Romance Read: Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

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This story, wow, I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns within the first couple chapters. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. This was intended to be a novel review but… I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and haven’t been able to finish/pick up most of the books I’ve set out to read. So have totally been coping out of doing intended book reviews with tons of manga and graphic novels! It still counts right? Yes? Well let’s pretend it does even if it doesn’t! Hahaha! Anywho, as someone who isn’t a big fan of shojo (manga for young/teen girls) in general I never really thought I would not only pick-up the manga Yona of the Dawn, but begin collecting it. Despite my continuing overall apprehension towards most romance this is now one of my very few shojo favorites. 

Synopsis: Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King IL, is a pampered young lady but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

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To be honest, I was considering dropping this after the first couple pages as even though I was enjoying the comedy. The whole love struck pampered princess scene really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then came the plot twist and suddenly I’m 4 volumes deep and searching up the next release date. I loved this story and the unexpected action. The fight scenes were really well done and nothing I’ve ever come across in shojo (the art in general was really good). And the characters! I loved even the antagonist as a character, the character dynamics, and the often hilarious bantering and interactions. So far the major players are complex, and each had a side to him/her that was mysterious and at times unpredictable. For some what most caught my attention was the revelation of past or hidden thoughts/motives, for others it was major character development, and for the main protagonist Yona it was both in leaps and bounds.

As the 1st volume mainly dishes out the events that lead to her transformation so you won’t get to see the real results till the second volume. But I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it. I can’t get too into it without spoiling something, but I loved the deeper fantasy aspect that arises once the mystery behind Yona’s red hair is revealed, as well as love how this questions the idea of right and wrong (Vol. 2-3). Safe to say I’ll be checking out the 24 episode anime adaptation available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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As for the romance…well, there are some tantalizing scenes here and there, but overall I’d say this actually doesn’t have a strong enough overall romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. Since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume, which has a stronger focus on the romantic elements, I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me! 

A Silent Voice By Yoshitoki Oima

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Bullying, miscommunication, and atonement. This is by far one of my all time favorite manga series: 10/10 Unicorn Horns! I’d been a little hesitant to review this series, but this is such a powerful story. With the movie now out (depending on your region) I decided to finally review the manga that I found so incredibly moving. So in my unashamed attempt to convince you that “you need this series in your life“, here’s a link to the beautiful, short, spoiler free trailer of the movie- I CANNOT WAIT to see- on YouTube, and of my review:

A Silent Voice- Official Trailer

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Synopsis: In the first volume A Silent Voice (a.k.a Koe no Katachi), before jumping ahead 6 years, surrounds young and very adventurous elementary student Shoya. Jumping off bridges, play fighting, getting into trouble, Shoya is a typical crazy daredevil whose friends join him in his everyday “battle against boredom”. While trying to think of the next great adventure they get a new transfer student, a young girl named Shoko Nishimiya. Being new isn’t what catches Shoya’s attention, it’s the way she introduces herself- using a pen and notebook. Nishimiya is hearing impaired. This of course leads to a ton of curiosity from classmates. Unfortunately this lighthearted curiosity quickly begins to take a turn for the worse as misunderstandings build into a frustration that results in deeply scaring both Nishimiya and Shoya.   

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It is narrated from the point of view of Shoya, the one responsible for instigating the bullying and harassment that eventually forced Nishimiya to transfer schools. And that, the POV, is something that I found so incredible about this series. To be completely honest, as someone who has been on the receiving end, I may have never picked this up if I had known it would be from the point of view of the bully, but after some internal struggling I came to really like the 17yr old Shoya in spite of everything. 

This story manages to bring up a ton of important themes, strong emotions, and issues- depression, self-loathing, shame, a bit of social anxiety, etc.- but more than that I think this story is also about unheard voices. The rest of the story really starts when six years after the so very incredibly infuriating events in elementary Shoya, using the same sign language he scorned, reaches out to Nishimiya, making a tentative attempt to apologize for what he did. This leads to an emotional journey that had a real impact on me, where characters struggle to develop the ability to truly listen and to make their voices heard.

