The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Anime Review
Synopsis: Arslan must embark on a journey to reclaim his fallen kingdom and fulfill his destiny as ruler of Pars. (Official Funimation Synopsis.)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Lovers of epic, historical war dramas, rejoice! Arslan Senki is here to be your new favourite… or maybe not. Like all things in life, Arslan Senki has its pros and cons but lets start on a cheery note and focus first on what it does right. The show is pretty realistic for the most part when it comes to combat and characters. There is very little use of magical beings or supernatural powers. No dragons, no elves, no dwarves, etc. Just humans and betrayal. Yes, there is a certain character who employs dark mages but these dark mages pop up only occasionally and its clear that the bulk of the battles and clashes are happening between humans alone. The show also depicts the political and social systems of the kingdoms in a believable manner, choosing to generate real drama and thrills such as wars based on religion and greed, people backstabbing each other, etc, as opposed to fighting to save the nation against evil orcs, etc. I like the ambiguity of it all. There’s lots of secrets and no black or white. Everyone has their own motives and reasons, and while Arslan is clearly the hero, the show makes it clear that some of the ‘villains’ are not necessarily evil and to be abhorred completely.
Tom: The story is epic, and sprawling, spanning far longer than this twenty-four episode series could possibly hope to encompass. The book series its based off of only ended two years ago, spanning a run from 1986 to 2017 with a total of 16 volumes. That’s a lot of material, and ultimately means you won’t get a satisfying conclusion, as the anime doesn’t even come close to adapting all of that. That said, Arslan is still awesome for fans of epic, sprawling fantasy stories. In an effort to at least make significant progress, Arslan jumps around a lot, often suffering from numerous sudden, unexpected, and disorienting time skips that require frequent chunks of narration. It doesn’t help that we have such a large cast of characters that you sometimes forget who people are from episode to episode and while the series acknowledges this (and attempts to help by having names and titles for characters frequently appear on screen during their reintroductions) it can still be difficult to keep track of everyone. It’s clear that more work might’ve been needed in this adaptation to keep various characters and plot lines more consistently in the audience’s minds.
Linny: Like every show with a huge cast and epic storyline, it’s true that Arslan has its slow parts. Not every episode can be action packed but since it has to cover so much, the amount of exposition required starts to really drag things down. Add the fact that Arslan never actually becomes king within these 25 episodes and impatience may get the better of some viewers. When sitting down to watch this show, viewers should know that at most, his campaign to reclaim his title has barely begun. There are a lot of hiccups and diversions along the way and so it would be best to approach this season as origin material. There are also plenty of questions and storylines left incomplete. This isn’t a bad thing, and can be brushed aside knowing that the source material is vast, but it’s once again, something that may earn the audience’s ire.
Tom: This isn’t even something we can just say “go read the manga” with, seeing as Arakawa’s manga adaptation, of which the anime’s visual style is based upon, barely covers the events of this 1st season. The anime does take much of its visual queues from Arakawa’s work, making for some of the best character designs though. The traditional 2D art is simply golden, and coupled with a wonderful soundtrack, Arslan is a visual treasure. Well, mostly, unfortunately much of the CGI work is extremely noticeable, and often, subpar. The vast majority of epic battle sequences utilize it, understandably, but much of the CGI the soldiers’ movements are wooden and unnatural. A disappointment to be sure.
Linny: As stated at the start, Arslan is definitely not perfect. It’s not something that will appeal to anyone seeking an action packed and fast paced historic tale. However, its realistic plot elements, appealing character designs along with its morally ambiguous shades make for a strong story that’s sure to earn it fans, particularly those who appreciate grandiose war and political dramas and do not mind how exposition heavy and plodding it can get. If you do decide to give Arslan a try, go in with the knowledge that the story remains incomplete with many questions still up in the air. Arslan ascending the throne is nowhere near in sight even with a second season. There’s plenty to love about the series but not if you’re someone who prioritizes neatly wrapped up stories.
Tom: This 1st season made me a fan of the property, and I’ll probably be down for a proper follow up (There’s an exceedingly short Season 2) if it ever gets it. It may not be perfect, or quite as well told as I’d like, but I’d still like to see Arslan become King…. he does become King right? That damned narrator says it at the end of every episode “The boy would become King.” So I’m kinda in it for the long haul until he actually gets to sit on the freaking throne.