*This Review is Spoiler Free*
As an avid fan of Fullmetal Alchemist I had to pick this one up. Even though the author for the incredible Fullmetal Alchemist series, Hiromu Arakawa, was the illustrator and not the author, this series was something that still had to be done. I’m not a big fan of historical-esque fiction outside of the occasional dramatized film so I was a bit hesitant once I read the premise, but Arakawa’s name and art easily won me over. Though The Heroic Legend of Arslan manga is based off of a fantasy novel series of the same name by Yoshiki Tanaka who based the novels off of the popular 19th century Persian Epic Amir Arsalan, from what I’ve looked up the Japanese version, at least so far, doesn’t follow it’s original too closely. Either way I can now say that, along with Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, this has actually made me interested in possibly expanding my reading preferences to include actual historical fiction in the future.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan follows the journey of the young crowned prince of a vast and prosperous country called Pars. After an unlikely encounter with a child solider from an opposing army, Lusitania, and by encounter I mean after being held hostage by the child and dragged across the city, the young prince Arslan becomes aware of the ignorance being raised in the wealth and comfort of Royal Capital of Ecbatana has granted him. It’s this encounter that makes the young prince, unreasonably scorned by both his parents, curious about the nature of slaves, the equality of men, and the acquisition of wealth within his country. Unfortunately for Arslan this prosperity doesn’t last long, as a few years later, much to the surprise of everyone, the country known for its undefeated army falls to the Lusitanian enemy in battle. This fall sets the young prince on an epic journey to reclaim what is rightfully his.
I’ve only read the few volume so far, but at the end of each I immediately wanted to know more. It isn’t, at least not yet, an epic story that can be compared to Arakawa’s previous work, but I find myself oddly drawn to the story and the odd ensemble of main characters. Arslan is the type of character I find myself compelled to watch despite having the type of personality I’d usually view as simple. At first glance he’s the typical kind, good-natured, laid back, well-meaning, albeit ignorant and weak would-be-prince, but as time progresses he begins to reveal other traits- a subtle but very strong and powerful will, a rational mind with the ability to put sympathy aside if his intellect doesn’t reveal another way, and a commanding presence that somehow still expresses humility. He may not be the character with the highest skill in fighting or strategy, but he can definitely hold his own in both categories. The host of other characters- a fierce and epic fighter as well as former Captain, a painter and former Lord very famous for his very high skill in strategy in battle, along with his young helper: a jack-of-many-trades, the priestess of a nearby Temple and excellent archer, a travelling minstrel skilled with a sword and in deception, and a bit later on the heir to an infamous pirating clan.
As I’ve watch both seasons of the anime adaptation, which so far follows the manga pretty closely, I know the plot becomes much more complex with the revelation of the hinted at plot twist, incredible tactics, many interesting characters and scenarios, and quite a bit of character development on Arslans part. The Heroic Legend of Arslan is, overall, a very charming story about the adventures of a young prince overcoming his own ignorance by discovering his country and the customs of the lands surrounding it, by delving into his culture, and by accepting the right and wrong of his father’s reign and what he will and can do to bring about change once he takes the throne.
7.5/10 Unicorn Horns overall