History and Science Fiction collide as Alexander the Great, born to Olympias the pagan priestess, and King Phillip II, is prophesized to first rule and then destroy the world. Taught by the philosopher Aristotle, Alexand... more »er becomes the hero of Macedonia?s battle against Thebus, causing his father to doubt his loyalty.« less
Fans of Peter Chung's animation, along with Greek and Alexan
R. Hall | 11/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Reign the Conqueror is an animation tour de force; as the graphic novel Watchmen proved comics were not just for children, this epic series does the same for animation. Reign the Conqueror is the story of Alexander the Great told in a unique manner with an extremely deep and layered plot presented in the most stylized and creative animation seen in ages. A myriad of elements from Greek history are presented here in an innovative manner unlike anything I have ever observed; the closest thing I can compare it to is the film version of Shakespeare's Titus that brings the Roman Empire into modern times, but with Reign there is more of a fantastical twist. To call it either science fiction or fantasy tethers the series to conceptions of these respective genres that don't quite justly describe Reign the Conqueror. The realm presented in the series is a blending of science and magic meshed with the classical Greek world as it was when Alexander the Great lived, creating a monolithic landscape inspired by the Hellenistic empire. Greek philosophy also plays a pivotal role in the series, with Pythagoras, Diogenes, Plato and Aristotle all present, and each act opening with a philosophical quip to help explain the theme of the episode. The historical sources that deal with Alexander are constantly deconstructed for their viability, and each of them varies widely in their telling of the events of history's most accomplished empire-builder as well as presenting him with a wide range of descriptions of personality; in some Alexander is a conquering hero, in others a bloody and selfish barbarian. Reign the Conqueror builds on this trend, choosing to show Alexander in a stoic, mostly honorable and ultimately sympathetic light without presenting him as a perfect or flawless hero. Reign the Conqueror is obviously not purely historical, but it does pay homage to the majority of the milestones from the history of Alexander (the Oracle of Ammon in a remote corner of Egypt is visited and foretells Ptolemy's destiny as ruler of Egypt; Alexander destroys the city-state of Thebes; the Gordian knot is severed; Alexander's meeting with Diogenes; Olympias is the priestess-princess of Samothrace and is found with a great serpent while pregnant with Alexander...) Aside from the fantastical landscape that the series takes place in, only a few MAJOR deviations from the historical inspiration occur (Alexander's infamous alcoholism is not shown, Aristotle has a niece that is in Alexander's inner-circle, Alexander slays Darius in battle instead of the Persian emperor being betrayed by one of his own men, Clitus is not killed by Alexander, and Philotas and his father Parmenion are not killed by order of Alexander directly, with the controversy of proskynesis being absent as well). The plot is very intricate, but the gist of it goes as thus: Olympias, mother of Alexander, is the high priestess of the mystery cult of Samothrace and is destined to give birth to the Devil King that will destroy the world. She meets Philip II of Macedon at one of the cult's secret initiation rituals and soon becomes his queen. Olympias unnerves the populace of Macedon with her oracles regarding Alexander's fate, and this mixed with her foreign ancestry splits public opinion on the Queen and her son, Alexander, who she keeps close to her side, resulting in his strained relations with Philip. The famed philosopher Aristotle tutors Alexander, and by the time the prince is at the cusp of manhood he has developed his own deep ambitions for the civilizing of the world- with Alexander being the perfect tool for the job. The first few episodes of the series mainly deal with the unfolding of events that lead to the ascension of Alexander to the throne of Macedon and the death of Philip. Once enthroned, Alexander quickly sweeps across Greece, putting down the Athenian-led resistance movement to Macedonian hegemony and making his ambition to take on the Persian Empire well known. The Cult of Pythagoras in Greece, the Magi of Zoroaster in Persia, and the Brahman priests of India all possess formidable supernatural powers and a steadfast devotion