The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance
Also known as:
Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu
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2016
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Season Two: 8 episodes
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Review date:
9 November 2016
arslan senki
Yes, only eight episodes. The fans weren't happy, but I presume we'll get a third season in 2017. Apparently it's because eight episodes was the right length for this story arc and the producers didn't want either to pad it out or to start the next one.
The story so far: Arslan is claiming to be the heir to the throne of Pars, which has been invaded by the Lusitanians. Admittedly it's a dodgy claim, given the vagaries of alleged parentage and succession-by-assassination, but all the other candidates are either: (a) dead, (b) married to the enemy king, (c) a loathsome slab of malice in the enemies' dungeons, (d) a traitor who sold out Pars at the cost of about a million lives. You're on Arslan's side. He's a good bloke. He believes in improving people's lives and ending slavery, which in many people's opinions makes him an idiot and a freak.
As it happens, though, Arslan doesn't fight the Lusitanians in these eight episodes. There's some business with the Turan (i.e. this world's equivalent of the Mongols), after which our heroes find themselves facing the world's biggest bastard, followed by a bit of politics in a merchant city that's done very nicely out of the Lusitanian invasion. You know how it is. Fundamentalist religious fanatics might have captured your homeland and butchered a million of your fellow citizens, but hey... it's a profit opportunity! Narsus meets an old friend and an army of pirates.
It's good stuff. There's plenty of plot, which in ep.8 doesn't reach a climax so much as a crescendo. There's going to be some juicy material in Season 3.
We also see unexpected sides of certain characters. We learn the reason for Tahamine's coldness! That's understandable, actually. We also get some backstory and mild heroism for Silver Mask, who until now had just seemed like a criminally insane psychopath. So you've been deprived of your birthright, boo hoo. Good.
Occasionally there's even humour, usually involving Narsus. Alfreed calling herself his wife is always good for a laugh, especially given Elam's Comedy Housewife moment in ep.4. (Am I imagining things, or did one wordless moment in ep.7 suggest that Elam is starting to accept Alfreed?) However while we're talking about comedy, I nearly laughed out loud at Etoile's big request too.
The production values are still splendid. The battle scenes are obviously computer-assisted, but their scale would have been impossible without it. They're dizzying. Tens of thousands of soldiers tear into each other... and you really do see them all on the battlefield. The design work's also satisfying, if you don't mind a bit of historical mismatching. (It's fine. It's fantasy.) Those look like Phoenician Ships to me, which in real life came well over two millennia before the Mongols and the Crusaders, but hey. It works. It fits together visually and feels like a coherent world. The nearest thing we have to a mood-breaker is still Farangis, actually, who in real life in that outfit would be moving very slowly and carefully.
It's good. It's still basically warriors killing other warriors in that far-off land we know as "toxic machismo overload", but there's enough thoughfulness to make up for that. Arslan has a heart, Narsus is both funny and clever and the show's starting to find humanity even in what had been one-dimensional hate figures. This is the kind of broad-appeal historical epic that's probably a good recommendation to people who wouldn't go near a lot of anime. The fate of nations, heroes, battles with thousands of dead...
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