What’s it about ?
Adaptation of a series of fantasy novels by the author of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. They already got adapted into a couple of anime movies and a short OVA series in the early 90s ; this revival is inspired by the recent new manga adaptation illustrated by no less than Hiromu Arakawa (of Fullmetal Alchemist & Silver Spoon fame).
Arslan, our title character, enters the series as the 11-year-old Crown Prince of the kingdom of Pars. As such, he’s lived a very sheltered life. He’s a bit of a wimp, but comes of as a kind person who actively wants to get out of the warm cocoon sewn by the many people trying to protect him so that he can learn new perspectives. that’s quite admirable, and the people seem to love him all the more for it.
King Andragoras, his father, is beloved for a completely different reason : he seems to always be off to another battle to protect the kingdom and its allies, and he manages to win some impressive victories with very few casualties on his side. Thanks to him, Pars is very prosperous, and its capital quite safe.
Queen Tahamine, despite living in the palace full-time, seems to have even less time than her husband for Arslan. Mind you, she’s also very cold towards Andragoras himself ; something tells me he’s been sleeping on the (jewelry-incrusted) couch for a while.
What clearly becomes apparent is that Pars’s prosperity wasn’t built merely on its king’s pure awesomeness ; it’s also because they enslave whoever they beat on the battlefield. Arslan doesn’t see much of a problem with this : submitting to slavery still gets you a better meal everyday than in whatever hellhole country the slaves came from. But his viewpoint his challenged by the attitude of the latest captives, Lusitanians, whose faith in a staunch anti-slavery religion brings them in direct opposition to the Pars system. They’d rather die than submit.
Half the episode is spent on a massive chase scene, as an unnamed Lusitanian kid escapes captivity by taking Arslan hostage. Who doesn’t actually mind that much, and saves his captor a couple of times (and even goes out of his way to allow him to escape). Again, it’s all an opportunity to learn different viewpoints, however dangerous that may be.
The episode closes on Arslan musing that he still has a lot of time to learn and grow into the role of the future king, what with his father probably keeping on being an awesome king for a few more decades… Hahahaha, no way. Cut to a mere few years later…
This is an epic production, and it almost looks like so. Certainly it’s got a good attention to detail in the world-building. It’s just a shame that the CG armies look so lifeless and awkward…
It does have the cool LoGH gimmick of putting up an introductory caption whenever a major character first shows up in a given episode, which is well-appreciated given the size of the cast and the number of so far interchangeable captains in the Pars army.
This episode had one job : selling me on Arslan as a protagonist I want to follow, as epic stuff happens around him (and it takes him some time to really shape up enough to actively participate). That’s a success : he’s just such a nice guy that you can’t help cheer for him. He’s not perfect, and he’s certainly got his cultural blinders on, but he’s willing to improve, and that makes up for a lot.
This is far from my favourite genre, but I’m willing to give it a go. Let’s see what it’s got in store.