Literature: The Heroic Legend of Arslan

The 1991-1996 adaptation by Movic and JC Staff
The 2015 adaptation by Hiromu Arakawa

The Heroic Legend of Arslan (a.k.a. The Heroic Legend of Arislan a.k.a. Arslan Senki) is a series of fantasy novels written by author Yoshiki Tanaka with illustration by Yoshitaka Amano (Kadokawa) and Shinobu Tanno (Kobunsha) and published by Kadokawa Shoten then later Kobunsha. The series is currently on hiatus at 13 volumes; the first having been published in 1986 and the series not yet complete, although volume 7 marks a sort of halfway conclusion.

A Manga adaptation of the novels was crafted by Chisato Nakamura and published by Kadokawa Shoten in the magazine Asuka Fantasy DX. Originally running between November 1991 and September 1996 the Manga also stands at 13 volumes.

An Anime OVA adaptation was also created, animated by studios Movic and JC Staffnote  under the direction of Mamoru Hamatsu (episodes: I & II and V & VI) Tetsurō Amino (episodes: III & IV). Released August 17th 1991 to 1996 the Anime OVA consists of six episodes and is notable for its beautiful animation for its age (at least the in first two episodes), its music, its voice acting talent, and for being unfinished due to funding issues.

There's also an Audio Adaptation series (10 volumes plus a special one) that roughly covers the first 10 volumes of the novel and shares the anime voice cast (mostly), and a Strategy RPG for the Sega CD produced by Sega at the same time as the anime.

A new Manga adaptation of the novels was created by Hiromu Arakawa of Fullmetal Alchemist fame in 2013. Said adaptation has received a TV anime, airing in Spring 2015.

The story of all incarnations is very loosely based on the Persian epic Amir Arsalan. It takes place in a fantasy setting reminiscent of ancient Middle East and feature the warring states of Pars and Lusitania (Pars is roughly the same as Persia/modern Iran). The king of Pars, Andragoras demotes one of his most loyal generals, Darun, on the word of a man who proves to be a traitor. During a battle between the Lusitanians and Parsians the Lusitanians achieve victory and Darun escapes with the crown prince of Pars, Arslan. The story details the ventures of Darun and Arslan as they attempt to reclaim Pars and gain revenge against the Lusitanians while facing innumerable obstacles between them and their goals.


Tropes:

