Hiromu Arakawa, best known for her work on Fullmetal Alchemist, has released a new manga series called Arslan Senki. This manga series has since been adapted into an anime series by the same name, but is released as The Heroic Legend of Arslan here in the western market. The story follows the young prince of Pars, Arslan, during a time of strife and war in his kingdom. Considering the story is set over 52 episodes, and that this collection only covers 13 of those, some people might find that this particular section isn’t as meaty as most anime series at this point.
The story begins with our Prince, Arslan, being instructed in the ways of the sword. But first, before that, we can’t not have a big war scene to try and make things exciting. Anyway, our Prince is soon caught up in a local dispute between a slaver and some slaves, with one of the capturing the Prince and using him as a means to escape the city of Pars. However, the story of the Prince would soon a backseat for the next few episodes as it is time for war and politics.
And more war and politics. And a little more of that. For a series about someone named Arslan, it isn’t really until towards the end of this set of episodes that there is any real amount of Heroic, or Legend, or, of Arslan. However, by the time it does reach that point, it becomes a pretty engaging and entertaining series. It’s just unfortunate that an entire disc and a couple of episodes feel like they serve little to no purpose, or couldn’t have had their content told differently. Particularly, in less episodes.
As a rule, most anime series’ take three episodes to really engage the audience, but this one takes at least double that on minimum. For most people, they would lose interest. But, if you stick with it, it gets interesting just as it is time to buy the next disc. Unfortunately, I dunno if it remains interesting past this set, because the next set is unreleased. But it seems like it will be.
The visual style of The Heroic Legend of Arslan is one that tries to be accurate to the source, but somehow isn’t quite there. At least, it’s not as accurate as either of the Fullmetal Alchemist series’ were to the authors art styling. The looks isn’t bad or anything, it just doesn’t quite match up.
Arslan Senki has quite a few battles in this portion of the series, many of which seem almost inconsequential to the plot. They also employ some really shoddy CGI in a lot of places that detracts significantly from the overall quality of the animation. Even more it is extremely distracting, almost to the point of annoyance. I’ve been saying this since 2005, CGI in anime can’t be half done, or else it is terrible. The only good example of CGI that I can think of is in the anime series Majestic Prince.
One of the best parts of this show visually is the background world and landscapes. Each of the areas in this series are really well done and quite distinguishable from each other. Whether it’s a desert for a battle, or some kind of castle-esque land, each all look different from each other, even places of a similar type.
To add onto that, each of the battles involving a main character are incredibly well done too! It gets pretty tense when a side character enters into battle against some other side character, simply because they’re not Arslan and so they could be killed off. Of course, they’re written to be incredibly overpowered so that you know they wont. So it kinda devolves into an OP guy killing some other almost OP guy. I wish the initial tension paid off. But still, main fights are well done.
The Audio in Arslan Senki is well mixed in both the English option and the Japanese option. There isn’t some of the grindyness that is sometimes found in ADV and Funimation releases, while there also isn’t too many places where dialogue is too soft.
But while it’s all good on the mixing front, it’s hard to say that the quality of the English dub is any good. I’m not sure if this is because Universal is new to anime dubbing, or if this is just a problem that is going to continue to plague English releases, but the dub is just plain bad. The narrator sounds like he is literally falling asleep at the wheel, most of the voice cast treat the show like it’s a joke, and even more issues pop up with the quality of the acting. Normally I would watch half a series in each language, or try the first few episodes alternating to determine which dub is best, but going from the Japanese to the English changed the tone of the series from a drama with comedy elements into a straight-up comedy. And this was even in episodes where comedy wasn’t part of the storytelling. Watch it in Japanese!
I normally don’t talk about the packaging that comes with an Anime series, but I have to give props to Universal releases. All of their releases come in these cool slim-packs that are sleves with these cool book-like opening flaps. I don’t see the bigger publishers going all out on features like this, so this is a definite value-add and a bit of a hearken back to when people cared about the anime industry. This will probably be the only review I mention this in.
Overall, The Heroic Legend of Arslan season 1 part 1 is a slow start to a series that seems to be building up into something interesting. The overuse of CGI in many battles makes the show a pain to watch sometimes. The English dub is also laughably bad. But still, this is a definite recommended watch.
Rating: The Heroic Legend of White Haired Shota /10
The Heroic Legend of Arslan comes to us courtesy of Universal and Sony Entertainment. This review is based on the combined BD/DVD release slim-pack. You can purchase the series from JB Hi-Fi for ~$52. Image pilfered from Random Curiosity (we haven’t stolen from you in a while, apologies!)