Rolling Review – The Heroic Legend of Arslan (09)

Arslan Episode 09 - 1

Episode Synopsis:

As the Lusitanians continue to tighten their grip on Ecbatana, Lord Silver Mask learns of Kharlan’s defeat. Elsewhere, Arslan and Elam see the cruelty of the invaders firsthand, and meet an old acquaintance from years past. Meanwhile, Daryun and Narsus seek to uncover the fate of King Andragoras and Queen Tahamenay, only to face their own deadly obstacles.

Episode Review:

This episode widens its scope quite a bit, shifting perspectives across pretty much every major player in the story so far. We get to see divisions between our various antagonists, as the desires of King Innocentis clash with Inquisitor Bodin’s fanatical dogma. Even Lord Silver Mask is shown to be infuriated by the defeat of his Parsian ally. I enjoyed this greatly, as it shows our antagonists to be fallible, rather than an unassailable monolith. It’s far better than seeing them always getting their way or having everything be part of some grand scheme.

It is also nice to see Arslan taking the initiative when he sees Lusitanians abusing his people, while still having the judgement to keep his identity hidden. His actions lead to a reunion with Etoile, the young soldier he met in episode 1. Etoile hasn’t changed much, which is something of a shame, though it still leaves some room for growth, especially as he continues to see the barbarous acts carried out by his own countrymen.

Finally, the episode ends with Daryun and Narsus on an intelligence-gathering mission in the capital itself. Their concern for their people is tempered by the knowledge that any path they take will have issues, and I am glad to see them continuing to take collateral damage into account. This all leads into an impressive battle in which both Daryun and Narsus are greatly challenged at last by Silver Mask. This fight, along with the burning of Parsian texts in the first half, were my favorite parts of the episode, and keep me hoping for similar moments as the show progresses.

Arslan Episode 09 - 2
Looking as good as ever, Bodin

While I like a lot of what I’m seeing so far, I take issue with some of the decisions the creators have made regarding the antagonists. My hope that Bodin would not be a recurring villain was obviously in vain, and he continues to look as ridiculous as ever. The inclusion of a “Ka-kah-kah!” laugh just pushes him over the edge to truly cartoonish villainy, and does a disservice to what could have been an interesting true believer and foe. The depiction of King Innocentis as a fat buffoon also rubs me the wrong way. It feels unnecessary and makes Queen Tahamenay’s plight as his prospective queen (and object of scorn by the other Lusitanian elite) seem far less serious than it truly is.

Along with weakening the villains, the show continues to slip in the animation department. While the swordfight with Daryun and Narsus is quite well done, the rest of the episode is rife with cheap-looking animation, like floating horse-drawn carts and characters that appear off-model. The short interaction between Geive and Farangis is where this becomes most evident. I am also not a fan of the occasional shifts into more silly, abstract face styles for comedic effect, as it doesn’t match well with the otherwise more serious aesthetic.

Episode Summary:

This episode seems to be mostly setup for future events, and serves its purpose well from a story perspective. I’m happy to see both protagonists and antagonists struggling to keep up with the upheaval around them. In spite of some poorly-realized villains, I’m still looking forward to seeing what happens to everyone involved. Hopefully, the animation team picks up the quality before it starts to seriously hurt the show, though I won’t be too upset as long as the story keeps up its solid pace.


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