What They Say:
As Arslan gathers forces to fight for his cause, his progress is suddenly halted by the warring Princes of the neighboring country, Sindhura. Both brothers believe they have equal claim to the throne, but only one can succeed their father. Sensing the opportunity to form a powerful alliance, Arslan’s trusted advisor, Narsus forms a plan to end the feud once and for all. But their detour in Sindhura gives Lord Silver Mask and his followers time to strengthen their own influence back in Pars. The mystery surrounding Arslan’s true parentage has loyal Parsians questioning his right to rule. Shocked by the revelation that he may be fighting for a throne that isn’t his, Arslan has to wonder: Is blood truly what makes a king? Or is the love he has for Pars and its people enough to see him through.
The audio presentation for this series is definitely well done as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and the English dub in 5.1, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The 5.1 mix definitely takes things up a notch, not so much in directionality and placement but rather with the overall impact. The sound of the horses and other battle elements have a stronger feeling throughout this as it plays out, making you feel the bass a bit more and giving the scenes greater strength. Both mixes handle most of the swordplay aspects well and the thwip and thunk of arrows works really well, too. Dialogue is strong overall with some very clean and clear moments to it and placement is solid throughout as there are generally a few characters around at a time digging into things as the narrative shifts focus. There may not be any huge standout moments but it’s a very strongly designed show that comes through without any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes in this collection are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Liden Films and Sanzigen, the series is one that looks quite good overall with some very appealing animation and character designs. That generally comes through well here with a clean look to the characters while the CG animation has a very good look in handling the troops and all the detail there, which the transfer handles perfectly. The series has a mildly muted design to it overall with what it does but it’s got some nice pop of color here and there and finds areas to really stand out. Some of the backgrounds show a bit of the gradients that exist in how the series was animated, which can be more distracting in the darker and late night scenes, but it’s not something that’s a constant.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the four discs from both formats on hinges. The release also comes with an o-card that replicates the artwork from the main case but with a better cardstock that gives it a richer color palette. The look is one that uses the familiar key visual of of the main cast that’s aligned with Arslan together with an ornate framing of gold over the purple that fits the tone and atmosphere of the series very well. The back cover carries this design overall and places the summary of the premise in a nice design that takes up most of the real estate here while also including a breakdown of the extras. The shots from the show along the right are small but good and we get a standard technical grid along the bottom that’s mostly readable as it’s done with the gold text over the purple. While there are no show related inserts here we do get a reversible cover where each of the panels pairs Arslan with different members of his core council as they have serious on-battlefield kind of looks about them..
The menu design for this release goes for the simple approach with what it wants to do as we get the image from the cover set against the full screen in static mode. With the clouds and the bits of flames the wisp about it has a very serious feeling to it but with a moody aspect that definitely works well. The logo is kept to the upper left with a simple font while the navigation along the bottom works the same color design as the cover with the gold and purple. That works well as both the main menu and the pop-up menu and everything works really well in moving through the menus as it’s smooth and problem free.
The extras for this release are fairly standard overall but certainly welcome. Original to this collection is the inclusion of two English language commentary tracks from the staff and cast of the show as they dig into their characters and the fun of the project itself. We also get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
With some shows there’s always a problem of getting back into it with even a minor gap between releases. I was somewhat concerned about getting back into the mindset of the Heroic Legend of Arslan with the second volume since it’d been a few months since I’d seen the first and the show works a couple of different layers of events going on with the characters that it can be tough to reconnect with it. The show certainly felt that way for the first episode or so as I got back into its groove, but it’s one that’s so well produced and touches back on events right without overdoing it that it was much easier than I expected it to be. This is still a show that benefits from having all of it at once to watch, however, so I definitely recommend that over any other piecemeal kind of approach.
Considering the sprawling nature of the source material and the scale of the story being told, it’s no surprise that this set really doesn’t complete the tale as told. There’s so much going on in such a rich world with years worth of material to be told, the kind of story where you want to see Arslan from where he is at fifteen here to where he may be decades down the line as a strong and competent adult, that it can be both frustrating and rewarding getting this early years kind of material. Arslan is your standard kind of good king in the making hero, one properly attuned to his people for the most part but still making mistakes, that is moving beyond his upbringing to discover more of the world outside of his kingdom and incorporating new elements from it. Sometimes small, sometimes large, but not looking to keep things static or by force. It may be too idealistic in some ways, but the series thankfully still puts the hard moments to him.
