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Arslan Senki (2015)

Everyone loves a good coming-of-age manga/anime. More well-known examples include Naruto (or at least till the start of the time-skip, for the more high-browed fans), Ping Pong, Clannad and FLCL, to name a few. Oddly, there hasn’t been an exceptional anime of the genre in recent seasons and Arslan Senki looked like it would fill the void. Also, it doesn’t help that I’m a sucker for tales with a medieval/Persian setting.

The source material is a series of novels written by Tanaka Yoshiki based off the Persian epic, Amir Arsalan. The plot revolves around Arslan, the crown prince of a fictional kingdom named Pars aiming to free his nation after his father, King Andragoras III fell victim to a plot devised by one of his most trusted generals. Arslan Senki actually had a number of anime adaptations before the current one, including a television series, movie and an OVA. 

The latest reboot is based off a second manga adaptation by Arakawa Hiromu of Fullmetal Alchemist fame that’s currently being serialised in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. It also has the potential to be a long-running series, with the abundance of material to work with.

At this point, the anime is currently at its 11th episode and I’ve enjoyed every single episode. However, there are some glaringly obvious illustration mistakes that would frustrate any viewer. For example, there are times where characters have sloppily drawn facial details up-close. I can understand if this was done to save time, like a generic audience member in a stadium setting for example. But for a main character up-close? Not acceptable.

On the other hand, the animation is spectacular when it needs to be, such as the army’s pursuit of runaway prisoner-of-war Etoile and crown prince Arslan around the capital in the first episode and the large-scale battle in the second one. Character designs are pleasing to the eye, being reminiscent of Fullmetal Alchemist. I even occasionally refer to Arslan as ‘feminine Edward Elric’ or Daryun as ‘ripped Zolf J. Kimblee’.

The plot is intriguing, keeping me hooked onto the series and constantly wondering what’s going to happen next. It isn’t as simple as Arslan and co. heading to the various Parsian citadels and allied nations to gather troops in order to storm the royal capital. Political tugs-of-war are being waged among the invading forces as well, showcasing the various shades of grey that are present. Not everything is black and white and even the previous king has a few skeletons in his own closet.

The occasional humour works wonders in breaking the tense atmosphere too. From Daryun estimating that he could probably take on fifty thousand soldiers by himself to Gieve constantly vying for Farangis’ attention, monotony is not in this show’s vocabulary.
However, the planned 25 episodes meant that a number of details from the manga had to be left out and that resulted in a few episodes leaving viewers shortchanged. 

There are several that may prove to be crucial in later episodes, such as Gieve translating a portion of a Yaldabaoth bible to Arslan and several lengthy but crucial discussions that characters have. Cutting these out may improve the pacing but leaves me wondering how did ‘character X come to conclusion Y’ for example.

Although the first season is barely halfway through its airing schedule, I’m already hoping for a second one that would include more large-scale battles, pitting army against army, amongst other things. Other than minor pacing and adaptation issues plus the glaringly obvious drops in animation quality at certain points in an episode, there isn’t much to complain about. Then again, the anime had an excellent story to work with and Arakawa Hiromu’s updated illustrations only made things better.

Written by ET

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