Based on the Persian epic, “Amir Arsalan”, which became a Japanese fantasy novel, then a manga and then an incomplete anime in 1991, “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” finally gets the on-screen adaptation it deserves.
The story revolves around Arslan, the crown prince of the fictional kingdom of Pars, which is taken over by the Lusitanians, after his father, the king, Andragoras III, falls victim to a treacherous plot led by some of his most trusted retainers. During this fight, Arslan barely escapes with his life and manages to rejoin with Daryun, who has previously sworn to his uncle, Vahrez, to protect the Prince with his life. The two of them slowly but steadily find more comrades to accompany them, starting with the exiled tactician and aspiring painter Narsus and his retainer, Elam, and continuing with an “exiled” priestess of Mithra named Farangis, a travelling musician and con-man named Gieve, Alfreed, the daughter of the murdered chief of the Zott clan and Jaswant, a Shindran soldier. Arslan sincere generousness and mercy gradually affects all of them as they try to raise an army to retake his throne, against enemies like the Lord Silvermask, who proves to be another contender of the throne, ex comrades who have become enemies, and Bodin, the sadistic Archpriest of the fundamentalist religion the Lusitanians follow. Etpole, a Lusitanian who enters Arslan’s life early on, also plays an important part.
Noriyuki Abe directs an intricate anime that includes themes of religion, ruling, democracy, slavery, politics in general, and friendship as the intrigues and the treacheries in the various palaces seem to shape the whole world. His characters are not so complex, apart from Arslan, whose growth as a man and as a ruler is one of the title’s highlights, and Gieve, who is quite mysterious as the cool “gangster” character. However, all of them are analyzed to the fullest. Most of the script’s highlights come from the impressive stratagems Narsus seems to use constantly, with the rest of them resulting from the many plot twists of the intricate story. The only fault I found derives from the misplaced humor, which the title could definitely do without, since the script is quite serious.
Technically the anime scream “big budget” from the beginning, with the various battles being magnificent, particularly due to the artful depiction of the armies’ maneuvers. The duels are also great, and even bloody at times and there are also some exploitation elements, particularly through the tortures depicted. The artfulness also reaches the surroundings, both outdoors and indoors, which are very much detailed. The characters’ drawing, however, and particularly their faces, is quite simplistic. Expectantly, some fan service could not be missing, but is only represented through the voluptuous priestess Farangi and does not reach the extremes so frequently appearing on many anime these days.
The story does not end with this series and the script leaves much to be explained in the next chapter, which will start on July 7.
“Heroic Legend of Arslan” is a very fulfilling title, placed somewhere between “Berserk” and “Gundam.”