Reign: The Conquerer Anime Review
The Military History of Alexander
US Release By
Historical Science Fantasy Action
13 25-minute episodes
1999-09-14 - 1999-12-07
Have you ever read a history book? Then maybe you've heard of some joker named Alexander the Great! He conquered most of the Baltic states and parts of Asia and Africa in the some century, some two letters (sorry, can't remember, I think BC). Anyway, this show is about Alexander the Great! Yeah, but not the one you were reading about--this one wears a metal bikini!
I know that was a really stupid synopsis, but that's what this show deserves--it's a really stupid show. Usually, I like to talk for an extremely long time about an anime I'm reviewing. This review will be a bit shorter, but it will give you every reason why you're better off sticking with that history book to learn about Alexander the Great.
The first thing to know is that one thing I will almost never allow any quarter for in a show is ugly character designs. This doesn't mean different character designs or non-mainstream character designs (I don't mind the extremely thin characters in shoujo anime); this means ugly, plain and simple. Although the animation obviously had several corners cut, it is fine. The character designs are the most hideous lot I've seen in any place, at any time. First of all, the men look like women and the women look like men. In other words, they all look the same. This problem was somewhat present in Akira, but not to the same degree as Alexander. To make matters worse, almost every character (male or female) in the whole series wears a bikini or a thong--and NO PANTS! I know it really sounds like I'm nitpicking, but the show's problems go deeper than that--I'll get to it when I'm done complaining about the character designs. It seems the artists were attempting to make them look like real people, but in the process ended up making them even uglier than real people. The eyes were drawn into a shape like real people's and the faces are lined and furrowed. This is incredibly hideous; either they should have increased the budget to make everyone look photorealistic, or stuck with regular character designs. After all, The Vision of Escaflowne's Hitomi Kanzaki looked astronomically more like a real person than say--the entire cast of Tokimeki Memorial. However, unlike Alexander, this was accomplished without making the characters look like someone crushed their facebones as a baby and they grew up as deformed alien creatures. These character designs would make John Merrick cringe (the Elephant Man, if you've never heard of him). Supposedly, Peter Chung, the character designer, is a great and famous anime artist, but after seeing this, I can say that he deserves to be a roadside carnival caricature artist. He can draw people the way they would look if they lived near a nuclear power plant when they were little.
Okay, maybe that's only enough to make me dismiss a show. How about the rest of it, then? Well, the plot covers the events of Alexander the Great's life. In the beginning, they tried to make it look like Alexander the Great had a 'party'--you know, like an RPG. As time wore on, it dissipated. Oh yeah, I almost forgot--instead of really being set in a historically accurate ancient Greece (Macedonia--whatever), the world is some sort of freaky alternate world where the ancient Greeks have super technology like mecha, helicopters, and huge cannons. They also have martial arts and ninja powers! Wow, Greece was the best! I never knew they invented so many things we have today! Historically, Alexander the Great was supposed to have been a great strategist, but this Alexander the Great exhibits all the traits of a lucky fool whose reign would be shattered by one well-placed rebellion. The plot also goes in shifts; there is one painfully simplistic one where Alexander conquers stuff; another completely incoherent (or painfully simplistic and masquerading) about some real ancient Greek philosophers and their search for the mythical shape (?!) the Platohedron. They even tried to throw in some drama, with Alexander eventually getting married (there should be a law against people that ugly getting married) and his friends all dying.
I disapprove of historical dramas about real figures, since the characterization is usually on the level of a Disney sing-along video. Alexander is no exception; the anime or the character himself. They tried to show how shrewd he was, but as I mentioned, he appeared nothing more than extremely lucky. He also has no personality whatsoever. Neither do his friends, Philotus (who dies), Ptolemy (who wears a stupid clown mask), Clitus (who he kills himself) and Aefastion (who takes a hit for him, for no reason). The ugly (I'm gonna reiterate that all the time, but the only real way to see how ugly this show is is to watch it) minor characters also have no personality.
The sound is also worthless. The music is terribly annoying slow pop songs (Japanese and otherwise), except for the endings, which sound like they were made by a guy who took at least a few piano lessons before he started pounding that keyboard. The dub is terrible; the casting is all fine, all good, all well, but not one of the actors in the show can act (actually, they might have done this on purpose so that they could accurately portray the complete lack of personality in any character). It seems, however, (to be fair) that the dub could have been okay but the show the actors were working on was too flat and boring to bring out their talent.
I would recommend this show to no one except for fans of Beyblade and Medabots; not because it has similar subject matter, but because anyone who is a fan of those shows must be a masochist. Well, this show will hurt too.
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Notes and Trivia
Based on a Japanese-language novel by Hiroshi Aramata, which is in turn based loosely on the historical figure Alexander the Great, a Macedonian king who conquered most of the known world (from Europe to India) around 330 BC. A number of cities named Alexandria are, to this day, named after him.
Although produced initially for Japanese cable TV and with a primarily Japanese creative staff, Reign is a rather international production, with character designs and art direction by Peter Chung, best known for the Aeon Flux animated series.
US DVD Review
Tokyopop's uncut DVDs feature Japanese and English audio, English subtitles, but don't boast of much in the way of special features.
Tokyopop calls it 16-up on account of violence, nudity, and rather mature themes.
Violence: 3 - Bloody battle scenes.
Nudity: 3 - Since everyone wears either a metal bikini or a metal thong.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - Some totally disgusting implications, like sleeping with a snake.
Language: 0 - Amazingly, none.