to killing Alexander and pursue him throughout his epic quest for power (note: the Oracle of Ammon in Egypt presents priests that seem to bear some resemblance to the three related orders that seek to assassinate Alexander but whatever relationship exists between them remains obscure). Mixed into this tapestry of conspiracies and ambitions is the mysterious object known as the Platohedron, a strange crystal that is the receptacle for all knowledge in the world as well as a cornerstone of reality itself, and as Alexander and Darius and the other temporal rulers clash on the field of battle, the more esoteric cast seeks to locate the Platohedron and uncover its connection with Alexander. As Alexander pushes his conquest to the very edge of the world he comes into conflict with is own godlike aspect, the Devil King of Destruction, and the prophecy that he will rule the world and then destroy it. Criticisms of the series tend to be generated from the one major failing of the series: it is perhaps too deep, too complex, too philosophical, and too innovative for most audiences. People expecting typical anime will be severely disappointed; there is nothing typical about Reign the Conqueror and as such many of the distinctive elements of anime, if not all of them, are not present in the series (personally I think even classifying it as anime is misleading). Some are critical of it not being historical. This is the poorest criticism as the series is clearly not intended to be a purist account of Alexander the Great, and any one who has studied his history is aware that such a thing is simply not possible; NONE of the historical, contemporary or anthropological accounts collectively agree on a majority of the elements of the story of Alexander. Others have criticized its sexual undertones. The "thong"-controversy can be explained by the involvement of Peter Chung in the animation of the series (and his influence is heavy and obvious); as it was in Aeon Flux, the body language of the characters is an important as the dialogue and to present them in minimalist clothing serves this endeavor, depicting them with more complicated clothing makes the animation about the clothes, not the characters. The series is intended for an adult and mature audience, and if the fact that you see a little skin should influence whether or not you will enjoy Reign the Conqueror then there is little chance that you will be able to really grasp the deeper context involved (note: I have not seen one review that is critical of all the bare breasts that pop up in the series, only the skimpy clothing gets panned). Also there have been complaints on both sides of the issue regarding the depiction of Alexander's sexuality. The historical sources of him do present a few examples that he, like many males in the Hellenic world, was intimately involved with both genders (namely a pubescent castrati inherited from Darius' court), and most believe that he and his life-long friend Hephaestion were lovers although the historical evidence of such a relationship between the two of them is scant and ambiguous at best. The series has been criticized for depicting Alexander as being bisexual and by others for NOT being depicted as bisexual. Unless the Japanese version is different from the unedited English version DVD, it seems Alexander is more asexual than anything; there is no overt sexual element in his relationship with Hephaestion or any other male, and his relationship with Roxanna, although hinting at a carnal impulses, is mostly cold and distant and could easily be seen as a political necessity for him to produce an heir of mixed Macedonian/Persian heritage. I highly recommend this series to any who are fans of Peter Chung and/or fascinated with Classical studies. The animation is stunning, and the depiction of Hellenic Greece (and Persia, Egypt, etc...) will fascinate the imagination; it is so far some of Peter Chung's best work (at least in my opinion, even better than Aeon Flux in some respects) and I recommend it to any who enjoy his distinctive style. The story is very deep and any dramatization of Alexander the Great (the series is probably more informative than the Oliver Stone movie despite its more fantastical presentation) or any other tale of ancient Hellas (the recent movie Troy took more unnecessary liberties with the essential fabric of the legend of the Trojan War than this series did with Alexander- maybe we will be blessed with a similar animation epic dealing with Troy someday) will have a tough time topping this one. "
Art does not have be rational...
