When filmmakers in the West adapt a popular long-running fantasy novel series, we get Game of Thrones. When an anime studio does it, we get something like the previously covered Moribito, or possibly something like… this.
What is it?
The Heroic Legend of Arslan is an anime series based on a long-running Japanese fantasy novel series. It’s not the first time that the novels have been adapted to animation, but it’s the more accessible and coherent rendition by far. The show aired one full (25 episodes long) season followed by an eight-episode “second season.”
What kind of story is it?
This is a grand, epic fantasy involving turmoil and betrayal at the highest levels of government across several kingdoms. The story centers on a young prince and his core group of companions as they survive the initial events, then try to restore order to their kingdom.
Why do you like it?
Arslan is driven by two strong features: There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, and most of the characters are vivid and distinctive. Even the evil jerks are interestingly and memorably evil. Come for the regicide, stay for the clash of personalities.
There’s also a found-family quality to the show. Arslan, the prince, starts out with a lone, oath-sworn retainer and has to find allies as best he can. What he ends up with is a bunch of highly talented smartasses who are intensely loyal.
What might one not like about it?
It’s a bit on the melodramatic side. Your clue is right there in the name: Heroic. Legend. One gets the feeling that this shouldn’t be taken at face value. You’re seeing the visualization of a story told well after the fact, by a master storyteller who isn’t afraid to embellish some details to heighten the entertainment levels. I don’t count that as a negative but your mileage may vary.
Other thoughts about it?
I’m hoping they manage to eke out another season, preferably several, but when the second “season” only clocks in at eight episodes long, you get the feeling that the money may have run dry. Maybe they’ll start translating the novels…
Where can I watch it?
Originally streamed on Funimation, the deal between that company and Crunchyroll resulted in the subtitled version showing up on the latter. Enjoy!