Contains spoilers for The Heroic Legend of Arslan Episodes 1-13
After finding refuge from the Lusitanian forces in the fortress of Peshawar and reuniting with his allies Kishward and Bahman, Crown Prince Arslan, along with his small party, soon find themselves embroiled in a new conflict between brothers Prince Rajendra and Prince Gadhavi, who are warring to determine who will succeed their father as the king of Sindura. Realising that an alliance would boost his numbers and help him to retake back the Parsian capital, Arslan soon agrees to aid Rajendra. However, standing in the way of Arslan and the throne are villainous double-crosses, spies and countless battles. The young prince has come a long way, but will he fall at the final hurdle?
The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is the latter half of the 2015 adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga series of the same name. A few months back, when I reviewed the first half of Arslan, I felt fairly lukewarm about it, having complaints about both the story and characters. However, since then I have actually warmed up to this show a fair bit, and having finished it, I can safely say my overall impression is largely positive.
Since it had been a while since I watched the first half, before embarking on the second half, I went back and rewatched the initial 13 episodes to refresh myself before moving on to the remainder of the series and I found myself enjoying it a lot more the second time around. In my review of the first half, my big complaint about the story was the fact that it didn’t really go anywhere and was rather meandering, and whilst I think that in terms of progress alone, not a lot does happen, the second time around, I really came to appreciate the politics within the series. Not only does Arslan show the politics between the warring kingdoms of Pars and Lusitania, but also the internal conflicts and struggles for power, which I found to be very enjoyable to follow. This focus on politics continues into the second half of the series, and is just as entertaining as it was in the first half, as we see the conflict between the various leaders within Pars debate whether Arslan is right in wanting to free all the slaves, as well as a power struggle amongst the Lusitanians as the Arch Priest Bodin battles the king’s brother, Guiscard, for power. It isn’t all just politics though, as we also get a lot of action in this half of the series, a fair bit more than in the first 13 episodes, and it’s just as good as it was before. Not only do we get some fantastic large scale clashes on the battlefield, but we also get a few sublime one-on-one confrontations, the best of which comes in the penultimate episode as we see Daryun take on Prince Hilmes.
If I had to pick one major flaw in the plot in Arslan Part 2, it would have to be with the whole Sindura storyline. Whilst it isn’t a bad arc in terms of pure entertainment value, packing in great amounts of the politics and action that I love about the series, it is ultimately utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things. After the arc ends, the characters are in an identical place to where they were when it began, and almost nothing has been gained nor has the story progressed in any manner. All that we get out of the 5 episode arc is a new character joining Arslan’s party, Jaswant, who is incredibly dull, and barely gets a few minutes of screentime after the Sindura story is finished. This entire story could have been cut with no real great loss to the overall plot, and I think the show would have been much better for it. Only adding to my annoyance at this pointless tangent, is that the ending of the show is inconclusive. Yes, there is a short sequel series, which I can only assume finishes off the story, but if the Sindura arc had just been excised, they could just as easily have finished it here.
Another big complaint I had in my review of Part 1 was with the characters, and unfortunately, my opinion hasn’t really changed. Even in this second half, we still see very little in terms of character arcs for most of the main cast. The exception to this is the titular Arslan, as we watch a fairly naive young boy turn into a suitable ruler who learns from his experiences on campaign. Barring that, the rest of the cast lack any kind of real depth or development. The biggest offender is Daryun who is entirely defined by his loyalty to Arslan. Admittedly, Daryun is somewhat of an exception, as the rest of the characters are at least likable and some, like Gieve and Narsus, are actually rather fun. In terms of new characters that show up in Part 2, my favourite is probably Alfreed, a tribe girl who is insistent on marrying Narsus. Not only is she instantly likable, she has some good chemistry with both Narsus and Elam, which adds some levity to what is otherwise quite a serious show. Another new addition is Jaswant but, as noted earlier, he is such a non-presence, he is barely even worth a mention.
Animation and music are consistent with the first half of the series, and, as before, I was quite impressed with both of those elements. Liden Films and Sanzigen continue to create some breathtaking battles that blend together traditional 2D and CGI animation, and the score by Taro Iwashiro is as great as ever. From Episode 14 onwards, we hear a new opening song from Nico Touches Walls (who provided the brilliant second opening song for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) which is quite good, and is probably on a par with the first opening, which, much like the show as a whole, grew on me upon revisitation.
The English voice cast also remains quite stellar, and is, in my opinion, preferable to the Japanese. Not that there is anything wrong with the Japanese audio at all, but with a high fantasy series such as this, I simply think that the English language is more fitting considering the European inspired setting. Both the English script and voice cast do a fantastic job, with the kind of dialogue and inflections you’d expect from film and TV series in this genre outside of anime, and it really helps with the immersion. Leading the cast as the titular Arslan is Aaron Dismuke, whom you may know as Alphonse from the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist. There are also good performances from Jerry Jewell, Ricco Fajardo and Christopher Bevins.
Universal’s release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is just as jam- packed with high quality physical extras as the first part was, including 12 art cards, character cards, a double-sided poster and a 100 page booklet, which contains character information, artwork and interviews with the creative staff.
Whilst the conclusion to The Heroic Legend of Arslan may not be perfect, mostly due to 5 episodes being wasted on a rather pointless side story, I found myself enjoying this second half, and the series as a whole due to the excellent action sequences, as well as the engaging political aspect.
©2015 Hiromu Arakawa, Yoshiki Tanaka • KODANSHA/ “LEGEND OF ARSLAN” Project Committee,MBS. All Rights Reserved. Packaging Design © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.