Ad Astra – Scipio to Hannibal
by Mihachi Kagano
I admit one of the main reasons that this is my manga of the month is because my last pick was Ad Astra Per Aspera. When ever I look for chapters of Hata’s new series I usually find Ad Astra – Scipio to Hannibal several times before I find what I am looking for. It has always been one of several historical manga that I have been meaning to start alongside Historie and Cesare. The main problem is that historical manga can be quite heavy so you can’t just casually jump into it like a fluffier shonen fighting or romantic shojo series. So while historical manga is often exciting and informative it usually takes some sort of little push to get me into a series in the genre. Even something that has high adventure like Vinland Saga can take a little jump-start. So my Hata love helped give me that extra coaxing into reading the series but I’m glad it did.
Carthage’s defeat in the First Punic War has given Rome a dominance over the beaten Phoenician city-state. While it seems that the flame of pride has mostly been stomped out in Carthage there are still embers of resistance. One of those flames resides in the young Hannibal Barca who spits in the face of the Romans even as a child. So when Hannibal comes of age his oath of revenge begins with his famous unthinkable march over the alps. Is there anyone in the Roman army that can challenge one of the greatest strategists of all time?
Spoilers: You can still visit Rome but you can’t take the same vacation to Carthage.
The Second Punic War can be considered one of the major turning points in European history. Rome would go on to be the dominant influence on every aspect of culture once its main rival was obliterated. After Carthage’s loss during the first set of Punic Wars it was beaten but still had enough strength to possibly make a come back. It was only after their loss during the second war that their fate was sealed. If Carthage had theoretically been able to win they might have easily changed the face of Europe as their general world view was very different from the perspective of the Roman people. Without a dominate Rome you don’t get the Byzantine Empire, The Renaissance, or possibly even the rise of Christianity. Roman law and government might be nothing more than footnotes in the annals of history. Whatever ideas and powers would grow in their place could have been radially different. Whoever won the war would see their influence echo forward throughout history.
But this is more than just a grand scale clash of philosophies. This is also much more down and dirty battle between two of the more iconic generals of the Ancient World. It seemed like Hannibal was the second coming of Alexander the Great and Scipio Africanus would become known as the only general that could fight him toe to toe. Their battles are still studied by military historians today. Hannibal’s unexpected attack through the Alps with war elephants is probably the one part of the war that everyone is familiar with and it is only the opening move. The battle of Battle of Lake Trasimene is still fetishized today as one of the pinnacles of tactics and strategy. Many famous generals have spent their whole lives trying in vein to recapture a similar moment. The Second Punic War is a clash of blood oaths, generation grudges, and cunning tactics. The sort of material that makes great historical seinen.
At the same time history can easily be told as a lifeless list of seemingly endless dates, battles, and statistics that wash over a reader but they don’t have to be. Ad Astra really brings it own brand of story telling to the conflict. Hannibal becomes a ice cold genius whose cold and clever strategies are only matched in intensity by his passionate thirst for vengeance. At the same time Scipio comes off as a lackadaisical pretty boy but that attitude merely hides the the genius of the wily commander. This becomes a personal tale of two very different titans intertwined in a deadly chess match and not just the movement of pieces on a map. This is a bit more grounded than say something like Vinland Saga that plays a bit fast in loose with reality in order to deliver high action but there is still a distinct drama and intensity to the events. Think of it as a well done cable drama with some solid research behind it.
If your in the mood for a little history with a flair for the dramatic then you might want to give this title a go.