Just a quick note: due to scheduling issues, Dan and Brendan will be swapping reviews for this week and next. Look forward to his examination of Episode 13 when it arrives over this weekend.
Separated in their last skirmish with the Lusitanians, Arslan’s companions hurry to regroup. Narsus happens across a fight between Lord Silver Mask and a band of outlaws, saving a girl named Alfreed, who decides to accompany him. Meanwhile, the power struggle between Prince Guiscard and Archpriest Bodin comes to a head in Ecbatana. Finally, Daryun, Farangis and Geive reunite with Arslan and Elam to confront Xandes, the son of the traitorous Kharlan.
Following hot on the heels of Episode 11, we continue Arslan’s desperate escape from the Lusitanians as he and his followers attempt to reach Peshawar; the last great fortress held by Parsian loyalists. The story keeps up a fast pace, jumping straight from Daryun and Farangis battling Lusitanians to Narsus intervening before Silver Mask is able to kill a girl from an outlaw tribe. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and the action beats come quickly, which helps reinforce the desperate nature of the protagonists’ escape.
I particularly liked the encounter between Narsus and Silver Mask, where Narsus once again demonstrates his shrewd and cunning nature by arranging an “accident” for Silver Mask and his men. It was also nice to see our new character, Alfreed, wisely heeding Narsus’s advice not to throw her life away. As the “barbarian” girl, I would’ve expected her to be more than willing to sacrifice herself to avenge her comrades, slain by Silver Mask. However, she demonstrates restraint, and even comes to the conclusion that the only way she can take revenge is by living on, without having to be told by Narsus or anyone else. That right there is a foundation for an interesting character. I look forward to seeing how another person close to Arslan’s age meshes with the group.
The middle part of the episode is taken up by an interlude in Ecbatana, where the cracks in the Lusitanian hierarchy finally become a deep fissure. Bodin remains the righteous ass he always is, and Guiscard gets to show that he is the one who holds all the cards in a remarkably mundane but vicious way. This does lead me to wonder what will become of Bodin and his recently-introduced Temple Knights, though I’d put good money on them being the next major obstacle Arslan is required to face.
Returning to Arslan’s companions, most of the band reunites as Xandes once again catches up with them and faces Daryun in a vicious fight. I’m glad to see Daryun’s phenomenal strength finally being challenged, though Xandes really doesn’t have enough going for him character-wise for me to empathize with or hate him. It is also during this fight that we get to see our first look at serious magic as a sorcerous assassin strikes from the shadows. It’s a small taste of greater threats that I’m sure we’ll be facing soon, and I appreciate them keeping the magic limited but powerful. It fits much better into the world than some wizard showing up and lobbing lightning bolts everywhere.
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, especially considering how much needed to happen in it. Between introducing Alfreed, catching up in Ecbatana, battling Xandes and the sorcerer, and reuniting most of the protagonists, the story moved very quickly but never felt rushed. It feels like we’re making up for all the time that Arslan spent sitting in a cave waiting for Narsus to stop lecturing him on caution (not that it wasn’t warranted at the time). It’s a bit of a shame that Farangis has so far been relegated entirely to a support role, without any of the character exploration that Daryun, Narsus, or even Geive has gotten. Even so, there’s still time to see if she will be more than a scantily-clad murder machine.
All in all, the show continues on a good trajectory, and most of the animation issues I’ve noticed in the past seem to have been ironed out. I’m excited to see what happens once Arslan reaches Peshawar and the twist that’s been less-than-subtly building up behind the scenes is finally revealed.