REIGN: The Conqueror - Madhouse Studios' Medieval Futurist Anime

Anime ahead of its time, REIGN: The Conqueror (アレクサンダー戦記 [Arekusandā Senki]) is a Madhouse Studios (One Punch Man, Death Note, Trigun) gem deep in its back catalog. Based on a novel by best-selling Japanese author 荒俣 宏 (Hiroshi Aramata), it’s the story of the rise and ensuing battle against Persia of the ancient world’s greatest emperor, Alexander the Great.

We’ve an engaging cast of characters which are all, at least in name and relation to him, accurate to ancient accounts. Onscreen are King Philip II of Macedon and his pagan queen Olympias, both rearing Alexander to one day assume the throne. Alexander finds adventure alongside many friends including Ptolemy I, his most trusted general of the fearsome and mighty Macedonian army. Carrying Alexander to victory is his famous black stallion war horse, Bucephalus, who takes down soldiers and assassins with golden armored mechanical muzzle and hooves. Also in this epic is Alexander’s personal tutor and famous ancient philosopher of the Western World, Aristotle, driving story subtext and plot. In fact, many memorable philosophers are there, such as the cynic-philosopher Diogenes “The Dog” and the ghost (or “essence”) of Plato.

One interesting dynamic to REIGN: The Conqueror is we never quite know if we’re watching the past or the future unfold. It subverts any familiar timeline, suspended in a surreal and timeless period where fantasy elements abound, such as shapeshifting spirit alchemist factions (like the Pythagorean Cult, bent on hopes to assassinate Alexander), cloud resident titans and elemental gods. While undercurrents of electricity and advanced technology are part of this world, battles are won by horse cavalries, swords, spears and shields. Landscapes are adorned with moving walkways and extreme architecture. Flying machines course the sky. This is medieval futurism at its best, and Madhouse Studios probably couldn’t have chosen a better art designer to create such hypnotizing and impossible juxtaposition. That animator’s name is Peter Chung, the very same Aeon Flux legend himself.

Perhaps none of the ethereal themes would have been so elegantly animated, or as moving and entertaining, without Peter Chung (IG: @peter_k_chung) at the helm of this multi-nation anime project. Chung’s animation is influential for many. Those less familiar with his work, you might be surprised to know his portfolio includes some of the best and most popular animation of the last 35 years. Notwithstanding his well-known MTV series, Aeon Flux, his animation and collaboration is responsible for the original Transformers TV show, the title opening sequence for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and also co-designing Nickelodeon’s Rugrats. Chung’s art direction and contribution is part and parcel to the stunning visual imagery and magic you experience in REIGN: The Conqueror.

I could imagine this 13 part series landing perfectly among today’s anime and post-Game-of-Thrones era. But it aired on WOWOW and Adult Swim a little too ahead of its time in ’99 and ’03. REIGN: The Conqueror challenges watchers to sit back and enjoy the beauty of anime that’s packed with style and memorable story, makes you feel anime in a visceral way. It will surprise and intrigue you.

Enjoy the series on YouTube here!


JEFFREY WELLS | Writer  - googlemaps instagram 
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