A. Arachne | Chicagoland, IL | 01/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, Reign has many, many inaccuracies. But isn't that to be expected, in a work of FICTION? Doesn't the box warn you that this is a 20th century Sci-Fi spin on the true story of Alexander the Great? And after all the research I've done since seeing this series, I can tell you most of the inaccuracies were interentional, and probably could not have been executed without knowing what actually did happen, and in great detail. I'm rather convinced that it is not intended to be an alltogether accurate interpretation of the story of Alexander.I was originally drawn to this series because I love Peter Chung's art style, having been addicted to Aeon Flux during its run on MTV. I'm actually rather fond of the naked leg look. I'd like to point out that the characters are wearing cod pieces, not thongs. Also, keep in mind that in ancient Greece armor did show a lot of skin. And Alexander's (battle) armor looks plenty Greek to me, by the way. In fact, if this were an accurate adaption we'd be seeing a lot more man skin than we already are.As I was doing research, I was amazed at how much of what was real and really happened was changed and apadted. Ever chracter in the series was based a real person, though their roles might have been changed. Even Cassandra, who wasn't a real person, was at least based on a real figure (one of Alexander's generals, Cassander, though he was not any relation to Aristotle). I quite frankly think that Alexander's personality could not be more accurately expressed. They did an encredible job portraying who he was, and what drove him. I also liked how they used his mother's very real claim that he was indeed of divine blood, that Zeus was his father, taking it one step further and turning it into a prophecy of destruction. And I think that was far cooler way from Philip to loose his eye than in some battle.I'd like to mention, as well, that there was, indeed a Pythagorian cult. No, they weren't freaky supernatural assassins bent on destroying Alexander, but they did exist.Frankly, I love this series, and am a bit disappointed to see no sign of an American release of the theatrical movie. I recommend this title, though not to the squeemish or immature. Latent (and historically accurate) homoerotic themes, violence (though not exceedingly gory), some "curtousy" breasts (I'm not explaining that term- those familiar with anime should know what it means), and a plot that adults can barely understand are just some of the "no kiddies" signs. :)"
Visually and Intellectually Entertaining
Godfrey Carmichael | Little Rock, AR USA | 12/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The style of this highly stylized vision of the life of Alexander the Great is wonderfully seductive. I put it in the same catagory with Julie Taymor's "Titus". It does have an homo-erotic element to it, but that's just another thing that makes this work of art so interesting. It is part history and part fantasy. If you can suspend disbelief and focus on the plot elements you will be richly rewarded."
A marriage between action, beauty and plot.
Uryo | Akron, OH United States | 12/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Directed by Peter Chung (Aeon Flux). The story is about a prince named Alexander (the Great). The plot is that he is the Devil King said to destroy the world. With excellent battle scenes and unusual fighting tactics, this anime has a flare of its own. With friends, he meets to help him along the way, he sets forth to conquer the world. He rides a legendary horse named Bucephalus. Many people try to kill Alexander in an effort to save the world from total destruction.
This anime is a true work of art. The dubbing is excellent and really brings the characters to life. With an artistic flare, that gives great amounts of detail to each character. The character design might be bizarre with codpieces, detailed faces and other assorted designs but this is what makes this anime so beautiful.
This anime is geared toward and adult audience. There are many gory fight scenes and also contains nudity. The plot is also very deep and requires close attention to understand some of the conversations.
The only draw back is a paradox. The art work that makes this anime so unusual and gorgeous can also discourage people who don't have an open mind about anime styles.
In conclusion, this anime is an action packed, beautiful, work of art."
No history lesson from me!
Sara | Chicago, IL | 01/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you want a history lesson on Alexander the Great, Masedonia, the Greek empire, etc. don't watch this anime. Read a book. However, if you want to watch an interesting anime about a real life person, with a new take on the people, places and events in his life, then Reign is for you! I really like this anime, even though I already had some knowledge about Alexander the Great and knew that a lot of what was going on in the series was incorrect. It didn't bother me that things were changed. (That's simply the case in anime. And people deal with it. I mean, Cowboy Bebop's authors didn't have the theories involved in hyperspace completely accurate, but you don't see anyone saying not to watch the series because the physics are wrong!) I really recommend this as an anime for any anime fan. Like I said though, don't go looking for a history lesson here. Just sit back and enjoy it!"