「騎士の素顔」 (Kishi no Sugao)
“The True Face of a Knight”

Dude looks like a laaaaady! No, wait—dude is a lady.

Narsus’ Demotion, Lucian’s Promotion

The dissension within the Parsian ranks is no surprise. There would be that even if Arslan were a thoroughly typical crown prince—there’s always friction when you suddenly throw so many people together, especially horny medieval soldiers and scheming nobles. But his unorthodox actions certainly aren’t helping. I wasn’t surprised to hear Narsus opine that many of the nobles are supporting Arslan in the hopes of getting him to rescind the Decree to Free Slaves later on—he is a fourteen-year-old boy, after all, so they’ll hope they can influence him. Plus, Arslan is better than Lusitania, no matter how you cut it.

What I didn’t expect was for Narsus to offer himself up for a demotion, nor for Arslan to take his advice. Not that he’s not correct—for the irreverent strategist who was thrown out of Andragoras’ court to suddenly be the Satruyp, the analog of a Grand Vizier, is a hard pill to swallow. The question is, is his replacement, Lord Lucian (Rikiya Koyama), going to be an asset to Team Arslan, or could he spell their downfall?

I’m pretty sure he’ll be an asset. Though maybe that’s just because he’s voiced by Rikiya Koyama, which I realized just a few hours after watching the Sore ga Seiyuu! episode where he guest starred. How could Kiritsugu / Azazel-sensei / Klaus / Jack Rakan backstab them?! But in all seriousness, he hasn’t shown any duplicity so far, and it doesn’t feel like that’s because he’s plotting or anything. I think it’s just a non-issue. I think he’ll be a good ally … probably.

Dude Looks Like A—No. Dude Is A Lady!

Some people called it, and I’ll admit it—during the first episode, I didn’t suspect that Étoile was actually a girl. Looks like I was wrong. I have to question the wisdom of her keeping her hair long, though. Even if you’re wearing a helmet all the time, why risk it? It did come in handy here, though. She didn’t need a wig, which could have complicated things. A minor point, but a fumble nonetheless.

I’m glad Étoile made a reappearance, and I hope we see more of her. And not just because I’m now shipping Arslan x Étoile like no other, though that’s true as well—they’re the first couple outside of Alfreed x Narsus or Alfreed x Elam (or a devil’s OT3 thereof) with any chemistry. Plus, this line?

“But, you do not look like a very strong fighter.”

Marry her! Marry her right now! Or, maybe win the war or something first… But after that! MAKE IT HAPPEN, ARSLAN!

Arslan’s Weakness (& Resolve), Étoile’s Help

I have to wonder whether Étoile did more damage or good to Lusitania through her conversation with Arslan. My gut instinct: Good for Lusitania (she found out about the attack, when it was coming, and about the Decree), some good for Pars (helping Arslan find his resolve), and a net negative for Prince Hermes. The former is pretty self-explanatory, but the latter two could use some prodding.

I know some people see Arslan’s kindness as a weakness. It’s not … usually. Kindness and empathy make him a far better leader, a far better ruler, and a far better person than most of the cast. I’ve always felt it strange how many people caution their children to turn the other cheek, to not resort to violence … only for, when it comes to international affairs, those same people to jump straight to violence. Empathy will keep Arslan from making that same mistake … and yet, sometimes violence is the answer. It only becomes a weakness if it prevents him from doing what must be done.

Which I like. Arslan’s strengths aren’t always strengths, and you can easily see his weaknesses leading to something terrible. Even if it would have “made things right” vis a vis Andragoras’ crimes, turning the throne over to Hermes would be a disaster. Which is why it was good that Étoile was around:

“But, as for taking action for the sake of your country and her people, your parentage has no bearing on that. It’s a most noble thing.”

I love how she said it for a completely different reasons (a commoner as opposed to a noble) than he heard it (not being the true heir doesn’t matter). It’s also exactly what Arslan needed to hear. Seriously, Arslan, don’t fuck this up. Marry her. Tahamenay may have had beauty worth going to war for, but Étoile has a spirit that glows far brighter. One you, Arslan, might one day be able to match, if you have a little more confidence in yourself. It’ll come with time.

