There’s a cruel sort of paradox to being an anime fan these days, especially when it comes to fantasy and the historical epic. Most series explain things way too quickly and rush through the events that matter, but I think that’s conditioned the audience – myself included – to sometimes feel as if a series like Arslan Senki is noticeably patient in its development. We usually end up with shows like Akatsuki no Yona (and even Kingdom) which stop in the middle of the story, which is certainly going to be the fate of Arslan if it stops at the announced 25 episodes.
My feelings towards Arslan Senki are extremely positive, but I’m already starting to worry about how much of Tanaka-sensei’s story we’re going to see on screen. The great thing, of course, is that even though all six episodes have basically been exposition and prologue, they’ve been action-packed and exciting. The union of Tanaka and Arakawa Hiromu is a good one, delivering a balance of styles that the anime has done a good job of bringing to the screen. I can see where a purist would feel otherwise, but I really believe Arakawa’s rather cinematic take on the source material is the best conduit through which to bring it to anime.
That Ectabana was going to fall was pretty much a given – it’s really only been a question of just how it was going to play out. Frustratingly for Arslan (and for the audience, just a bit) he, Narsus, Daryun and Elam are still holed up waiting out Kharlan’s search. While Daryun chafes at standing by as the capital teeters on the brink of capture, Narsus as usual counsels caution – four people can’t hold a city against hundreds of thousands of invaders. Narsus’ plan is to focus on a target that’s more manageable – Kharlan himself, who Narsus predicts will break away from the main Lusitanian force at some point and move to eliminate Arslan. And if that reading of his intentions is right, defeating Kharlan is a priority if Arslan is to have much of a future.
Inside the walls, the Lusitanians’ constant serenading of the slaves is having an impact. The defense of the city seems to have fallen largely to two surviving Marzpān – Saam (Yanaka Hiroshi) and Garshasph (Nomura Kenji). The former is a measured, judicious commander who realizes that the problem of the slaves cannot be solved with brutality and intimidation, and believes the army should wait out the siege until reinforcements arrive. The latter is a brute and opposite in almost every way, and every “rebel” he strikes down bring the city closer to open rebellion. Saam attempts to convince the queen to try and placate the slaves with a trifle of reward before it’s too late, but she seems no less resolved to the slavers’ way of life than her husband, and the best she’ll do is think about it.
It’s clear that this invasion has long and deep roots in Lusitania. Silver Mask (Kaji’s big boy voice is all over this episode) is taking no chances, infiltrating the city through the aqueducts below it. Those are the same aqueducts with the Vizier has sent Gieve with a body double for the Queen, a decoy to capture the enemy’s attention while the real queen is secreted somewhere safe. Gieve takes this gig knowing it’s a trap, and as always makes the best of it when things go wrong – but he doesn’t seem motivated by anything resembling altruism here. If he gives a damn about Ectabana I see no evidence of it – Ectabana under its current leadership, anyway. Perhaps if Pars came under the control of rulers he respected, Gieve’s views might change.
It’s hard to feel much sorrow as Ectabana burns – as bad as Lusitania is in its own right, these royals had it coming. The queen is no more concerned with Arslan’s welfare than her husband was (maybe less) and the extent to which Pars’ power was built on the backs of slave labor is becoming clear. This is a kingdom that needs to be cleansed by fire and rise from the ashes, and whatever attachment Arslan may feel to either of his parents (it’s not absolutely clear just how much that is) is clearly misplaced. As new players come into the picture and puzzle pieces are slotted into place one by one, the stakes for Arslan are becoming clear – as are the reasons why the boy is so important to so many (Narsus most obviously) with big dreams of changing the world.