Through the diverse group of characters, personality wise, that come to surround Shoya and Nishimiya you get to see a side of each person’s painfully real and unique voice, as well as dive into the issues with human communication/ miscommunication and of bullying- primarily dealing with the aftermath of it. There wasn’t a single character, major and minor alike, that felt out of place or unrealistic in their emotions. I recommend this all-feels-train of a series to just about everyone.

How I Got Into Reading Manga and Watching Anime

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Art by: randyadr

For the first time I’ve decided to do a purely anime related post! I’ll still be primarily talking and blogging about books and novels, but I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for some time now. I only recently (as in a few years) got into anime so figured I didn’t know enough to comment on anything.

After reading so many enjoyable and insightful posts from fellow bloggers like Michel@ Raistlin0903Zbourie, Karandi@ 100 Word Anime, Anime_girls_NYC, and in different ways by all my supportive followers, I’ve been motivated enough to finally give it a try. P.S. Any words in blue have links attached.

Now on to the post! I’d like to start with:

What is anime?

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Art by Animalunleashed

I have come across various definitions that get into “anime” needing to fit a certain criteria in order to be “real anime”, but I’m not even going to pretend to understand all that well enough to get into any of it. I’m just going with the most basic definition. Anime, from what I understand, is short for “animation”, but when used in this context it exclusively refers to animated material originating from Japan. 

How/Why Did I Start Anime?

I grew up watching many of the same anime shows as other 90’s kids: Dragon Ball Z , Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, and Cardcaptor Sakura. But had no idea what anime was. In fact I spent years thinking anime was…it pains me to admit this… “some weird thing to be scoffed at”, and had no interest in.

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I sincerely apologize to all anime lovers/watchers and of course to Anime!

I was thankfully educated by an old friend and closet anime lover, and learned the truth: I had unknowingly been interested in anime all along lol. Now I’ll do something I generally opt to avoid like the plague, I’ll get a little bit personal:

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I’ve always been into reading (like that scene from Matilda I was that kid that would be carting home a wagon full of books from the library). I had some other hobbies/interests, but spent most of my free time between books and binge watching the latest TV show. With the exception of when I went off to school this remained true until around mid-March in 2014.

I won’t get too into it, but unfortunately I got sick. I had a bunch of inexplicable symptoms and did a ton of tests, but for about a year doctors couldn’t figure it out. For one, I had a lot of trouble focusing on anything, and worst of all I couldn’t write or read more than a few sentences without getting really dizzy. If I pushed things (which considering my love of books I did quite a bit of at first lol), I lost the ability to make sense of any of the words, along with getting a horrible migraine. At first doctors thought it was stress, then possibly MS, then about a year later they thought they found a brain aneurysm. Of course saying this was not the best of times for me is an understatement.

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But lucky for me I remembered the old conversation I had with Closet-anime-fan. So I decided, with nothing better to do since I wasn’t actively going to school and could barely handle most tasks, I’d start on some of the most popular anime series; shows I’d caught glimpses of as a kid, but hadn’t gotten the chance to watch them: Naruto, InuYasha, and Bleach, in that order

To be honest it was a bit of a rough start. I couldn’t understand why Naruto was so popular, but desperately needed something to take my mind off of everything (regular TV shows/movies just weren’t doing it anymore) so kept going. An entire 20-something episodes in my eyes were open. Once I finished those three I immediately went on to other top shonen (young male) shows:

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Art byAxelVera96

Needless to say, I was awed. Similar to how I was when I’d come across a mind blowing book series, I found myself wondering, “how did I not know about such amazingness before!? I quickly fell in lust, and moved on to shojo/shoujo (young girl) anime shows:

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Ouran Host Club: art by mixed-blessing; The Wallflower: washue; Fruits Basket: kuro-mai; Skip Beat!: alexielart

I watched a bunch of random shows before getting a bit tired of the young adult atmosphere, and eventually coming across something called seinen and josei (adult male/female) anime shows: 

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Samurai Shamploo: drodilla; Darker Than Black: talesvf; Black Lagoon: Hallucination-Walker; NANA: Alicechan

I was shocked to learn anime had so many different genres/stories, and could be so dark/psychological and thought-provoking. I pretty much became an addict for the first year, haha. 