Looking Ahead – If Gieve Leaves, I’m Gonna Be Pissed

The preview is hinting at something to do with Gieve, and let me tell you—if Gieve ends up leaving (or dying), I’m going to be mad. That said, I’d very much like a Gieve episode, because I was just this episode thinking how odd it was the Gieve has stuck with Arslan’s company for so long, when we’ve seen no outer indication that his opinion toward nobility, even in this particular case, has changed. Maybe we’ll get that next week.

tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Lord Lucian joins Arslan’s inner circle, & Étoile is—surprise!—a girl. SHIPPING FURIOUSLY! #arslan 20

Random thoughts:

  • I don’t know how much Hermes is like his father, but he’s definitely like Uncle Andragoras. He loves to get in the battle and do the fighting himself. Hearing that would probably piss him off.
  • I loved how Étoile thought Narsus was forcing Alfreed into being his lover! Normally, she would be right, but not this time, nishishi!

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: Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals, What are your two skills?, Passing the Bechdel Test, and Absence (from work) makes the heart grow fonder.



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  1. Edward Elric and Winry Rockbell meet again in another universe…is what I want to say but can’t. Arslan is too gentle looking and Etoile is the one who has Edward’s serious look. Anyways I ship these two very much! I

    1. I’m putting it in spoilers just in case so Show Spoiler ▼

    2. True they’re not like Ed and Winry but I kinda thought that Etoile is perhaps like their kid. Lol
      Show Spoiler ▼

  2. Called. That. Ish. That ‘boys’ eyes were too damned pretty. Not surprised he turned out to be a she and was suspicious of it from the get-go.
    Suddenly her character makes more sense, lol.

    1. King Arslan and Queen Étoile! Yeah!

      But I wonder how the story will handle it. I mean, there are already many people in Pars who don’t like the whole “free the slaves thing” or consider it just a youthful whim that will be forgotten once he becomes king. Marrying a Lusitanian commoner girl? In and out universe, wars have started for less.

      There’s also the less touched issue of religion. Parsians seem to be pretty lax about it, to the point that Gieve, the amoral thief, mentions the Parsian gods more often than Farangis, a priestess!, does. However, Étoile is a devout Yaldabaoth believer.

      1. All good points. The politically realistic thing to do—and when you hear the words “politically realistic,” you should (rightfully) suspect that someone is about to suggest something at least moderately horrible … which is absolutely the case here—would be to take Étoile as his mistress. That, however, is a shitty ass plot point. I’d much rather Arslan x Étoile never happen, unless it’s some kind of Chani (Dune) thing, in which case, tough like, Arslan’s Irulan!

      2. True enough. There are enough examples in real-life, and there’s Dune too. In fact, I could almost see Narsus suggesting it in the future.

        But Arslan is too nice to do that. And Étoile wouldn’t accept that either, I think.

      3. Arslan has many things working on his favor if he marries Étoile in the future, he will be the king that liberates Pars against all odds at a young age and rebuilds the country from scratch, that alone would win the heart of the people so most would who he marries and the noble would think twice before acting up against him just because he married a lusitanina girl because of his massive influence with the people.

        In the political area just think this: Pars is going to come out of this war badly hurt and so does Lusitania, Arslan would never invade the country out of revenge and neither can´t afford a second war at that scale in the very least a decade so what to do to make things easier? Seal a peace treaty with a marriage, more specifficaly marrying someone form Lusitania, it has been done in out world for millenia and I think Étoile is not a commoner since a high ranking officer is watching over her, she must at least from low ranking noble family.

  3. Not a fan of this episode, to put it mildly.

    All the parts with Etoile were like terrible fanfiction trying to smash two characters together, regardless of logic. I’ve never been big on the Arslan/Etoile “ship”, but it’s decently popular in Japan, so it’s not like I don’t understand where this is coming from or why they’d add in a bunch of stuff to the point of being ridiculous. In addition, I think Arakawa’s Etoile is one of the few improvements on a character compared to the novels. I just hate that it comes with a hefty dose of irritation because whenever she’s onscreen and near Arslan, his character is the one that suffers the most.

    Why add half an ep of filler about Arslan expressing doubts NOW? In the very least, have him waffle a little bit before he signs two very blunt documents stating his goal of taking back the throne and what he’s going to do when he’s upon it, especially since the anime went so far as the add the scene where Silvermask told the entire castle who he was two novels before Arslan actually found out.

    That stupid sneaking mission that was literally only there so that Etoile could get hit on by some random Parsian in the most hoary cliche this side of a shounen manga and meet Arslan again. Gee, Etoile, what amazing intel did you discover that you didn’t know before? The Parsians are amassing an army? Brilliant job, definitely couldn’t be inferred by the troops streaming towards Peshwar!

