3 years after the first episode, another Lusitanian invasion approaches. Having already destroyed Maryam, Pars’ ally, they now march on Pars itself. Arslan is now fourteen years old, and prepares to participate in his first battle. A thick fog has settled over the battlefield, but despite the misgivings of his generals, King Andragoras III unflinchingly orders his men, and his son, to war.
While the overall direction of the episode is already largely set by the trajectory of the show thus far (i.e. a disaster will befall Pars, cutting Arslan off from the relatively easy life of a prince and forcing him to start making his own decisions), that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable to watch. It’s rare these days to see a show this focused on plot and characters, and The Heroic Legend of Arslan is doing quite a good job of it. From the strong and relentless Andragoras to wise Vahriz to proud Daryun, characters are being strongly established. Arslan himself, despite on the surface being a sheltered, timid weakling, has a lot going on – his swordsmanship is improving, he’s starting to grasp strategic battlefield thinking, and he has his own way of inspiring devotion in his men. All of his abilities are fledgling, but you can see the seeds of what will become a great leader in time.
Other things that I liked: The animation quality is good, and I’m really enjoying the style – characters are easily discernible from one another without looking out of place. Also, the battle itself is much more realistic than is usual for anime, with messengers needed to keep the huge armies even vaguely organized, and with a battlefield large enough that detachments of soldiers can be fiercely fighting in one area while large portions of the army aren’t even engaged yet.
A final note, for full disclosure: I had already seen 1991’s excellent but unfinished The Heroic Legend of Arslan (based on the same manga) before I started watching this show, but I will try to keep it from biasing my reviews.
Recommended. A well-made episode that starts to set up character development as it also starts to bring the prologue to its end.