Arslan Senki – 17

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Well, that trial by combat sure brought on flashbacks, but happily the ending was slightly different.

I had a suspicion (espoused in last week’s post) that this turn in the plot might just prove to be a good thing for The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and boy was I ever right.  I don’t know if I’m ready to call this the best episode of the series so far, but I’m unable to think of any better – even the animation was about the best we’ve seen.  Things were getting entirely too routine and predictable, and a shake-up like this was just what the doctor ordered.

I’m not going to lay all the blame for that rut on Narsus – he’s a good character and I like him – but the fact is, where Narsus is at center stage there isn’t a whole lot of tension.  But here with the Duel Before the Gods, Narsus is resolutely not in control for once, and Arslan Senki is much the better for it.  As powerful as Daryun is – and as much plot armor as he likely has at this stage of the narrative – there was an air of uncertainty about what was likely to happen for a change.

This had to be a tough thing for Arslan, because fighting a duel for a foreign prince isn’t like taking the battlefield to protect your own country.  To order Daryun to fight (which is of course the only way Daryun would do so) means to order him to risk his life fighting for something he swore no oath of loyalty to.  Add to that the fact that it would seem to cast Rajendra’s cause in an ill light with his own people (the evidence supports this) to have a foreigner fight the duel for him and you can only see this as a problematic turn of events – though if I were in Rajendra’s shoes I doubt I’d have acted differently.

Of course, when it becomes apparent what Gadevi has chosen to do, I’m not sure the people of Sindhura would look upon him much more favorably.  His champion Bahadour is a monster who literally has to be unchained to fight – a gargantuan beast alternately described as a criminal, a shark who feels no pain, and an animal in human guise.  I referenced “The Mountain and the Viper” mostly in jest last week, but it was hard not to be put in mind of it more than a little here.

This duel was probably the best action sequence we’ve seen in Arslan Senki, both in terms of choreography and animation.  And it was genuinely tense, for while Daryun has proved himself almost as formidable in battle as Narsus is in tactics, we have seem him pushed (by Hilmes) and Bahadour is truly a monster.  Happily, Daryun is clever as well as physically formidable, and though  one-by-one his weapons and armor are systematically decimated by Bahadour’s brute strength, he has one last trick literally up his sleeve – a short sword he unleashes after pretending to be disarmed.  Combined with a little fire (if Bahadour has a younger brother it would have worked even better on him) Daryun uses that sword to put an end to the duel, and theoretically to the battle for succession of the Sindhuran throne.

Arslan’s dismay when he believes Daryun is in dire straits is striking for many reasons.  It reminds us just how much a vulnerable youth he still is, and it reminds the old king Karikala (Umezu Hideyuki, who played Rajendra in the OVA) of just what Gadevi is lacking.  It’s bad enough that Gadevi should refuse to accept the results of what in his country is a sacred rite – he turns his blade on his own father and king in the process – but to threaten a foreign prince present as his guest is truly an act of treason against his own country, and one capable of causing it huge damage.  This is clearly going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Vizier, and for Jaswant – the latter saves Arslan when one of Gadevi’s guard attacks him.  But Gadevi turns on his own vizier when he refuses to carry out his orders and urges him to stay his hand, and when Gadevi slays him it’s clear that even his own foot soldiers have seen enough.

When Daryun commands the combatants to throw down their weapons and take up the matter with him if they a problem, the assembled Sindhurans shout “Sher Shenami!” – “Fierce Tiger General” – and it’s hard to argue with them, as this is about as GAR as it gets.  This struggle is clearly over, for what it’s worth – Rajendra has won, and Gadevi has lost in every possible way.  But there are troubling questions about Rajendra that make it difficult to have much faith in him as an ally going forward.  He’s, well – a prince compared to Gadevi, but Rajendra seems to lack a certain gravity and reliability that one might wish for in a future king.  Or an ally to help make one out of you…

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  1. s

    Quoting one of the TV Tropes entry: Beware the Nice Ones. No, seriously, I'd rather face an army than being the target of Arslan's wrath. It was AWESOME to see him get so protective and, something tells me that if something had happened to Daryum, he would have carried out his threat. I do hope that Rajendra, and everyone who witnessed the exchange, has learned the lesson: do not piss Arslan off. It won't be pretty.

    Now, imagine Narsus telling Daryum about this incident….

  2. Y

    And that is why the Royal Piss-Off, as I like to call it, is one of my favourite moments in the entire series. I only wish we had seen the gang's reaction faces/thoughts when they witnessed Arslan's outburst (in the OVA, Farangies was so shocked Gieve even laughed at her; that, and in that adaptation — as well as the novels, I believe — Arslan threatened to kill Rajendra not simply "if Daryun falls here", but "if there is so much as a single scratch on him by the end of this"). I would certainly like to see Daryun's flustered response to finding out how his prince reacted to the sheer possibility of his demise, oh yes. And speaking of flustered respones… what the living fuck was up with that end card?! I'm surprised Enzo didn't comment on it; perhaps the mental scarring was too deep and sudden? xD

  3. s

    Enzo is probably searching for a powerful enough bleach. XD

    And yes, I guess that's a literal demonstration of what 'getting royally pissed off' means. That said, I too felt that we missed out seeing everyone's reaction to this. I sure hope it's commented upon sometime during the anime, especially with Daryun being present. But yeah, do not piss Arslan off, ever. Not if you like your head attached to the rest of your body.