    The entire scene with her and Arslan talking would have been fine if not for the hack writer’s insistence upon making Arslan meet her the center of all his sensitivity and goodness towards others. (Well, I guess Narsus deserves some of the credit.) Gee, how did book Arslan ever manage to be a complex, sensitive character with awareness of other cultures and their differences when he STILL hadn’t met Etoile by this time in the original series?

    Just, ugh. There’s a lot to like about Etoile and Arslan’s relationship, you don’t need to transform him into a wimpy indecisive blob, or make Etoile responsible for all the good in him if you want to push these two. They’re already opposite in personality without doing anything else. If you wanted Arslan to be inspired by her, how about looking at the bible she gave him? We don’t need a fifteen minute reenactment that doesn’t make any sense within the confines of the plot.

    1. Isn’t it literally fanfiction? I was under the impression that Arakawa fanwanked all the Etoile scenes into her manga because in the novels Show Spoiler ▼

      Their first encounter was good, interesting. Their second one was so superfluous Arslan didn’t even reference it once during their whole dialogue. And this third one was okay, I guess, but mostly ruined due to the whole “lol I misunderstand who you are” cliche.

    2. I love the original novel and Tanaka, but quite frankly, Etoile in the novel is utter fail. I just don’t see much of purpose of the existence of this character in the novel. Arakawa tried to fix it, and most readers liked it. Actually, Tanaka liked it too.

      1. I also agree that Etoile is better in Arakawa’s version, taken purely as her own character. It’s just that the way she’s being used is having an effect on the story and characters that I don’t like.

        Also, this episode was really badly written, which doesn’t help.

      2. I like that the original author liked the changes. It’s a funny thing, writing novels … after they’re done, there are often things you realize you messed up, but you can’t fix them. (Okay, you can fix some limited things, but you can’t change the trajectory of the story.) And I can’t imagine doing a straight do-over yourself (having to rewrite my first book would be a damn slog), so only with adaptations or screenplays do you have a chance to go back and fix your mistakes (or try new things).

        I’m glad Tanaka-sensei liked some of the changes : )

  4. Now, from The True Parsian Spirit’s review:

    “In another episode of AS, rightful prince Hermes crushes the army of fanatics that was terrorizing the country, not without feeling pity for them.

    Meanwhile, the manipulative Narsus and a bunch of slave-owning nobles deny his bloodright on the basis he started a war (never mind that they did the same in Sindhura) and try to push a minor onto the throne. Only the poor kid seems disturbed by the fact that his father is not his father and he only became the king by murdering the previous ruler.

    By the way, no one asks what the true prince’s plans for Pars are. Why does everyone assume fake prince Arslan has better ideas for the country just because he’s nicer?”

    End of the quote.

    On a more serious tone, I will call b******* if Narsus somehow predicts that a freaking Lusitanian spy gave the enemy the information about the decrees, the date of the beginning of their campaign, the number of soldiers and that there’s dissension among their ranks. He didn’t appear much but the anime still managed to shoehorn a scene in which a character says how great and perfect he is.

      1. Ok, I joked about it, but I need to know: when does Hermes say that he sees his subjects as livestock? Is it another thing from the novels we haven’t seen yet? I’m curious.

        So far, Hermes has been shown dealing exclusively with nobles and officers of the kingdom (all of them suspected of helping Andragoras take the throne), so I really don’t know what he thinks of the common folk.

      2. Which makes Arslan even more deserving of the throne. Hermes is only bent on taking back what is his, and while he is in every way justified to do so Hermes’ actions gives me the impression he doesn’t have Pars’ best interest in mind. He claims he’s doing it to bring peace but with the way he is right now, Hermes might just becomes an even crueler king than Andragoras. On the other hand Arslan’s experiences, not to mention lots guidance from his subjects, taught him what it means to be a good ruler. Etoile said it best that birthright is irrelevant if you have your people’s best interest in mind. So yeah definitely Team Arslan.

      3. Being a good person does not mean you would become a good King. Arslan WILL become a good King though, because such is this story while Hermes will be treated as a villain at worst and misleaded at best.

