Heroic Legend of Arslan
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 25 of
The Heroic Legend of Arslan ?
Community score: 4.2
Just like that, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is over. At least, it's over for now. There's still a lot of plot left to cover: Arslan needs to take Ecbatana, and take Hermes down in the process. At least the show wisely realized it couldn't cover all that ground here, and instead focuses on character relationships while building up a bridge to another season. The Heroic Legend of Arslan seems to be somewhat popular in Japan, and there's still plenty more story to cover in the source material, so it's likely to get a continuation. For now, this leaves us with a strange, open-ended, but not unsatisfying conclusion.
First, there's the confrontation between Hermes and Guiscard. This happens in the middle of the episode and takes up the least amount of screentime overall. However, it's still the most important scene, answering many questions about the nature of their relationship and where it's going. Guiscard went along with Hermes because he didn't know the full extent of his plan: he didn't know that he was the original heir to the throne or that he planned to take it over from Arslan. This makes him trust Hermes even less, but he also sees how he could use him, because Guiscard doesn't really want to control Pars. He wants to take the throne from his brother, and he sees the Parsian campaign as a way to achieve that. It's probably not a great idea for Guiscard to blab this to Hermes, but he does anyway. I guess he figured they were trading secrets, but it's pretty obvious that Hermes wanted to take over Pars. It can't be that big a secret for the Lusitanian top brass if Arslan and his people all know about it. Guiscard's designs on his brother's throne could still get him in serious trouble, and Hermes will use that against him if he needs to. The seeds for Hermes's downfall have already been planted, but now Guiscard has set himself up for a fall too. Another season will hopefully exploit these flaws in full.
The bulk of the episode focused on Étoile, or rather, Estelle, and her relationships with Arslan and (to a lesser extent) Elam. There are a lot of cute moments here that seem like setup for a romance, most likely with the prince. Arslan is kind and understanding to a fault, and Estelle is very tsundere. Then again, she's that way in her interactions with everyone, and her faith is very important to her. Even if she grows throughout this episode to realize that good people don't necessarily have to share her religion, it's hard to see her getting over that enough to fall in love with a non-believer. She's hell-bent on converting Arslan, and as he says himself, that's not too likely. Arslan likes the Lusitanian opposition to slavery, but isn't keen on their intolerance. Still, it says something that she wants him to become a believer so badly. It's not just because he's the prince, right?
There are several other interpersonal character moments that dot this episode, such as the post-funeral discussion between Estelle and Farangis, or Arslan's affectionate (almost too affectionate) meeting with Daryun after his fight. Altogether, they make me wonder what The Heroic Legend of Arslan could have been. The show stumbled in spending too much time on meandering subplots that might have been charming if given two episodes rather than six. It could have been better to just race to the point—but another route might have been to make those Adventures of the Week more meaningful with character interaction instead. However, the show sped through each new character introduction, filling them with potential in their initial episodes and then consigning them to the background for the next new team member to jump in. It tried to have it all with both character and plot, but ended up shortchanging them both.
The structure of this series reminds me most of Yona of the Dawn from earlier this year: another story about a royal who loses their throne and must band together a group of misfit warriors in order to take it back. That show also had problems getting through its story, often taking too long on some subplots while breezing through others. It also left its plot hanging, while setting up for more. What made Yona memorable where The Heroic Legend of Arslan struggles to maintain interest was the cast of characters. It used its plot meanderings to dig deep into character development overall. By the end, Yona's group felt like real people that you could emotionally invest in and root for—heroes and villains alike. Arslan's characters feel like archetypes, from the third-stringers all the way up to its protagonist. If the series had made them just a tad more interesting and three-dimensional, I might be cheering for more of this show.
As it stands, The Heroic Legend of Arslan pulled off an emotionally satisfying ending. I'm grateful for that. However, the strengths of that ending just shine a light on how much the larger series lacked those strengths. Since the franchise is fairly popular, hopefully another season will mean a more solidly handled production that brings this story to a satisfying conclusion. Arslan the Liberator, his friends, and his foes deserve better.
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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