If “Why” is the keyword of the moment in Gangsta, in Arslan Senki I think it’s “Should”. As in, should Hilmes be the king because he has the stronger legal claim, or should Arslan be the king because he seems to be the better man? I’ve always felt that was the central question behind this story (or at least the most interesting and difficult one) but it’s been on the back burner for quite some time as the show’s eye has remained fixed elsewhere. Well, that changed this week.
The question of if and when we’ll ever see that resolved in anime form is a good one, because Arslan Senki has such an unusual bloodline. It’s technically an adaptation of a manga, and since it’s already caught up to that manga it would seem we’re out of luck for a sequel for now, despite the manga being a blockbuster and the anime selling quite well so far. But technically there’s a ton of source material, because Tanaka’s novel series is at 14 volumes and counting. So what this means for the anime is hard to say – my suspicion is that the production committee would rather let the manga regain a large lead because it’s manga sales they want to promote. I hope I’m wrong, especially because Arakawa-sensei is hardly a speed-demon in producing new material in recent years.
It’s already looking obvious that the anime is going to end at a frustratingly compelling place, because it’s really starting to get interesting in recent weeks. The close of the Sindhuran arc was excellent, and this check-in on Silver Mask and the goings-on in occupied Pars was likewise very well-done (and overdue). When we last saw Saam, he was apparently killed defending Ectabana from its Lusitanian invaders, but he survived – and not only that, ended up in the service of Hilmes.
Saam paints himself as a simple man, but it was already obvious in his first appearance that he has a wealth of common sense. Therefore, when he looks at the facts before him and decides it’s appropriate to back Hilmes for the throne (despite almost being killed by him to boot), I think we should take it seriously. This is a reasonable position to take, even if it’s contrary to the interests of the hero. As for Hilmes, he’s dancing a waltz of deception with the smartest Lusitanian in the room, Guiscard, who wants him to take out the rebel priest Bodin (hate the fanaticism, love the bread), who’s holed up in Zabul castle with 30,000 zealot priest-knights.
Much as we saw with Rajendra, this is a case of two “allies” whose eventual betrayal of the other is an open secret. For Hilmes, (as Saam advises) this is an opportunity to raise an army he can later wield against Lusitania, and to score some capital of goodwill with the Parsisn people. For Guiscard it’s a chance to set an enemy and a future enemy off against each other, hopefully with great damage to both of them.
The wild card in all this is Kubard (a superbly roguish Miyake Kenta), a powerful ex-Marzban who’s been living in the countryside saving peasants from bandits and bedding their women in payment. Saam has in mind to recruit him into Hilmes’ (who tells Kubard his intent is simply to “bring peace t the kingdom and reclaim what belongs to him”) service, but while Kubard does join in the initial attack against the rebel priests (still absurdly stupid) with great valor, he’s not interested in getting caught up in the war of succession he’s smart enough to know is coming after the Lusitanians are kicked out of Dodge. He is, however, fascinated to hear that “court-hating Narsus” has hitched his wagon to Arslan’s cause. It’s clear we haven’t heard the last of Kubard as a factor in the civil war to come.
There’s almost no Arslan in this episode, but what we get is important – he signs a declaration officially urging all loyal Parsians to rally to his cause at Peshawar Citadel. And another proclamation officially declaring that once he takes the throne, King Arslan will free all the slaves in Pars – thus earning himself the future nickname, “Arslan the Liberator”. It’s game on now in every sense – Arslan has made both his location and his intentions known to friends and enemies alike, and the war of Parsian liberation has in effect officially begun. We surely won’t see its end in this season, but hopefully we will see it one day fairly soon.