This is going to be a shame.
That episode really seemed to fly by, which is a testament both to Arslan Senki‘s excellent storytelling and the frustrations that are ahead of us. We’re already halfway through the season, which is only eight episodes, and there are certainly no guarantees that further seasons will be forthcoming. Without massive disc sales (though the first season’s were decent) or a manga to support – for both this series and Gin no Saji, Arakawa-sensei’s update schedule has been deliberate of late – more Arslan anime would be tantamount to a public service gesture. Tanaka’s novel series surely doesn’t bring enough financial clout to the table on its own.
All that really is a shame, because despite its lukewarm production values Arslan Senki is really good anime of the type we just don’t see much of these days, and it would be abundantly clear even if one didn’t know the series’ origins that we’re in the embryonic stages of the story. That story takes Arslan and his merry band to Gilan, a wealthy seaport city not far from Peshawar. Along the way they meet bandits of the Zot Clan – Alfurid’s (I’m switching to that more natural Romanization) homies, who promptly pledge their loyalty to Narsus (and oh, by the way, Arslan) after their princess makes it clear she considers Narsus her man. The whole gag with Alfurid presenting herself as Narsus’ wife isn’t one of my favorites, but it gets some decent mileage in this episode.
This is Arslan’s first time seeing the sea – and he’s also seeing what a grossly wealthy port city looks like. This scenario should look broadly familiar to fans of epic fantasy generally (and Game of Thrones specifically), and it’s solidly grounded in history. Gilan is wealthy, and its wealth is best served by neutrality despite its Viceroy Pelagius (Ishikawa Hideo) being a Pars citizen. Also from Pars is the wealthy merchant Shagard (Sakurai Takahiro), Narsus’ old friend from their academy days (and apparently cousin as well, according to Narrator-san). Shagard welcomes Arslan’s party into his home and promises to support the restoration of Andragoras to the throne in Ectabana, but looks like he swallowed a bug when Narsus recalls their academy promise to work together to stamp out slavery.
Slavery is a the crux of everything in Arslan Senki, politically and militarily speaking. The debate Narsus and Shagard have after the others have retired is an age-old one. Shagard – who’s benefited greatly from the practice of it – now considers the abolition of slavery the province of youthful idealists like Arslan. Slavery acts as a formidable barrier to Arslan getting the support of Gilan and other places like it, and as a fundamental divide between his interests and those of his “father”. But it’s also the main premise of Arslan’s entire campaign (interpret that word however you like) and not one he can simply toss aside as a matter of expediency. Not that he’s the type of boy to do that anyway.
Pelagius shows his stripes pretty clearly and quickly – he’s an obsequious charlatan, a man whose interests lie in the accumulation of wealth and in little else. He uses the excuse of piracy as the reason he never sent an army to assist Andragoras (or Arslan for that matter). So when a merchant ship under the command of Grahze (Tsuda Kenjirou) sails into the harbor under attack by two pirate vessels, it’s a perfect opportunity for Team Arslan to win some hearts and minds in Gilan – especially since the city’s official forces seem disinclined to life a finger to help. No question about it, Daryun and the others come off looking pretty heroic – but it’s a long way from there to convincing a wealthy merchant class to support a claimant to the throne who would dissolve the institution that made them wealthy…