Heroic Legend of Arslan
Episode 22

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 22 of
The Heroic Legend of Arslan ?
Community score: 3.5

As of the end of this week's installment, we have three episodes of The Heroic Legend of Arslan to go. So it's a little distressing that this week doesn't include much actual plot movement—mostly just setup for the coming battle. It's the calm before the storm. "Setup" episodes with no real momentum haven't been the strongest episodes for the show in the past. Luckily, this one's mostly okay.

It starts at the heart of the conflict, albeit mostly to show us things we already know. Guiscard is suspicious of Hermes and his troops, and he isn't going to let him have too much control. Hermes can give him insight on the Parsians, particularly Narsus and his ingenious strategizing, but Guiscard still knows better than to let the Parsian with no long-term reason to align himself with Lusitania to control their side of this war. He knows Hermes is just waiting for an opportunity to turn things around in his favor, largely because Hermes keeps disdaining their cause and their religion.

The more this show drags on, the more I can't see Hermes as an imposing presence. It's also become increasingly obvious why more and more Parsian higher-ups align themselves with Arslan, even putting aside the fact that Hermes betrayed their country. Hermes really hasn't thought his plan through at all. How does he plan to drive the Lusitanians out when his civil war with Arslan is over? He has a mighty army, but Lusitania's is bigger—and it's less divided too. Even if he defeats Arslan, some Parsians will be resentful and reluctant to rush to Hermes's side. The Lusitanians are all united by a common cause. Heck, some of them are suspicious of Hermes and his men even now. Étoile may simply resent them for being "heathens," but her suspicions are still legitimate. Even the count she serves doesn't dismiss her suspicions, instead choosing to frame the situation as a possible test from their God. Hermes is stupid and shortsighted, and Guiscard or another Lusitanian would likely take him out before he even has a chance to get to Arslan. It's amazing that he's even made it this far. That's not even going into the mysterious prophecy Andragoras mentions, which apparently spells out the royal family's doom, including Hermes. Genre-savvy audiences know that prophecies are always important in fantasy-adventure shows like this. Hermes dismissing it may as well paint a target on his back.

No, Guiscard is the real threat to Arslan and company. He's found out Narsus's game and shown that he can more than rise to meet it. Guiscard is smart enough to be suspicious without falling into outright paranoia and intolerance like Bodin. I can already tell what the outcome of Arslan and Hermes's fight will be; I'm more interested in how Arslan will drive out the Lusitanians. Both he and Innocentis have master strategists on their side, and now that it's come up, I'm also wondering how this prophecy plays into things. Andragoras quotes something about the "blood-soaked royal family of Pars." Is that a hint as to why Arslan is not of noble birth himself? Was it to free him from some cruel cycle of violence that comes with being born into that family? Or was it to make sure Parsian rule keeps going in spite of the curse?

Arslan gets more chances this week to prove why he is not only worthy of the throne, but the best little king who ever considered ruling Pars. This segment is the lowest and slowest point of the show, even if the inspiring music is a nice touch. It's already been established that Arslan is infinitely compassionate and looks out for the little guy; we don't need to see him giving the soldiers extra training in order to reinforce that. (Isn't that just common sense anyway? Why weren't they doing that already?) Gieve's episode last week also just highlights how underdeveloped some of our supporting cast is. For example, I would like to have seen more of the transition from Farangis finding Gieve annoying to respecting him and hoping for his return. It's merely implied because we saw so Little Non-gag interaction from them before last week, but we're just supposed to take this for granted now when she talks about him.

This week also takes a serious dip in animation quality, and those training scenes showcase the worst of it. The Heroic Legend of Arslan has never been a well-animated show, but it was showing some improvement in the last few episodes. This week, we're right back to horrifically off-model characters if someone's face isn't dominating the camera. It's not only in distance shots, but even mid-level shots of two people look poor. It's strange, because this episode was a strong reminder of just how great The Heroic Legend of Arslan's lush, exotic backgrounds are. However, its animation is still in the toilet. I'm not looking forward to battles in the remaining episodes with more robotic CG soldiers. Additionally, I'm not a fan of how dark everything gets every time the characters are inside at nighttime or underground. There's "cinematic lighting" and then there's making it difficult for viewers to see what's happening onscreen.

The main thing I'm curious about going forward is how Étoile will inevitably get drawn into Arslan's web, along with everyone else in the show. The only nationality he has yet to collect is Lusitanian, and they already have a friendly history. Her moments this week give her good grounding for resentment toward the Lusitanian army, because of their unmerited trust of an outsider. Still, this is based in distrust of Parsians in general; she doesn't know anything about Hermes specifically. Étoile has a deep love for her country and her religion, so getting her to support Arslan would take a lot of work. I hope the series doesn't make it too easy, like it has for so many other characters joining up with him. It's the one area of the show where I'm not happy it's ending so soon, because Étoile's arc deserves more time. Unfortunately, this show hasn't displayed much ability to prioritize.

As usual, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is best when it shifts its focus away from its title character. Arslan's gained a colorful group of both supporters and enemies, and it would be nice to learn more about them instead of the same, obsessive, unnecessary reiteration of how perfect Arslan is. The series has fiddled about too much to ever be a good show, but learning where to put its focus could at least give it a stronger ending.

Rating: B-

Heroic Legend of Arslan is currently streaming on Funimation.

Rose is a music Ph.D. student who loves overanalyzing anime soundtracks. Follow her on her media blog Rose's Turn.

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