The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Season 1 Episodes 1 – 13 Review

Heroic Legend of Arslan S1 P1

With nothing to review for Anime UK News in the pipeline and more and more TV shows vanishing for the Christmas period, I thought it would be a good time to raid that classic part of any anime collection: the boxsets brought on sale but you never got round to watching. Yes, at some point early in the year the two collectors boxes of Heroic Legend of Arslan went on sale for an incredibly small amount so I picked them up, and after the first half of the opening series I can say I’m glad I did! While it’s not ground breaking or stunning, it is a fun series firmly entrenched in medieval / historical battles genre, with a bit of fantasy thrown in (I refuse to use the “it’s like Game of Thrones!” tagline as that’s pretty much where the similarities end…) Let’s have a look!

Synopsis:

Arslan, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Pars, finds himself in a predicament when a young prisoner from the nation of Lusitania holds him hostage in an attempt to escape. In the course of the adventure, the young prince learns something of the world beyond the Royal Palace.

Years later, Arslan takes part in his first battle against Lusitania, and all odds seem weighted in the Parsian army’s favour until his father, King Andragoras III, falls victim to an act of treason by one of his generals.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Heroic Legend of Arslan S1 P1 1

That’s pretty much the main cast, yeah…

Arslan (Yusuke Kobayashi / Aaron Dismuke) – Arslan is the Prince of Pars, though he didn’t grow up in the palace, instead growing up in the town like “normal” children. Due to this is has an innocence and naivety to him that most royals lack…

Daryun (Yoshimasa Hosoya / Ricco Fajardo) – Daryun is the legendary Black Knight of Pars, a feared and talented warrior who is close to Prince Arslan thanks to the Prince being trained by his Uncle Vahriz.

Narsus (Daisuke Namikawa / Christopher Bevins) – Narsus is an extremely talented strategist who was exiled from Pars when he freed all the slaves of his household and recommended to King Andragoras do the same across the land of Pars…

Farangis (Maaya Sakamoto / Rachel Robinson) – A Priestess of Mithra, Farangis has bred some unease and jealously amongst her fellow Priestesses, the result of which will soon be that she must pledge to protect a young Prince away from the temple…

Gieve (KENN / Jerry Jewell) – Gieve is a womanizer and a liar who is also a talented musician and handy with a bow. His love of the females will soon leads him into a pact and a path in life he’d never have dreamed of…

Elam (Natsuki Nanae / Justin Briner) – Elam was once a slave under the thumb of Narsus’ family. When Narsus freed them all he decided to stay and serve him out of loyalty and respect, rather than because he had no choice…

Alfreed (Manami Numakura / Jad Saxton) – Alfreed is the daughter of the Zott Clan’s chief, and as such believes her wild outland tribe to be unbeatable… She may sadly be wrong on that estimate…

Silvermask (Yuki Kanji / Vic Mignogna) – The mysterious man in a silver mask is currently working for the Lusitanian army as a guest general. His hatred of the current ruler of Pars runs deep, and he won’t stop attacking until the throne of Pars is his…

Etoile (Yumi Uchiyama / Ryan Reynolds) – Etoile is a young soldier in the Lusitanian army who was once captured by Pars and was on the verge of becoming a slave. He managed to escape by using Arslan as a hostage, not knowing he was kidnapping a Prince…

Plus more!

The Good:

Heroic Legend of Arslan S1 P1 4

Which came first, Char Aznable from Gundam, or Silvermask?

The Heroic Legend of Arslan has a lot of weird history to it. Instead of being based solely on the original novels (which themselves are based on real world legends) it uses Hiromu “Fullmetal Alchemist” Arakawa’s manga designs, but because Arakawa’s manga had only just begun, after Episode 11 it becomes its own adaptation of the novels (which may be bad, I don’t know… I haven’t read the novels!… or the manga, for that matter…) but with the more modern designs from the manga. Now, I kind of like the Final Fantasy-esque artwork on the cover of the novels, but there is something pleasingly nostalgic about the Fullmetal Alchemist look the show has.

Arslan himself is a likable protagonist, in a Luke Skywalker squeaky-clean kind of way, but it’s his entourage that make the show work so well. Daryun is you classic “bad ass” knight type, Narsus is you smirking, genius strategist (who wishes to be recognised for his artwork, which is apparently terrible), Farangis is the stoic and serious warrior woman and Gieve is the comedy would-be ladies man.

After Pars loses in battle and their capital is taken, Arslan and Daryun travel the kingdom recruiting all these people to the cause, all of them eventually being taken in by Arslan’s uncharacteristicly kind heart… well, apart from Gieve, who only joins because he fancies Farangis, though it’s clear he eventually becomes committed to the cause of getting Arslan back on the throne of Pars. It’s a fun journey, and there are some good massive battle scenes as well as more personal one-on-one fights to be seen. The sound design has to be given credit here because the show is full of really satisfying metal-on-metal clanking sounds whenever a sword or spear collide with each other.

The lead antagonist is the man simply known as Silvermask, though it does get revealed in Episode 13 that he is in fact Hilmes, the son of Osiris, the rightful King of Pars who was slain by the current King (and Arslan’s father) purely so he could take the throne and Osiris’ trophy wife. This makes him the actual true heir to Pars, which shakes Arslan and his crew. Admittedly it was quite easy to guess what was going on through flashbacks and hints throughout the prior 12 episodes, but it was exciting to see it all laid out there, especially as Silvermask being talented enough of a fighter to take on Arslan’s entire crew and live was a really exciting fight scene.

Other things of note are Episode 1, where a younger Arslan gets kidnapped by Etolie, a soldier the same age as him from rival Lusitania. During the escape, where Etolie is oblivious to the identity of who has just captured, Arslan is shocked when the “evil other side” mentions he sees Pars as evil because they still have slaves, and that “all humans are equal in the eyes of God”. Given what we later see Lusitanian Priests do and how Arslan’s father acts, it’s clear neither side is actually the right side, but it was fun seeing the Prince’s reaction to Etolie, like he’d never even considered slaves as anything other than just how life was. Etolie reappears later in this batch of episodes, now having moved up the ranks, and has another discussion with Arslan, still unaware of who he was talking too. It’s good fun, and will clearly lead to something more significant down the road…

The Bad:

Heroic Legend of Arslan S1 P1 2

“Maybe you should wear armour like me, Farangis… or maybe some sort of actual top?”

Of Arslan’s entourage, Elam and Alfreed aren’t very interesting. Elam is a self-appointed slave, pretty much, though it’s clear he’s being groomed by Narsus to take his place as a strategist, and Alfreed and her wild woman nature seems a little at odds. Plus the way the two bicker all the time annoys me a fair bit…

While I appreciate the spectacle of the large-scale battles seen during the show, it does suffer from noticeable CGI models. I get that animating 2D soldiers to that scale isn’t financially viable, but it does stick out sometimes, especially when several troops are clearly the same model copy and pasted…

I’m also not a fan of the weird squelch sound that plays when people are slashed open. The blood does a good enough job getting across the horrors of such things, the almost comedy sound-effect does the opposite. A minor thing, but it was noticeable.

Overall Thoughts:

Heroic Legend of Arslan S1 P1 3

I wonder why he decided to have patterns drawn on the side of his mask where the hidden burns are? Isn’t that just drawing more attention to the whole reason you’re wearing a mask? …. That was a long under-picture sentence! Sorry…

In general The Heroic Legend of Arslan has been an enjoyable watch. While the majority of the characters aren’t as nuanced as I’d like for this kind of war epic, the scale, design and war tactics on display still make it a very fun watch, so far at least.

4 Star Watch

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