliantly manage describe non-mention religion matter and only mention culture portrait in Middle East environment so Shoukoku no Altair is neutral manga that can be enjoyed by general reader without disturb their faith.
In matter fact, in later story is shows how corporation and mutual interests between Turkiye Stratocracy and Venedic with different cultures lead into Alliance treaty in order to prevent invasion threat and preserve stability in Centro or Rumeliana region.
In summary, Shoukoku no Altair is an interesting manga series based on Middle East culture history. In matter fact, I have difficulty to rank it alongside Otoyomegatari manga series created by Mori Kaoru. Both manga able to portrait life and culture in Middle East, Silk road and Moslem countries in rich detail that other comic or manga never make it. I got feeling even Middle East comic artist cannot rivaled this manga in term of storyline.
Shoukoku no Altair is good manga for anyone who want explore Middle East’s exotics and culture in fictional biography of main character who becomes mature and leadership minded as the storyline develop into more complex path.