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"The Heroic Legend of Arslan (2015)" Puts Forth a Serious Effort Worthy of Funimation's Finest
Directed by: Noriyuki Abe Studio: Liden Films, Sanzigen Number of Episodes: 25
How does one be heroic in a world full of madness? Liden Films attempt to answer this question after a worthy, but limited, effort to capture the story of Crown Prince Arslan in the 90s, of which I reviewed.
Backed by Universal and Funimation, and by an increased global anime market, this rendition of the Parsian Prince had all the necessary funds to craft a story worthy of the name epic, as well as a recently confirmed second season. However, no effort is ever perfect, especially in terms of remakes and reboots, of which this series falls precariously in between, and while this version most certainty looks prettier, I came in worried that it would lose the goofy charm and personality the original had, and merely settle for a dry rehashing of the OVAs.
Thankfully, nearly all of my concerns were laid to rest. This new series makes use of its length by fleshing out key characters, such as Alfreed (Jad Saxton) and Elam (Justin Briner), who had relatively little to do in the original, as well as introducing completely new characters, many of which serve to replace those killed off during season one.
The basic story remains the same. King Andragoras III (Christopher R. Sabat) is sabotaged by the traitor Kharlan (Kent Williams) while defending his kingdom of Pars against the Lusitanian army, led by series newcomer Guiscard (Eric Vale) and, of course, Silvermask (Vic Mignogna), resulting in Pars's defeat and Andragoras's capture. The King's son, Arslan (Aaron Dismuke), is ambushed by Kharlan, and almost meets his doom but is saved by the fearsome Daryun (Ricco Fajardo), who pledged his services to the young prince on bidding the bidding of his uncle, Vahriz (Cole Brown).
Arslan embarks on an adventure of enlightenment and strength. Unable to return to the royal capital of Ecbatana, he journeys to Peshawar fortress to command the few remaining soldiers of Pars against the Lusitanians. Along the way, he meets several key advisers to his court, the most important being Narsus (Christopher Bevins), whose stratagems lead his army to victory. Several side quests and sub plots occur, crafting Arslan not only into a better leader, but a better man.
The quality of animation is top-notch, though at times it does cut corners, such as its use of low-detailed figures for wide shots (at least for scenes with under 10 bodies. Extreme overhead shots that have many bodies, such as during a battle, are impressively done). There isn't any noticeable recycled footage and the art style is on par with any major anime this year, leaving Liden Films with a fairly competitive series on their hands.
The soundtrack only serves to compliment the action-packed and drama-filled series. Composed by Taro Iwashiro, who has worked on series such as "The Prince of Tennis" and "Fullmetal Alchemist," most every tune is memorable, if a bit overused, leaving me humming Arslan's memorable melodies long after I finished the series. I have no doubts in Noriyuki Abe's ability to direct, though it can be said that several battle sequences felt remarkably the same, and the subplot with the kingdom of Shindra seemed a little pointless, given how it ended with Arslan gaining little to nothing for his efforts, save experience.
My main complaint is with how the series ended, which I will not spoil. Needless to say that despite having 25 episodes to tell the story its predecessor told in 6, season one cuts out at what seemed to be the final battle between Pars and Lusitania. It feels like a lazy attempt to get a second season (which it did). While this creative choice resulted in more Arslan, which I am all for, I wished that the show finished up the current arc of him reclaiming his homeland, which would have opened up season two to explore Arslan stories never yet put on television.
Overall, I like what Liden Films has done with the place. Arslan 2015 offers a deeper tale, a richer world, and way more subplots than the original OVAs could ever have hoped to have accomplished. In some areas, it doesn't cover as much ground as the OVAs (namely resolving the major arc of season one), and not everything adds up, but it's not supposed to. I prophesize that even the Shindra subplot will come into play in future episodes, resulting in a much more satisfying finale (season one doesn't really have one) and perhaps even some social commentary. This series might not be as goofy as its predecessor, but for the most part, that is intentional. Sure, the humor falls flat and the dialogue isn't exactly natural, but its medieval setting lets the series get away with that. Not bad for what, for all intents and purposes, was meant to be a part one to a multi-part story. Arslan has never been better on screen.