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The Heroic Legend of Arslan

More than likely, a lot of people who have heard of The Heroic Legend of Arslan are probably only familiar with the more recent version of the story. In 2015, a new anime was released of it, which in turn was based on a manga that was a retelling of the original novels. The manga was written by Hiromu Arakawa, most famous for Full Metal Alchemist, and has received a lot of praise. The anime was also pretty good. However, a series of OVA were released during the first half of the 1990s based on the original novels by Yoshiki Tanaka.

With that, viewers can expect plenty of political intrigue in the story. The basic premise is that the Kingdom of Pars has been invaded by one of its neighbours, the king has been captured, and now his son, Arslan, is forming a ragtag army to take back his country. While it’s tempting to look at this as a classic tale of good versus evil with Arslan trying to liberate Pars, viewers will quickly see that things are a lot more complicated than that. It’s clear that Arslan’s father wasn’t a very nice man. Meanwhile, many other nations near Pars see what’s happening and want to chop up pieces of the country for themselves. As Arslan raises an army, viewers are introduced to a number of major characters, each with their own goals besides pushing out the invaders. Some receive more development than others, but on the whole there is a good amount of depth to them.

Given that The Heroic Legend of Arslan is by the same author as Legend of Galactic Heroes, it should come as no surprise that there is a lot going on story-wise. The main difference is that instead of taking place in space, this tale is heavily influences by ancient Persian history. Bare in mind that this is only six OVAs. As such, there is a lot of information crammed into a very short period of time. Moreover, the show ends on a cliffhanger leaving viewers having to read the novels (or now tracking down the manga) to find out what happens next. Despite that, the story is very engaging and will keep people glued to their seats.

Not only is the story enjoyable, but the anime looks great too. There is so much detail in every aspect of the show. Character design is varied, costumes are elaborate, and cities are dripping with detail. It’s also a very colorful show with bright costumes and vibrant architecture. There are even some stylized elements, especially when Farangis plays her flute. Just from the colors and design, they do a lot to bring what’s happening on screen to life. The show just looks great.

Musically, the show does a good job as well. Most of the pieces are atmospheric orchestral numbers and good at enhancing the scenes they accompany. Most of the episodes don’t have full fledged opening credits but they do have an ending and it’s very typical of 90s anime with a mid tempo, relaxing piece with a catchy melody. Music in The Heroic Legend of Arslan won’t have people running out to hunt down its soundtrack, but on the whole the music is quite enjoyable.

Unsurprisingly, the OVAs attracted a number of well-known voice actors. Playing Arslan is Kappei Yamaguchi who was the voice of Subaru in Tokyo Babylon, as well as voicing Conan in Detective Conan as well as doing InuYasha’s voice. Then there’s Kazuhiko Inoue who took the role of Daryun and also voiced Dusty Attenborough in Legend of Galactic Heroes as well as Ninzaburou Shiratori in Detective Conan (taking over the role after the death of Kaneto Shiozawa who actually voiced Narses in these Arslan OVAs). Really, just flipping through the cast of Japanese voice actors who were involved with the show, there are quite a few big names of the time here.

While the current version of Arslan Senki is getting the lion’s share of anime fans’ attention, it’s still worth spending some time with the 90s OVAs. They hold up quite well with beautiful artwork and some engaging political drama. Just don’t expect something on the same level as Legend of Galactic Heroes. That is Yoshiki Tanaka’s magnum opus and had over 100 episodes to tell its story. Ultimately, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a very well put together advertisement for the Arslan novels. They set a very elaborate stage for what is happening, but in the end it is still only six episodes and viewers would need to read the novels to get proper closure. It’s still a worthwhile show, but important that viewers keep this in mind going in.

- IroIro
July 29, 2019
Directed by: Tetsuro Amino
JC Staff
Released: 1991-1995

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