The news dropped this week that this adaptation of Arslan Senki is going to be 25 episodes. That’s a classic “good news, bad news” scenario in that I certainly hoped it would be longer, but with only 22 chapters of Arakawa-sensei’s manga out there, it could just as easily have been one cour. All volumes of the manga are back in the charts this week, always a good sign for a series that’s more about boosting manga sales (and even TV ratings, given the early-evening timeslot) than selling discs.
While theoretically the anime has 14 volumes of Tanaka-sensei’s novel to draw on, that’s problematical in that the purpose of the anime is mainly to sell manga, not the novels. At 25 episodes it seems likely it will jump ahead of where Arakawa has already adapted (she’s already done character designs that seem to verify that) but I think we’re probably going to have to wait for her to get much further with her adaptation before we see another season. And one can surely sense in these early episodes just how vast this story is – just how many important characters there are going to be, how many locations, how much time will pass.
The meeting between Daryun and Kharlan is certainly an interesting one, especially when the traitor talks about the “circumstances” behind his betrayal as if they would likely win Daryun over to his side. Daryun isn’t in the mood to listen and I sure as hell can’t blame him, but I would have liked to have heard what Kharlan had to say. In any event it’s clear there’s much more to this treachery than meets the eye (there almost has to be in a story like this one), and we’ve certainly seen ample evidence that Andragoras might be of something less than noble character.
The depth and breadth of this double-cross only becomes clear as we see the endgame of the battle unfold. Even when Vahriz convinces Andragoras to accept the shame of retreat (it’s the notion of the sacking of the capital – and what that means for the Queen – that does it) Kharlan’s moles disrupt the retreat, announcing that Andragoras has fled rather than relaying the order. The reactions of the surviving Marzpān are interesting – despair is universal, but there’s a surprising willingness to believe their King capable of such cowardice. Kubard (Miyake Kenta) is prepared to renounce the King and flee with his men, but Shupar (Konishi Katsuyuki) – whether he believes it in his heart or not – tries to rally his men by telling them that what has actually happened is that Andragoras has ordered a retreat with plans to fight another day (which happens to be the truth).
The treachery doesn’t end there, not even close – clearly this is a plot with deep roots and much pre-planning. The retreating Andragoras and his retinue are ambushed on the way back to the capital, by a group led by a “guest” general called the Silver Mask (Kaji Yuuki, for some reason) It’s here that we see what might be interpreted as “magic” for the first time in the series – clearly this guy is operating at a level beyond normal human tolerances – and he takes out poor old Vahriz after the latter has fought his way through Silver’s entire squad to reach him. With no one left to protect Andragoras, Silver tells the King he’s been waiting 16 years for this moment, to repay Andragoras for the atrocities he’s committed – and at least by appearances, cuts him down.
Meanwhile Arslan is unaware of all this, but alive – Daryun having driven off Kharlan and his men. Daryun tells at least one lie to spare the Prince’s feelings – that his father had been concerned about his well-being – and it’s very likely he doesn’t believe it when he tells Arslan that his father and Vahriz are likely safe and on their way home to plot revenge. Daryun is clearly a badass of the highest order, but fighting his way through the entire Lusitanian army with a dazed 14 year-old in his charge seems like a very bad idea, so he announces that the pair of them will instead enlist the aid of his friend Narsus (whose name was dropped last week in the conversation between Daryun and Andragoras). On their way to Narsus’ mountain hideout the pair are accosted by a young archer named Elam (Hanae Natsuki) whom Narsus had bought out of slavery along with his parents – but Daryun is known to him, and as soon as his identity is revealed, Elam ceases all hostilities.
What a joy it is to hear the dulcet tones of Namikawa Daisuke as Narsus (it’s a cavalcade of great cast additions this week – mostly), but it’s his appearance that’s really striking. I’m not making any assumptions, but it’s hard not to notice that Narsus has long, flowing silver hair and an artistic temperament – and that Andragoras clearly held him in considerable contempt above and beyond having banished him in the first place. We’ll see where that angle goes, but Narsus is clearly going to be an important player in the story going forward and I look forward to seeing him interact with Daryun (for sheer entertainment value) and Arslan (for clues) next week.