What is Manga and How/Why Did I Start Reading It?

Manga, again in the most basic terms from my understanding, is basically Japanese comics. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but they differ from North American comics in both how they are published, and in the fact that they are always (with the exception of special editions/pages) published without colour in black and white.

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Of course, it was anime that had gotten me into manga in the first place. It ended up much like when I had started anime and had yet another shameful thought (it seems I’ve had many of these): “I’ll never watch subbed!” Then I ran out of most of the dubbed shows I had a high interest in watching, tentatively switched to subbed, and once again had my eyes opened. For manga, despite my early reservations, I ran out of patience for waiting on so many anime shows that had been dropped to possibly be picked up again by another company. So to start I went on Bookoutlet, found a couple cheap manga and bought them, because of course it never crossed my mind to just go to the library. 

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I wasn’t a big fan of either, namely Your & My Secret, but more importantly not only did the big difference in how to read it go well, but I found I could actually get through it without feeling sick. At this time my mysterious illness had been really improving, but I still couldn’t get through half a book before feeling too sick to continue so I was really hesitate to start. Thankfully my first attempts went well, and I found I could get through a few volumes before I had to call it quits. Soon enough, just like with the anime, I became a manga reading addict for almost a year lol.

I notice I’ve been kinda/pretty vague on details, but will say I eventually I got the good news of the brain aneurysm being a misdiagnosis! Yeah! As things got better I gradually started reading more and more manga at a time. Then slowly and gradually got back into reading regular novels. As you could probably tell from all the novel reviews and posts, I’ve been much better since and will be going back to school later this year or next!

So that is my story on how I started manga/anime, and ultimately how they both helped me deal with all that crazy life stuff. I’ll eventually get around to doing a post on my top favorite anime shows and movies. Thanks for reading! Now on to more anime!

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Romance Read: Say I Love You Vol. 1 by Kanae Hazuki

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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7/10 Unicorn Horns

Say I Love You by Kanae Hazuki is a fairly popular 17 volume on-going shojo manga series (Yes!! I finally got around to reviewing one! Lol) that surrounds the life of a 16-year-old high school girl named Mei Tachibana. It has gotten a 13 episode anime adaptation by the same name that, so far, follows the manga fairly well, though if memory serves (I recently re-read the first volume, but read the series up to volume 10 or 12 early last year) the anime starts to leave out a fair bit of good information as well as makes changes here and there later on in the series. Even so I’d definitely recommend checking out both (but of course more so the manga, especially since it goes a lot further than the anime did). 

I could say this series is pretty generic in terms of the whole overdone popular boy falls for unpopular girl bit, which isn’t entirely untrue, but I still really enjoyed this series on a whole. This isn’t because the series did so well with developing the main characters relationship, which is actually done quite well, but mainly because of the main character and how she struggles to develop. Mei Tachibana is the typical high school outcast who has no friends and rarely speaks to her fellow classmates, but not for the usual reasons I’ve come across so often. Mei is an outcast primarily by choice. Within the first chapter we find out that due to her negative past experiences she has closed herself off from others and refuses to make any new friends, something she had been adamant about until a rather funny and unexpected encounter with the popular high school playboy Yamato Kurosawa. Of course this encounter leads where you’d expect based on the title and cover page, but what has made this story stand out so much to me is the struggle Mei goes through as Yamato abruptly begins to lead her back into having a social life, and the hard, albeit good, realizations she makes about others and primarily herself along the way. 

As this development doesn’t really start to take off till later volumes I can’t say much about it, only that it was, for me, a real highlight to this series. As for the romance I have to say I really have been enjoying watching the relationship between Yamato and Mei grow. It’s a bit troublesome at some parts in the beginning as Yamato is often pushy at first when it comes to developing their relationship (though never even close to the level of most BL manga lol). Though I wouldn’t call anything he does blatant harassment or abuse, as he backs off the moment Mei becomes upset with his actions (one instance being the exception), and Mei isn’t the type of character that is afraid to tell him to back off, these scenes could be off putting for some. After that their relationship was one of the healthier I’ve come across in books as they slowly learn about each others personalities as well as weaknesses- resulting in some hilarious, emotional, and dramatic moments- and then work together to overcome past and present emotional issues.

