There are few anime that come packaged with such a ridiculous pedigree as The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Not only is it based upon the iconic fantasy novel series of the same name which is damn near paperback royalty in Japan, this anime series is based upon the fantastic manga adaptation by acclaimed author of Fullmetal Alchemist and Silver Spoon, Hiromu Arakawa. It is hard to get any more of a pedigree than that. That said it is a mighty reputation to live up to and fortunately for the anime adaptation of The Heroic Legend of Arslan it does just that.
Following titular hero Arslan, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a fantasy epic ala Berserk albeit significantly less gory. Arslan is the crown prince who must become the savior of his people after a skirmish gone wrong leaves the Kingdom of Pars overtaken by the cult-like fanatics of the Lusitanian army. With his father King Androgoras III held captive and his mother in the clutches of the mad leader of Lusitania, Arslan must gather a band of rogues of all walks of life in order to take back Pars and become the hero his people need.
It is about as classic fantasy as it can get but it is Arslan’s persian aesthetic that really makes it feel unique in the landscape of fantasy epics. The gathering of his band of rogues is reminiscent of Lord of the Ring’s famed Fellowship or even Luke Skywalker’s gang of rebels in Star Wars. They tap into the same kind of dynamic here and it really gives that old school ragtag crew adventure vibe that just isn’t commonplace in this modern era.
The series explores some rather complex subject matter underneath its surface fantastic journey plot, with the topic of religious fanaticism, the realities of slavery and the meaning of freedom. While it doesn’t truly provide many musings on the matters in its first stretch of episodes the seeds are planted for future episodes as they will surely come to a head.
Over the course of its first 13 episodes, The Heroic Legend of Arslan lays out an intriguing journey with a highly likable cast of characters, however considering this release only covers the first half of the first season it is hard not to feel teased here. Thankfully there are plenty of episodes ahead for the series. However it must be said that as far as pacing goes it is clear that A-1 Pictures are playing the long game here with The Heroic Legend of Arslan and allowing every scene to breathe and not missing any minor details. That said it can feel like a slog in some stretches.
I must make note that Universal’s release of the first part of The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a mighty fine collection. Not only is a blu-ray and DVD combo (always appreciated), it comes packed with a plethora of bonus content to satiate any desire to get more bang for your buck. On top of that the collection comes in a lovely slip cover which has an open flap with some series art within.
Visually and aurally, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a feast for the senses. Whether it is pulse pounding action sequences beautifully realized with top grade sakuga style animation or the soaring heights of the score which seemingly knows no bounds, there is simply so much on display in this series to sink your teeth into. It is evident that A-1 Pictures have pulled out all the stops in production value on this series.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a modern fantasy epic classic that hearkens back the feeling of oldschool fantasy fiction albeit with a fresh coat of paint. It is easy to become swept up in the journey of Arslan and his band of rogues and become invested in his quest to reclaim his kingdom from the fanatics that have taken it by force. Exploring some tough subjects like religious fanaticism and slavery, the series hints at some future food for thought as the series dives into those topics in greater detail in future seasons. Ultimately The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a quality fantasy anime which may very well have its greatest stories still ahead of it but that doesn’t stop it from being one hell of a epic along the way.