  • Accidental Hand Hold: Arslan and Etoile notice they are holding hands after Arslan saves Etoile from falling off a giraffe in the first episode of the Arakawa manga and the TV series (this whole story doesn't happen in the novel or the first anime), Etoile pushes Arslan's hand off him that's strong enough to push Arslan down, making Etoile angry and tells Arslan not to touch him.
  • Action Girl: Ester, sometimes Arfrid.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The themes and cultural trappings exhibited in adaptations of Arslan Senki (both the OVA and the 2015 TV anime) borrow less from the original Persian epic Amir Arsalan (امیر ارسلان نامدار) and more from the longer epic poem by Firdusi, the Shahnameh (شاهنامه‎ , "The Book of Kings"). One of the main characters of Shahnameh, Kai Khosrau, was acknowledged In-Universe to be the founder of Pars. His story arc of losing his kingdom and then rightfully regaining it is also basically Arslan's current plotline. Noted female characters (such as Farangis and Queen Tahamenay) get their names from noble ladies featured in the epic as well, with their personalities not entirely different from the originals.
  • Adults Are Useless: Entirely averted. Arslan would be dead dozens of times over if not for the competent adults who care for him.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Grieve fell head over heels for Farangis who consistently brushed off his advances. Arfid has a one-sided crush on Narsus since he helped save her life. King Innocentius is doing everything he can, including ignoring his subjects' advice, to marry Queen Tahamenay who refuses to speak to him.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Lustania captured and claimed the capital city of Pars.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After Hodir attempted to slander and get Arslan to abandon Daryun, Narsus and the others because they were "going to use Arslan to further their own ends", Arslan's response was:
    Arslan: If I were to discard Daryun and Narsus and choose you instead, how can you guarantee there shall not come a day when I will be forced to discard you in turn?
  • Arrows on Fire: Used to lit an entire plain covered in oil.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Elam while disguised as a girl got flirted on by a soldier.
  • The Beastmaster: Jaswant, apparently. He travels around on a tiger.
  • Beast of Battle: Shindrans use elephants in battle.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Kahran.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Arslan is normally gentle, soft-spoken, patient and doesn't like violence. However, when Rajendra cynically puts Darun's life in danger, he snaps, draws his sword and tells Rajendra that if Darun doesn't survive the fight, he, Arslan, will personally have Rajendra's head. This comes as a surprise not only to Rajendra but also to Arslan's own followers.
    • In the novel he says "I swear by the gods of Pars that if that monster kills Daryun its head will decorate the city gate - along with yours!" The novel also informs us that this was the first time Arslan ever threatened anyone.
  • Bishounen: Every single male under 30, especially Arslan.
  • Boom, Headshot: Of the arrow variation. Grieve does this as a Mercy Kill to Shapur.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Narsus is a formidable strategist and statesman (think Oberstein) who nevertheless regards himself an artist first and foremost. In the second part of the story he says he's a "Royal Court Artist who happens to be First Minister as well." Darun's utter and vocal distaste for Narsus's artwork is a running gag throughout the story, but while the anime would have the viewers believe that Darun is too boneheaded to appreciate true art, the novel series implies that Narsus's art does actually suck.
  • Cain and Abel: Gadevi and Rajendra, the two Shindran princes. Also Hirmes and Arslan, although they're cousins. As it turns out, not even that.
  • The Champion: Darun to Arslan. At one point he makes it clear that he doesn't care whether or not Arslan is the rightful heir or even of royal blood, he's loyal to him as a person.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Arakawa manga/anime only: back in chapter/episode 1, Daryun makes a mention of his friend as someone he would like Arslan to promote. Said character Narsus doesn't appear until a few chapters later (and chronologically three years later).
  • Combat Pragmatist: Daryun
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Arslan, at any rate.
  • Cool Mask: Hirmes/Silvermask's mask has large bull horns (one wonders how strong his neck must be). The mask is toned down in Arakawa's adaptation, which looks like an amalgam of a mask a Char Clone would wear (as befits Silvermask's status as The Ace and The Rival) and that of Kurei's initial mask (intending to hide facial burns, as befits being the "Cain" to Arslan's "Abel").
  • Crucified Hero Shot: In the Arakawa manga/TV series Andragonas is forced into this position after being captured and chained up by Hermes, his nephew.
  • Darker and Edgier: Arakawa's version compared to the previous anime and manga adaptations (not the novel, though).
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Darun dresses in all black, and in the novel he's known in-universe as the Black Knight.
  • Decoy Getaway: How Queen Tahamine tried to escape from Ecbatana. (It didn't work.)
  • The Dreaded: The mere mention of Daryun is enough to send soldiers quivering and running away in fear.
  • The Drifter: Gieve. A Wandering Minstrel with a Gray and Grey Morality who hates nobility and initially only joins Arslan's group because of Farangis and his own hatred against Lusitanians.
