Yashasuiin!! – the loud shout that makes me goosebumped whenever I take a glimpse of a wide battlefield where thousands of skilled swordsmen, archers and crusaders line up in order to stain themselves with shedding blood, the blood that signifies the heroic will for the beloved name of one’s kingdom.
Meet Arslan, the young prince of the Kingdom of Pars ruled by his fearsome father, King Andragoras III. At the age of 14, he joins his first battle against Lusitanians despite he doesn’t have what it takes to be in a blood-soaked battlefield. However, the Parsians get invaded. Arslan joins with his loyal servant, Daryun, to escape from the strong mist of war. They embark on a journey to gather companions to reclaim his fallen kingdom from the hands of Lusitanian army which is led by a strong warrior known as Silvermask.
Based on the fantasy Japanese novel and followed by a 1991 manga series of the same name, The Heroic Legend of Arslan (a.k.a. Arslan Senki) is written by Hiromu Arakawa in the 2013 manga remake. No wonder why the protagonist Arslan bears a little resemblance to Edward Elric from the popular series Fullmetal Alchemist because their impressive artwork is passionately created by a well-known mangaka.
If somebody would ask me how I felt upon watching the first episode of the show, I could easily say I was deeply impressed. I could already determine from the very beginning of the series it would offer me a strong impression, thus it absolutely never failed to bring the best from it. According to some viewers, Arslan Senki shares a little similarity to Game of Thrones, but sorry, I’m not a fan of that fantasy TV series, or never did I watch a single episode. I’m not, in any way, going to compare Arslan Senki to Game of Thrones.
Arslan might be the reason I got highly interested to watch further the entire series after I took a quick glance at his character – a kind and soft hearted young boy. Would this type of protagonist be worthy enough to dominate the storyline? Despite his positive attribution towards the humanity, I initially judged him as a kid who wouldn’t be righteous enough to wield his own sword, to be honest. Then there was Daryun, the good-looking guy in black, which I could predict the overprotective one, and the long-haired beautiful man, Narsus. I slightly sensed it would end up like a reverse harem sequence, but no, Arslan is a beautiful man, but a lot prettier than a female lead from a reverse harem anime. Then I concluded, the show isn’t about the superficial iconic description of Bishounen. Just because these guys are stunning enough to drool over the floor doesn’t always mean they would be the notable factor throughout the series. My impression suddenly pushed me through the deepest dig to examine the treasure of the series.
The historical perspective of the show which is loosely based on the Persian history and its dynasty, considering the setting and the architectural design of homelands, creates the most engaging aspect of the show because of the thirst for curiosity of somebody who would want to retrospect from the period where bloody wars among lands and kingdoms become a reality more than just narrative words from the advanced textbook of high school. It’s more than just a mere visualization from what an image portrays in a book as Arslan Senki primarily shares a closer image of the pre-Islamic Iranian imperial dynasty, the historical figure in 6th century BCE in particular, aside from what you have learned from your lectures on comprehensive world history, and only Cyrus the Great left a strong impression on you. If you’re a little familiar of Persian empire, or you’re historically inclined, you would notice that some proper names are based off the empire like, the city of Ecbatana which is an ancient city in Western Iran. Moreover, as what I’ve read in various comment sections, the protagonist name Arslan might have been taken from a Persian Epic, Amir Arsalan.
Though historically oriented, I’m not saying this anime is exactly what happened in the history as the show is only a Persian epic-inspired as I aforementioned and events are solely the wide fantastical thoughts of the creator. It is rather a representation of the absolute Monarch government of Persia where leadership of kings and queens reigns over anything in front of them, where wealth is all that matter and a government where royal members of a family has a greater chance to wear the big crown according to the hierarchy thereby to rule the kingdom. However, one disadvantage is the reality that somebody from a high-class family would selfishly proclaim to be the heir of the throne which is one of the major conflicts among royal bloods. This typical scenario is evidently seen in Arlsan Senki, a battle between Arlsan and the main antagonist, Hilmes, Arslan’s cousin, towards reclaiming the big throne. A battle of imperial bloods which is depicted through war among thousands of highly trained soldiers and invasion of homelands can be a compelling portrayal of the government of old Persian empire. It gives the most stimulating feeling as the battle of these strong forces coming from different empire offers a well-drawn imagery of the art of war, the strategies how to win a battle of swords, arrows and horses.
The concept on slavery is the most relevant theme in the entire show. The different perspective on the term creates a big question to many viewers whether slavery would solve humanity’s freedom or rather a hindrance when people are being freed. Arslan sees nothing wrong when people achieve freedom from the hands of the royalties, thus creating a goal to abolish slavery. This is the point in the story where Arslan shows his humanitarian act, a leader who believes that people regardless of race need equality to attain the ideals in the whole nation.
Arslan Senki also covers a wide scope on religious belief. The faith of Lusitanians to their only God, known as Yaldabaoth, makes one of the major conflicts in the first half of the series. They believe that the most beautiful and prosperous land on earth belongs to the believers of the Yaldabaoth, and those heathens who do not follow the teachings of God shall be perished, thus the goal to invade the Parsian race. Estelle is one of the most prominent Lusitanian character who holds strong devotion to their God, and her existence further adds a strong concept on religion as a heavy theme aside from the historical and political entities in the show.
The character development of Arslan is the highlight of the series. There is a noticeable transition of his weak character to the most confident warrior in the group. His maturity as he ages and willingness to learn from different adventures, is not only an achievement for his character but it brings the storyline into its sense of arching the real narrative of the entire show. As episode progresses, Arslan would be the main reason why the series needs to be recognized in the world of animation. I still consider the show as underrated compared to other series with historical entity such as Sengoku Basara and Hakuouki. What makes Arslan the best among main leads of these various antiques is that, he is not just your aspiring king who wants to gain power and wealth as those tyrant leader from an old fictional literary piece, but his goal focuses more on humanity’s freedom. In my point of view , he fits to the kind of leadership in a democratic nation.
Supporting characters like Daryun minimally contribute to the whole story, and you shouldn’t expect they would give him the greatest spotlight for his bishie appeal. He is just the typical description of a guardian who looks after a high profile man. Nevertheless, he is the best character in the series when it comes to swordsmanship and I couldn’t deny that fact. Whereas, Narsus rather plays an important role as one of the supporting leads. Every battle needs a strategy, and he doesn’t fail to make me amazed on his intellectual capacity as a strategist to come up with the most effective plan.
Animation is, however, the weakest point of the series. Despite it gives fair amount of action scenes, the outline of the overall production does not provide a wide component of its art medium. Characters and setting in some angles display a poor focus with thin outline which is too light for the ambiance of the show. Partly, the expression of the characters does not portray the most flawless look and rather gives a seasonal view which is still good for screen capture, because I noticed there are some terrible faces as a total description of distorted, which is quite a turn-off factor.
Theme songs are good and satisfying. The first opening song titled Boku no Kotoba de wa Nai Kore wa Boku-tachi no Kotoba performed by Uverworld does a good performance for bringing a strong rendition for the series that fits perfectly to the action genre. The second opening song titled Uzu to Uzu by NICO Touches the Walls is more upbeat and gives the feeling that the anime is about to reach the near finale. Both ending themes are fine though.
In conclusion, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is the most compelling title for a good sense of historical and political perspective. It shares a little parallel to Hakuouki as to its overall feel, but I must admit, Arslan Senki would be your anime of choice if you like more enjoyment and breathtaking scenes of a bloody battle. A must watch to those who want a Western Asia epic fantasy.