        Still, even if I know that he will bring a golden Age to Pars, I can’t support Arslan simply because I can’t see him being a good King in real world. People like him, depending on their advisors for everything and trying to make everyone happy were some of the most incompetent Kings.
        If I had to say on which King Arslan reminded me of, it would be Louis XVI. He was smart, trusting, wanted to make his people happy, cared for his people’s opinions and actively tried to end many discriminatory politics in his Kingdom… but was indecisive, too trusting of his advisors and lacked resolve, all which resulted in a very bad end (abolishment of the French Monarchy and later a chronic lack of head on the shoulders). And honestly, I still think Louis XVI is more competent and less gullible than Arslan while probably being as good and idealistic ruler.
        I don’t know how it is in the novels, but this Arslan is not a good King. A good figurehead of Secret King Narsus? Oh, definitely…

        Hermes? The guy is not a good person and is not the best thing for Pars, but unlike Puppet King Arslan, I do admire parts of his character. Even without help of god-tier people like Narsus and Daryun, he is a force to be reckoned with. As a person, he is decisive, skilled in combat (even challenging to Daryun), good enough strategist and does show respect to others when the need arises (like respecting his old mentor and thus not using an opportunity to assassinate Arslan as well as treating his subjects well even if they decided to not support him). If nothing else, he is better than Angragoras.
        Still, he is allied with evil mages and is clearly insane. It is only a matter of time until he breaks.

        So my vote goes to Guiscard. If someone from Lusitania can be reasoned with and seems to have decent enough character and skill, it is him. At best, he will realize that the best thing to do is get some nice trade agreement, pack the bags and go home.

      4. He didn´t say it directly but his actions speak for him loud and clear, he chose to destory his own kingdom and people to take back the throne, a king who cares for his people and soldiers would never commit such a horrifying act.

    1. Interesting to think of how the story changes when you approach it from another point of view. It just reminds me that there aren’t really good guys or bad guys in real life. Mostly there are just two sides of bad guys, one of which may be worse than the other.

      1. I might do it again in the next episode. It’s fun ^_^;

        And you’re right. It’s as easy as reading a Western chronicle of the Crusades followed by an Arab chronicle. The difference is huge even if they talk about the same events.

      2. Actually just like in Kyōkaisen (Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere) the tragedy of history is there are lots of Good vs Good battles. Of course that is good by the standard of those times a fair numbers of things they thought ok we think otherwise. Even the motive of the Crusades was, to take back formally Christian lands in the Byzantine Empire that were taken by force by the Muslims. But the actions of many Crusaders was evil like in this tale and when they often knew they were doing wrong but bettering themselves and the fanatics who did not realize they were doing wrong even though they had to twist the Bible as massively as ISIS is twisting the Koran to justify it.

    2. I think the narrator spoiling the future is the authors way of addressing the fact we would not know if the immature Arslan would mature into as good king or not based on current information. Arslan needs a lot of improvement to deserve the hero of the story credit.

  5. I went back and watched episode 1 after this, and I am just having so much trouble buying into the fact that Etoile is a girl. Maybe (s)he was just really androgynous at 10 years old, but… I dunno.

    Purple Bomber
  6. I suppose the parallels between Etoile and Joan of Arc are quite strong, i just hope she doesn’t meet the same fate, despite being on the side of vile religious fanatics like the Lusitanias and being a bit of a fanatic herself (or a strong believer if i might say) she is quite honest and sincere in her actions and thoughts and does care about the well being of her people for real .. misguided would be the best word to describe her … i do hope she becomes a fine knight but on Arslan’s side.

    1. Joan of Arc was just one such woman, and the parallels between them aren’t actually that strong. After all, Joan was a religious figure who openly fought (and died) as a woman, whereas Étoile is hiding her sex. There are many much more direct parallels throughout history with Étoile. We just don’t know many of their names, because they were never found out (whether through death or victory), or were discovered and quietly shamed for it.

  7. Uh, okay, Etoile is supposed to be a girl? Really? Mh, than this ep isn’t doing its job for me. I thought Etoile was just pulling the same trick Elam did a while back during his little infiltration of pars capital. Sure, the long hair + the old guy that vowed to protect him/her pointed more into the girl direction, but a lot of the guys have long hair and old guy works just as well with a young boy.
    And his voice kept sounding like a boys, especially when he shouted and wasn’t trying to mask his voice.
    And at last, his devotion to his religion. I don’t know what teachings this religion contains, but going by the stuff we have seen so far i’m pretty sure that stuff like that isn’t allowed. So if Etoile is a girl, how can she talk so much about her religion without showing even the tiniest hint of her own conflict with this?

    But ok, for me this is just a poor revelation, because i didn’t even get that it was supposed to be a revelation at all xD.
    I hope future episodes do a better job at convincing me of that fact.

