Heroic Legend of Arslan DVD

Film:
DVD:

Written by Tomoya Miyashita, Megumi Sugihara, and Kaori Takada, based upon the novels by Yoshiki Tanaka
Directed by Mamoru Hamatsu

Features:

  • Character gallery
  • Original trailer
  • About the names

Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

  • Big words
  • Dangerous women
  • Growing pains
  • Animated violence and strife
  • Heathens a'plenty

Released by: Central Park/U.S. Manga
Region: 1
Rating: 13+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Add it to your collection.

The kingdom of Pars has been destroyed and overtaken by the dark magic-users of Rucitania. Arslan, the fugitive prince of Pars, has escaped and begins to assemble a party of adventurers who might be able to help him take back his throne and free his people from the bondage of Rucitania's dark power. Along the way, they just might save the rest of the world from the dismal fate Rucitania plans as well.

We get to see a combination of coming-of-age tale, mystery, and fantasy epic, with a healthy dose of huge army battles and a few theological questions thrown in for good measure. There's something here for every anime fan. The characters are also a strength of the show, from young Arslan becoming a man and learning what it means to be a good king, to the womanizer Guibu, to the dangerous and beautiful Farangis. Be aware, however, that the ending is left somewhat unconcluded; the story continues in the original novels.

The dialogue in both languages is exceptionally well-done. If you are tired of stock fantasy series that make the warriors in question sound like half-wits who barely know their own language, then the quality of speeches here should please you. The second episode is a bit less smooth with regard to logical order and how character introductions are handled, but if you stick with the show, all will be made clear. Epics of this sort have a tendency to need more space than producers give them, and so things can become muddled and rushed, yet worthwhile.

The only problems arise in the second half of the series, when the English cast changes; the first half of the show was done by a highly skilled cast who truly felt their characters and make the show come alive. The second half, however, while not "poor," were significantly less successful at representing the various character personalities with their voices, and the loss of British elegance is never more obvious here.

The art and visuals are just stunning. Not only are the character designs a wonderful mix of reality and fantasy, but the backgrounds are rich and, wonder of wonders, actually enhance the viewing of the show. The styles freely mix architecture and aesthetics from Earth's real ancient past, such as Babylonian and Roman, but the result is not muddle, but gorgeous and believable. Even in the final episode, when the art team had changed due to production problems and the budget was obviously much lower, the show is still a pleasure to watch. Just avoid disorientation and you'll make the transition fine.

The packaging is very nicely done. The set contains the entire series (four episodes) plus an additional OAV, "Age of Heroes." The slipcase is attractively decorated, and the cradles for the discs themselves are clear plastic, showing the liner underneath, which displays lovely portraits from the show.

The features are on the slim side, but are quality. We get the usual character gallery, done on a character-by-character basis this time--a very nice feature that costs little to produce and should be on every anime DVD released, but is not. If you are a fan of the nice fantasy art, the inclusion here should please you. We also get an unusual feature—a note about why the names change mid-series. Finally, we get a CPM trailer for the series.

All in all, if you like the fantasy genre, then this is a solid choice for your dollars. Anime fans will appreciate this one as an example of what animation can do in fantasy, and non-anime fans might find this short series more approachable than an epic like Evangelion or an acid trip like FLCL. If you can get past the character name changes and the animation shifts, the show will reward you, even if the inconclusive ending frustrates you a bit—just extrapolate what will happen from what you know of Arslan and friends. The show is a perfect balance between action and plot development, and should please anyone who enjoys medieval-style sword and sorcery or just epic stories in general. The novels deserve another attempt to bring them into animation--a fuller and more consistent attempt--but meanwhile, give this one at least a rental.

Buy it from Amazon.