The progress within this half of the series is solid as it moves over the course of several months overall and expands what it is that we know Arslan has to deal with and how he and his advisors are crafting their policy to cope with various threats. The bigger threat that we get here involves the kingdom of Sindhura where there’s something of a civil war that’s brewing between the two princes as the king is ill and he’ll be abdicating soon. Gadevi is your typical older son that looks to rule through strength while Rajendra is a bit more compassionate and feels that he’s better suited to ruling than his older brother. Suffice to say, Rajendra’s dealing with it from a bad position and in attempts to prove himself he tries to take on Arslan’s forces only to be so roundly dealt with through a really creative means involving the weather that it’s almost humiliating.
But that isn’t Arslan’s intention and over the course of it as Rajendra sees how Arslan operates, he sees an opening where they can both use each other. It’s no surprise that Rajendra has wheels within wheels operating here, and with someone like Narsus on Arslan’s side you know that they’ll figure it out before it even happens. But watching as w get the back and forth through the key moments of interaction with the two princes and Arslan’s involvement with them as well is definitely engaging to watch. Arslan’s bright and outgoing nature almost makes them mistake him for a rube, but Rajendra at least knows enough to be more wary. I also really liked how, after things were all settled and Rajendra is on a very strong path forward, he looks to educate Arslan about the realities of leadership by essentially backstabbing him. It was pretty obvious from the start and Rajendra so easily walks into it that you have to laugh. But you also have to admire how Narsus works things so that honor is saved here while also securing some peace for a few years while other and more difficult threats are to be dealt with.
The harsh reality of the world is something that definitely helps to balance out the brightness that Arslan exudes. In the Sindhura arc, we’re given a sequence where each side has a champion fighting that will determine who will win. With Gadevi using a powerful warrior from prison in going up against Daryun, there is that uncertainty because you can imagine it playing out badly. But this is a strong sequence even with its predictability because Arslan is not able to bring compassion to it when Daryun wins as Daryun has to truly eliminate the enemy to secure no doubt. While some shows would find a way to deal with it without killing off the opponent, that hard area is played well here. Similarly, a later part of a different arc involves some faithful that have lost in battle and Arslan has secured their surrender, but those that were truly of the faith refuse to live under his rule and take their own lives. It’s a profoundly dark moment for him to take in and you can sense his panic as he just can’t understand it, especially since the religious side isn’t strong in him. It’s another defining moment that could be interesting in how he deals with those of faith in the future.
The back half of this opening season is one that does dig into some varying threads of interest and a new movement on the war front that plays well, but it’s the character material that I like. We get some time in seeing Hilmes furthering his goals and establishing his reputation so that he can reclaim Pars from the diluted and illegitimate Arslan, all while holding the former King in chains. There’s some fun in seeing how Jaswant, a conflicted Sindhuran that’s signed onto things, becomes more enmeshed as he sees the kind of ruler that Arslan is. We also get a Lusitanian woman, a soldier hiding her identity, who accidentally befriends Arslan while spying and not knowing who he is. Estelle’s role is a familiar one but it plays with a proper intensity as she views all that are not like her as heathens and treats them so – even after realizing that he’s not a heathen before discovering his true identity. There are a lot of good little threads at play that expand and enhance the cast, though Farangis gets the short end of the stick in most of them, which helps to make this feel like a solidly fleshed out opening chapter in a far larger story.
I was kind of wary of this series in a general sense as the Arslan material never had a strong appeal to me. I was curious because of Arakawa’s involvement in the current manga and knowing what they’re capable of had me intrigued, but cautious. As a whole, this opening season of the series is a strong one but has that problem in that it’s just that, just the opening aspect of a much larger story. With the manga not something I’m going to be reading, there’s going to be a limited and incomplete story here overall for me and that’s just something to accept. The journey itself is worthwhile and this set brings a lot of really good character material into the mix with some great action, intrigue, and little quirks as well. It’s definitely a very good show that does the whole genre right with how straight it mostly plays it while dealing with tactics in an accessible way. Very recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Chapter XVI Commentary, Chapter XXIV, Commentary, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 8th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.