  • Dual Wielding: Kishwad uses two swords.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Arslan has a rather effeminate face in Hiromu Arakawa's rendition of the story.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Played straight with Rajendra's battle elephants.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Kharlan's betrayal stunned his comrades and when confronting him, Arslan asked why he as an honoured knight of Pars would choose to betray his own country. Kharlan would die refusing to explain his actions, though it was implied he did so because he found out Andragoras attempted to murder his nephew sixteen years ago and Hermes had returned to reclaim the throne.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The high-ranking Lusitanian officer Montferrat is seen disgusted by Bodin's extreme murders of innocent Parsians and disapproves of senseless killing. Other Lusitanian soldiers also voice their objection about Bodin's torture of Shapur.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "I'd rather die on the arrow of a friend than be made sport of by these Lusitanian barbarians!" — Shapur
    • "I can't follow your orders." — Kharlan
    • "Please become a fine king." — Bahman
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Pars is Persia, Lusitania is a mix of Macedonia and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Maryam is the Byzantine Empire, and Shindra is India.
    • As for religion, Pars and Shindra are polytheist while Lusitania and Maryam worship one god, Yaldabord. Lusitania is a lot more militant about it: they torture "heathens" and destroy art and scriptures that depict and mention other gods. To drive the point home, the current king of Lusitania is called Innocentius VII, an obvious reference to Pope Innocent III.
  • Fatal Flaw: King Andragoras's overconfidence. He believed that his powerful army could overcome any enemy with little regard for tactics or planning, despite warnings from one of his generals. That pride would cost him the battle of Atropatene where he not only lost a huge portion of his soldiers, the rest of his followers scattered, the capital city becoming overrun and he himself would be imprisoned.
  • Fiery Redhead: Arfrid
  • Five-Man Band: Prince Arslan's little group.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, Daryun's uncle asked Daryun to swear loyalty to Arslan, not the royal family. It's later revealed that he knew or at least suspected Hermes was alive, seeking to claim the throne, and Arslan isn't of royal blood.
  • The Fundamentalist: Jon Bodan, High Priest of Lusitania.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Hirmes's mask hides a rather nasty burn scar.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Don't mistaken Arslan's All-Loving Hero status as weak.
  • Heroic Bastard: Arslan. Only alluded to in the anime, expanded upon in the novels and the manga. In fact, he's not even of royal blood, he's the son of a cavalry soldier and a serving girl, whom he thought to be his nanny. He quickly proves that he is charismatic, kind, and intelligent enough to deserve his followers' loyalty and grow up into a great ruler regardless.
  • Hitchhiker Heroes: Arslan and his supporters who wander around Pars looking for supporters and allies. It starts out with only Darun, then gains Narsus (and Elam), Farangis and Gieve who make up the core of Arslan's growing group of allies. Originally none of them were very enthusiastic about it and supported Arslan only because they opposed the Lusitanian invasion, but eventually Arslan's personality won them over.
    • At first Darun was only following his uncle's orders, Narsus joined because he found Arslan interesting, Farangis because she hated Lustianian religious fanaticism and Gieve because Farangis joined, and because he hated oppression of all kind.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Gieve to Farangis, Arfrid to Narsus. Subverted a little in that both Farangis and Narsus are very much aware of their respective suitors' feelings, and they find the situation annoying.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted as one panel Bodin tosses a young child into the fire and later on, a Lusitanian soldier mentions that three million hectics, including children, have been killed.
  • Inter-Service Rivalry: The Lusitanian military and the clergymen/Temple Knights do not get along, since the military does all the fighting but the clergymen take all the credit while not being on the front lines. The rivalry is fueled by the mutual dislike between their leaders, Lord Guiscarl and Archbishop Bodin.
  • Kick the Dog: Bodin strikes one Lusitanian soldier who openly questions the burning of the historical books and scrolls of Pars and hits him hard enough to push him into the bonfire.
  • King Bob the Nth: Innocentius VII
  • Kneel Before Zod: In the TV series, Silvermask and his men surrounded Narsus and would let Narsus live if he kneel before him and serve him.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Invoked trope with Etoile, who dresses as a boy so she can fight in the army.
  • Lady of War: Farangis is this trope personified. Incidentally, she's very much aware of her own skills and beauty. She can also drink her Hopeless Suitor Gieve under the table without losing her poise and dignity.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Gieve, the smooth talker, falls head over heels for Farangis the moment he meets her.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Narsus, Gieve
  • Love at First Sight: Queen Tahamenay has a habit of invoking this trope with several of her suitors, including Andragoras, Osroes and Innocentius.
  • Mercy Kill: Shapur, captured and facing Cold-Blooded Torture, asks to be shot by his allies. However, none of the Parsian soldiers are capable of covering such a distance. He is shot instead by a soon-to-be introduced new character, Gieve.
  • The Mole: Jaswant is sent by Grand Vizier Mahendra to infiltrate Rajendra's forces.
  • Moral Myopia: Etoile tells Arslan that his god Yaldabord teaches that all people are equal but if you identify with another religion, then you are a pagan and must be marked off and killed. Arslan naturally lampshades this.
  • Nice Hat: Arslan's helmet has large bull horns.
  • One-Man Army: Daryun
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Hirmes's romance with Princess Irina.
    • He is also willing to compensate Kharlan's family after the latter's death.
  • The Queen's Latin: The first four episodes of the OVA were dubbed by Manga Entertainment's UK branch. The voice actors didn't fake American accents like in other Manga UK dubs.
