Rolling Review – The Heroic Legend of Arslan (05)

The Siege of Ecbatana Begins
The Siege of Ecbatana Begins

Episode Synopsis:

As Arslan and his comrades plan their next move, the Parsian royal capital of Ecbatana comes under siege by the armies of Lusitania. With the King still missing, Arslan’s mother, Queen Tahamenay, commands the city and its defenders. The soldiers of Pars hold fast, but morale is strained by the loss of their leaders, and the Lusitanians may have more ways to bring down the city than just siege engines. Meanwhile, a young musician rises to prominence in the capital, but his purpose and his loyalties are as yet uncertain.

Episode Review:

After focusing on the Prince and his growing entourage, Arslan turns its attention to his home city as it confronts its first defeat in a generation. It’s good to get an idea of what is at stake for our heroes, and episode 5 does a fine job of that. It also gives Queen Tahamenay and the newly-introduced musician Geive some screen time and rounds out the cast nicely. The Queen’s coldness and Geive’s shady, desirous personality stand in stark contrast to the mostly upright characters we’ve met so far.

The siege of the city is handled well for the most part, if somewhat uncreative. If you’ve seen a siege in a quasi-historical movie or series before, you’ve certainly seen this one. Even so, it does a decent job of portraying direct siege tactics and the fanaticism of the Lusitanians. A dramatic segment featuring a captive Parsian commander is excellent and gives weight to the proceedings, and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of Geive’s heroic ballad playing over the brutal fighting near the end.

Unfortunately, this episode is weaker than the others in a few glaring respects. The animation quality, especially for background characters, seems to have dropped off severely in places. Worse, in my opinion, is the character design for the Lusitanian Inquisitor who heads the advancing army. His face is extremely stylized, and looks intensely out of place compared to the rest of the cast. It certainly doesn’t help that he’s portrayed as a sadistic zealot, which is a character trope I’ve never been a fan of. Hopefully he does not become a recurring villain (or at least gets taken out of the picture before he can do too much).

Cripes, go back to One Piece!
Gah, what is wrong with your face?!

Another issue I have is with the strategy employed by the Lusitanians. While the initial siege plays out reasonably, it is clear that they have other plans for the city that could make the battle so far potentially meaningless. Since they have been portrayed earlier as using clever tactics, it seems an odd choice to have them suddenly resort to brute force when they have another option readily available (and which they end up using anyway, long after it would have saved them countless warriors).

Episode Summary:

Because it appears to be the first part of a multi-episode arc, I’m waiting to see where the battle of Ecbatana goes from here. While I like the change of focus and the strong opening to the siege, the hit to the visuals is irritating, and the ham-fisted strategy of the Lusitanians leaves me concerned that they might start falling back into traditional “evil empire” behavior. Still, the episode ends with a new threat emerging that could seriously shake things up, and I look forward to seeing where this leaves us.

Pros:

  • Some great speechifying in the first half
  • Good (if brief) characterization of the Queen and Geive

Cons:

  • The battle itself is not particularly interested or creative
  • The animation and character art isn’t as good as in previous episodes

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