First Impressions – Arslan Senki

Arslan Senki - 01 -11 Arslan Senki - 01 -20 Arslan Senki - 01 -37

This is the first premiere that really needs to be good if Spring 2015 is going to have a chance.  So is it?

Yep.

The hate I’ve seen directed towards this adaptation of “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” is almost as epic in proportion as Tanaka Yoshiki’s novel series.  That’s pretty common with anime adaptations of really well-liked source material, but this is unusual in that the haters didn’t even need to wait for the anime to premiere to trash it – they got a head start because this anime is based most directly on mangaka Arakawa Hiromu’s manga adaptation (which they already hate, conveniently, though Tanaka likes it just fine).  It’s even extended into a sort of revisionist history that Arakawa is a talentless hack – never mind that she wrote arguably one of the best shounen series ever in Fullmetal Alchemist, and the marvelous and genre-busting Gin no Saji.

Well, I’ve no doubt that nothing this anime was going to do was ever going to convince those people, so I’m steeled to the weekly routine of being told why those of us who enjoy it didn’t actually enjoy it.  One early meme I’m hearing parroted is that the premiere looks old and dated – which tells me they’re already having to dig pretty deep.  The visuals from LIDENFILMS and CGI house SANZIGEN aren’t reinventing any wheels, but the CGI is perfectly fine by CGI standards and not overly relied upon.  LIDENFILMS have clearly gone for a retro look that matches the material (and Arakawa’s art style, which – suck on it – is the basis for this series) but there’s a difference between old-school and dated.  Arslan Senki looks just fine unless you’re looking through shit-colored glasses.

As for the rest of the production, director Noriyuki Abe is an old hand and he’s clearly at-home here.  His work on Kuroshitsuji (only the latest on a long resume) is ample proof that he has a sense of style, and he puts it to very good use here with interesting perspective shots and a nice mix of intimacy and scope.  And the soundtrack by Iwashiro Taro is perfectly suited to the material.  Putting it all together you get a result that creates just the right atmosphere for Tanaka’s epic yet personal saga.

Anyone familiar with Tanaka’s work – most famously this series and Ginga eiyuu densetsu – knows that Arslan Senki is going to be a very big story indeed.  Tanaka is a master at creating sweeping storylines while maintaining a focus on human relationships, but the anime opens with a relatively small story to introduce us to Prince Arslan (Kobayashi Yuusuke, excellent as Soo-Won and excellent here) just as Arakawa did.  We meet Arslan as an 11 year-old, the price of the Pars (or Palse, depending on the translation) Kingdom.  His father is King Andragoras (Sugou Takayuki) and his mother Queen Tahamine (Tanaka Atsuko) – both stern, steely and tough, and neither seeming to have much use for the other.  Arslan himself is clearly not the apple of his parents’ eye (though the local livestock love him) – his nature is kind and gentle, and Pars is a kingdom used to a state of perpetual war.

There are elements of the youth of Buddha in Arslan’s story here – a kind but sheltered child whose life changes when he sees that there are perspectives different from the one he’s been taught since birth.  The central event of the premiere is return of his father’s triumphant army, with a passel of slave prisoners from the rival kingdom of Lusitania in-tow.  One of those prisoners is a young boy of Arslan’s age, and when three careless local imps allow him to escape his cage while Arslan is visiting the slaves hoping to speak with them, the boy ends up taking Arslan hostage and taking him on a helter-skelter chase through the alleys of the capital Ecbatana – one which finds the boys engaging in a little political discourse while Arslan is being dragged about by the hair.

What transpires between the two boys isn’t subtle, but it’s being used to set up what will come later.  Arslan can’t understand why the boy won’t happily accept being a slave and enjoy all the benefits of slave life in Pars – his abductor doesn’t understand why everyone won’t simply accept the Lusitanian God so they won’t have to go to the trouble of being killed as heathens.  There are several faces introduced along the way, including Daryun (Hosoya Yoshimasa), the master of cavalry and a friend to the young Arslan whose arrow would likely have found the fleeing Lusitanian boy’s neck if it hadn’t been for Arslan’s intervention (which makes it twice in this episode when Arslan saves his life).

