Princes kneel before you
That’s what I-
I didn’t hear you come in.
Welcome to the rolling review (which I did manage to resist the urge to turn into a flurry of awkward Spin Doctors references).
Arslan and company arrive at Peshawar Citadel, Pars’ largest remaining stronghold, and finally get to relax a little after having been on the road for most of the last ten episodes or so. Deliberations with the local leaders about their next course of action hit a snag though, and are further complicated by the arrival of the man in the silver mask.
You know, I had actually forgotten that I was watching an anime. Farangis’ cleavage and bare midriff seem like universally applicable cheesecake, and I don’t recall her receiving any particularly gratuitous focus. Similarly, Innocentis VII and Bodin seem generically cartoony; even if they feel a little out of place, they’re not evocative of any particular cultural trope – they’re just exaggerated. Maybe I’m too deep in the fandom at this point to see it differently, but Alfreed’s interactions with Elam and Farangis in this episode were a pretty blunt reminder that this is an anime, and not just animated historical fiction (historical low fantasy, with the reveal of Silver Mask’s dark wizards).
First up is Elam, who feels threatened by the possibility of any of his liege’s attentions being directed towards some presumptuous deep-country harlot. He pulls out the old “refrain from being so familiar” bit, then he and Alfreed go at it on the subject of cooking (the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, after all) before getting into the classic growling in each other’s face with the simultaneous disengage and hmph.
Farangis, as an outsider, is more mature about the whole thing – the only awkward part about her exchange with Alfreed is a brief POV shot from Alfreed’s perspective shifting from Fanangis’ face to her, uh, ample bosom, with the ensuing cut to Alfreed’s concerned expression implying some insecurity about her own, shall we say, womanly figure (or lack thereof). Now, it’s the lack of any direct set-up for this shot that makes it seem like out-of-place cultural shorthand. Alfreed hasn’t yet been shown even considering trying to ensnare Narsus with any feminine wiles, and she’s not competing against Farangis – or any other woman, for that matter – for his affection, so the whole “Wow, look at this woman’s chest – maybe Narsus would be interested in me if I had a body like that” moment that she’s having here doesn’t appear to serve any kind of established narrative. It thus ends up coming off as an excuse to get a money shot of Farangis (who is actually clothed more tastefully in this shot than she normally is) and/or shoehorning in breast envy as some sort of moe charm point rubbish for Alfreed, which is, if anything, even more distracting. It’s one of the quickest and most subtle injections of fanservice that I’ve seen, but it’s still a knock against suspension of disbelief.
I need to read those novels (or at least watch the 90s OVA).
Anyway (now that I’ve put down more text for a tenth of this episode than I did for my previous two reviews combined), let’s get to the meat.
Arslan’s personal arc is showing substantial progress here. Notable is his discussion with resident cavalry captain Kishward (and his majestic beard), where the prince shows that he’s learned the lesson of Fort Kashan. Always good to see this kind of development. Later, the citadel’s other resident cavalry captain, Bahman, throws a wrench into Arslan’s plans of retaking the capital. Even though everyone present finds this to be an uncharacteristic display of defiance, before the episode is even over, Arlsan is seriously reconsidering his previous strategy (or, again, lack thereof). He’s a good kid.
What we’re all really waiting for, though, is the cour finale, where the show marks its halfway point by bringing to a head the drama that’s been building under the surface. Silver Mask, having infiltrated the castle, is caught by the rest of Arslan’s company in an attempt to cut off Arslan’s hand, which is the most that his intense hatred and disdain for our hero will allow for him to do at any one time. When pressed, he reveals his identity to all present as Hermes, son of Osroes and rightful heir to the Parsian throne. Bahman, to whom this was apparently revealed by Vahriz, sacrifices his life to save Arslan (per Vahriz’s request), but also covers Hermes’ retreat, telling Daryun “If you kill him, the rightful bloodline of the royal family of Pars will die with him.”
That’s a bit of a one-two punch, eh? Not that we haven’t been foreshadowing this as well, but immediately after everyone learning that Arlsan doesn’t have the most legitimate claim to the throne, Daryun (if not more of the group) now has to seriously consider that he might not have one at all. It’ll be interesting to see how this gets verified, and concealed from / pitched to invested parties.
Nitpicks aside, this is a pretty solid end to the travelling arc we’d been on, and we appear to be well-positioned to transition to an arc with Arslan in charge of a significant but not overwhelming fighting force. If you’re at all considering watching this episode…
Just go ahead now (I’m so sorry)
P.S.: TRIPLE WHAMMY – craven opportunists invade from the east – but first, the ol’ mid-season re-cap.