One other thing I loved about this book was the author’s note at the end of each volume. This is where the author talks a bit about her own negative experiences with others (primarily bullying) and how that warped her view of the people around her, and her struggles to overcome the trust issues and insecurities that came from those experiences. You can see a lot of the things Hazuki, the author, talks about reflected in the main character Mei, something I believe she has mentioned doing in one of the volumes. That is something that made reading these volumes an even better experience for me, especially with how reluctant I was to pick it up in the first place. Safe to say this was a good start to a very good series. There is a host of other characters Asami, Nakanishi, and a couple others that come in later in the series that all, in one way or another, very relatable in their struggle with various things from crushes, gossip and unrequited love to more serious problems like self-esteem issues and eating disorders. Reading this has actually been pretty enlightening at times and has on numerous occasions hit me on a personal level. So it’s at times offered, indirectly or otherwise, me some pretty great advice through the characters interactions and actions. Though there was a couple other minor things that I did find a bit off putting (for example some of the teasing Mei puts up with in the 1st chapter and the fact no one addressed it), most of it was admittedly realistic in comparison to how high schoolers typically react, and as a whole didn’t take away too much from my enjoyment of this series, especially since these scenes were usually part of building the story. 

Toradora! Vol. 1 by Yuyuko Takemiya (Story) & Zekkyo (Art)

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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8/10 unicorn horns so far!

I initially meant to write a Holiday themed book review but have been really strapped for time this past month- things have been pretty hectic and work and busy at home- so that didn’t work out. I figured I’d just go with something new, something outside of my usual reading preferences, after seeing that I have actually never written a manga review on any shojo (manga intended for young girls). Though I’ve come across a few great series in the shojo genre, I have to admit it’s been more miss than hit so I unfortunately tend to avoid it altogether. Only after reading and pre-posting this review did I notice my mistake. Turns out this is yet another shonen (intended for young males) manga. But since I truly enjoyed this series so much I decided to do write a review anyway (I swear I’ll write at least 1 shojo review next month). 

Toradora!, a fairly popular romantic comedy based on a light novel series, is narrated by a 17-year-old high school student named Takasu Ryuuji who struggles to fit in and make friends with his classmates due to a series of hilarious, over dramatic misunderstandings. These misunderstandings actually have nothing to do with his personality or even his actions, but simply because of his natural expression. No matter what he does, he almost always appears to be glaring at others. This doesn’t make it easy for him to get to know others, especially his long-term crush Kushieda, but the new school year gives him a better opportunity when his crush ends up in the same class as him. Well, should have been, except for an unexpected encounter with fellow classmate Aiska Taiga (a.k.a. The Palmtop Tiger). As the name suggests, Aiska is a tiny girl with a wild temperament and terrible personality- rude, demanding, ungrateful, very talented at all things klutz, and the best friend of Kushieda. After things take an unexpected and hilariously embarrassing turn, Ryuuji uncovers Aisaka’s secret: she’s in love with his (only) best friend. And so, these two end up working together in an attempt to confess their feelings to their respective love interests. 

This, as you can probably tell, is all very generic: boy meets girl + host of hilarious events= love. But that’s not quite the case. I considered dropping this series after seeing that this would likely take an incredibly predictable path, and also because I wasn’t too interested in sticking it out when I didn’t really like the other main character Aiska; but since I’d already taken the first two volumes from the library, was going to to a review on it (my main reason) and was really loving the humour I figured I’d at least finish them both. Now? I’m definitely collecting it. Not so much because I love over done story-lines, but because, incredibly, the main characters’ personalities and uniqueness are turning this story into an amazing experience so far. I expected both to follow common archetype but they surprised me. Ryuuji, generally the clueless, slow to action, and/or initially inconsiderate male lead, was considerate, kind to a fault, and emotionally mature (for protagonists of this genre that is). Aisaka, though at first got on my nerves despite all the jokes and making me laugh, really does have a bad personality but quickly comes to own up to her faults and later expresses complex, all too human emotions. Safe to say she grew on me (especially in the 2nd volume). The two love interests, Kushieda and Kitamura, haven’t been given much time to shine, but so far (by the 2nd volume at least) have made some insightful choices and judgement calls uncommon for side characters with their personality. I’m looking forward to getting to know them more. 

