The sasuga season continues apace.
OP:”Tsubasa (翼)” by Eir Aoi
Continuing the theme of the summer thus far, Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu delivered everything that was expected of it, as all the shows that really matter have so far. In fact I’d go so far as to say this was one of the best episodes of the series – it was busy, certainly, but it had quite a job to do in catching us up on multiples locations, characters and storylines as we pick up nine months (real-time) after we left off. The bloodlines really shine through with Arslan Senki – there may be a few wonky production elements but it’s so easy to see that this is a story crafted by a writer far more polished and accomplished than what we normally see in anime (and bridged to the screen by a mangaka who also fits that description).
Things are happening on multiple fronts, as you’d expect after a layoff. Hilmes has been told the location of Rukhnabad, the ancient sword of Parsian kings, by his shady magical ally. He sets off to find it in an ancient tomb on remote Mt. Demavant, but Gieve is there waiting for him (now we know the nature of the errand Narsus sent him on). Arslan and his army have been forced to turn back after being halfway to Ectabana, their presence needed to repel an attack on Peshawar by the nomadic
Mongol Turan nation to the north. Rajendra has informed them of the attack, but lagged on sending his troops to assist – hoping the two armies will destroy each other and relieve him of the onus of a treaty he’d rather have to honor. And especially interesting things are happening in Ectabana itself, as Etoile finds out when she arrives with the surviving wounded from the first battle at Peshawar.
One thing Tanaka-sensei never fails to do is remind us that trying to win a war and rule a kingdom is a messy business, full of unforeseen and inconvenient consequences. Events don’t move in linear fashion in Arslan Senki, as they rarely do in human history. Rather than retake his home and rescue his father (heh) he’s bogged down in Peshawar, with no help from Rajendra seemingly coming. And as for Rukhnabad – which is seemingly pretty important – Gieve has managed to liberate it from Silver Mask, only to see it slip through his hands and into those of the Temple Knights. This battle, by the way, illustrates that while this series’ fights are not always lavishly animated, they’re always beautifully choreographed.
The great trap of storytelling in Arslan Senki, of course, is Narsus (who’s that dude with him in the OP/ED?) being OP with his mind and winning the day. So far Fuujin Ranbu has avoided that, as Narsus seems genuinely puzzled for once (and I hope it stays that way). The issue with the sword is interesting, too, because it highlights again the essential conflict at the heart of the story. Hilmes, if he is who he thinks he is, would be the legitimate holder of Rukhnabad and legitimate king of Pars. But Arslan is obviously a more worthwhile king, and thus wielder of the hereditary sword. Various factions within the Pars elite have chosen either side based on that dilemma, both seemingly in good faith.
But it’s in the capital that the truly weighty events of the premiere seem to take place. Guiscard goes to visit Andragoras for the first time, seeking info on Silver Mask’s legitimacy now that he’s revealed his identity. But Andragoras turns the tables on him, thanks to some impressive strength (I guess he’s been well-fed) and rusted iron. I’m not sure just what to believe here, especially when the newly-freed Tahamine tearfully demands that Andragoras return the child he “stole from her”. I think it’s a given that Andragoras isn’t Arslan’s father, and clearly we’re intended to believe that Arslan is the child she’s talking about. But the vibe I get is that this is not the case – if it is, why was Tahamine so cold to Arslan? She might be talking about Hilmes (the one we know) or the real Hilmes (if the one we call Hilmes is a fake) or yet another child whose presence hasn’t even been hinted at. Who knows? What’s clear is that the issue of parental identity is huge in Arslan Senki, and still very much in flux.
This is going to be an eight-episode season for Arslan, with an even-shorter run for Nanatsu no Taizai waiting in the wings to finish out the cour. It’s still not totally clear why this decision was made – whether it was a narrative choice or influenced by commercial concerns – but I would expect things to be paced a bit more quickly this time around. And I think it’s by no means a sure bet we’ll see more Arslan anime beyond this season, especially if Arakawa-sensei continues her deliberate publishing pace. The anime may already have passed her in the narrative timeline, but producing an anime still makes a lot more sense if there’s new manga material to promote. Obviously I hope to see this series get a full adaptation, because it’s one of the best historical epics of the decade in anime.
ED: “blaze” by Kalafina