This is just the merest hint of whats to come in Arslan Senki – it’s an old-school epic in the true sense (with roots in medieval Middle Eastern history), a tale of events both great and small with a huge cast and many settings.  One of the great unknowns in this adaptation is how far the anime will take the story – it’s already been adapted in anime form with two films and an OVA with no ending, and in an earlier manga which did receive an original ending – all of this about 20 years ago.  Arakawa’s manga is nowhere near caught up with Tanaka’s novels, which itself is still ongoing after all this time.  It’s complicated to say the least, but however far the anime follows the story it should be one of the best series of the season if the premiere is anything to go by – which is not remotely surprising.  You’re likely going to hear a lot about this series whether you want to or not, but the best course of action is to watch it for yourself and make up your own mind.  And if you’re a fan of the source material, hopefully it’s an open one.

OP: “Boku no Kotoba de wa Nai Kore wa Boku-tachi no Kotoba” (僕の言葉ではない これは僕達の言葉;These Aren’t My Words. These Are Our Words) by UVERworld

Arslan Senki - 01 -47 Arslan Senki - 01 -48 Arslan Senki - 01 -49
Arslan Senki - 01 -50 Arslan Senki - 01 -51 Arslan Senki - 01 -52
Arslan Senki - 01 -8 Arslan Senki - 01 -9 Arslan Senki - 01 -10
Arslan Senki - 01 -12 Arslan Senki - 01 -13 Arslan Senki - 01 -14
Arslan Senki - 01 -15 Arslan Senki - 01 -16 Arslan Senki - 01 -17
Arslan Senki - 01 -18 Arslan Senki - 01 -19 Arslan Senki - 01 -21
Arslan Senki - 01 -22 Arslan Senki - 01 -23 Arslan Senki - 01 -24
Arslan Senki - 01 -25 Arslan Senki - 01 -26 Arslan Senki - 01 -27
Arslan Senki - 01 -28 Arslan Senki - 01 -29 Arslan Senki - 01 -30
Arslan Senki - 01 -31 Arslan Senki - 01 -32 Arslan Senki - 01 -33
Arslan Senki - 01 -34 Arslan Senki - 01 -35 Arslan Senki - 01 -36
Arslan Senki - 01 -38 Arslan Senki - 01 -39 Arslan Senki - 01 -40
Arslan Senki - 01 -41 Arslan Senki - 01 -42 Arslan Senki - 01 -43
Arslan Senki - 01 -44 Arslan Senki - 01 -45 Arslan Senki - 01 -46
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

28 comments

  1. T

    I find it funny that in Akatsuki no Yona Kobayashi Yuusuke played a character that forcefully took away the throne while in this series he is playing a prince who will probably be on the run for his life.

    All in all I look forward to this series and who knows maybe the anime will get into the novels, but I guess thats wishful thinking on my part.

  2. K

    I really enjoyed the first episode and since I have always liked Arakawa's character designs and think they fit perfectky for an epic fantasy series

    I can't say what I will think of the story of course since it isn't actually her story (if it was I would be even more excited because I guess I am one of those weird people who think Arakawa is one of the best story tellers out there)

    That being said I think the first ep was off to a very good start as I am already intrigued by the world & characters and really what more can you ask for?

    The CGI was the only sour point for me but I've definitely seen worse.

  3. K

    Also I noticed people saying the slavery stuff was morally heavy handed but I didn't think so (I mean who doesn't think slavery is bad?). I thought it was there to establish the naivety of the MC and done well.

  4. Heavy-handed? Do they think that kind of attitude wasn't normal among the nobles in slave-holding societies? I thought the point was to show how both Arslan and the Lusitanian boy were prisoners of their own limited perspectives, and it was perfectly well executed.

  5. Z

    Just because something is a heavy topic doesn't mean you have to present in an equally heavy handed manner. As (e567816e-dbba-11e4-b982-ef51d21ba969) said below the themes were handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. May be it won't be like this for the rest of the series run but it certainly was here. Don't deny.

  6. K

    I am not sure what you mean by "don't deny" because I still didn't see anything heavy handed about this episode.

    It's only the first episode so I don't know what it's themes are. It was just an intro to the world and characters. And since 3 years have passed I expect the MC to change since he was introduced as a 11 year old boy.

  7. Z

    The entire episode was pretty much about slavery and what a bad thing it is. A modern audience doesn't need to be repeatedly bashed over the head by how terribly barbaric slavery is – we get it. Granted Slavery is definitely a theme in Arslan Senki, along with religious conflict, Kingship etc, but it deserves to be handled more delicately and introduced more gradually than it was here. This isn't Magi.

    In any case I agree it's better to ignore this prelude and re-evaluate once we've seen next weeks episode when things start properly. I genuinely do hope things get better from here.

