A spoiler-free review of the 25-episode spring 2015 anime “The Heroic Legend of Arslan,” produced by LIDEN FILMS and SANZIGEN, based on the manga (story) by Yoshiki Tanaka.
Undefeated King Andragoras rules over the flourishing kingdom of Pars with a firm grip through his mighty Royal Capital, Ecbatana, a city structured around a slave system that fuels the royal palace. However, the baby-faced prince Arslan, a wide-eyed and curious boy, knows deep down that he does not possess the same iron fist that his father, the King, leads with.
Pars Era, Year 320. At the tender age of 14, Arslan sets out on his maiden battle at Atropatene only for everything to go up in flames. Ecbatana falls to the Holy Lusitanian Empire, an enemy not only smart on the battlefield, but one that follows their all-empowering god “Yaldabaoth.” The youthful Arslan witnesses bloodshed of his people and the capture of his glorious Ecbatana. Arslan quickly flees the war mounted on the steed of his faithful knight, Daryun. It is at this moment that Arslan’s destiny is written in the stars, and through the help of his new followers and friends, he will rise to reclaim his golden capital no matter the cost.
At its core, this anime is about growing up and finding the courage to lead, and it pulls this decently enough. Arslan is faced with countless tasks that he must overcome before he begins his reclamation: Inviting members to join his party, establishing his force, rebuilding his army, seizing a base of operation – those are his main goals. But there are many bumps in the road for the poor blue-eyed prince. He must first find his drive to fight, his charisma to keep others around him, and lastly, his ethical approach to war. All of this ties into leadership, and through the guiding pen of Narsus, the master tactician, Arslan’s ideals become clearer.
Arslan Senki is set in a world based on past historical cultures, and I can proudly say has it done its research quite well. Although I’ve never been out of the country [yet], its portrayal of distant desert lands are captured in such a rich manner that I feel as if I’m actually sitting on a silk cushion in bright banquet room watching minstrels and men get heavily drunk!
You must not forget that Arslan is a fantasy. The magic may only be sneaking in the shadows (receiving no explanation whatsoever), but it’s still there. And since there is a hint of magic, it seems that the anime takes the typical fantasy copout: “It’s magic. I ain’t gotta explain sh*t.” Know that it works in mysterious ways, charming characters in the background, but it’s not the main focus. That’s on our characters.
We’ve already talked about Arslan; decent kid, fair development, a bit bland, but not a poor character. Following Arslan right by his side – both his sword (javelin-thing) and shield – is Daryun. Daryun’s loyalty to his “prince” is admirable by many and his strength is unmatched – even by those in foreign lands. When he is not speaking to his prince, Daryun chats with Narsus, an old pal of his from back in the day. The two share conversations of strategy and wit, a combo both deadly and humorous. Just don’t bring up Narsus’ side-hobby of painting. Really, don’t.
The other two I enjoyed were also fine warriors in their own rights. Gieve, a whimsical “traveling musician” who can skillfully wield many weapons and the chill Farangis, a muscular yet enchanting cleric and master of the bow which whom Gieve proclaims his love to. Although they are somewhat a gag duo, Gieve neither siding with Narsus nor the enemy half of the time, they receive very little backstory (specifically Farangis) – which is the biggest disappointment. I would have sacrificed ten Arslan balcony-contemplation scenes for one Farangis side story if I could.
These adventurers along with a couple others compose Arslan’s force against lord “Silver Mask” (oh the cheese, it hurts), an incredibly skillful brute who is after Arslan’s head for some reason . . . Among the challenges that Arslan faces, this is his toughest one yet! This man is what triggers Arslan’s moral conflict. I won’t say much, but it was an intense endeavor for the crew to keep away from this madman.
Now, if you’ve thought that up until now Arslan Senki was an A+ for me, you’re incredibly mistaken. The entire show is one sloppy quest, and here’s why:
They say adventures are all about “the getting there,” and that the resolution just happens to tie loose ends. But Arslan Senki doesn’t give us either of these things! Instead it drags on for 25 boring episodes of pointless side plots doing FLIP that take far too long to resolve – Speaking of, IT DOESN’T END. Spoiler alert, but it doesn’t. Instead, we have Arslan and the gang mounted majestically, waiting to take back the kingdom until blah blah blah “here’s a season two B.S. announcement because we couldn’t get our crap together in the first.” Seriously, WHAT!?
Don’t even get me started with this anime’s production value. It’s TERRIBLE. I’ve had enough of CG-gummy army men, retarded-angry horses, and derpy Arslan faces to last me enough time to figure out the secrets of “Silver Mask” and overthrow Pars THREE times over. The animation is extremely inconsistent, relying on its few high-budget fight scenes and opening animation alone, and it really drags the show in the mud. You know it’s bad when you can tell where the money went in each episode. Art may look pretty, but for the love of Yaldabaoth DO NOT get this show in motion!! It’s so IRRITATING.
And now for the music. Does it fail epically like its visuals? Well, slap UVERworld, Eir Aoi, and Kalafina in the same anime and you tell me. The first opening “Boku no Kotoba de wa Nai, Kore wa Bokutachi no Kotoba” by UVERworld is pretty darn solid, and the second, “Uzu to Uzu” by NICO Touches the Walls has that quality “second half” feel to it. Once you hit Eir Aoi’s ending “Lapis Lazuli,” however, you’ve entered my top 5 endings. If Arslan is remembered for one thing, it’s gonna be this song (that moment when the OP/ED is better than the show). Lastly, Kalafina brings all under their graceful wings with “One Light,” the second ending, giving us some air of conclusion to grasp onto.
I’ll give Taro Iwashiro’s soundtrack props to filling out the fantasy-adventure tone enough to immerse me in the setting. No tracks in specific to highlight, but being supportive is all I could ask for with this shambling show.
So whoopty-freakin’-doo, there are my thoughts on The Heroic Legend of Arslan, or more accurately titled, The Heroic Legend of Asslan, pardon my French. Unless you are an absolute diehard fan of the fantasy-adventure/war drama genre, then throw this one out with yesterday’s garbage. We don’t need it, and certainly not a flippin’ sequel. That’s bullticky. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find Farangis’ cult and burn crosses in Lusitanian yards.
“The throne itself does not have a will of its own. Depending on who sits in it, it can be the seat of justice or it can be the seat of inhuman cruelty. As long as it is a man, and not a god, doing the governing, he can never be perfect. But should he neglect to make efforts to reach for perfection, a king will surely tumble down the slippery slope towards evil with no one around to stop him.” – Farangis, and amen at that
+ Arslan’s main troupe, though a bit lacking in development, comes across as a pleasant party
+ All openings and endings were the only features keeping me attached to this show
– IN-CONS.ISTENT. ANIMATI-ON.
– Sloppy execution of story, not enough character spotlight, specifically for Farangis and Arslan
– So much wasted potential in all categories, ending was unsatisfactory
For the café rating, it’s average even during its best moments. Did anyone else feel disappointed with this anime? If you had other thoughts, I’d be very interested to read them, but otherwise charge into the like button if you found my “spittin’ fire” on Arslan at all amusing. “Yashasuiin!” I won’t lie, if felt darn good to hate on something since all I do is spread cheer about shows. And right as I return, I must bid you all farewell again, so until next time, this has been
– Takuto, your host