「エクバターナの栄華」 (Ekubataana no Eiga)
“Glory of Ecbatana”
Arslan Senki is fantasy in the old style, with princes and kingdoms, invasions and politics, slavery and crusades, and battles involving tens of thousands. The first episode goes to great lengths to show us exactly who Prince Arslan is, and it does it well.
Who Prince Arslan Is
This is The Heroic Legend of Arslan, so the characterization of Prince Arslan (Kobayashi Yuusuke) is vitally important. I’m happy to report that not only did the anime spend an entire episode tending to Arslan’s characterization, but they did it well.
It didn’t take long for a clear picture of who Arslan is to emerge. The sword practice revealed him to be weak, and somewhat unmotivated. His relationship with his mother Queen Tahamenay (Tanaka Atsuko) and his father King Andragoras III (Sugou Takayuki) revealed him to be timid—yet in those same interactions, he showed that he’s reflective, as he wondered what it means to be a fine king. Most people don’t think about why they do the things they do, but Arslan does.
Arslan is kind, too, possessing of a kindness that could be mistaken for weakness, from a certain (jaded) point of view. Animals love him, painting him as a person of sound heard and mind, as Twin-Blade General Kishward (Yasumoto Hiroki) opined. But it was his kindness to the Lusitanian boy, and to the three kids and their parents who inadvertently led to him being in danger, that spoke volumes. Others might see that as weakness, or as an opportunity to show strength. Not me. I see saving the life of a boy who has barely had a chance to live (twice!), and six people who will now do anything for Arslan. We may be fast-forwarding three years after this episode, but I have a feeling the essential nature of who Prince Arslan is won’t change.
A Clash of Idea(l)s
Slavery and holy wars are, by most people with enough affluence and free time to watch anime, easy things to decry. Yet they make sense in the contact of a sword-and-horses fantasy world, where they’re clearly not over these foul institutions/pastimes. What I appreciated was that they didn’t paint either as the bad guys. Or the good guys—like in reality, there are just two sides, where one is prosperous and open (but keeps slaves), and the other believes all men are equal (but heathens are okay to kill).
The really beautiful trick is that they did give us a good side—Arslan’s. Arslan started out mindlessly parroting his culture’s tolerance for slavery, but by the end of the ordeal, it was clear that the Lusitanian boy’s words had an effect. Arslan is open to other people and cultures where others are closed—he seeks it out, in fact, even before he meets the Lusitanian boy. Combined with seeing the barbarity of his own people—juxtaposed with the comparative nobility of the Lusitanian boy—and the introspective Arslan is actually thinking about the situation rather than accepting the status quo blindly. I have a feeling he’s going to be a fine king, even if the road will be harder for him than most.
Looking Ahead – Arslan’s Maiden Battle
I had to fight off most of my fellow writers to win the right to blog this show, so I’m ecstatic that director Abe Noriyuki’s team is doing so much so well so far. I’m also pumped that we’re going to be getting into some classic adventuring team situations before long, because—I feel like I’m saying this a lot this season—that’s my JAM! (It’s what I write.) But first Arslan has to go through the wringer some more, as Lusitania comes knocking.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Kind, timid, reflective, weak, forgiving, and good to the core … that’s Prince Arslan. One episode in, and we know him well #arslan 01
- Kobayashi Yuusuke is a good pick for voicing Arslan. He’s got the weak-sounding, kind part down (it’s Honoka from Witch Craft Works all over again). I wonder, how will he do when Arslan grows into a hero? Early indications are good.
- Not a great relationship between these royals. The father and mother are chilly to the son, and the mother is chilly to the father. What parents indeed.
- We haven’t seen much of Daryun (Hosoya Yoshimasa) yet, but I’m excited to do so. Not only does he look and act like a badass, and his seiyuu fits him perfectly, but his mention of a cantankerous man who may be able to answer Arslan’s questions about slavery … it could be that Daryun is one of those whose eyes are open as well.
- “My father’s reign is unlikely to waver for many decades to come.” Stop tempting fate, Arslan!
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now available in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel short story. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: Cut away the boring bits, Sheet music, Wage Slave Rebellion is officially in print, and From LEGO to author.
ED: 「ラピスラズリ」 (Lapis Lazuli) by Aoi Eir