This was a pretty important week on Arslan Senki, it seems, as several events of considerable importance took place even if the immediate plot wasn’t advanced all that much. On the latter point, we’re nearly at the end of the first cour and the show is unmistakably still in the setup stage – natural enough given the length of the original source material but slightly unsettling given that it’s announced at 25 episodes. Even at that it’s going to outstrip the manga adaptation it’s more directly based on. Somewhat surprisingly the anime looks as if it might do decently on disc and the manga continues to be a blockbuster – but will the production committee be inclined to produce more when it doesn’t have manga to directly promote?
Well… There’s not much point in worrying about that aspect for now, and taking the story as it stands, the biggest watershed moment of the episode was certainly the indisputable confirmation that magic is a factor in this world. Arslan Senki treats it in a very interesting way – the characters acknowledge its existence in a manner that suggests it’s an accepted (if unsavory) part of life, yet there are no direct references to its source, governing rules, limitations or the extent of its powers. Be that as it may, the arrival of the Earth Mage turns what had been a circumstantial case into an ironclad one – magic exists, and Silver Mask is using it.
Meanwhile, Narsus has arrived in the lands of the Zot tribe – who seem like bandits (as Silver Mask calls them) more or less. Narsus thinks they’re after him, but in fact the Zot (Zots? Zotters?) are after Hermes and his party (who are after Narsus). After a skirmish, every one of the Zot party is dead – except the 16 year-old daughter of their chief, Alfreed (Numakura Manami). Interestingly, Narsus chooses to reveal himself just as Hermes is about to finish her off rather than use the ruckus to flee. Is he genuinely moved to save the girl, or simply too intrigued at the notion of another chance to take on (and study) Hermes to pass it up?
Whatever the reason, it’s enough for Alfreed to feel a debt of gratitude to Narsus – and maybe a lot more. She gets him to reveal his age (he’s 26) and declares that she’ll be joining forces with him, which of course means she’ll eventually be joining forces with the rest of Team Arslan. Alfreed’s role within the party and her impact on the interpersonal dynamic remains to be seen, but it’s clear she’s set her sights on Narsus now that she’s not feeling any reason to remain in her own lands.
As for Daryun, he’s about to enter into a rematch with Xandes, who’s persistent if nothing else. And Arslan and Elam are still in the midst of their budding bromance, talking of the legendary cities to the Southwest and Elam’s desire to one day explore them. But their worlds are about to be rejoined again, as we see Daryun really put to the test by having to take on both Xandes and the Earth Mage. I believe this is the first time that Daryun has heard the reason for Kharlan’s treachery stated flat-out, and it does seem to throw him a bit. But there’s no time for that when the mage appears just as he’s barely holding off Xandes, and it’s only the arrival of Arslan that – for a change – saves Daryun’s life.
Daryun is a simple man, in the main – not especially interested in politics or adept at strategy – but he’s no fool. This is a matter of personal loyalty to him, but when Arslan returns to save his life he begins to see the conflict in a deeper way. Whether what Xandes (after Daryun stays his hand yet again, Falangies seems to finish him off this time) claims about who the rightful king is true or not is irrelevant – even if Arslan isn’t the ruler by birthright, Daryun comes to believe he should be the ruler by merit. This is a bit of a watershed moment for Arslan Senki, and a very interesting potential arc for Arslan. Perhaps he’s a protagonist about whom his enemies claims are true, and he has no legal claim to the Pars throne – yet by his nature, he’s most suited to it. It could be a fascinating musing on the question of legitimacy if Tanaka-sensei decides to go down that road.