    1. Who says that her religion forbids it? Actually, even in our Middle Ages some women joined Crusades as warriors even if women participating in wars was considered “Not ok”.

    2. The thing about humans in general is that we like to THINK we’re logical, but we’re really not. If you dispassionately analyze all the beliefs you hold—and this holds true for me as well—you’ll likely find that you hold several beliefs that are contradictory. Though that’s easier said than done, because being dispassionate (and/or anything approaching “objective”) about ourselves is HARD.

      And religion makes it even more difficult, because it’s often rife with contradictions even in the text—such as when religions counsel us to treat each other with respect … and then condone slavery, or the repression of women. Then there’s the intersection of culture and religion, which makes it even more difficult, such as religions that urge us to not covet earthly possessions … even as our cultures teach us to very much covet (and work tirelessly toward) earthly possessions.

      My point is, Whitman’s old line is true: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” All of us contain contradictions that we often don’t acknowledge. Is it really so hard to imagine that a devout woman, whose religion or culture likely does forbid her from going to war, would do it anyway? Because it happened a damn lot throughout history.

      1. Religions used to condone slavery precisely because of that intersection of culture and religion that you mentioned. The religions that still survive to this day are younger than slavery itself, so they mostly tried to find some way to harmonize an already existing economic and social phenomenon with their tenets.

        If you read the OT you will find that much about what it says regarding slavery are instructions to humanize the practice.

        Of course that’s all in the past, not only did our religions find ways to condone it, but also to abolish it later on. Christianity in particular banned slavery twice, more or less. It generally prohibited slavery in the Middle Ages. Then the Renaissance happened, and the discovery of the New World, and suddenly slavery was fashionable again. After that, in the 19th century the most ardent proponents of abolition were devout believers.

      2. You’re right, it isn’t that hard to imagine that a woman would do this. For me it’s more of an additional point that adds to my own disbelief that Etoile is a woman and not just a boy that crossdresses to infiltrate an enemy stronghold. But judging by the other comments i’m probably the odd one out, because everyone else did get that she is a woman. I would have prefered a few more small hints here and there but who knows, maybe they exist and i just missed them^^
        And sure, that happened a lot throughout history but most of them fought as woman or not? Or did they hide their gender?

  8. I feel ripped off with Hermes taking the fortress. I got the impression that there still was enough troops left in the fort to make taking the place quite hard. I have to assume Hermes used his inside knowledge or sorcery to sneak in past the key defenses or most of the enemy fled. Would have liked more of an explanation how Hermes got past that death trap of a entrance gate where a few hundred could hold off many thousands for quite awhile.

    1. You know, that’s a good point. I thought it odd that they had several thousand in the fortress last episode (I think), and then only a few hundred this time, but I forgot about it by the time it came to write the post. Hm.

    1. From Étoile’s perspective, the heathens’ problem is being heathens. If there are good people among them, they should convert and become a big, happy family! Of course, it doesn’t work that way.

      Yaldabaothism (or however it’s called) has its good points too. It says that all people are created equal and that slavery is bad. Such simple ideas, but they were completely alien to someone like Arslan. In comparison, we don’t even know what Parsian religion is about.

      1. One of Pars cheif deties is Mithra, since Pars is based on Persia it´s safe to say that deity shares the atributes of the Mithra from Zorotraism (an ancient persian religion) that rules over law, justice and the sun. The two gods must be the same and the lustanian god Yaldabaoth must be the chistian god, it fits considering the name of the templars and the zealot personalities the lustanians share with the Crusaders.

    2. I liked it. It’s showing a little more complexity among at least a few of the Lusitanians, that they’re not ALL zealots. And it fits that it would take three run-ins with Arslan for her to start changing her tune.

      1. Those two look so good together Stilts-san! And there are many advantages on that couple: Arslan will get someone who coul give him advice in a direct way, withoy all the formalities of his position, let´s face it, Étoile is the kind of girl that could him a really honest, almost harsh advice and works for her too, because Arslan can open her eyes to the fact people of different religions can live in harmony the same way she open his eyes to the value of freedom. She seems to be of nobility, because a high ranking officer is watching over her so the social rank wouldn´t be a problem, the only issue is the reaction of the people if Arslan marries a lusitanian girl but seeing the other way around it could be a perfect way to seal a peace treaty with Lusitania after the war, Arslan wouldn´t invade Lusitania out revenge for the war, he´s the kind of king what would try to create good relations btween the nations after the war.


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