  8. E

    Nah, not much was shown about the slavery issue besides that one convo between the two kids. It mostly established stuff and showed different people living in a different land. Heavy handed to me would have been something like Slaines whipping in aldnoah lol

  9. Z

    Slaine's whipping was more akin to torture porn.

  10. m

    I definitely don't think there was any indication of the series trying to advocate an ideology of any sort, whether it is communist or whatnot. It was not shown that Arslan bought into it, other than being intrigued.
    I really love this premiere and looking forward to more. I didn't know about the hate though, and I don't see any real problems as an anime-only viewer. Let that not affect our enjoyment of this series then.

  11. k

    One would think you never ever complain when you feel that an adaptation doesn't do justice to the source material that you love…

    Also , holy exaggeration, Batman. I never called Arakawa a hack, I only ever said that she's not right for adapting this particular novel series. Disagree of you want, but I suspect you have nothing to compare the manga (or the anime) to, and I do. (And btw, I'm not a purist. If I was, I'd hate the old anime, to…)

  12. H

    If you don't mind, why is she not right for adapting this particular novel? Does she simplify the story too much or make it cheesy?

  13. To be honest, since every other place this series is being discussed has already flushed down that sinkhole, I'm keeping this one on a very short leash. If it goes too far O/T or gets repetitive I'm cutting it off.

  14. k

    >Hangman

    Sorry, I never expected a reply so I logged off for the week…

    Basically, IMO, and I realize I'm being subjective here but quite many people agree with me – her art style and writing style are just wrong. They don't mesh with the writing style and the mood & feel of the novel. Again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Arakawa herself, or her manga, but there's a dissonance between the tone and style of the novel and the manga Arakawa is writing. I don't know what I should call it, but basically, she's writing an Arakawa manga, while Arslan is… remember Guin Saga a few years ago? That's kind of similar to the tone Arslan is supposed to have. The way the two writers "do" characters are different, their sense of humor is completely different, their approach to storytelling is different, and so on. Add to this the cartoony character designs, and there's a strong dissonance. It's not that Arakawa simplifies the story as such, it's the presentation that makes the whole thing come across as a lot more cheesy and at points even juvenile, even as technically she follows the novel a lot more closely than other adaptations so far.

    I mean, there's the first chapter that this first episode was based on, that made me really wonder if Arakawa really "gets" the characters. I agree with the person right below – the tone and the characterization are just absolutely wrong. The entire point here is that Arslan doesn't *need* someone to comically (with a completely wrong sense of humor) drag him around and shout at him and basically beat into his (and the audience's) head that "slavery is wrong!!!" That he's not a stereotypical well-meaning but ignorant royal who needs someone to open his eyes in such a heavy-handed manner. Arslan starts out as naive and inexperienced, yes, but not in this particular way – otherwise his followers, particularly Narsas, would have never ever joined his cause. And Arslan himself aside, there are other, spoilery reasons that make me wonder just what Arakawa is trying to achieve re: a certain other character. (And this is why I skipped the first episode and will start watching the anime with episode 2.)

    And there's a reason why I'm so hung up over how Farangis looks like. Sure, Arakawa took her cues from later novel art, god only knows why, but after she has adapted Farangis to her own art style she not only lost her grace and unapproachable beauty, she's been transformed into a "stock sexy" type character, even as she's most definitely *not* supposed to be one.

  15. e

    The first manga series didn't have an original ending, it ended where part one of the series ends. If they deleted the hook for part two, it's a perfectly fine ending for this series as well, though there would be a few loose plot threads that might annoy some that are slightly more pedantic about those sorts of things.

    I'd say I like Arakawa's adaption of the material–she hews to the novels more closely than most of the others we've seen in the past, barring a few expansions of scenes and characters–but this chapter was a huge mistake in the original, and is a lesser mistake in this one only because of monumental effort on behalf of the staff and cast. The tone is all wrong. It gives a mistaken impression of Arslan's character, implying he's a pampered creature of comfort that needed his eyes forcefully opened by a moppet screaming the series's themes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. My goodness, setting the series up as the story of a pampered (but kind-hearted!) royal that will Lose It All and then struggle to regain it? This story is not Yona, and I don't like framing it as though it was, even though Yona is also a perfectly good series. Thinking that Arakawa is a good mangaka doesn't mean she's unable to make missteps, and I count this as one of them.

  16. Z

    Honest and fair review.

  17. Boy, that wasn't how I took the premiere at all.

    The sense I got from Arslan wasn't that he was a spoiled brat, but that he was smart and genuinely curious about the world. And savvy enough to realize that the picture he was having painted for him wasn't a complete picture. No one pushed him to seek out the Lusitanian prisoners – he did it on his own, because he wanted to hear a perspective that was different than the limited one that was all he'd been allowed to experience.

