The awesomest homoeroticest anime around.
Reign: the Conqueror tells the stories of Alexander the Great, except with a futuristic science fiction twist and a dash of homoeroticism. Imagine Alexander the Great with piercing blue eyes, flowing brown hair, and wearing a leotard made out of metal. Two millenia after he actually lived. With myriad shape-changing sorcerors that can move faster than the eye can see and number-worshipping assassins that defy physics; an insane man-eating black steed with red eyes and other terrifying monsters; ass-kicking swords, a ten-story scimitar-turned-execution machine, and other awesome weaponry; and occasional discussions with Aristotle (who sports blue makeup and a red half-mohawk). And you get to see the Macedonian phalanx kick some serious futuristic ass.
"Simply, it is his story on crack, acid, and whatever it is that Peter Chung and studio madhouse were smoking. [...] All of Alexander's cohorts are men who wear codpieces and traipse around on horseback wearing skimpy armor." (DVDVisionJapan.com)
"Reign: the Conqueror" is the American name; the Japanese is "Alexander Senki". It based on a novel by Hiroshi Aramata, directed by Yoshinori Kanemori, produced by Rintaro, Masao Murayama and Haruki Kadokawa, with character/concept design by Peter Chung and animation by Madhouse Studio. It was created in 1999, and brought to America in 2003.
This is not your grandma's anime. No cutesy animals, no cartoony-attractive prepubescent girls with short skirts that manage to stay decent even in gale-force winds, no happy ending at the conclusion of each episode. The series is very grim and moody — a first of its kind. The voice acting is phenomenal, too — even the English dubbing is on par with Cowboy Bebop.
Even so, many anime fans don't like this one — probably because it's so far from the "standard" range of anime. I'm not normally a fan of anime, though, and I like this series a lot. Here's what some more seasoned anime fans had to say about the show:
"All i need 2 say that reign is SUXS!!! [...] The plot was stupid i hate it." —shintomyai
"Reign IS SO STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And the art id disgusting and just wrong!!! This show totally reaks!!!!!!!" —Elani Moonstaf
"I thought this show was awesomely awesome. I guess I'm just a sucker for a good dose of philosophy, and a confusing plot. [...] I thought the prophecies and how they came true in odd ways were the best!! It's a shame some people don't like this anime cuz of the art." —Raziel
Prince of Macedonia. Alexander values speed and accuracy above all else when it comes to battle, which is somewhat unconventional with his father's armies. (And he's got great legs.)
Alexander's father. A giant snake (his wife's oracle animal) attacked him as his wife gave birth and he lost his left eye. Though impressed with Alexander's battle tactics, he has constant doubts as to his son's and wife's loyalty, and plans to kill them both.
Alexander's mother, a strange individual who dotes almost constantly on her son. She is a Pagan prophet, and goes mad with joy when hears of the prophecy saying that her son will destroy the world. An undying love for her son and an interest in paganism puts her on unsteady ground with her husband.
Commander of Alexander's cavalry. He likes Alexander's new battle tactics, and joins with him. He is extremely deadly with a spear.
A reformed outlaw who lacks bravery, fighting skills, and intellect, but makes up for it with his devoted loyalty to Alexander. He is also a good friend of Cleitus'.
Scientist, philosopher, and Alexander's teacher. Alexander goes to him to both ask advice and poke fun at his stuffiness. Eventually, personality differences between teacher and student will clash.
- A Prophecy Born This Day
A pagan shaman (who takes the shape of a giant snake) prophesies that Olympias will bear a son who will destroy the world. Her son is born soon.
- The Thunder of Battle
During a battle between Macedonia and Greece, Alexander ignores his father's orders and rushes the enemy — his impulsive actions win the battle. He is celebrated as a hero in place of his father, helping Attalos (the King's advisor) to widen the gap between father and son.
- A Failure of Diplomacy
Athens sends representatives to Persia (the center of the known world) to secure an alliance against Macedonia. Alexander rushes to Babylon (Persia's capital) to screw things up, and does a great job.
- Ascension to the Throne
After defeating the Greeks, and a first assassination attempt on the King, the Macedonian celebration is cut short when a soldier in a trance stabs and kills Alexander's father. Attalos manages to replace Olympias' seat on the throne with that of his daughter, Eurydice, wishing to rule Macedonia himself, but Eurydice and her son are killed by Olympias' curse.
- God of Creation
After conquering almost all of Greece's territory, Alexander surrounds and prepares to siege Athens but begins to question himself and worry about his destiny. Diogenes, an unorthodox philosopher, tells Alexander that "the god of destruction can also be the god of creation."
- The Secret of Samotrace
As Alexander prepares to take on Persia, he learns of the pagan conference of Cabeiroi conference on the island of Samotrace.
- The Gordian Knot
Philippos of Gordian, a student of Hippocrates and a legendary doctor, vows to serve only he who can undo the Gordian Knot.
- Here Shall Stand Alexandria
When arriving in Egypt, an oracle advises Alexander to build a city. Alexander sees a vision of the city in 100 years, and sees his own enormous grave. He arranges a group of mathematicians and architects, led by Dinocrates, to construct the city, which he names Alexandria.
- The Oracle of Ammon
While in Egypt, Alexander visits the Temple of Ammon and recieves a prophecy similar to the one his mother recieved at his birth: "You will be the king of the world. However, you will be the devil of destruction, and you will have the sorrow that comes with destroying even the people you love....you will be killed by the person closest to you."
- Persia Shall Fall
At Gaugamela, the decisive battle for Persia begins with a strong defense until the moon (the symbol of Persia) begins to wane. Alexander radiates with the light of Pathos, and the Platohedron appears from Chaos.
- Unification Before Division
Though Alexander unites Persia and Macedonia, Aristotle worries that Alexander's eastward advance may still destroy the world, and the collapse of the Platohedron does not comfort him. Philippos talks to Alexander about the relationship between esoteric religion and the conference on Samotrace.
- The Vanquished Arise
Ignoring Aristotle's warning that a trap awaits him, Alexander continues east to challenge Poros, the King of India.
- The Prophecy Comes to Pass
As Alexander battles a dead army, the long-dead Pythagoras (who had delivered the prophecy of Alexander's destiny to his mother's oracle) rises with the Platohedron and completes the prophecy.
As I write this, it's airing on Cartoon Network's adult swim lineup. I usually watch it at 01:30, but it's also on at 04:30. (What's that? You're not awake then? You're missing out. That's why God invented VCRs, people.) It's now off the adult swim lineup, so you Cartoon Network fans will have to buy the DVD: volumes 1 through 4, named "Ascension", "Obsession", "Domination" and "Destruction", are available (as well as a box set). The DVD releases contain quite a bit of nudity, which has been edited out for adult swim's airing. I'm told volumes 3 and 4 contain easter eggs, too.
TOKYOPOP: www.tokyopop.com (characters)
adult swim: www.adultswim.com (episode guide)
DVD VISION JAPAN: www.dvdvisionjapan.com (quotations)
Anime Web Turnpike: forum.anipike.com (fan responses)