As of now there are 7 volumes available in English with the 8th volume scheduled to be released late November 2017 (the wait is going to kill me!). I can’t tell how faithful the novel adaptation is since it’s not available in English, but since the story is credited to the same author as the novels I’ll assume it doesn’t branch too far from the original work. There is also a 25 episode anime adaptation of the series available on Crunchyroll that, at least so far, follows the manga incredibly well. I’d recommend this series to any fan of comedy or romance. 

On a separate note:

Happy Holidays everyone!! 😁🎉🎁

Tokyo ESP Vol. 1 (Omnibus) by Hajime Segawa

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Someone once said: There are only two ways you can live your life. Either you live your life as if things like miracles don’t ever happen, or you live your life as if perhaps everything is a miracle.

This has turned out to be one of my most anticipated reads this year! Say nothing for all the gorgeous covers, this has been a very interesting story. The anime adaptation by the same name is what first thing to get me onto the manga (which is complete in it’s country of origin Japan, but just started printing 2-1 omnibus editions in English late last year), but as the anime has some odd pacing issues the manga is definitely the better pick. 

Not giving anything beyond the 1st chapter away, Tokyo ESP kicks off with main character Rinka Urashiba, a poverty stricken young teenager, as she wakes up one morning to call her father in a panic- suddenly falling through the floor and household furniture tends to do that to a person. A flashback to the previous day reveals Rinka’s encounter, along with a fellow high school student, with a very strange and mysterious event: A small African Penguin flying through the sky following a school of small, glowing, flying fish, one of which flies right into her. While she puzzles this out with aforementioned school mate, her protective father (a retired police officer and single parent since his wife took off) attempts to run home after receiving Rinka’s panicked message. A  very difficult task when you have every car in the area flying toward you like your a magnet. After witnessing this event and Rinka’s role in putting a stop to it while protecting dozens of nearby citizens, Kyotaro Azuma (the fellow high school student) lends a helping hand in their get away…by using teleportation to whisk them away.

With the mystery and issues that arise from dozens of magical fish flying through the city and gifting ordinary citizens with an array of superhuman abilities, it follows that groups of justice seeking masked vigilantes and super-powered villains would arise. This is a story that caters to superhero lovers as it centers around Rinka, Azuma, and their new friends as she incorporates her father’s morals and fights back against the raising tide of public chaos, and struggles with her own weaknesses in order to protect everything she holds dear. As you could probably already tell this story is a classic that has been told plenty of times, though as the story progresses (and boy does it ever), characters overcome and challenge themselves, mysteries arise and questions are answered, and both antagonist’s and protagonist’s pasts’ are revealed it gathers plenty of originality to keep readers coming back for more (I’ve read up to the fifth 2-in-1 omnibus volume). As for the art…I’m a bit conflicted on it. It’s different from what I’m use to and at times it’s very well done (those front and centered coloured pages in every bind-up are GORGEOUS!!), but it can sometimes drop in quality and become a little disjointed (never to the point the story-line can’t be followed). 

This was a really great find! I’d recommend it to anyone who loves stories with supernatural elements, superheroes, an undercurrent of romance, complex villains, kick-ass heroines (Rinka can hold her own against the best), and themes involving crime and justice.

8/10 Unicorn Horns!

I’m totally fangirling here but just look at all those beautiful covers!!

*Omnibus volumes 1-7 are currently all available in English. The last omnibus (volume 8) is scheduled to be released April 25th, 2017*

The Heroic Legend of Arslan By Yoshiki Tanaka (Story) & Hiromu Arakawa (Art)

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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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