  18. e

    I don't think Arslan was a "spoiled brat" in this chapter or in the anime adaption. I do think he is shown with too many "royal stereotypes" that don't suit the type of character he actually is, though. Complaining about practicing his swordsmanship, refusing to listen to his caretaker because he's just "so curious" about what these strange slaves could have to say, watching people in miserable conditions then putting forth that joining them is a viable option for the person standing next to him–all of those things paint a picture closer to a Yona-like character. Someone who may be well-meaning, but is ultimately pampered and ignorant of the world around them. There is nothing wrong with characters like that, and I certainly have no problem enjoying them and watching them blossom into better people. I just don't believe Arslan is that type of character and have problems believing he was EVER that type of character.

  19. F

    I seem to recall the setting being ancient Persia but don't quote me on that.

  20. So it's generally believed.

  21. H

    What struck me most was the pretty shots throughout the episode. the lighting change was a bit abrupt, but the scenes during the sunset were so well done. And while it can be distracting, I've seen worse CG in anime too. They make use of the advanced CG camera movements at least, though I'm perfectly okay with dramatic stills if used appropriately.

    While sometimes I find Arakawa's character style a bit Moai-like, I was taken aback by the diversity. Some of the adult characters, specifically the mother, look out of this world! She's very pretty, mind you. Looks like another babe will be joining the show soon though.

    I wasn't quite so taken with the set up this episode, but I hear it really kicks into gear next week. Cool characters and fantastic setting, looking forward to it.

  22. y

    I've just whatched the first episode and well, all this stuff is really new to me since I never read/whatched FMA or anything related to Arslan Legend (LN or manga).
    More, I've choosen to try this serie just because it feels new to me ( in respect to the other ones in this season), but of course I'm not totally new to historical or semi historical stuff.
    This first episode seemed to me quite standard, young, naive too kind prince that's forced to face the reality, a war, affectionate guardian and so on.
    But it's just ok, in the end, this is the first episode and I enjoyed it. NowI'm looking for the new ones. About the chara, it's not my favourite one but also not so bad. Arslan is a eleven old boy it's quite natural that he look childish. I guess

  23. E

    Its interesting to compare this show's treatment with akatsuki no yona. A much more modern op, ed and soundtrack over here. Makes me appreciate Pierrot's direction a bit, although its really too early to tell…

  24. w

    Oh it is so relieving to see that it turned out good, isn't it?

    I'll say I don't see the whole slavery thing as being heavy handed either, but a fair (if unsubtle, as you've pointed out) articulation of two people whose upbringing have left them diametrically opposed. I can see the danger of it dipping into heavy-handedness later on, which is something I think FMA did, but I trust in both the source and Abe's direction to bring out the best here. Not that it'd impede my enjoyment by much, anyway. And I am totally on board with Arakawa's designs! What really surprised me was the excellent-looking lighting and skylines, though.

    This kind of series looks totally like your blogging jam, so I'll be greatly looking forward to your posts from here on out!

    Also, pretty sure that's Eir Aoi's ED, and not the OP, but don't quote me on that

  25. R

    And thus I am every grateful I walked into this series with no background knowledge because holy hell you can't walk three feet without running into another flame war regarding it on any of the sites. Like jeez, I just want to actually watch the series before I judge it I really don't care if you've decided weeks in advance before it aired it's a disaster @______@

    I'm just going to probably avoid all other sites except LiA for this, since this is about the only place where at least it's not just a shit throwing competition. As for the story itself, I don't know what Arslan is about so from a standalone, this episode was fine. Not amazing, not horrible. And hopefully I have the freedom to continue judging the rest of the episodes without the internet exploding in my face.

  26. I will attempt to keep things from descending to that level here. It would be nice to have one place where the anime is judged on its own merits.

  27. m

    Maybe I'm biased bc Fullmetal Alchemist was the show that got me into anime, but anything based off of Arakawa's work is basically guaranteed to be something I'll like. I love silver spoon, and even though I have know knowledge whatsoever of the novel series the manga is based on, I don't care what anyone says I'm going to enjoy this show. People trashing Arakawa is just another example of why I refuse to go on forums and don't read any other blog. People don't like shows that don't fit what they expect? Tough shit, it happens everywhere. Go waste your life complaining about the things you don't like that's always produced positive results…

  28. Z

    Good for you!

Leave a Comment