Literature: The Heroic Legend of Arslan

aka: The Heroic Legend Of Arislan

The Heroic Legend of Arslan (aka The Heroic Legend of Arislan aka 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.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan consists of the following 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.
  • 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.
  • Arrows on Fire: Used to lit an entire plain covered in oil.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Tahmine 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.
  • 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.
  • Fiery Redhead: Arfrid
  • Five-Man Band: Prince Arslan's little group.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Guiscarl of Lusitania, who actually runs the kingdom in place of his utterly incompetent brother.
  • The Strategist: Narsus.
  • Time Skip: After Arslan's coronation the novel jumps four years ahead.
  • Values Dissonance: Of in-story variety. It's scattered all over the story, that it is basically one of the main themes. Lusitania's religious war against other nations is the main conflict of the story. Arslan struggles against his own country's tradition of slavery. Etoile is a good guy despite his religious bigotry. Gieve hates mindless servitude, while Elam actually wants to work for Narsus. Narsus sums it all up rather nicely in a speech how morals are like stars on the sky, numerous and trying to outshine each other.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Ester dresses as a boy and goes by a male name so she can fight with the other knights. Elam also crossdresses once.
  • 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.
  • Yoshitaka Amano: Illustrated the original novels and the Audio Adaptation cassettes.
  • 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 Arislan, The Heroic Legend Of Arslan