  • Rescue Romance:
    • Subverted. Gieve, finding Farangis surrounded by assailants, intends to sweep in, rescue her, and bask in her gratitude... but by the time he reaches her, she's handled the situation herself, leaving him stunned with admiration.
    • Played more straight in Arfrid's introduction scene, though also with a twist. She's trying to avenge his father on Hirmes but he easily disarms her. When Narsus shows up, she demands he give her his sword so she can continue fighting. Narsus rescues her instead, and eventually she decides she's in love with him.
  • The Reveal: Silvermask does this to Andragoras revealing to him that he is Hermes, his nephew, and by extension, Arslan's cousin.
    • It's much later revealed that Arslan isn't related to Andragoras and Tahamenay at all, he was instead adopted into their family; so he has no blood relation to the royal family, or Hermes.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Silvermask wants to torture and kill Arslan so Andragoras would see his son's severed head because Andragoras is actually Silvermask/Hermes' uncle and had succeeded to killing Hermes' father and tried to kill Hermes sixteen years ago.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: A major factor for the Lusitanian victory during the siege of Ectabana was that they were able to persuade the slaves to turn against their masters and let them inside the castle walls with the promise of freeing them. But once the deed was done, the Lusitanian soldiers had no intent to keep their promise and the slaves were treated even worse than their previous masters.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Parsian royalty is expected to be war heroes. The King serves as the main commander and is on the front lines, while the prince is expected to go to battle at a young age. Prince Arslan had his first campaign at age 14 and basically, he is trying to reclaim his throne at age 14.
  • Shirtless Scene: Gieve in episode 2, though technically he's full naked (as he's swimming in a pool).
  • Spell My Name with an "S": And how. To start with, originally the names of characters and places either came from Persian legends (Arslan, Farangis, Giv, etc.) or are native to various languages like Farsi, Hindi, Urdu (Daryun, Elam, Etwar, etc. Many places mentioned in the story, such as Ecbatana or Atropatene, actually exist or existed in real life). The person who translated the anime to English treated the names as if they were random fantasy names, hence Arislan, Pharangese, Daryoon, Gieve and so on. The most jarring decision was turning Etwar/Ester into Etoile/Estelle, despite the very obvious ancient Middle-Eastern type setting. And then for the last two episodes of the OVA Executive Meddling happened on the Japanese side, and the spelling and pronunciation of the names were changed for all major characters, turning Arislan, Daryoon, Narsus, Pharangese, and Gieve into Arslan, Darun, Narcasse, Farangis, and Guibu.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • A mild one when Hodir gave Arslan two conditions to gain his support (marry his daughter and refrain from any revolutionary reforms such as abolishing slavery), Arslan was more upset that he hasn't even met Hodir's daughter yet.
    • Narsus is more indignant that Silvermask called him a "third rate painter" than the fact Silvermask escaped.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: In many scenes, Daryun gets to show off his well-toned arms.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Mostly in the Arakawa version, it comes as a surprise to many characters that Arslan is very kind and humble for someone who is the king's son. In the novels he's still kind, but not particularly sweet, and there's a lot more emphasis on his empathy, people skills and observant nature which are a large part of his charisma that draws people to him.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Guiscarl of Lusitania, who actually runs the kingdom in place of his utterly incompetent brother.
  • The Strategist: Narsus
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Darun
  • Tempting Fate: Early on, there had been many mentions how Pars' armies were undefeatable and that no country could hope to challenge them. Cue the Battle of Atropatene.
  • Time Skip: After Arslan's coronation the novel jumps four years ahead.
  • To the Pain: Silvermask/Hermes tells Arslan when he corners Arslan alone in episode 13 that he will cut off Arslan's right hand now. Then when they meet next time, he will take the left hand. And after that, if Arslan is still alive, he will take his right foot.
  • Villain Respect:
    • Some Lusitanian soldiers openly admired the captured Shapur for being Defiant to the End even if he was a "hectic" in their eyes.
    • Silvermask has some admiration for Narsus and wanted Narsus to serve him.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Darun and Narsus, especially when it comes to Narsus's artwork.
    Darun: (to a prisoner) Start talking or I'll have [Narsus] paint your portrait. And nobody wants that.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Gieve, though he's more of a wandering warrior and thief who also happens to be a bard.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Arslan wants to become a good king worthy of his father's expectations and works hard to please his parents who both act rather harsh and cold towards him.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser:
    • Ester dresses as a boy and goes by a male name so she can fight with the other knights.
    • Elam disguised himself to sneak into the captured city of Ecbatana to get information.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Hirmes is deathly afraid of fire, as a result of having survived Andragoras' attempt to burn him alive.
  • You Killed My Father: Subverted in that it's the villains who tend to do this. Hirmes when he reveals himself to Andragoras, while Zande, Kahran's son does the whole My Name Is Inigo Montoya You Killed My Father Prepare to Die routine with Darun. Arfrid, however, also has a moment of this with Hirmes after the latter kills her father.

Alternative Title(s):

The Heroic Legend Of Arslan