I’m a big fan of Hiromu Arakawa, an admiration that started with her most well known work, Fullmetal Alchemist. However with FMA coming to its completion in 2010, she has moved onto a few other works which I have followed with interest. One of these is The Heroic Legend of Arsland, a series of Japanese novels by Yoshiki Tanaka, which Hiromu has turned into a manga series. I’ve been following the manga series closely and been quiet pleased. Recently however, I discovered the manga also has an anime adaptation. I watched what there was of the dub, which is only the first four episodes at the time of writing this, and felt inclined to share my thoughts on what there is!
Right from the get go it is very obvious that The Heroic Legend of Arsland is inspired, at least in part, by the Holy Crusades that occurred around Jerusalem in the High and Late Middles Ages. The first four episodes focus on the wealthy desert kingdom of Pars and its war with the religiously fanatic nation of Lusitania. The series so far also questions if Pars’ heavy use of slavery is just and if the Lusitanian’s killing of all “heathens” is righteous. In both regards no exact answers are giving, though the actions and beliefs make is fairly clear how the show feels about the subjects. In any regard, the parallels the show has with the Crusades makes the world a lot more believable, aided by the fact that both sides of the war are shown to have their flaws. Another interesting part to the show is while it is indeed a fantasy, magic is rather scarce, so far only used by a select few, adding as well to the sense of realism.
As for the characters, there are three main ones that the first few episodes focus on. First off is the titular Arsland, the young prince of Pars. Arsland is a kind and gentle soul, but is also naive and rather timid, leading many to not have the same respect for him that they have for his father. Secondly we have Daryun, a skilled warrior in the Parsian army, who is shown to be quite loyal to our inexperienced prince. Finally we have Arsland’s father, King Andragoras III, a physically imposing man and a famed warrior. The king is shown to be a stubborn and proud man, confident in both his own ability, as well as that of his famed army. It is quickly apparent however that his and Arsland’s relationship is a strained one, due to the King viewing his son as a pansy. This in turn only serves to cause Arsland to doubt his own worth even more, leading to the personal struggle of our protagonist. Overall I find them likable, though I have seen their character types before. Still I will be interested to see how they grow and change as people. If the title is anything to go by, it looks as if Arsland will become quiet the force to be reckoned with as the series progresses!
In the sound department I found everything to generally be in order. The casting choices for the dub are overall a good pick, however seeing as the dubbing is being done by Funimation it isn’t surprising. As for music, I admit that few of the series tracks really stand out to me. That’s not to say any of it is bad, not by any sense of the word. I just didn’t find much of it to be particularly memorable…that is besides the ending theme, “Lapis Lazuli” by Eir Aoi. This track is beautiful and it fits perfectly with the setting and feel of the series, so much so that it is one of the few anime endings I make a point of watching every time. Alternately however the opening, “Boku no Kotoba Dewanai Kore wa Boku-tachi no Kotoba” by UVERworld, I find feels rather out of place. To me it seems they just made a generic shounen anime opening song to stick onto the series, so I’m not a fan. I’m of the mind that the opening should give the viewer a sense of the series’ tone.
Moving on to the animation however, both the opening and endings do well in these regards. Though they are more slideshows than anything, the art and styling for them is very well done, making them quiet enjoyable. As for the series proper, the animation is all very nice, looking similar to 2009’s Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The only off thing I noticed about the animation is for many of the scenes during large army battles it becomes very obvious the soldiers are done using 3D, making them seem slightly out of place compared to their surroundings. This may be a big problem for some, but for me I began to ignore it after awhile. On top of that the scenes that suffer from this are so far not many, so I’m alright with it.
To to sum up my thoughts, as it stands now The Heroic Legend of Arsland is a decent watch. It’s not the greatest anime of all time, but its also far from terrible. I’d recommend giving it a watch especially if you’re a fan that enjoys the more political breed of fantasy. It will be interesting to see how the show pans out as later episodes of the dub become available (or there is of course the subs). If the anime follows the manga I can assure you mates that it has the potential to become very enjoyable!
As always, feel free to comment and give feedback! I’d love to hear from you!