  4. Y

    He better find that bleach quickly then, so that the image doesn't get burned into his mind for eternity.

    One other thing that I noticed concerning the gang was, lo and behold, a moment of ACTUAL NICENESS was shared between Elam and Alfreed! About freaking time… Also, poor Jaswant. Gadevi is such a prick. And since we're on a GoT wave, I'm gonna go ahead and say he's the Joffrey of Arslan Senki 😛

  5. s

    Related to the Elam/Alfreed moment, it was cute and it made me frankly hope they will stop fighting over Narsus because it's getting old fast, plus age-wise, it would make more sense for Alfreed to hook up with Elam than with Narsus, but I'm getting carried away now.

    About Jaswant, I have to applaud the writers. I was expecting Jaswant's liege to meet a nasty end and that it would be the cause for Jaswant to join Team Arslan, but I never thought it would be Gadevi's hand which did the killing. Also, I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks that Jaswant (a.k.a Daryun 2.0) is going to be getting quite protective of Arslan and it's going to be all kinds of hilarious to see Daryun's reactions to having someone else doing HIS job.

  6. Y

    I personally care very little about age when it comes to love; rather, I look at personality/wisdom/intelligence/self-awareness (most of which comes with age, I admit, but that often depends). And in that regard, Alfreed is certainly out of Narsus' league… It would be fun to look at how her relationship with Alem evolves now that they have managed to live through an episode without screaming their heads off at each other.

    I didn't think Mahendra would die, I just assumed he'd jump ship; but if he had to meet his death, then my first choice would definitely be Gadevi — it makes perfect sense, considering the latter's personality.

    Huh, never thought of it that way. We've seen Narsus get headaches because of how Elam and Alfreed act, but Daryun doesn't strike me as the "jealous" type; sure, he'd be suspicious and protective, that's a given, but what you suggest sounds so much more interesting xD

  7. Y

    *relationship with Elam
    fucking typos…

  8. s

    Same, when it comes to 'age' my point of view is that someone's real age is measured by their, using your own terms, personality/wisdom/intelligence/self-awareness. And yes, Narsus is waaay out of Alfreed's league. Elam is just fractionally closer, but despite being younger than Alfreed, I would have said he's more mature, but that was judging his interactions with both Narsus and Arslan himself. But Alfreed, for some reason, seems to bring the kid out of Elam and that's what makes me think that they would be great together, if they don't kill each other first, that is…

    About Daryun, maybe we haven't seen his jealous side because he hasn't had any reason to be jealous since his position as Arslan's main protector has never been challenged by anyone. It'll be fun if Jaswant decides to appoint himself as Arslan's bodyguard…

  9. Y

    "seems to bring the kid ouf of Elam" is something I'd never considered before, either, yet now that you mention it it makes perfect sense, and was so glaringly obvious! You offer a lot of interesting perspectives 😀

    Hmmm… for some reason, I don't think Daryun would mind too much. He sees Arslan's health and happiness as his priority in life, so if another person were to want to assist in that, he'd most likely be more than willing to accept their help (after they've earned his trust, of course).

    And can I just take a moment to mention how wonderfully voice-acted Arslan's moment of rage was? I had no idea such a fierce voice could burst out of that gentle mouth, and the shock value played its role beautifully~

  10. s

    Well, I too hadn't considered the fact that Daryun will probably appreciate the help, after all, poor Arslan is a trouble-magnet, not that he can help it though! It's more a case that trouble does seem to follow him wherever he goes.

    And OH LORD YES. Kobayashi Yuusuke NAILED IT. I could feel the strain, as it should be for someone who isn't used to shouting, much less in a threatening way. You could hear the exhaustion at the end, as if it had taken everything in him to get so angry. And nearly fainting after the whole ordeal was over was just perfect.

  11. Y

    I also really liked how subtly Farangies supported the prince throughout the whole thing. And that quote from Gieve about the gods and their mistakes was great. I also appreciated Elam's cursory glance at Narsus when they all felt Daryun was going to lose, it was as if for the first time ever, he realised his master isn't all-powerful and cannot be relied upon in absolutely every situation. I found Arslan's knees buckling to be a very vulnerable and… almost tender sort of thing? As in an I-care-for-this-person-so-deeply-that-I-do-not-even-want-to-imagine-what-my-life-would-be-like-without-them moment; it was so childlike and touching, and a bit amusing too, as though it had been Arslan who'd battled Bahadur instead of Daryun.

  12. S

    Thank the heavens this is not Game of Thrones. I would be so devastated if Daryun died. But still, what a splendid episode. Arslan Senki has always been good but this would definitely go down as one of its best episodes.

    I thought angry Arslan was the best but can we also please talk about that end card? I'm still laughing.

  13. Y

    I think it might not be a good idea to talk about the end cart yet. Enzo is apparently still looking for that eye-bleach xDD

  14. C

    I think the endcard elucidates why Narsus' art is so… panned? Clearly, he is a man ahead of his time.

    But anyway we finally got to see another side of Arslan and the show clearly needed it, I like him but so far he can be summed up as "a kid who's nice" 70% of the time. It's such a shame, really, I'm sure he and the other characters all have more complex and rounded personalities in the novels. I read that Daryun, Narsus and Gieve all visit brothels in the books together. I mean, can you their anime personas doing that? Well, just Gieve lol.

  15. Y


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