“The Highway of Blood and Sweat”
The Heroic Legend of Arslan ends with the romcom mid-campaign epilogue of Arslan. Final impressions included.
Not Bad, But … Off
I enjoyed this episode on the whole. I feel like the production team was in a hard place, having to stop the story on a footnote. That’s why the Battle for Saint Emmanuel was made larger than it was in the source, and I think they did a reasonably good job, considering they were basically tasked with ramming a square peg in a star-shaped hole. But if that was the climax, here we had an epilogue of sorts, and it was … odd.
The mid-campaign reminiscing at the end between Arslan, Daryun, and Narsus was odd. And there’s the fact that, on the whole, not a lot happened here. Rather than a heroic legend, this became the romcom of Arslan, and Étoile was the main character.
Which once again, wasn’t bad. I enjoyed blushing Étoile (that over the shoulder braid, maaaaan), even if they were once again trying really hard to pound the squiggly peg that is this tomboy knight into an X-shaped feminine healer/mother hole. (Just like I’m repeatedly pummeling this metaphor.) And there where times where characters’ actions seemed to fit the plot rather than fit them. Ex: Étoile crying when Arslan suggested that the Lusitanian leaders were manipulating her faith, rather than hardening as zealots invariably do. Had she considered that before? Perhaps, but without hint of that, it felt abrupt.
Also, when Arslan left the door open, and she stayed. Which was probably wise on her part, but I’m not sure it fit. It’s like they put Étoile’s character development on an express train, and I could scarcely believe how fast we were going.
Hermes’ Offer, Guiscard’s Gambit
Undoubtedly the most plot-important moment in the episode was Hermes offer to Guiscard: He gets the throne of Pars, while Guiscard gets the throne of Lusitania. Which—once again, there’s some oddity here. Doesn’t it feel like Guiscard could easily take the throne himself? Sure, having a Parsian king on hand to cut off his brother’s head for him is convenient, but it doesn’t feel hard to accomplish when Innocentius seems so much like a figurehead. Once again, maybe that’s not the case. But how are we to know? It hasn’t been shown. All we’ve seen is Innocentius flirting with Tahamenay, and Guiscard doing all the competent shit. Odd.
Getting A Little Better All The Time
While it got tiresome when every major character felt compelled to comment upon Étoile (which would have made sense if they insinuated that they suspected Arslan fancied the Lusitanian knight, but since no one really did, it became odd), I enjoyed Farangis’ explanation of why they follow Arslan. Some viewers haven’t liked Arslan since the series began, and I’ll admit, his retinue can get a bit repetitive in their constant praise of the little prince. Though when they remember the terror of Andragoras, it becomes easier to understand.
The reason I’ve always liked Arslan is not, at its root, because he’s a good king right now. He’s better than the alternatives, certainly, but it’s not that he’ll be this stellar-in-all-things king from day one. It’s that he’s improving, and he seeks to continually improve. As Farangis said, it’s a human desire to reach for perfection, even if it’s impossible to obtain. But if you stop reaching for perfection, you’ll stagnate—and in her estimation, turn toward evil. I prefer something Neil deGrasse Tyson might say: That if we stop seeking to improve, we may as well just slide back into the case, because that’s where we’re headed. In that paraphrase he was talking about science and innovation, but it’s true of many things. Once you stop striving to improve, you’re already falling behind.
Which sounds horrifying and tiring, but imagine if you only improve 1% a week. In a year, you’ll be an entirely different person. (A 68% better person, if you want to be exact–compounding interest is a wonderful bitch.) Which is what Arslan does. He thinks things through. He improves. He studies other people’s holy books for a way to peace. He doesn’t act like a king, which is to his credit. If he were in GATCHAMAN Crowds Insight, he would have had a gray bubble over his head, by the end of the series if not at the beginning. He’s grown a lot in 25 episodes.
For however odd this episode was in a lot of ways, they did one thing undeniably right. The very last moments, when Gieve’s narration kicked in, and it was revealed that what he was searching for was Arslan’s “so-called proof of his right to the throne”, that was definitely a chills moment. That was a good moment to end on.
Final impressions below.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The Heroic Legend of Arslan ends with the romcom of Arslan. Which isn’t bad, just … odd #arslan 25
- Narsus x Alfreed shipping, though, I can get behind entirely. She’s alive, yay! ;_;
- Looks like Farangis found a drinking buddy! …everybody run. I’ll hold them off with my liver. *dives in*
- “Once I become an adult, the horns may grow in.” Arslan, you sassy bitch! Are you secretly a ladies man? Ufufu~
ED3: 「渦と渦」 (Uzu to Uzu) by NICO Touches the Walls
A lot has happened in twenty-five episodes, and much of it has been good. I got into this wanting a good old-fashioned swords & horses fantasy epic, as opposed to the more typical swords & sorcery tales that I so love to watch, read, and even write. Which is largely what we got. Oh, there was some magical elements, though they were generally minor … and when they showed up, generally were to the detriment of the show. Some, like the man-beast in the Sindhuran arc, worked fine, though the rest of the time I wanted them to stick with swords & horses. Because when they did that, we got a good tale.
Not that everything was great. The animation got slipshod from time to time; this clearly wasn’t afforded the largest of budgets. Many scenes were often so blasted dark that I could hardly see what was going on, some of which is the fault of the streams, though much of it was baked into the animation. The aforementioned qualms with magic. Characters were a bit too gung-ho to praise Arslan and Narsus, when Narsus was on the field most opponents were nearly trivialized, and we didn’t always get the full breadth of character development because there just wasn’t enough time to do it all.
Yet even so, a swords & horses epic was largely what we got. The first cour was probably the most coherent, as focused as it was on collecting Arslan’s team and escaping to Peshawar. I enjoyed the Sindhuran arc a lot too, since it was a lot of nation-level strategy and battles, and you better believe the lunatic who blogged Kyoukaisen loves that kind of stuff. Probably weakest was the final return-to-Pars arc, but like I said further above, they were stuck between a rock and another rock—how do you satisfactorily end a story on what amounts, in the source, to a footnote? I think they did a decent enough job, though I know source material readers, as is so often the case, disagree. Such is the price for that knowledge.
I find myself with little to say that hasn’t already been said before, mostly by me. It was a pretty good show. I wouldn’t say it matched my expectations, but that was mostly due to budget issues from the look of things, and from having shit all for places to stop. But I enjoyed it in the end, and I don’t regret having blogged it. And since I spent something like six times as long watching, thinking about, and writing about this series than each of you likely did, that’s a pretty decent vote of confidence, I think.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: My morning routine, True Ends, Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals, and What are your two skills?